Istanbul skyline. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque
MIDDLE BYZANTINE Anonymous
20th c Anatolian Byzantine (Middle ) Architecture
(active c. 843 - c. 1204)
Byzantine (Middle )
This is a view of Istanbul, which was renamed when the Moslems finally succeeded in conquering Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, in 1453, changing forever the balance between the Christian and Moslem Empires.
We have already mentioned the conflicts between Moslem rulers in various parts of their Empire. The Arab and Iranian parts of the empire were gradually transformed by the waves of nomads from the East who conquered and settled down, only to be replaced by succeeding waves of nomads. It has been argued that the upsets caused by these peoples had an invigorating effect on the empires they conquered, which had become soft and decadent. When new energy is combined with ancient culture, the resulting merger can create a much more vital culture. We saw the pattern emerge in the groups that moved into India and Greece during the early Bronze Age. Such movements were repeated several times in the course of the development the Islamic Empires, and a similar type of activity brought an end to the old Roman Empire in Europe as the Germanic peoples penetrated and then overthrew it to eventually create the new and distinct culture of Medieval Europe. One might liken these movements to the forest fires that periodically ravage, but also renew the forests.
In the 5th century, before the establishment of Islam, waves of so-called "White Huns" led by Attila, swept out of the Steppes of Central Asia into Europe. Advancing quickly on horseback, they were able to conquer all that lay before them. As we will see, Chinese rulers had earlier constructed the Great Wall of China to protect their subjects from the depredations of the Huns. Every few centuries there were upheavals, perhaps caused by an expanding population and the need for additional land to pasture their flocks. In the 11th century another group, known as the Seljuk Turks, conquered much of Islamic Iran. These fierce mounted archers came within sight of Constantinople, where they were described by a local historian: "They worship the wind and live in the wilderness...they have no noses." The Seljuk Turks converted to Islam and conquered much of Anatolia.
In the late 13th century a group of Turks in western Turkey belonging to the clan of Osman, began to extend their domain. It was this dynasty, which came to be known as the Ottomans, which finally managed to conquer Constantinople. For the Turks, the conquest of Constantinople was the final stage in the creation of a European empire out of an Anatolian emirate, and was the basis for the symbolic claim to the old universal empire.
Mohmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, and his successors continuedto gain control of other parts of the Islamic world as well as traveling up through Greece and Serbia, threatening Vienna. The Ottoman Empire was one of the most successful multi-national states that the world has ever seen. The Ottoman rulers chose their administrators and military officers from the subject peoples, and created a non-hereditary ruling class that was devoted to the sultan.
Mohmet II and many of his successors were patrons of the arts, as well as a fine administrators. Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, flourished. Public buildings of all sorts were constructed: baths, bazaars for trade, madrasas for education and mosques for worship. The great church of Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque and minarets were constructed at the four corners of the building, which you see on the right. The domed structure of Hagia Sophia provided an architectural model for a new type of mosque that replaced the old hypostyle mosques. The Blue Mosque, seen on the left, is an almost exact copy of Hagia Sophia.
EARLY BYZANTINE | Istanbul skyline. Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque | | Byzantine | Byzantine (Early)