W. Eugene Kleinbauer

title.none: Necipoglu, Byzantine Constantinople (W. Eugene Kleinbauer)

identifier.other: baj9928.0402.024 04.02.24

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Indiana University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Necipoglu, Nevra. Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life. The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1453, v. 33. Leiden: Brill, 2001. Pp. xv, 363. $122.00. ISBN: 90-04-11625-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.02.24

Necipoglu, Nevra. Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and Everyday Life. The Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1453, v. 33. Leiden: Brill, 2001. Pp. xv, 363. $122.00. ISBN: 90-04-11625-7.

Reviewed by:

W. Eugene Kleinbauer
Indiana University

In Istanbul in 1999 the History Department of Bogaziçi University and the Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes jointly organized a workshop examining the Byzantine city of Constantinople from its foundation in 330 to the conquest of Mehmed II in 1453, and invited two dozen international scholars to participate. Twenty-two of the participants contributed papers to the present volume that were carefully edited by Nevra Necipoglu and published in 2001. The three main themes of the workshop are identified in the title of the book, and the published papers are grouped thematically into eight sections: "The Topography of Early Byzantine Constantinople"; "Imperial and Religious Ceremonies"; "Sacred Spaces: Problems of Method and Interpretation"; "Imperial Monuments and Their Legacy: Textual and Iconographic Evidence"; "New Archaeological Evidence"; "Merchants, Craftsmen and the Marketplace"; "Latins in Constantinople after 1204"; and "Construction Workers and Building Activity in Late Byzantine Constantinople." Necipoglu opens the volume with a pertinent historiographic essay on the Byzantine city, and the volume closes with concluding remarks by Ihor Sevcenko and a highly useful Index.

This volume followed on the heels of the 1998 symposium at Dumbarton Oaks devoted to "Constantinople: The Fabric of the City." Papers read at this symposium appeared in the Dumbarton Oaks Papers for 2000. Byzantine Constantinople deals not only with individual monuments and topography but also with the identify and motivation of patrons and patronesses, the role of women, religious ceremonies, funerary rites, the cult of saints, trade, guilds, the marketplace, investment, social relations, ethno-religious communities, and the survival of Hellenism in the city after its fall to the Ottomans. Overall the methodological approach of the papers is more diverse and interdisciplinary than that of the 1998 symposium. Along with dozens of significant papers and monographs published over the past decade, the Dumbarton Oaks papers and those in Byzantine Constantinople paint a canvas of the city that possesses greater depth and a richer texture than existed previously. However, much remains to be done before the canvas can be completed.

The first paper in Section One is by Cyril Mango, entitled "The Shoreline of Constantinople in the Fourth Century" (pp. 17-28). Mango argues that Dionysius, a second-century native of the city, provides the best literary evidence we have for the shoreline of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion. Dionysius describes the ancient city as located on a peninsula connected to the mainland by an isthmus, and that the circumference of the peninsula is 35 stades (ca. 6.3 km). Mango positions the isthmus between the third and fourth hills that is spanned by the aqueduct of Valens, which must have been flanked by two deep bays. Today the piers of this aqueduct are sunk in the ground to a depth of 6.5 meters above their original footing. Constantine and his successors must have brought about the displacement of many thousands of tons of earth as avenues were laid out and sites were leveled to be occupied by monuments. Piles would have been driven into the marshy ground to support these monuments. Mango adduces two parallels for how he reconstructs Byzantion as a jutting peninsula--Chalcedon and Perinthos (Marmara Ereglisi).

Marlia Mundell Mango contributed the next paper, "The Porticoed Street at Constantinople" (pp. 29-51). A dominant feature of urban planning common in East Mediterranean cities (e.g., Gerasa and Antioch in Syria), the paved colonnaded or porticoed street was absent in Rome. Marlia Mango adduces archaeological evidence and literary sources to confirm that Byzantine Constantinople featured such streets and associated urban features such as fora, round piazzas, tetrapyla, nymphaea, and triumphal arches. These dominant urban features of Constantinople are clearly rooted in the Hellenistic and Roman cities of the East Mediterranean rather than the Latin West as Marlia Mango demonstrates. Unlike its predecessors in the East, Constantinople also featured the semicircular or sigma portico which may have been invented in the capital in the fifth century A.D. In 425 the city had 52 colonnaded streets--paved, lighted, lined with shops, some double storied. Marlia Mango surmises that many of them survived into the Middle Ages.

The last paper in the first section is Paul Magdalino's "Aristocratic Oikoi in the Tenth and Eleventh Regions of Constantinople" (pp. 53-69). Observing that the tenth region in the city featured a dense concentration of 636 lower-class domus-insulae as well as the Baths of Constantius and a Nymphaeum, Magdalino hypothesizes that the northern side of the Mese from the Apostoleion to the Philadelphion in this region also included five palatial residences (domus-oikoi) belonging to women of the Theodosian dynasty. Two other imperial residences marked the adjoining eleventh region. Magdalino thus takes issue with Albrecht Berger's careful but hypothetical reconstruction of the fifth-century city ("Regionen und Strassen im frühen Konstantinopel," Istanbuler Mitteilungen 47 [1997]: 349-414). Berger maintained that two of the imperial residences discussed by Magdalino cannot be localized and that two others were situated in different regions. Magdalino also explores the role of the imperial women in establishing the cult of the martyrs Polyeuktos, Stephen, and Euphemia by erecting churches in their honor in the tenth region.

Section Two deals with imperial and religious ceremonies and comprises two papers. In the first, "Imperial and Ecclesiastical Processions in Constantinople" (pp. 73-870), Albrecht Berger examines two tenth-century sources, the Typikon of Hagia Sophia and the Book of Ceremonies of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, for the light they shed on celebrations and processions of the clergy of the patriarchate and members of the imperial court. He traces the routes followed and the monuments visited by public processions through the city, noting different reports in the two major sources and changes in itinerary and protocol that occurred from the late eleventh century onwards when the Komnenos family decided to make the Blachernai palace their main residence. Before that time nearly all of the processions described in the Typikon started at Hagia Sophia, while most of the imperial processions recounted in the Book of Ceremonies occurred within the Great Palace. Whereas in Rome ecclesiastical processions normally followed a circular itinerary in which a number of churches were visited, the processions in Constantinople typically used the same route on the way to a church and back. The Book of Ceremonies describes a number of significant processions on church holidays in which both the emperor and patriarch participated and receptions held for the emperor.

Engin Akyürek's paper on "Funeral Ritual in the Parekklesion of the Chora Church" (pp. 89-104) follows. As has been known, the overriding theme of the fresco program of the parekklesion or burial chapel is salvation. Akyürek proposes that the ritual of the prothesis for the deceased--the last ceremony before burial--as well as several commemorative ceremonies were performed in the western domed bay of the chapel. This bay is devoted to the Virgin; its upper walls depict Old Testament prefigurations of the Virgin, emphasizing her role in salvation, as pointed out most recently by R. Ousterhout, The Art of the Kariye Cami (London, 2002), p. 70. The scenes and inscribed verses were based on special readings on the feast days of the Virgin. Akyürek specifically points to the representations of the four hymnographers (St. John of Damascus, St. Theophanes Graptos, St. Joseph the Poet, and St. Kosmas the Poet) known for their hymns honoring the Virgin. Several of these hymnographers also wrote verses for the funeral service. As he notes, we are uncertain which commemorative rituals were performed in this parekklesion since the typikon of the Chora monastery has not survived. But he plausibly suggests that certain "quotations" from the writings of the four hymnographers were sung during the burial rituals.

"Sacred Spaces" is the theme of the third section, and its three papers take up problems of method and interpretation. In his "The Findings at Kalenderhane and Problems of Method in the History of Byzantine Architecture" (pp. 107-16), Cecil L. Striker employs his important findings based on his soundings and restoration of the Kalenderhane to demonstrate why methodologically the evolutionary approach to western European architecture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is common but applied to Byzantine architecture it is downright wrong. He argues that the vocabulary of design solutions of individual architectural features was already complete by the sixth century, and what followed thereafter was a history of variations and combinations worked out on an ad hoc basis. Striker is not the first to point out the fallacy of the straight-line, evolutionary approach to Byzantine architecture. The typological approach to Byzantine architecture had already been seriously questioned by Cyril Mango in his "Approaches to Byzantine Architecture," Muqarnas 8 (1991):40-44, where also the symbolic or ideological, the functional, and the social and economic approaches that have been published were attacked. Like Mango (who is not cited by Striker), Striker prefers a trend toward detailed and well-documented archaeological analyses of individual monuments, such as he and Y. D. Kuban have offered in their Kalenderhane in Istanbul: The Buildings, their History, Architecture, and Decoration (Maniz, 1997). Robert Ousterhout has also examined methods of study of Byzantine architecture and has suggested three approaches to it--the topographical, contextual, and the investigation of construction materials and techniques in his "Contextualizing the Later Churches of Constantinople: Suggested Methodologies and a Few Examples," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000), pp. 241-50.

The other two papers in this section deal with the Pantokrator Monastery, now a World Heritage Site. Metin Ahunbay and Zeynep Ahunbay's paper on "Restoration Work at the Zeyrek Camii, 1997-1998" (pp. 117-132) discusses and illustrates progress on the project which they and Robert Ousterhout launched in 1995. The paper by Ousterhout himself, "Architecture, Art and Komnenian Ideology at the Pantokrator Monastery" (pp. 133-50) describes and analyzes the preserved but now inaccessible opus sectile floor of the south church that had been cleaned and stabilized by Dumbarton Oaks in the 1950s and published in 1963. Ousterhout interprets every detail of the figural pavement as a reflection of an early Christian theme and the floor as a programmatic whole as an expression of Komnenian power and authority. For him the intended message of the Pantokrator to the early twelfth-century audience was rich and multi-layered, evoking the greatness of the Byzantine past and the Komnenian present.

"Imperial Monuments and Their Legacy: Textual and Iconographic Evidence" is the theme of the fourth section of the volume. (The preceding paper by Ousterhout could have been placed here.) Henry Maguire interprets the surviving texts that describe the seventh, eighth, and ninth century pavements of the Great Palace ("The Medieval Floors of the Great Palace," pp. 153-74). Maguire attempts to reconstruct the lost medieval floors in the Great Palace by interpreting pertinent ekphraseis and analyzing surviving pavements elsewhere. He then identifies some works of art outside of Constantinople that may have been influenced by the pavements of the Great Palace. Lastly, he places the medieval floors of the palace within their art historical context both aesthetic and iconographic. More broadly, his paper offers a succinct overview of our knowledge of Middle and Late Byzantine pavements (some of which are illustrated).

S. Yildiz Ötüken interprets the major building projects of the emperor Constantine IX Monomachus and the cult of the religious figures (the Virgin and martyr saints) to whom they were dedicated) ("Konstantin IX.-Solman," "Einzelkämpfer," "Siegesbringen"-und die "Unbesiegbare Theotokos," pp. 175-85.). She attributes a mid-eleventh-century fresco of the Virgin Blachernitissa in the first southeast chapel of the church Hagios Nikolaos at Myra to this ruler and his wife Zoe. Sema Alpaslan argues for a close relationship in the architectural sculpture of Constantinople and a variety of sites in Anatolia ("Architectural Sculpture in Constantinople and the Influence of the Capital in Anatolia," pp. 187-201). While influence from the capital remained strong in the Byzantine period, particularly in "terms of thematic, compositional, stylistic, and technical characteristics," she observes that some original local "styles" also existed within Anatolia. This paper is especially useful for its twenty illustrations. Peter Schreiner probes that question of the survival of Hellenism in Constantinople after its fall in 1453 by examining the city's antiquarians in the early Ottoman period in his paper "John Malaxos (16th Century) and His Collection of Antiquitates Constantinopolitanae" (pp. 203-14). Schreiner convincingly demonstrates that John Malaxos's epigrams of monuments together with a brief description of the historical context or of contemporary circumstances of a given monument are primarily of literary and antiquarian interest. But there are exceptions. The most valuable texts of Malaxos pertain to the Pammakaristos church which led to the establishment of the initial dating of its program.

Section Five, "New Archaeological Evidence," is represented by only one paper. Mehmet I. Tunay refers to seventeen sites in Constantinople that had come to light in the 1990s and illustrates some of them ("Byzantine Archaeological Findings in Istanbul during the last Decade," pp. 217-31). This is a welcome addition to the archaeological record of the city which has become far less well known since the Annual of the Archaeological Museums of Istanbul (Istanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri Yilligi) ceased publication over thirty years ago. Today only a few new discoveries are published in Turkish journals and in Anatolian Archaeology. Some of these findings also appear in the annual Bulletin of British Byzantine Studies, in which they are inadequately illustrated. Tunay's report leads to the realization that Byzantine monuments and objects continue to await the spade.

"Merchants, Craftsmen and the Marketplace" provides the theme of Section Six. The late Nicolas Oikonomides examines the seals of "The Kommerkiarios of Constantinople" (pp. 235-44). Although the function of the kommerkiarioi is controversial among scholars, Oikonomides continues to believe that they constituted a group of prosperous businessmen representing the state monopoly in Constantinople and towns throughout the Empire who purchased silk from foreign importers in the seventh and eighth centuries. Michel Kaplan analyzes the evidence for "Les artisans dans la société de Constantinople aux VIIe-XIe siècles" (pp. 245-60). Kaplan's principal point of departure is the tenth-century Book of the Prefect, which sets down the regulations governing the conduct of the professional and trade guilds of the city, but he also refers to other sources such as lives of saints. He looks at the requirement for admission to the guilds of the city, the locality of the shops of the guilds, the rents paid for these shops, terms of contracts for commissions, and relations between merchants and buyers, and prices. Then Angeliki E. Laiou analyzes the sources for "Women in the Marketplace of Constantinople (10th-14th Centuries)" (pp. 261-73. Laiou determines that when Byzantium restructured urban society in the eleventh century, there ensued a gender-based ideological position regarding the presence of women in the marketplace. However, women of lower and middle economic and social status and their capital actively participated in the marketplace as owners of small retail shops, street hawkers, bakers, tavern keepers, textile workers, investors, rentier landlords. or as traders in the retail trade. Evidence for this situation in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is slight, but the sources reveal that in the late fourteenth century there was an increase in the amount of aristocratic female capital and female economic energy. Then they became shopkeepers and investors in long-distance trade. Network transactions bound with the family were especially common at that time.

The seventh section deals with "Latins in Constantinople after 1204." David Jacoby treats "The Urban Evolution of Latin Constantinople (1204-1261)" (pp. 277-97). Western but not Byzantine sources disclose that the Venetian quarter of the city, situated between the northern city rampart and the Golden Horn, and apparently one of the most densely populated area of the city, witnessed both public and private construction throughout the Latin occupation (and its partial destruction by the Greeks who set fires there in 1261). Renewed and maintained by the Venetians, the Pantokrator complex became the urban seat of the Venetian rather than Latin administration, treasury, and judicial court. But neither the Venetians nor the Latin emperors promoted the symbolic and ideological dimension of the city as an imperial capital. Michel Balard examines the Genoese settlement in Pera at the end of 1267 in his "La société pérote aux XIVe-XVe siècles: autour des Demerode et des Draperio" (pp. 299-311). Balard's critical analysis rests upon the experiences of two "colonial" families that rose to prominence in Pera during the fourteenth and fifteenth centures and how these families were gradually assimilated into a predominantly Greek milieu.

"Construction Workers and Building Activity in Late Byzantine Constantinople" represents the theme of Section Eight. Klaus-Peter Matschke surveys "Builders and Building in Late Byzantine Constantinople" (pp. 315-28). Matschke examines ecclesiastical and secular building projects in the period, including the makeup of the masons, their social status, their state control, their procurement of construction materials, especially spolia confiscated from both abandoned buildings and buildings still in use. Architects go unnamed, and the craftsmen were impoverished. Under Andronikos II (r. 1282-1328) architectural activity increased, and the main craftsmen were bricklayers and carpenters. (Unmentioned are the mosaicits and fresco painters.) "Building Activity in Constantinople under Andronikos II: The Role of Women Patrons in the Construction and Restoration of Monasteries" is dealt with in a masterly fashion by Alice-Mary Talbot (pp. 329-43). The last burst of architectural activity in the city occurred during the reign of Andronikos II (r. 1282-1328), and it included new foundations and restoration projects. Ten monasteries and convents were constructed de novo, and at least twenty-two monasteries and convents were renovated. These donations also included convent-affiliated hospitals and old-age homes, and for the distribution of food to the poor. Talbot draws attention to the identity of the patrons and the variety of motivations for their foundations. The principal founders and foundresses were members of the imperial family or were related to them by blood or marriage. Talbot stresses the fact that a significant number of the donors were women, and their establishments were sizable. The foundations or renovations of this period were built as an act of piety and charity, as thanksgiving for the blessings of their lives, for the perpetual commemoration of the prayers for the salvation of the souls of the founders and foundresses and various members of their families, as residences and places of monastic retirement or as places of refuge, to atone for their sins, and in some cases as sites for their interment and/or that of family members. A number of these Palaiologan establishments still survive in Istanbul.