When I remained in seventh grade social researches course, we learned about just how the city of Constantinople is currently recognized as İstanbul. To make certain none of us ever before forgot that Constantinople is İstanbul, my teacher played us the song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which was initially written in 1953 by Jimmy Kennedy and also Nat Simon, however is ideal recognized this particular day from a cover released in 1990 by the alternate rock band They Might Be Giants. In situation you’ve never before heard it, here’s a video via the song on YouTube:


One thing my seventh grade social studies teacher never explained, though, is the reasonwhyConstantinople is now recognized as İstanbul. It’s not simply because “world chosen it better that way”; tbelow are actually a variety of complicated and also fascinating political factors why the name was readjusted. The story involves a solitary city with a fifty percent dozen various names, a dozen different majesties with the same name, World War I, and also a specifically vicious Barbary macaque.

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A brief history of İstanbul’s many type of names

To understand the specific context of why the name was readjusted, let’s go earlier to the exceptionally start. The city of İstanbul has had many type of various names over the years. According to the Romale writer Pliny the Elder (lived c. 23 – 79 AD), the city that is now known as İstanbul was initially a Thrakian negotiation recognized as Lygos. Sometime around 657 BC, though, a team of homesteaders from the Greek city-state of Megara came alengthy and established the city of Βυζάντιον (Byzántion) on the site.

The city continued to be well-known as Byzantion for virtually a thousand also years. Like most of the rest of the Greek human being, Byzantion came under Romale domination in roughly the second century BC. Nonethemuch less, like the remainder of the eastern Mediterranean, also under Roguy ascendancy, it continued to be exceptionally culturally Greek; many of its citizens ongoing to speak the Greek language, recognize as Greeks, and also exercise Greek culture.

In 192 AD, the city of Byzantion sustained Pescennius Niger’s insurance claim to the throne of the Romale Realm, leading the emperor Septimius Severus to sack and burn it. Upon taking the throne, he reestablished the city, renaming itAugusta Antoninaafter his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, that later ended up being the emperor we know as “Caracalla.” Caracalla, yet, turned out to be a negative emperor in the eyes of the Roman public, so the name quickly returned back toByzantionafter the emperor’s assassination in 217 ADVERTISEMENT.

Then, in 330 AD, the Romale emperor Constantine I made Byzantion right into the brand-new resources of the Roman Empire and renamed itNova Roma, which suggests “New Rome” in Latin. After Constantine I’s fatality, the city ended up being recognized in Greek as Κωνσταντινούπολις (Kōnstantinoúpolis), which literally suggests “Constantine City.” The nameByzantionstayed in usage, butConstantinopleended up being the main name of the city.


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ABOVE: Photographfrom Wikimedia Commonsof the head of a colossal statue of the Romale emperor Constantine I, after whom the city of Constantinople takes its name, on screen in the Capitoline Museums in Rome

The city of Constantinople remained the continuous funding of the Byzantine Roman Empire for approximately nine a century. It easily came to be the biggest city in the empire. By roughly the 9th century ADVERTISEMENT, whenever someone in the location around Constantinople wanted to say that they were going to Constantinople, they would certainly sindicate use the Greek expression εἰς τὴν Πόλιν (eis tḕn Pólin), which implies “right into the City,” given that everyone knew that, as soon as they sassist “the City,” they meant Constantinople.

This Greek expression is the root of the nameİstanbul, which is first attested in Arabic and Armenian sources in the tenth century. The name inevitably passed from Arabic into Turkish, coming to be a common vernacular name for the city.

Constantinople was sacked by the western European knights of the 4th Crusade in 1204. The city stayed under Latin occupation for a little over half a century till the Byzantine Romans regulated to recapture it in July 1261 and also reinstated it as their resources. It remained the Roman resources for the remainder of the empire’s background.

Finally, on 29 May 1453, Constantinople was dominated by the Ottoman Turks under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II. Over the course of the years complying with the conquest, the Ottomans remade Constantinople right into their new funding. For circumstances, as I talk about inthis write-up from August 2020, they famously converted the Hagia Sophia, which had actually originally been constructed in the 6th century ADVERTISEMENT as a Christian church, right into a mosque.

Contrary to popular idea, yet,İstanbuldidn’t immediately come to be the primary name of the city after the Turkish conquest. In truth, for many of the Ottomale period, the a lot of main name for the city in the Turkish language was actuallyKostantiniyye.This is the name that is offered on Ottomale coins and also that is supplied in many main documents. Meanwhile, in languperiods other than Turkish, the city stayed universally recognized asConstantinople.

Hence, we are left via the question: “How didİstanbulcome to be the main, formal name of the city?”


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ABOVE: Painting by the Greek painter Theofilos Chatzimichail of the last battle for the city of Constantinople on 29 May 1453

The Megali Idea and also the Greco-Turkish War of 1897

In order to understand also whyİstanbulcame to be the official name of Constantinople, we need to talk a tiny little about Greek irredentism and the relationship in between Greece and also the Ottoguy Empire in the late nineteenth and also beforehand twentieth centuries.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, virtually every one of Greece was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Then, in 1821, the Greeks rebelled against their Turkish rulers. This was the beginning of a struggle lasting practically a decade that inevitably caused the development of the contemporary nation-state of Greece. In the late nineteenth and early on twentieth centuries, though, the Greek nation-state was a lot smaller in terms of area than it is this particular day and many type of areas that were mainly lived in by ethnically Greek people continued to be under Ottoguy ascendancy.

There was a idea in Greek national politics at this time known as the Μεγάλη Ιδέα (Megáli Idéa), or “Big Idea,” which fundamentally held that all areas mainly inhabited by ethnically Greek civilization required to be brought under the dominance of the Greek state. This consisted of the island also of Krete, the area of Makedonia in what is currently northern mainland Greece, the region of Thrake in what is now eastern mainland Greece and also the western, European part of Turvital, and the entire west coast of Asia Minor.

Central to the Megali Idea was the concept that Constantinople was the rightful funding of Greece and also that it essential to be reclaimed from the Turkish occupiers. In a famed speech prior to the Greek National Assembly in January 1844, Greek politician Ioannis Kolettis declared:

“The Kingdom of Greece is not Greece; it is merely a part: the smallest, poorest part of Greece. The Greek is not only he that inactions the Kingdom, yet also he who inhabits Ioannina, Salonika or Serres or Adrianople or Constantinople or Trebizond or Krete or Samos or any various other area belonging to the Greek history or the Greek race. <…> Tbelow are two excellent centres of Hellenism. Athens is the resources of the Kingdom. Constantinople is the excellent resources, the dream and also hope of all Greeks.”

I suspect that an extensive variety of people living in the areas that proponents of the Megali Idea wanted to case for Greece didn’t really desire to be ruled by Greece. Nonethemuch less, it is clear that many ethnically Greek world living in those regions did indeed want this.

In April 1897, the ethnically Greek citizens of the island of Krete rebelled versus Ottomale dominion, seeking union with Greece. This led Greece and also the Ottoguy Realm to go to war over the island. The commander of the Greek forces during this battle was the crvery own prince of Greece, whose name was Konstantinos—the Greek develop ofConstantine.

The Turks won the battle on the ground, yet the western European imperialist powers intervened and compelled Ottomale Realm to cede manage over the island also of Krete, which became an independent state under nominal Ottoman suzerainty. In 1908, Kretan authorities unilaterally claimed union via Greece.


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ABOVE: Greek lithograph from 1897 reflecting the Battle of Velestino

The Balkan Wars and World War I

On 8 October 1912, the First Balkan War damaged out between the member claims of the Balkan League—which was created of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and also Montenegro—and the Ottomale Empire.

On 18 March 1913, while the war was still continuous, Konstantinos—the same crvery own prince who had actually led the Greek forces in the Greco-Turkish War of 1897—came to be the king of Greece. Today, he is primarily recognized as Konstantinos I of Greece, however, as I discuss inthis post from July 2019, he actually wanted to style himself as KonstantinosXII, because he thought about all the Roguy kings called “Constantine” to be his forebears.

At some point, the Balkan Organization won and also, on 30 May 1913, the countries connected in the war signed the Treaty of London, which gave both the island also of Krete and the region of Makedonia to Greece. Bulgaria wasn’t happy through its spoils, though, so, in June 1913, the 2nd Balkan War damaged out, with Greece, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro on one side and Bulgaria on the other. This war lasted just a couple of months and was concluded on 10 August 1913 through the Treaty of Bucharemainder.


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ABOVE: Aggrandized paint of King Konstantinos I of Greece on horseback in the time of the 2nd Balkan War

World War I broke out in July 1914. King Konstantinos insisted on staying neutral, but the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos was strongly in favor of Greece joining the battle on the side of the Allies. On 11 June 1917, under domestic pressure from the Venizelist factivity within Greece and also international press from Britain and also France, Konstantinos stepped dvery own and fled the nation in addition to his oldest boy Georgios.

With the assistance of the Entente Powers, the Venizelists inserted Konstantinos’s second-earliest kid Alexandros on the throne as a puppet ruler, efficiently stripping him of all powers. On 2 July 1917, Greece gone into the battle on the side of the Allies. The Allied Powers ultimately won the battle and shortly began dismantling what was left of the Ottoman Realm.

It was widely believed at the moment that the Allied Powers would reward Greece for having actually sided through them by providing them control over most of the Ottoguy Empire’s former areas in Europe—including perhaps also the city of Constantinople itself—and also most of the west shore of Asia Minor. For many Greeks, it looked as though the Megali Idea was about to finally be realized.


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ABOVE: Map of “Greater Hellas,” published in 1920 or 1921, reflecting Greek territorial claims in Asia Minor following World War I


ABOVE: Map from Wikimedia Commons reflecting the actual territorial growth of Greece from 1832 to 1947

The Greco-Turkish War of 1919 – 1922

On 13 November 1918, the Allied forces of the UK, France, Italy, and also Greece started occupying the city of Constantinople. On 15 May 1919, about twenty thousand also Greek soldiers landed in Smyrna, a city on the western coastline of Asia Minor where ethnic Greeks probably comprised a bare majority of the population, and promptly seized control of the city.

Largely response to these occupations, a brand-new movement recognized as the Turkish National Movement started to form. The motion was mostly based in main Turcrucial and also its leader was the esteemed basic Mustafa Kemal Pasha. Its vital ideological background was that the Turkish homeland also was under danger and that the Ottoman government in Constantinople was neither willing nor able to defend the homeland, so tright here needed to be a new federal government.

By April 1920, a treaty was start to take shape between the main government of the Ottomale Realm and also the Allied Powers, recognized as the Treaty of Sèvres, which would have enforced far harsher conditions on the Ottomale Empire than had actually already been applied on the German Realm. Under the conditions of the treaty, all of Eastern Thrake and also the entirety region of Asia Minor roughly the city of Smyrna would certainly be offered over straight to Greece and much of what is now northeastern Turcrucial would be offered over straight to Armenia.

Furthermore, Greek, Italian, and French “zones of influence” would certainly be sculpted out of what is currently western Turcrucial and also a “Kurdish region” would be establimelted in southeastern Turcrucial. An international zone well-known as the “Zamong the Straits” would incorporate the whole area roughly the Sea of Marmara, including the city of Constantinople. The treaty would have actually left Turessential as nothing even more than a tiny rump state regulating basically just main north Anatolia, through Ankara as its funding.

In response to the prospect of this treaty being ratified, in April 1920, the Turkish National Movement establimelted the Turkish Grand also National Assembly in Ankara and declared their separation from the Ottoguy federal government. The National Movement released a army project to repel the Greek pressures that had lived in Smyrna and also the bordering regions. This noted the beginning of a new Greco-Turkish War.


ABOVE: Map from Wikimedia Commons mirroring the partition of the Ottoman Realm according to the Treaty of Sèvres

At this point, a bizarre freak accident intervened in the course of background. On 2 October 1920, King Alexandros of Greece was walking with the grounds of the Tatoi Palace in Athens as soon as he was assaulted and bitten by a domestic Barbary macaque. The bite came to be infected and also he emerged sepsis. He passed away on 25 October.

Consequently, a plebispoint out was organized in Greece and the exiled Konstantinos I was reinstated as king on 19 December 1920. In March 1921, King Konstantinos saw Asia Minor to rally morale among the troops. He personally aided lead the Greek pressures to victory in the Battle of Kütahya–Eskişehir in June of that year.

For a few months, it looked as though the Greeks were perhaps going to win. Then, on 23 August, the Greek and Turkish pressures confronted in the Battle of Sakarya, which went on for twenty-one days. By the time the battle finished on 13 September, it had actually end up being a resounding Turkish victory that turned the tide of the battle in favor of the Turks and basically crumelted Greek really hopes of conquering Asia Minor.

The Greek invaders were required right into retreat. The Turks won a substantial victory over the Greeks in the Battle of Dumlupınar in late August 1922 and, on 9 September, the Turks recaught the city of Smyrna itself. Upon reassuming control, Turkish forces began to slaughter the Greek and also Armenian citizens of the city and also collection fire to dwellings and also businesses owned by Greek and Armenian civilians.

On 13 September, a great fire began to blaze out of manage in the city. The inferno entirely damaged the Greek and also Armenian quarters of the city and also killed somewbelow between 10,000 and also 100,000 Greek and Armenian civilians. Somewright here between 150,000 and also 400,000 extra Greek and also Armenian civilians were compelled to flee their houses and also take refuge in the waterfront, wbelow they were forced to reprimary for weeks under harsh problems.

In the finish, somewright here in between 150,000 and 200,000 Greek and Armenian refugees were evacuated, while 30,000 able-bopassed away Greek and Armenian men were deported to work camps in the Anatolian interior, wright here many kind of of them passed away as a result of the harsh conditions or were executed.


ABOVE: Photo of the Great Fire of Smyrna, which totally ruined the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city and also forced

The catastrophe at Smyrna was so disastrous for Greek morale that, on 27 September 1922, King Konstantinos I abdicated the throne to his eldest child Georgios II. At the same time, the Turkish nationalists celebrated their victory. On 1 November 1922, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey asserted that the Ottomale state was abolished and that a brand-new era in Turkish history had actually begun.

On 24 July 1923, the Allied Powers and also the Turkish federal government ratified the Treaty of Lausanne, which officially ended the war in between Turessential and also the Allied Powers, annulled the terms of the previous Treaty of Sèvres, and identified the boundaries of the contemporary nation-state of Turcrucial. Under this brand-new treaty, Turkey retained control over all of Asia Minor, and manage over Constantinople and Eastern Thrake.

On 4 October 1923, the last Allied forces left the city of Constantinople and also, on 6 October, Turkish forces gone into the city via a triumphal ceremony. Regardless of the Turks reacquiring Constantinople, they made a decision to save their capital at Ankara for symbolic factors, to present that the old Ottoguy method of governing was over and also that the brand-new government would certainly be doing things in a different way.


ABOVE: Mapfrom Wikimedia Commonsmirroring the boundaries of Turessential as identified by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923

What does this have to perform through İstanbul?

On 29 October 1923, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey prodeclared the facility of the new Republic of Turvital. The new Kemalist government requested all international countries to stop making use of the nameConstantinopleand rather begin utilizing the Turkish nameİstanbul. From 1926 onwards, the Turkish article office began sending back all mail addressed to the city of İstanbul by any type of name various other thanİstanbul.

Why did they do this? Well, tbelow are probably two factors. One is because the Kemalists were nationalists and also they evidently believed that the nameİstanbulwas more Turkish than the nameKostantiniyye—also though both names are actually of Greek etymology. Using a supposedly even more Turkish name additionally helped the Turks to counter Greek irredentist clintends around İstanbul being a rightfully Greek city.

The second factor is probably bereason, by this suggest, many Turks had actually pertained to inextricably associate the name Constantine through King Konstantinos I of Greece, who had actually led multiple intrusions of Turkey and also was extensively reviled throughout the land also. It’s really awkward once the the majority of populated city in your nation happens to share a name via among your country’s most hated opponents. Imagine if New York City were instead called Osama bin Laden City. That’s basically just how the nameConstantinoplewould have appeared to many kind of Turks in the early twentieth century.

Hence, as a result of the Turkish government’s wishes, Constantinople ended up being recognized in English from that suggest onwards as İstanbul. In the Greek language, however, the city is still primarily recognized as Κωνσταντινούπολη (Konstantinoúpoli), or periodically simply Πόλη (Póli). This is more out of tradition and pressure of habit than out of irredentism.

Nowadays, although many kind of Greek civilization still feel a really solid attachment to the city of İstanbul, tright here are incredibly few Greek human being that would certainly seriously support the idea of Greece trying to “reclaim” it. It’s an concept that occasionally pops up among right-wing extremists, yet has actually otherwise disshowed up from political discourse.


I read this with great interest. About 40 odd years earlier I stupassed away Classics at university and also it has actually constantly stayed a topic of massive fascicountry to me although in my later on years I have actually indulged my passion for the Roman Republic and also fairly neglected the remainder. About ten years earlier I started to ‘study’ ( I usage the word loosely!) Russian history and also so this exceptionally indevelopmental short article has actually been useful in pointing me to the background increating the Russian historical obsession through that city, the heart and emblem of that country’s orthodox confidence. Very many kind of thanks.

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To answer your concerns tbelow are 2 things to consider. Traditionally the Romale Realm was centred aroud the city of Rome which is why till the empire was administratively split right into two subsets at the end of the 4th century ADVERTISEMENT. You are partially appropriate i the snese that the Byzantines considered themselves as Romans and also spoke Latin ttill the 7th century AD. At that time emperor Mauricius decided that Greek woudl become the offcial language of the Eastern Roma realm in lieu of Latin reflecting the truth that the majority of the population of that empiren spoke Greek rather than Latin. Additional to Arab occupations of the 7th centruy whcih deprived the Eastern Roman empire of much of its territories in North Africa, Egypt and also Syria-Palestine the Byzantines began identifying fully via Greek Christian Orthodox world fairly the Roguy Catholic one which was based upon the Latin language . By the 11th century via the Christian schism in between Roman Catholic Rome and also Greek Orthodox Constantinople the Byzantines embraced their present identification. I don’t think it has anypoint to perform via a plot by Germans to make the fevery one of Rome in the 5th century even more essential thna the occupation of Constantinople in the 1fifth century. By the moment both cities fell to their conquerors, they were simply the mere shadows of what they when had been. The fall of Rome was not even more importan tthwan the fevery one of Constantinople. In truth for us Europeans it was much more significant as it signaled that a brand-new power was going to compete for supremacy on our continent. It also pushed us to exp