Chapter

Old and New Rome Compared

Bryan Ward-Perkins

in Two Romes

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199739400
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933006 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199739400.003.0003

Series: Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity

Old and New Rome Compared

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In Late Antiquity Constantinople was explicitly presented as a “new Rome’’ and given institutions and buildings to match those of the old capital. This chapter examines how the two cities did in fact compare. First, secular monuments are examined, where, despite serious efforts at emulation, the new city could never overtake the splendors that Rome had accumulated. Next, the focus turns to the Christian histories and status of the two cities, where the presence in Rome of Peter and Paul again ensured the continuing primacy of the old capital. However, in other respects Constantinople did come to rival Rome, and eventually overtake it. The infrastructure of the new city (its defenses, ports, and aqueducts, as well as housing) was added to on an impressive scale through the later fourth and fifth centuries. By contrast, recent archaeological evidence from Rome has shown that the extraordinary monumental and domestic splendors of the city were beginning to fall apart in the fifth century, though the evidence of church building is less clear. However, with the building of Justinian’s massively ambitious St. Sophia, which dwarfs any late antique building in Rome, Constantinople definitively took its place as the primary city of the ancient world.

Keywords: Rome; Constantinople; urban infrastructure; housing; church; monuments; buildings

Chapter.  9850 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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