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Istanbul - Where The Christian/Islamic Conflict Began

By James Donahue

Istanbul, Turkey, remains today an important seaport city spanning the continents of Europe and Asia, and located in one of the most advantageous sites in the world, surrounded by eight miles of seacoast linking the Black Sea with the Mediterranean.

Istanbul is the city's current name, but it was once called Constantinople when it was the center of the Roman Empire under Constantine. Before that it was known as Byzantion while under the rule of the Byzantine Empire.

The city was founded in 658 BC during the time of the Greek influence, and named after Byzas the chief of that tribal group. The community eventually thrived and was still operating under the name Byzantion when Jesus began his work among the Jews living there.

The name was changed by the Constantine, a late Roman ruler who converted to Christianity and moved the capital of the Roman Empire there in about 324 AD. Constantine chose the city because of its location as the New Rome, and ordered construction of fine buildings designed to outdo those of Rome.

Like Rome, Constantinople was located on seven hills and divided into fourteen regions. The new public buildings included a senate house, forums, a capitol, circuses, porticoes, and many churches, Moslem temples and synagogues, including the Hagia Sophia which still stands today. People of all three faiths shared the city. Constantine also ordered the most beautiful statues of antiquity gathered from various parts of the empire to adorn its public places. Thus the other cities of the Roman world were stripped to embellish the new capital.

There is a strange twist of history that Constantine was so preoccupied with his wars, and the needs of the state, he rarely came to Constantinople. His successors also were away most of the time. It was not until Theodosius the Great came to power in 379 that Constantinople assumed its rank as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. After his death in 395 the empire was divided into two parts, with Constantinople remaining the center of the capital of the Eastern Empire. The Western Empire fell under the onslaught of the tribal forces from the north.

While they lived within the city, the Moslems, Jews and Christians were sectioned off in their own parts of the community and there was a clear division. The Islamic people, who became known as the Turks, eventually occupied most of the Asiatic peninsula and set up their capital at Nicaca, not far from Constantinople. Then, in 1096, under a directive from the Vatican in Rome, the Christians began what they called "a great overflow of the West toward the East, started by the pious wish of all Christian Europe to deliver the Holy Sepulchre."

That is the way it is recorded in Catholic historical record. We have since called this series of bloody wars the Crusades. It was the Christians at war with the Islamic people of the area in and around Constantinople. There were seven separate wars. Some believe the current wars launched by the United States under the Christian-driven Bush Administration, in Afghanistan and Iraq, are an eighth war and a continuation of the Crusades. An eighth war was, indeed, a prophecy that appears to be fulfilled.

Because of its prime location, Constantinople was not only the location for a great capital city, but it also was the target for many invading armies over the years. The city was destroyed by gioting in 532 during the reign of Justinian I, then rebuilt with even more elaborate structures. This is when the Hagia Sophia was erected.

For the next several hundred years the Persians, Arabs, nomadic people and armies of the Fourth Crusade attacked Constantinople. Finally, weakened by almost constant battle, the Ottoman Turks lead by Sultan Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453. That was when the city was renamed Istanbul. And it became the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman rule continued until the empire was defeated in World War I and Istanbul was occupied by allied forces. The Republic of Turkey was established in 1923 after the War of Independence. The capital was moved to Ankara, but Istanbul continues to this day to remain a major seaport with a population estimated at some 13 million.