Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Harbors and the Maritime Neighborhoods of Constantinople

From the article by P. Magdalino, The Maritime Neighborhoods of Constantinople: Commercial and Residential Functions, Sixth to Twelfth Centuries, DOP 54, 2000
Constantinople, like New York, is a city not only by the sea, but also, to a large extent, in the sea. The effect of the sea on the fabric of the city is strongly pervasive, and it makes sense to start from the sea when investigating urban neighborhoods. By far the best evidence for the texture of urban neighborhoods comes from twelfth-century documents concerning the real estate conceded to the Italian maritime republics of Venice, Pisa, and Genoa—real estate that lay close to the shores of the Golden Horn. Since the sea is not far from any part of the city or its suburbs, and is indeed visible from almost anywhere within the Theodosian walls, it may well be asked what is meant by a maritime neighborhood. What distinguishes it from an inland neighborhood? Where does the one end and the other begin? Eleven of the twelve urban regions of the fifth-century Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae bordered on the sea, but only Regions I and IX had a long coastline.1 Most of the other regions extended from a narrow stretch of coast to a narrow bloc of the city center. However, the regions were administrative rather than social or economic units. If we take into account the topography, the layout of public spaces, and the location of public monuments, we can draw a broad working distinction between those parts of the city that looked primarily toward the sea and those orientated toward the central avenue (Mese), the fora, and the great public buildings. Only in rare cases was a focal point such as the Strategion or the Leomakellon situated so close to the sea as to constitute a rival attraction.
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