A useful map of Constantinople

Van der Vin’s book[1] also contains a rather useful map of Constantinople, which I think worth sharing.  In particular it shows the location of the Church of the Holy Apostles.


UPDATE: I suppose this map will be more useful to more people, if I OCR the names at the bottom so that Google can find them. They are:
1. Wall of Theodosius II
2. Golden Gate
3. Pege Gate (Selymbria Gate)
4. Hagia Sophia
5. Hagii Apostoli
6. Monastery of St. John in Stoudion
7. Church of Mary Peribleptos
8. Monastery of St. Andrew in Krisei
9. Church of Mary of Blachernae
10. Monastery of St. John in Petra
11. Monastery of Pantocrator
12. Church of St. Stephen in Dafne
13. Church of Mary Hodegetria
14. Monastery of St. George of the Mangana
15. Column of Justinian I (Augusteion)
16. Column of Constantine (Forum of Constantine)
17. Column of Theodosius I (Forum Tauri)
18. Column of Arcadius (Forum of Arcadius)
19. Column of Michael VIII
20. Imperial Palace
21. Bucoleon palace
22. Blachernae palace
23. Hippodrome
24. Obelisk
25. Cistern of Philoxenos
26. Aqueduct of Valens
27. Forum Amastrianum
28. Forum of the Bous
29. Lycus Valley
30. Mese

  1. [1]J.P.A. van der Vin –   Travellers to Greece and Constantinople. Ancient Monuments and Old Traditions  in Medieval Travellers’ Tales (PIHANS 49), 1980. [27 cm, softcover; IX, 751].  ISBN: 90-6258-049-1. Online at the Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten – Netherlands Institute for the Near East site.

The church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople – already in ruins before 1453?

The church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople was the location of the mausoleum of the emperors.  It doesn’t exist any more, as it was demolished by the Turks after 1453 and a mosque built on the site, the mosque of “Mehmet the Conquerer”.

I’ve seen the statement online, made in such a way as to palliate the destruction, that the church was a ruin before the Turks demolished it.  But I did wonder what the evidence was.

Well, I’ve been working away at Van der Vin’s marvellous book on medieval travellers to Constantinople,[1] which I mentioned earlier.  The website on which it resides did a splendid job and scanned the missing half of the book and fixed the upload in a day!  And this gives us the answer.

From Cristoforo Buondelmonti (ca. 1414-1422), Liber insularum archipelagi:[2]

Next to the church of the Holy Apostles stands the fifth column, the top of which bears an angel of bronze and Constantine on his knees.

The aforesaid church, already ruined by time, contains the sumptuous tombs of the emperors, cut out of purple marble, notably the vast sarcophagus of Constantine.  The column to which Christ was attached for the flagellation may be seen there.

This statement, however, is our only such statement.  Buondelmonti refers to ruins all over the place in Constantinople.

In fact the city was largely in ruins and extensive areas within the walls were just fields and olive groves.  the population had shrunk to a mere 40,000, living in 13 villages scattered here and there over the immense area.

The population estimate comes from an anonymous account written in Munich in 1437.[3]

Ibn Battuta, an Arab traveller who visited the city in 1332 as part of the entourage of a Greek princess, says that the citadel and palace are “is surrounded by the city wall, which is a  formidable one and cannot be taken by assault on the side of the sea.  Within the wall are about thirteen inhabited villages.”[4]

Buondelmonti tells us that the Constantinoplitans are “very few”[5] and concerned with nothing but food.  In 1432 Bertrandon de la Broquiere, a Burgundian nobleman on pilgrimage, tells us that “the city is made up of villages and that there is much more open than built-up.”[6]  Pero Tafur, a Spanish nobleman on pilgrimage who visited around 1437-8, writes:[7]

The city is sparsely populated. It is divided into districts, that by the sea-shore having the largest population. The inhabitants are not well clad, but sad and poor, showing the hardship of their lot which is, however, not so bad as they deserve, for they are a  vicious people, steeped in sin. …

It must have been a sad place, full of ruins and poverty, and an impoverished emperor and his court.  Yet how we would love to see it!

  1. [1]J.P.A. van der Vin –   Travellers to Greece and Constantinople. Ancient Monuments and Old Traditions  in Medieval Travellers’ Tales (PIHANS 49), 1980. [27 cm, softcover; IX, 751].  ISBN: 90-6258-049-1. Online at the Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten – Netherlands Institute for the Near East site.
  2. [2]Van der Vin, p.688.
  3. [3]P.254, 443.  The text is Terre hodierne Grecorum et dominia secularia et spiritualia ipsorum; see “Neos hellenomnemon” 7 (1910), p.361.  It reads: “habitantes in ea, ut extimo, quadraginta milia hominum vix possunt interesse, qui in tempore guerrae de suis internis vineis, pratis et ceteris necessariis vivere possunt, prout frequenter probatur.”
  4. [4]P.569.
  5. [5]Van der Vin, p.669.
  6. [6]P.684: I am not entirely certain of the translation of the old French “Tout ainsi que les grosses carraques peuvent venir devant Pere, semblablement font à Constantinoble[sic]. Et est cette cite cy faicte par villaiges et y a beaucop plus de voide que de plain.”  Edition: Ch. Schefer, Le voyage d’Outremer de Bertrandon de la Broquiere, Paris, 1892.
  7. [7]P.703.

More on the inscription of “D. Cetiannus”

Four years after Wilhelm von Boldensele, in 1336, another German traveller visited the pyramids of Giza.  His name was Ludolf von Sudheim, the chaplain of another German nobleman on pilgrimage.  He also left an account of his travels, and a transcription of the Latin inscription on the pyramid at Giza.  His statement was as follows:[1]

To one side of New Babylonia (Cairo) across the Nile in the direction of the Egyptian desert stand several monuments of amazing size, which were formerly very beautiful; they are built of great blocks of tooled stone. Of these monuments there are two that are very large, and that were formerly very beautiful; they are square tombs. On one wall of one of these monuments there are letters chiselled out in Latin, on the second wall in Greek, on the third in Hebrew; on the fourth wall, however, there are many characters which are unknown. But on the first wall, where the Latin is, is carved- insofar as can still be made out, because of its age – the following:

Vidi pyramides sine te, dulcissime frater,
Et tibi quod potui lacrimas hic moesta profudi
Et nostri memorem luctus hanc sculpo querelam.
Sit nomen Decimi Anni pyramidis alta
Pontificis comitisque tuis, Trajane, triumphis,
Lustra sex intra censoris consulis esse.

I leave the explanation of these verses to the judgement of the reader. These monuments were called by the native population the granaries of Pharaoh.

The inscription (in six hexameters, the last plainly corrupt) is the same, except that the name of the companion of Trajan is given as D. Annius, rather than D. Cetiannus.  It is likely that the text was worn and hard to read by this date.  The presence of lettering in other languages, all unreadable to the parish priest of Westphalia, may or may not be related to the inscription.

  1. [1]J.P.A. van der Vin –   Travellers to Greece and Constantinople. Ancient Monuments and Old Traditions  in Medieval Travellers’ Tales (PIHANS 49), 1980. [27 cm, softcover; IX, 751].  ISBN: 90-6258-049-1. Online at the Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten – Netherlands Institute for the Near East site; p.584; discussion on p.34-5.

An ancient Latin inscription on the pyramids of Giza

The pyramids of Giza still retained their outer casing into the middle ages, and only lost it when the Arabs started to use it as a source of stone.  But in 1332 a German noble, Wilhelm von Boldensele, while on pilgrimage in the orient, visited the site.  In his Itinerarius Guelielmi de Boldensele in terram sanctam [1] he writes:

Beyond Babylonia (Cairo) and the river of paradise, in the direction of the desert that lies between Egypt and Africa, there are several monuments of the ancients, shaped like pyramids; two of them are amazingly large and high, with very large, polished stones, and on these I found characters inscribed in different languages. In one monument I came across the following Latin verses, chiselled in stone:

Vidi pyramidas sine te, dulcissime frater,
Et tibi, quod potui, lacrimas hie moesta profudi,
Et nostri memorem luctus hanc sculpo querelam.
Sit nomen Decimi Cetianni pyramide alta
Pontificis comitisque tuis, Trajane, triumphis
Lustra sex intra censoris consulis esse.

I have seen the pyramids in stone without you, beloved brother,
and for you I have grieved here as much as I could, and shed my tears;
And mindful of our grief I chisel this lament:
May the high pyramid know the name of Decimus Cetiannus,
The pontifex and companion of your triumphs, O Trajan,
(Who within six lustra was both censor and consul??).[2]

The inscription and the stone on which it was inscribed have long since vanished from the world.  But the name of D. Cetiannus, priest and companion of the emperor Trajan is preserved; because a German traveller twelve centuries later happened to write down the graffito.

I wonder what remains of antiquity might be mouldering in Arabic texts, unknown because Arabic literature is pretty much unknown and inaccessible, untranslated because unknown?

On the same inscription, see the following post.

UPDATE: 16 September 2019.  A twitter thread by the excellent Dr Kate Wiles here drew my attention to further information.  I don’t see any sign that this will be written up, and it would be a shame to lose what she and others uncovered.  She writes:

Some time around AD 120, a Roman woman, Terentia, visited the pyramids and, in the smooth limestone facing of the Great Pyramid, she carved a poem in memory of her brother.

‘I saw the pyramids without you, my dearest brother, and here I sadly shed tears for you, which is all I could do. And I inscribe this lament in memory of our grief. May thus be clearly visible on the high pyramid the name of Decimus Gentianus…’

… Emily Hemelrijk in her book Matrona Docta says: ‘The poem is no literary masterpiece’ but also admires Terentia’s ‘pretension in inscribing a poem on one of the great pyramids of Egypt’. ‘Her poem was meant for eternity’.

There is more in I.M. Plant, Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, 2004, 155-6,[3] which tells us:[4]

Terentia was a Roman visitor to Egypt whose only known work is a poem which she composed as an epitaph for her brother, Decimus Terentius Gentianus, and had inscribed on the pyramid of Cheops. The poem was discovered and recorded in 1335 by a German pilgrim, Wilhelm von Boldensele. Since then all the limestone facing on the pyramid has been removed and the inscription itself has been lost. Terentia’s poem, as we have it, consists of six hexameters, but may originally have been longer.

We do know a little about her brother. Decimus Terentius Gentianus was consul suffectus under the Emperor Trajan in AD 116, and governor of Macedonia under Hadrian as a censitor in AD 120.2 This helps us to date Terentia’s visit to Egypt and her poem. Still in mourning for her brother, she chose the pyramid for her epitaph to provide a suitably grand and everlasting site for her tribute to him.^ She was proud of her brother’s political achievements at such a young age (under thirty), and the status and position in the imperial court that this reflected. Traditionally a man could not attain the rank of consul before he turned forty, though this Republican practice, codified in the Lex Vibia Annalis in 180 BC, was disregarded by the emperors who promoted themselves, family members and favourites without regard to the age limit. There is no other record of Terentius reaching the rank of censor, Terentia may have elevated her brother’s appointment as censitor in her poem to exaggerate his achievements.

It has been suggested that Terentia visited Egypt as a member of Hadrian’s touring party in AD 130. This may be so but there is no evidence for it, and Terentia’s epitaph must have been written after AD 130 as the Historia Augusta (23) records that Terentius did not die until after Hadrian’s tour.

Terentius had been popular in the senate and at one time considered a possible successor by Hadrian. Terentia’s poem is all the more remarkable for her boldness in lauding a politician who had fallen out of favour with the reigning emperor. Terentia looks back to the success of her brother under Trajan, whom she addresses, but does not mention Hadrian at all. Perhaps Egypt was far enough away from Rome for such political graffiti to pass unnoticed. Terentia did not need to travel to Egypt with the Emperor: evidence from the graffiti on the statue of Memnon shows that there was considerable Roman tourism in Egypt by both men and women.

Terentia’s poem can be compared with the epigrams by Caecilia Trebulla and Julia Balbilla, inscribed in the time of Hadrian on the Colossus of Memnon, as examples of occasional poetry. They show that at this time women of the Roman elite were literate—Terentia adapts a verse of Horace in line three—and could express themselves well in verse.

The text itself is better known as the Liber de quibusdam ultramarinis partibus et praecipue de Terra Sancta.  A critical edition was printed by Deluz in 1972: “O. Deluz, Liber de quibusdam ultramarinis partibus et praecipue de terra sancta de Guillaume de Boldenses (1336), suivi de la traduction de Frère Jean de Long (1351), Paris (Diss. masch.) 1972 aus einer Baseler Hs.”[5]

Written when it was, it circulated in manuscript copies, as did a French translation.  R. Rohricht, Bibliotheca Geographica Palestinae (1890; online here) lists 25 mss. for Boldensele (p.73), 4 in Munich alone:[6]

Thomas Schmid located one of the Vienna mss, number 523, online here.  The catalogue suggests that the manuscript is 14th century, but I’m not entirely certain of the full shelfmark.  The text is on image 30 – this seems to be folio 10v – where it fills the first column (click for a larger size):

A more modern but partial list of manuscripts is accessible at Cendari here.  Finally an excellent list of manuscripts and bibliography is at Arlima here.  This gives the following mss:

  1. Basel, Öffentliche Bibliothek der Universität, D. IV, 8 (anc. E. III. 20)
  2. Bruxelles, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, 8779
  3. Colmar, Bibliothèque municipale, 228, f. 12a-29b.  Online here.
  4. Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Z. 183, f. 1-14
  5. Giessen, Universitätsbibliothek, 159, f. 1-12.  Online here.
  6. Klosterneuburg, Stiftsbibliothek, ?? (Pez, Thaur. I A, LXXXVII)
  7. Lambach, Stiftsbibliothek, ?? (Tübing. Theol. Quartalschr. 1868, 326)
  8. Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Suppl. lat. 322
  9. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, clm 903, f. 174-196
  10. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, clm 18621, f. 83-122
  11. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, clm 22377, f. 183-190
  12. München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, clm 27006
  13. Namur, Bibliothèque municipale, 50
  14. Praha, Archiv pražského hradu, Knihovna metropolitní kapituly, G. 42
  15. Praha, Archiv pražského hradu, Knihovna metropolitní kapituly, N. 13
  16. Utrecht, Universiteitsbibliotheek, 737, f. 169-175
  17. Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reginensi latini, 171
  18. Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 523
  19. Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 3529, f. 132-153
  20. Wilna, Gräfl. Potocklische Bibliothek, [sans cote], f. 188-201
  21. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Weissenb. 40, f. 95-110 (B b 2)
  22. Wrocław, Biblioteka uniwersytecka, IV, 37, 4°
  23. localisation actuelle inconnue: Straubing, Cod. d. früheren Dechantan Matthias Ebersperger (B b I)
  24. localisation actuelle inconnue: anc. ms. Cheltenham, Sir Thomas Phillipps, n° 6650

The last item, according to Worldcat, is in fact at the University of Minnesota in the USA, here.

All of these are presumably copies.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if the autograph existed somewhere?

  1. [1]No modern edition seems to exist: my source is a translation of extracts in J.P.A. Van der Vin, Travellers to Greece and Constantinople. Ancient Monuments and Old Traditions  in Medieval Travellers’ Tales (PIHANS 49), 1980. [27 cm, softcover; X, 751 (2 vols.)].  ISBN: 90-6258-049-1. p.574 f, esp. p.577-8.  Downloadable here.
  2. [2]Text and translation from Van der Vin.
  3. [3]Google Books preview here.
  4. [4]I could only view the introduction.  There are copious notes, but I could not view these either.
  5. [5]Information and further bibliography from here.
  6. [6]These details and image from Phil Booth.