Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Phrygian Cap

Gladiador Frigio - Jose Maria Labastida
- 1824

While visiting the National Museum of Art (Museo Nacional de Arte) in Mexico City, I saw Jose Maria Labastida’s Gladiador Frigio Statue today. That is the statue of a naked male warrior holding a sword (unfortunately, the sword doesn’t exist now, it is broken). The thing that motivated me to write this article was the Phrygian Cap on the warrior’s head. Down here in Mexico City, thousands of kilometers away from Anatolia, in the statue of a Mexican sculptor, when I saw the cap with the top pulled forward, symbolizing  “freedom” and that belonged to the Phrygians who had lived around Ankara, Eskişehir and Afyon; I thought how small the world is , and how strong the interactions among cultures are.

The Phrygian Cap
The Phrygians lived in 1200 – 700 B.C. in the Mid-West Anatolia based around  Sakarya River . The famous “Gordian Knot” story ofthe Phrygians in which Alexander the Great cut the knot with his sword instead of untying it when he came to the capital city of Gordian near Ankara. Though the history of the Phrygian Cap is not exactly known, there might be an epic interpretation  on how it came up; as the story of our childhood goes: King Midas wore this cap for the first time to hide his famous donkey ears, then his folk began to wear it to follow after the king, so there came out the conic-shaped, pulled forward, red hat which we call as the Phrygian Cap today.

The Phrygian Cap as a Symbol of "Easterner"

Paris of Troy - Antonio Canova
- 1819

We see the Phrygian cap in Anatolian God Attis and the Persian originated Roman God Mithra. When Hellenes came to Anatolia, they used the cap to describe the non-Greek Anatolian folk. For instance; Anatolian, Eastern, Trojan Paris was depicted with the Phrygian cap. The cap was also used to represent The Easterner. In the Basilica of St. Apollinare located in Ravenna, Italy, on the mosaic themed  “the three easterner magi announcing King Herod the prophecy of the birth of Jesus Christ”, which is a popular theme in various Orthodox churches, we see “the three easterner magi” with the Phrygian cap symbolizing  their being easterners. The interesting thing here is that; the same theme was depicted without the Phrygian cap on the mosaic in Chora Church in Istanbul. It seems “the Easterners” who were portrayed with the Phrygian cap in Italy, didn’t need to wear it  any more in Istanbul, i.e. in the East.
Italy, Ravenna, St. Apollinare Church, "The three easterner magi"

Turkey, Istanbul, Chora Church, "The three easterner magi"

The Phrygian Cap as a Symbol of "Freedom"
In Roman Republic, the Phrygian caps were worn by slaves who had won their freedom. This made the cap turn into a symbol of “freedom” in time. The Phrygian cap was worn by the folk during the French Revolution as a symbol of “rebellion and freedom” and even the national symbol of France, Marianne was depicted with the Phrygian Cap on her head. In 1850, it was abolished to sing the anthem of Marseille and wear the Phrygian Cap in France for about ten years as it implied revolution; then it took its place in French history as a symbol of the revolution.
The symbol of French Revolution
In late eighteenth century, just as the French Revolution, it became a symbol of the liberation movements of the Unites States of America against Great Britain. Today we see the Phrygian Cap in the seal of the USA Senate and the flags of New York and New Jersey states.  
The Seal of The USA Senate
 Symbolic use of the cap is not limited to these; it has its place as a symbol of freedom in the coat of arms of several Latin American countries such as Bolivia, El Salvador, Argentina, Cuba and Paraguay today.
The coat of arms of Cuba
 Do the people of Afyon, Eskişehir and Ankara know that the cap of their ancestors, who had lived on the same lands before them, is now a symbol of freedom gained through struggle on a great land extending from the South and North American continents?
Phrygian Cap in modern times
Click here for Turkish

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The origins of political parties and “partisanship”: The Blues and The Greens

The Roman poet and author Juvenal complained in one of his famous satires that he wrote in early 2nd century that, the Romans had given up their political freedom for “bread and circuses” (“panem et circenses”). What Juvenal meant by “bread and circuses” was that, instead of solving the real problems the emperors distributed free bread to the Romans and organized entertainment at hippodrome in a populist way to create the public approval and  prevent riots.  The entertainment at hippodrome had been organized by the emperors since the foundation of the Roman Empire to keep the public busy and pleased just like the television and football clubs do today. These activities mainly consisted of gladiatorial combats at first, but with conversion to Christianity from Paganism and the Church’s prohibition of the gladiatorial combats, chariot races took their place. In Emperor Augustus’s period in the 1st century, entertainments lasted for 77 days in a year. Though they were rather costly for the government, in Emperor Markus Aurelius’s period in early 2nd century, they were extended to 135 days in a year. Entertainment activities had been organized at hippodrome until Constantinople was invaded by the Latin in the 13th Century.

Chariot Races in Ancient Times – Alexander Von Wagner - 1913
The teams racing in chariot races held at hippodrome used to wear red, blue, green and white jerseys and paint their chariots in order to be distinguished from each other. Each team gained their own supporters in time, the teams began to be called as “The Blues”, “The Greens”, “The Reds” and “The Whites” and their fans began to carry flags and wear cloaks in the colors of their teams, just like today’s uniforms. “The Whites” and “The Reds” disappeared in time and as of the 4th century there were only “The Blues” and “The Greens”.  The emperors watched the races from private loge designated for them which were called ‘kathisma’.  Hippodrome was the only place where the public met the emperors. Eventually, the supporters who  cheered for their teams began to shout about   daily issues such as taxes or military services etc inbetween.  This became a good chance for the emperors to keep finger on the pulse. The hippodrome turned into a place where the public supported or critised the emperors. . Unsurprisingly, in time, political factions among the public became materialized in teams and supporters.
Conservative, elite: rightist Blues / Rebellious, poor: leftist Greens
The Empress Theodora –
San Vitale Basilica – Mosaic –
6th Century
Whereas The Blues formed the elite class that had the Diophysite Orthodox belief which was the official religious sect of the state upon the Chalcedon Ecumenical Council decisions, The Greens represented the lower and relatively poor classes mostly coming from the eastern parts of the empire. In this sense, according to today’s definition, The Blues and The Greens can be considered as the first political parties in history, including the Roman Republic era, where “the man in the street” was represented. The emperors heard about the demands and complaints of these two factions which had two opposite views and socio-economic conditions, and this gave them the chance to adjust their policies and practices according to these or at least take their feedbacks. Thus the hippodrome was not only a place where chariot races took place, but also a place where political parties met the government.
The emperors supported a team in accordance with their political and religious views. For instance, Emperor Justinian who was strictly bound to the Dyophysite religious sect, supported The Blues (It should be noted that, the Byzantine Empire was not ruled by a single dynasty as the Ottoman Empire. Many emperors came into power by a military coup while they weresoldiers in the army. This was the reason for the change of the religious sect or party from one emperor to another On the other hand; his wife, Empress Theodora was bound to the Monophysite religious sect and came from a rather poor family, and she supported The Greens. In this way, the emperor and the empress were able to keep finger on the pulse of both factions. The everlasting dispute between these two groups often helped the emperor sustain the balance, until the “Nika Riot” that broke out in Constantinople in 532.

The Nika Riot
On the day of Nika Riot, a first in history was experienced at hippodrome. The Greens and The Blues, which had totally opposite views and were fierce opponents of each other,  united against the Emperor Justinian about an unfair practice which both groups suffered from yet the emperor didn’t take a step back, and they shouted “Nika! (which meant ‘victory’)” all together. The emperor realized that there was a serious trouble and left the hippodrome, then The Greens and The Blues left the hippodrome as well and started a big fire in the city, which would last for days, they sieged the palace and demanded Justinian’s head. Justinian tried  to suppress the riot for days but  since he was unable , he decided to escape to save his life. The ships that would take him and his wife Theodora were waiting in the harbor. Theodora, who had started life as a belly-dancer and had never been considered to deserve the palace  since she had come from the lowest and poorest class of the public and who was even accused of prostitution by the historian Prokopius in his book named as “The Secret History of the Byzantium”, convinced Justinian to stay and keep trying to suppress the riot.  The rumor had it that: Theodora said this  historical quote to Justinian, who was  preparing to run away; “I would rather die than run away, there cannot be a cerement more beautiful than the royal clothing!” Justinian took courage from his wife and decided to stay. That night, he made a plan with his commander Belisarius to kill the rioters the next day while they gathered together at the hippodrome and they shut around forty thousand rioters at the hippodrome and slaughtered them all. Constantinople experienced one of the bloodiest days in its history. The riot was suppressed at the evening of that day and Justinian kept ruling the empire for many years until he died a natural death. The Empress Theodora, who had withheld Justinian from running away thanks to her calmness and courage that night, and came to be remembered as one of the most powerful women in history together with the British Queen Victoria and the Russian Czarina Catherina , changed the flow of history.  Back to the subject, we can say that the Nika Riot became a turning point for The Blues and The Greens, i.e., for the first political parties. Despite the fact that the riot was suppressed gorily, it underlined that it would create serious troubles for the emperors when the supporters of both political parties were unpleased, and also it was the first event as a result of which political parties formed an opinion about their powers.

Riot in Byzantium - Schnorr von Carolsfeld – 1835
“ Supporting”  a political party since The Blues and The Greens
Today, many people support their political views and political parties (if any) like a football team fan. Instead of getting proud of its trues and criticizing their faults, they support their parties to death in a blindfolded way and criticize the opponent view and party with impunity. They shout out slogans instead of talking with sense and logic. But this is not surprising when one knows the truth that today’s political parties arose from the stadiums and sports team fans of the Ancient Byzantium.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The 15. Century Byzantine immigrants and their influence on Italian Renaissance

Giorgione, Sleeping Venus, 1510
By the year 1400, due to its land losses the Byzantine Empire had turned into separate little islets in the Ottoman Empire. There was the Trabzon Greek Empire on one side, the Despotate of Morea on the other side and there was the Constantinople in between them. The rapid progress of the Ottomans made the Byzantine people realize the inevitable end waiting for them, and they gradually began to move to safer places. Italy was the best place to move for these Byzantine people who had decided to escape, both for its closeness and its historical bonds coming from the Roman Empire when the Orthodox-Catholic distinction is ignored. The Southern Italy, which had been under the rule of the Byzantine until 1071, was mainly preferred by the villagers as the integration was relatively easier; Venice, which was a commercial and marine town, was mostly preferred by the middle-class class tradesmen. As the capital city, Rome was preferred by the nobles and the ones who had political relations. Venice received the most migration. As of 1460, there had been almost 5000-6000 Byzantine immigrants in Venice.

In Italy, people started to get interested in Latin ancient philosophy since the 15th century and the intellectual aspect of the Renaissance illumination began. Before the beginning of the great immigration activity from the Byzantine, Catholic Italy was already familiar with Aristotle (especially thanks to Thomas Aquinas) though the number of texts in hand was limited, and somehow it had managed to integrate Aristotle with the Christian Catholic doctrine especially in ethics, but they had almost no Latin translation about Plato (so certainly about Socrates). The Byzantine immigrants brought not only the Greek ancient philosophy books that had been lost and forgotten by the Europeans for 6 centuries but also various ancient books from geography to history, from linguistics to theology, and far more importantly, they brought the greatest loss of Europe in the medieval age, which was the secular education. In the Byzantine Empire, higher education was not only carried out according to Orthodox doctrines but also with a secular content using the works of the ancient Greek philosophers, historians and poets. In Italy, where the Renaissance illumination had just begun, this evoked a great admiration. And they must have been astonished that; “this miserable, and due to their Orthodox identity half-heretic miserable neighbor of them, which had been defeated by the Ottomans” had delicately preserved the ancient Greek philosophy and secular education which the Europeans had lost because of the medieval age.

Raphael, School of Athens, 1510 / Plato and Aristotle in the middle and Socrates  in the left with the green  dress

The Italian poet and one of the first humanists, Petrarca, “re-discovered” Cicero’s letters in early 14th Century, shared these with the Italians of his time and initiated the intellectual illumination.

"Renaissance was above all things a revival of Cicero, and only after him and through him of the rest of Classical antiquity."
Tadeusz Zieliński

“The rest of Classical antiquity” as defined by the Polish historian Zielinski, was completed by the books brought by the Byzantine immigrants. After Cicero, reading Plato, who had had a great influence on Cicero, and realizing that education could be secular, boosted the illumination that had been initiated.

Significant People:
George of Trabzon
George of Trabzon: He was born in Crete in 1395, and he got his name from his ancestors from Trabzon. He moved to Italy in 1430. He translated the works of Plato and Aristotle into Latin. He was a great supporter of Aristotelianism and a great anti-supporter of Platonism.

Manuel Chrysoloras: He was born in Constantinople in 1355. He was a statesman. He was sent to Venice in 1390 by the Emperor Manuel the 2nd Palaeologus to carry out lobbying work against the possible attacks of the Ottomans. In 1396, he started to give Greek language and literature courses in the University of Florence. He translated the works of Plato and Homer into Latin and shared these with the Italians of his time.
Manuel Chrysoloras

Theodorus Gaza
Leonardo Bruni: He was born in Toscana in 1370. He was a statesman, a humanist and an historian. He was considered to be the first modern historian. He indeed was the first historian to divide history into three categories as the Ancient Age, Medieval Age and the Modern (New) Age. He took Greek lessons from Manuel Chrysoloras. He translated the Greek works into Latin and shared these with the Italians of his time.

Theodorus Gaza: He was born in Salonika in 1400. He escaped to Italy in 1430, when Salonika was invaded by the Ottomans. He gave Greek language and literature courses in the University of Ferrera. He translated Aristotle’s works which were not available in Latin.
Basilios Besarion

Basilios Besarion: He was born in Trabzon in 1389. He got education in Constantinople and in Morea Peninsula. He became the Nicaean Metropolitan Bishop. He participated in 1437 Ecumenical Council of Florence to represent the Byzantine Empire. He adopted Catholicism in time. He was assigned as a cardinal by the Pope Eugene the 4th and he moved to Italy in 1439. He translated the works of Plato, Aristotle and the historian, Xnephon.

Discussions on Platonist philosophy:
The re-emergence of Plato in Europe in the Medieval age especially owing to the translations of George from Trabzon and Manuel Chrysoloras brought about significant discussions. The definition of a citizen who was interested in and participated in political issues, as set forth by Cicero and Aristotle was replaced by a citizen who left politics to its “specialists” and who instead dealt with meditation by avoiding earthly issues. Plato had had a great influence on this. “Rule of educated scholars” as stated in Plato’s works were interpreted as the limited participation of a simple citizen, and attracted a great support in the humanistic environment of Renaissance. Nevertheless; there was a big obstacle before Plato’s popularity: The church and university, which were somehow able to adopt Aristotle’s ideas into Christian doctrine made it impossible to fit Plato’s ideas on reincarnation and spouse-sharing into Christian belief.
The discussion between the Aristotelians and Platonists grew more in time. There were two people just in the middle of this discussion: One of them was George of Trabzon, who was a great supporter of Aristotle, though who himself translated the works of Plato. He claimed that reading Plato had to be prohibited as it would cause religious perversion; and Cardinal Besarion, a great supporter of Plato, who was again born in Trabzon and who claimed that the Platonist philosophy wasn’t that much distant from the Catholic doctrine, indeed.

This discussion between the Platonist and Aristotelian philosophy that took place around these two Byzantines in Florence and Venice, which served as the freest discussion environment in Europe at those times, fed and improved Renaissance in intellectual aspect.

Duccio, Calling of Apostle Petrus and Andreas / We see the Byzantine influence in art in this early Renaissance painting of Duccio. The faces of Jesus and apostles are just like the mosaics in Chora Church.

El Greco, The disrobbing of Christ, 1577 / Born in Crete in 1541, emmigrated to Venice in 1566 and 11 years after, in 1577 moved to Spain and spent the rest of his life. Contributed to Spanish Renaissance with his paintings. He signed his paintings as “ Cretan”.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Imrahor Mosque, Saint Stoudios Monastery and the Church of John the Baptist

It is located in Samatya, on İmrahor Ilyas Bey Avenue, behind the St. Constantine Church in İmam Asir Street. Unfortunately, the local people don’t know the name of the building either as Imrahor Mosque or as St. Stoudios Monastery. If you wish to reach there by asking the address to the local people around, you had better use the name “Imrahor Ilyas Bey Anıtı (Imrahor Ilyas Bey Monument)”. The building is in a rather bad condition and it doesn’t have a roof. Naturally, it neither serves as a church nor as a mosque. As can be understood from the signboard on its door, its current status is a “Monument” not a museum. Nevertheless; people are not allowed in. I hope it would be taken to maintenance as soon as possible, opened for visitors as a museum and taken under protection. This article will be about a building into which I wasn’t able to enter despite all my requests to the guard at the door on the grounds that I didn’t have “a special permit from the St. Sophia Museum”, and which I was only able to see from a distance by standing on haulage of a parked truck and peeping over the wall. So unfortunately again, for the details, I will use photos taken inside by others.  
The Chuch of Saint John the Baptist - Northern Side Wall

The building is the oldest church that has survived until today in Istanbul. Despite the fact that it is referred as St. Stoudios Monastery in the title of the article, the part that has survived is exclusively its
church which was constructed in basilica style and consecrated to Saint John the Baptist. Roman Senate Council, Stoudios, who had settled in Constantinople, had the monastery constructed in 462 A.C. It belonged to the sect of Acoemetae, i.e., the Sleepless (“a” is a negative prefix and “coemetae” means to sleep). The name of the sect comes from the fact that they prayed twenty four hours a day. In the past, the monks in the monastery prayed day and night in turns and kept the service going. According to John Freely and Ahmet Cakmak’s book named as “The Byzantine Monuments of Istanbul”, the number of monks in the monastery reached up to a thousand in its most crowded times.
Saint Theodore the Studite (759-826)

The monastery lived its golden age in 799, when Saint Theodorus became the head of monks. Saint Theodorus was a man of the cloth who was very active in political and intellectual issues. He protested iconoclasm -albeit unsuccessfully- , the period in seventh and eight centuries, which prohibited all kinds of religious pictures and sentenced their drawers to death. Theodorus was expelled from the city for three times, yet he returned back each time. During his management period, the monastery became the religious, artistic and intellectual center of the region; the monks copied ancient manuscripts, composed hymns and drew icons.
The Chuch of Saint John the Baptist - Southern Side Wall

The monastery also witnessed significant events in history. When Emperor Michael the 5th was dethroned, he took shelter in Stoudios Monastery, but the angry crowd had him come out, blinded him with hot iron and exiled to Chios.  Emperors Isaac Komnenos the 1st and Michael Doukas the 7th took monastic vows in this monastery. When Emperor Michael Palaiologos the 8th entered in the city through ceremonies when he conquered the city back after the fifty-seven years of Latin invasion, he walked in this  monastery as the first thing and prayed, then he continued to St. Sophia on horseback. Yet, the most interesting story is of course the story of Prince Yusuf, who was the son of Sultan Beyazid. A certain truth is that; Prince Yusuf came to Constantinople somehow, chose Christianity, changed his name as Demetrios, lived, died and got buried in this monastery. The controversial part is in the details: While Jonathan Harris (Professor of Byzantine History in the University of London) claims in his book named as “The End of Byzantium” that Prince Yusuf, who admired Greek literature and Constantinople, escaped and took shelter in Byzantium; on the other hand, Alexander Van Milingen states in his book named as “The Byzantine Churches in Constantinople” that, Beyazid gave Yusuf as hostage to Byzantine Empire. Considering that Beyazid went on a campaign with the Byzantine Prince at the same years, the second scenario claiming that the Ottoman Prince Yusuf was given as hostage but he became Christian and did not return back seems more realistic to me than the first scenario, in which the Prince admired Greek literature and Constantinople and escaped to Byzantine Empire.

Corinthian Style Column Capitals

Today there aren’t any traces from Saint Stoudios Monastry except for the Church of Saint John the Baptist. The church was constructed as a rectangular basilica. The right side interior columns are destroyed, only the ones in the left side have survived today. The capitals are in Corinthian style and one can see their beauties from the pictures. We get to the document about the inside of the church through the memories of the traveler Spanish Ambassador, Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, which he wrote in the fifteenth century. The ambassador that came to Constantinople mentioned about the inside of the church with the below lines:
“… there are seven altars inside of it; its ceiling, walls and halls are ornamented with rich mosaics telling stories and there are twenty four green columns in the main hall.”
We understand from these lines that; inside of the church was covered with wonderful mosaics from the base to the ceiling.

The building was mostly damaged during the Latin invasion, and following the big fire in 1782 and the earthquake in 1894, it became today’s ruins. When the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453, the chief stableman of Beyazid the 2nd, Ilyas Bey restored it and turned it into a mosque. It was abandoned in 1908, when its roof collapsed.

The poem written by the monks of the monastery most probably in the sixth or seventh century:
“No barbarian looks upon my face; no woman hears my voice.
For a thousand years no useless man has entered the monastery of Studius; none of the female sex has trodden its court.
I dwell in a cell that is like a palace; a garden, an oliveyard, and a vineyard surround me.
Before me are graceful and luxuriant cypress trees.
On one hand is the city with its market-place; on the other, the mother of churches and the empire of the world....”

Cemberlitas (“Hooped Stone”), Column of Constantine

Column of Constantine is located in Cemberlitas square, five hundred meters up north, when one follows the Divan road from Sultanahmet Square. It is 36 meters high and is made up of six cylindrical marble pieces that have turned into brown from purple in time. The pieces are connected to each other by metal circles that stand on a stone base. It was removed from the Apollo Temple in Rome by the order of the Emperor Constantine the 1st and brought to Constantinople. Thus; the marble blocks on it must be more than 2.000 years old.
Cemberlitas (“Hooped Stone”) –
Constantine Column

It was erected by the Emperor Constantine the 1st in 330 A.D. in honor of the new capital city of the emperorship, New Rome (“Nova Roma”) Constantinople. The city was an ancient Greek colony actually, which was conquered in 2nd century A.D. by the Roman Empire that had been called as the Byzantium so far. Yet, with the celebrations this column was opened on 11th May 330, it became the capital city of Roman Empire. Due to the famous iron rims used in the Ottoman period, the Column was called as “Çemberlitaş” (“Hooped Stone”).
It was 50 meters high and approximately three meters below the ground when it was first erected. On the column, there was the founder of the city, Constantine’s statue depicted as God Apollo greeting the sun. The square which had an approximate diameter of 400-500 meters, two big gates in east and west directions and which included the senate building, baths and churches was also designed as the most prominent square of the city. Constantine had this square constructed, and it was called as the Constantine Square. I would advise you to visit the Byzantium 1200 web-site offering the 3D reconstructions of Istanbul in year 1200 to see the magnificence of the Constantine Square in the year 1200 and the pictures of the Column’s original state.
The original state of the Column of Constantine:
On the top of the 50 meter high column,
there was the bronze statue of Emperor Constantine,
who was depicted as Apollo.

The globe hold by Constantine depicted as Apollo standing on the Column is said to contain a fragment from the “True Cross”. In a sanctuary at the foot of the Column, there were some Christian relics;  the jar used by Maria Magdalena to wash the Jesus Christ’s feet, some parts of the crosses of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ and the basket which Christ used in Fish and Bread Miracle. The Goddess Athena statuette and the statuette of the defender of the city of Rome were also taken by Constantine to the new capital, Constantinople and put in the sanctuary at the bottom of the Column.
In a gale that broke out in 1106, the statue of Constantine and the three cylinder marbles at the top fell down, thus the height of the column decreased to 35 meters. Emperor Manuel the 1st had it repaired and a cross was also put on top.  There are ancient Greek writings in the marble capital at the top of the column which say that the column was repaired by the Emperor Manuel. Then in 1453, when the Ottoman conquered the city, they removed that cross. The stone base on which the column stands today, was made by the order of Abdulhamit the 1st, who had the Column maintained in the 18th century.,
The writing under the column capital:
"Faithful Manuel invigorated this holy
 work of art which has been damaged by time."

In my opinion, the most important feature of the Column of Constantine is that; it symbolizes the religion changing process of the Roman Empire the best with the Apollo statue on it and the Christian relics at the bottom. The column is a perfect hybrid. It is neither pagan nor Christian. Even the celebrations made on 11th May 330 were performed through half pagan half Christian ceremonies in accordance with the spirit or let’s say, conflict of the time. In those times, people of the city were also moving towards Christianity from paganism.

Tiberius Gracchus, the first land reform and the fall of a republic

When Tiberius Gracchus was elected as the representative of the Roman Senate in 133 B.C., nobody knew that the fall of the five hundred years old Roman Republic, which would inspire the European intellectuals and the American Constitution with its parliament and administration thousands of years later, will start and the Republic would turn into a dictatorship, the Roman Republic would come to an end and the Roman Empire would be founded. Tiberius suggested that some land of the rich Roman people were taken and distributed among the landless, and thus, he started the first land reform. The political rebellion he initiated would finish a republic and create a socialist concept that would influence the people for thousands of years. Tiberius was killed by the rich land owner senate members whose interests he threatened.

Tiberius Gracchus and his brother Gaius Gracchus,
who was killed just like Tiberius as he adopted
the land reform after Tiberius’s death, are holding
the land reform code together  in their hands
(Eugene Guillaume, 1878)
 His full name is Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, but we’ll call him as Tiberius here. He was born in 163 B.C., as the middle son of a significant politician and soldier, Tiberius Cracchus and African Cornealia. It is possible to define his family as quite rich and “noble”. Tiberius’s father, who had died when Tiberius was a small child, had a great deal of land.  
Tiberius was a soldier like his father. He was sent to the Spanish front after his success in Carthage war. But things didn’t go well in Spanish front. The army was destroyed by the Spanish. He had two choices then. To fight and lose many people and withdraw or to save his army through a peace treaty and return back… He chose the second. He saved the lives of 20.000 soldiers. He signed a peace treaty and turned back to Rome. But his humanistic act was not approved, and he was expelled from the army on the grounds that the Roman Army would never sign a peace treaty with barbarians. Then, he entered politics.  

Octavius being pulled down the rostrum by Tiberius
(Augustyne Mirys, 1760)
 When he was elected as the representative of the Senate in 133 B.C., he suggested that the public lands which were actually owned by the state but used by the rich senate members, were distributed among the poor within the framework of some rules (“Lex Sempronia Agragia”). This suggestion was accepted in the voting thanks to the support of the republican people party. The soldiers were also supporting Tiberius. Because when they went to military expeditions that lasted for long years, they found their lands invaded by the rich land owners, and they became landless when they returned back to Italy. Tiberius’s law would make them land owners again. The law, which made the people very happy, was not welcomed by the land owner senators.
As the support of the common people behind Tiberius intensified day by day, the number of his enemies in the “State” increased. The senate was divided into two as the reformists leaded by Tiberius, and the conservatives leaded by Marcus Octavius. Tiberius succeeded in sending Octavius away from the head of the conservative party claiming that Octavius was hindering the senate by misusing the veto right. He did this in a senate meeting, in front of everybody, by using force. You can find a quite detailed description of this tragic and significant event, Octavius’s leaving the rostrum in tears, the rich senators behind him, in Greek historian Plutark’s book titled as “Lives”, where he wrote about Tiberius’s life.
Tiberius addressing to farmers
To become elected again at the end of his one year of  duty term, he promised to submit a draft regulation offering that the spoils of war brought from the Bergoamon  Kingdom invaded by the Romans  were used to finance the land reform, the duration of military service was shortened, the right of being a jury in courts which exclusively belonged to the senate members before, was given to everybody and the “foreigners” living in the land invaded and who did not have a citizenship right were accepted to be Roman citizens. If he was to be elected again, Tiberius’s reforms wouldn’t be limited to land reform. He promised democratization in other areas, as well.
Gaius Garcchus’s death
(Francois Topino-Lebru, 1792)
There was an extraordinary tension in the senate on the day of the voting for Tiberius. One of the senators shouted that he wanted to be declared as the king. Havoc rose. Despite the presence of his supporters waiting out, Tiberius was beaten by the land owner conservative senators and killed. Upon his death, his brother Gaius followed his way and wanted to continue the reforms, but he was killed by the rich land owners just like his brother.
The land reform trial attempted by Tiberius brought the end of the Roman Republic and Senate, which was still trying to manage such a great country that had reached an enormous size due to the colonies it had established and its extending policy and the great incomes of this country through the laws of a small city-state. The act started by Tiberius caused a common disturbance and an approximately one hundred years of civil war. Soldiers such as Cornelius Sulla and Julius Cesar terminated the senate with coups and finally, Gaius Julius Agustus announced the foundation of an empire that would last till 1453, and he had it irrevocably institutionalized.
Tiberius’s land reform brought about two important questions that would occupy the mind of humanity for the following two thousand years:
Should the state distribute the lands of rich land owners to poor farmers? Do the ones living on a land, and cultivating it have the right of ownership on that land?
2010 A.C., Indonesian farmers are walking for the land reform 

Emperor Julian (Julian, The Apostate), The Last Pagan

Julian’s statue in Louvre Museum
Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus) was born on 30th April 332 in Constantinople as a member of the Constantinian Dynasty which was the first Christian dynasty of the Roman Empire. After an empery that lasted 18 months from 361 to 363, he was wounded in a war and  he died as the last Pagan emperor of the Roman Empire. His parents were Christians. In his youth, he was brought up by the significant bishops of the age, Eusebius and Mardonius in Nicomedia (today’s Izmit) and Cappadoccia churches. Yet, he accessed to classical books on philosophy through his own efforts. He went to Athens when he was twenty three years old and adopted the neo-Platonist paganism. He interrupted the Roman Empire’s process of conversion from Paganism to Christianity that started as of 2nd century and became official in 330 when the Emperor Constantine the 1st became Christian for the first time; and brought it back to Paganism. Julian’s struggle against Christianity made the church and the court angry, thue he made a great deal of enemies as a result.

Year 312- The Emperor Constantine
sees the figure of cross in the sky one night before
the Milvian Battle  and switches to Christianity from Paganism
Constantine’s Apostasy (Rubens, 1622)

In 355, Julian was assigned as the vice emperor for the Western Regions by his uncle Constantius. After the battles he won in Gaul in 357, he was declared as the emperor by his army in 360 in Paris. Then, he headed towards the East to fight against his uncle Constantius, who had been in Antioch. But his uncle suddenly got sick and died, so Julian gained the throne without the need of a civil war. He fought against the Persian Empire, which had been the most significant threat to Rome at that age. He had his headquarters in Antioch for about a year and managed the empire from there, as well. He got wounded in a war against the Persians in 363 and he died a few days later. Some claim that he was killed by a Christian soldier in his own army, not by an enemy.
He frequently created tension among the local people due to the limitations he exposed on the church in Antioch, which was a vigorous Christian city of the time. In his piece named as “Misogopon” (The Beard Hater), he wrote for the blue nosed Antioch people who were determined not to convert back to Paganism again, he told about his struggle against Christianity, the beauties of Paganism, classical philosophy and intellectual enlightenment. Between the lines, one can see his anger and disappointment with the Antioch people.

Saint Mercurius believed to have killed Julian
and saved Christianity

 “Why don’t you still give up remembering Mary as the Mother of God? What would you say if Christ came today and told “I was born from the Virgin as the first and dear man of the God, I am the first of the creatures”?
Julian, Misopogon, 362 Antioch
At those times, the classical philosophy supporters who believed in pagan religions and wished to turn back to ancient periods grew beards like the ancient philosophers as a “political symbol”. On the other hand; new current Christians got shaved. The name of his book, “beard-haters” stemmed from that. So, we see that humanity has not changed much; even 1700 years before, people could be modern or blue nosed with hair and beard. Anyway, let’s turn back to our subject; Julian was brought up by the bishops, Eusebius and Mardonius. He got a strict religious education and worked in the church when he was eighteen. So, he knew the Old and New Testaments quite well. This is why his criticism of the community he had once been a part of was so strong. In his book he told that; after having lived as a Christian for the first twenty years of his life, he chose the true way, the way of the God of Sun, Helios, which was Paganism. ( I would like to have your attention to the beauty of Bronnikow’s picturea and the similarity of the Pagan priest with Christ.)

Pagans worshipping to Helios, i.e. the Sun, like Julian.
(Pythagoreanists Are Celebrating the Sunrise, Fyodor Bronnikov, 1869)
In Constantinople, where he had stayed as an emperor for 5 months before going to Antioch, he had tried to decrease bureaucracy and fix the state issues he thought to have been managed in an inefficient, expensive and unfair way. Various sources claim that he considered himself as the “primus inter pares” i.e. “the first one among the equivalents” rather than as a noble emperor not caring for his people and senate; he negotiated with the senators rather than dictating laws. As well as being referred as “Julian, The Apostate” as he converted to Paganism from Christianity, he is also referred as the “Philosopher Julian” thanks to his fascination with classical philosophy. I think Julian resembles the “Philosopher Emperor” Marcus Aurelius, one of the prior emperors whose articles on life and ethics were published under the name “Meditations”. Both devoted themselves to classical philosophy and realized Plato’s idea of hundreds of years old: “either philosophers shall be statesmen or statesmen shall be philosophers”. I believe they were two rare men possessing two rare characteristics; intellectual richness and management skill. Despite all these good sides, Julian is seriously criticized for his elitist and despot character. He always saw the elitist pagans superior than the poor and uneducated Christians. He forced paganism to the public. But that was the very reason why Christianity attracted supporters those times. Julian’s elitist philosopher and despot sides came into life as the “Enlightened Despotism” in Europe in the 18th century. Katrina the 2nd in Russia, Joseph the 2nd in Austria, Louis the 7th in France all believed in the rationalism and enlightenment today’s western civilizations are established upon, and imposed this to their people. That the two distant words of enlightenment and despotism come together throughout the history is one paradox of humanity. That unfortunately seems to mean that progress cannot be realized without despotism.
His graveyard found in the garden of Istanbul Archeology Museum
When Christian Jovian came to the throne after him, his first act was to regain the church’s privileged position and consequently Roman Empire became Christian irrevocably. It is claimed that his last words before he died were “You won Galilean (Christ)”. Ancient time pagans called the first Christians as Galileans. Galilean Judas and his friends were Judas rebels who rejected giving tax to the Romans, who ended up with death. One cannot help but think what would happen if this ancient Don Quixote who was an intellectual and a good (and a little despot) statesman was able to become successful in converting Roman Empire into paganism. Would the humanity not ever experience the middle ages?

John Palaiologos the 8th and Florence 1439 Catholic Oecumenic Council

John Palaiologos the 8th , During his visit to Florence.
Painting drawn by Benozzo Gozolli(1439)

The Palaiologos dynasty ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1260 until 1453, and they were in the saddle during the decline and collapse period. John Palaiologos was the emperor before the last emperor Constantine the 11th who was believed to have been killed on 29th May 1453 while fighting against Fatih’s (Mehmet the Second, the Conqueror) army on the ramparts. 
John Palaiologos the VIII. recovered from Murat the Second's invasion of Constantinople in 1422 without surrendering the city. Yet, against the ever increasing threat of the Ottomans, he went to Florence in 1439 and attempted for a conciliation to find support from the Catholic Church and Europe. In order to eliminate the dogmatic differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy and to combine these two churches, the main issue discussed in the Catholic oecumenic council in Ferrera Florence to which 700 members participated in as well as Pope Eugene the VI., the Byzantine Emperor John and the Constantinople Patrician was “filioque”, i.e., the form and content of the “trinity” relationship of the Supreme Spirit, Jesus and the God.
1439 Ferrera Catholic Oecumenic Council
John Palaiologos signed the decision text of the council with Pope Eugene, to protect the kingdom (I think it would be more proper to call the Byzantine Empire as a small kingdom rather than an empire as of 1439) at the cost of ignoring the basic differences of Orthodoxy, though the intention of the Council wasn’t to reconcile but to bring down the trapped Byzantine Empire and Orthodox Patriarch. (There is the picture of the signed original of the document in Cyril Mango’s book titled as The Oxford History of Byzantine Empire) The “contract” which somewhat connected Orthodoxy to Catholic Rome and was signed by him in order to get the help of the Catholic westerners to protect his people and city against the Ottomans, was never valued by the eastern Orthodox churches. And the western world never sent the Crusades or the military aids they had promised for. They left the Orthodox Byzantine people to their destiny against the Ottomans.

At this point, the great struggle John Palaiologos gave despite the objection of his own church and people cannot be underestimated. Near the end of this trip to Florence, his wife Maria, who was from Trabzon, got sick and died. But John wasn’t told about that. In February, when he went back to Constantinople in February, the emperor learnt the truth, which was kept secret during the return back home made in December through the sea.
He died five years before his city surrendered in 1448. But due to the Florence council declaration, which both parties deemed invalid after its signing, he spent the rest of his life as a man accused by his own people and church of being a traitor. 14 years after the Council, in 29th May, the city surrendered. Yet, the military aid that had been promised to John by the Pope never set out.

Fethiye Mosque, Theotokos Pammakaristos Church

As most of its interior walls were destroyed to open place for the public, and remaining exterior side walls were scraped and painted; only a little part of it could survive. Despite these, it is the second Byzantine church possessing the highest number of mosaics after the Chora church and Hagia Sophia.
It's located in Fatih, Çarşamba, at the top of a hill looking down at the Golden Horn. One can go there on foot from the seaside, going up the Çiçekli Bostan Street; or from Adnan Menderes Boulevard, by walking on Akşemsettin Street towards the Golden Horn ( The full name of the church is Theotokos Pammakaristos. Theotokos  means “The mother of God  (The Mother Mary)”, Pammakaristos means “Superior, Almighty”.

Fethiye Mosque - Pammakaristos Church

There is conflicting data about the construction date of the Church. While some sources claim that it was constructed in XI. century by Michael Ducas the VI., some claim that it survived from the VIII. century. In a limited number of sources that could give the most certain date, Ioannes Kommenos and his wife Anna Doukina were claimed to have the church constructed in 1292. It is among the most significant pieces of the Late Byzantine, Palaiologos architecture.
Following Istanbul’s invasion by the Ottomans, it hosted the Greek Orthodox Patriarch from 1556 to 1586. In 1591, in the period of Murat the III., it was turned into a mosque and it was given the name “Fethiye Mosque” in memory of the conquests of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It was restored by the American Byzantine Institute in 1494. Today, the large part of the structure is used as a mosque and the small part, which was added in XIV. century as a chapel, is used as a museum. When Fatih (Mehmet the second) conquered the city, he assigned Gennadius as the patrich with a magnificent ceremony. Gennadius was a vigorous supporter of the Aristotelian philosophy who was an expert in western philosophy as well as theology. He worked there for nearly 6 years. Faith visited him frequently. The two negotiated on various issues for long times. Gennadius and Fatih formed the principles that would determine the position of Orthodox Greek within the Ottoman state.

The most significant and beautiful mosaic in the church is the one in the main dome, which depicts Pantokrator Christ and the 12 apostles of the Old Testament. Here, Christ is in the middle and the apostles surround him. It evokes a great admiration in people looking at it. In this mosaic, Christ was drawn as “Pantokrator” (it stemmed from God names and definitions like “Honorable” and “Almighty”  in Judaism and the translation of the Hebrew Bible into ancient Greek) which is among the basic concepts of the Christian iconography. The big Christ icon in Hagia Sophia is again in “Pantokrator” concept. Greek names of the 12 apostles of the Old Testament are written on their pictures, and the following are written in the texts they are holding in their hands:
Pantokrator Christ and the 12 apostles of the Old Testament

Isaiah - "Do you see? The God is above the clouds"
Oses - "Oh God, you are the creator of creators, the God of Gods”
Jeremiah - "He is our master. He cannot be compared with anything”
Zephaniah - "The world will burn with the fire of my jealousy”
Micah - "Our master’s home will rise above the hill”
Joel - " Don’t worry, the world will be a happy place again, thanks to the beauties crated by our master”
Zechariah - "Mountain of the master of the host”
Obadiah - "Will be safe on the hills of Jerusalem”
Habakkuk - "Oh, Master, I have heard your voice”
Jonah - "And my prayers reach you”
Malachi - "As I have said, I’ll send my apostles”
Ezekiel - "And when all living believers leave”
Apart from this mosaic, there is a big mosaic describing the baptism of Christ and the large and small mosaics on which saints are mostly portrayed.