The Walls of Constantinople

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2021, 12:04 pm

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Patrick Wyman is a historian and podcaster I hold in great regard and I’ve invited him on the show today to discuss the history and prominence of the great Walls of Constantinople and the role they’ve played in the history of the city of Constantinople, now modern day Istanbul. This was a fun conversation where we got to talk not only about the walls themselves but also the history surrounding why they became necessary, which world powers have made attempts to destroy them by laying siege to the city, and what finally happened to the walls through the course of time.

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Looking up at the Theodosian Walls
Looking up at the Theodosian Walls

When the capital of Rome moved to Constantinople, defensive measures had to be taken.

For many years the city of Rome was the jewel of the empire, but as the eastern portion of the empire became more and more powerful and influential, it became clear that the center of commerce and culture had moved east. Constantine built the city of Constantinople, obviously naming it after himself and the capital of the Roman empire was moved. The city became a hotbed of political power and cultural diversity as a major trade route and defensive measures had to be taken to protect the city from outside forces, namely the Huns. Theodosius II lead the effort to build the walls initially and they were the paragon of Roman engineering and defensive capabilities in their day. Patrick Wyman joins me on this episode to discuss the history and importance of the walls of Constantinople.


The threat of Attila and his Huns was enough to prompt the building of the walls of Constantinople.

Attila the Hun was one of the most dominant warlords in all of human history. His forces laid waste to countless fortified cities all across Asia and Eastern Europe and the threat his armies posed prompted the building of the Walls of Constantinople. The walls were an engineering marvel, essentially making the city impregnable as they made use of the city’s location overlooking the water. Patrick Wyman tells how the pressure brought by the Huns motivated Theodosius II to begin the building of the walls and how their strength protected the city for many years, in this episode.

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View from one of the towers in the Walls of Constantinople
View from one of the towers in the Walls of Constantinople


The Walls of Constantinople enabled the city to endure long after the Roman empire was fading.

The Roman empire had already been divided and many of its fortified cities destroyed by the time the city of Constantinople was in any serious danger from outside forces. Many attempts had been made but none successful. People who lived inside the city may have felt little impact when outside forces attacked simply because the walls made it so secure. But eventually the Muslim forces attacking during the crusades were able to break through and take the city – but their leaders immediately began rebuilding the walls, knowing the strategic advantage they provided. Today the walls are hardly visible and modern tour guides don’t think them worth pointing out, but their historical significance can’t be understated.


Up on the Theodoisan Walls
Up on the Theodoisan Walls


How did the walls of Constantinople finally disappear?

There is a bit of mystery concerning what eventually happened to cause the mighty walls of Constantinople to diminish to the rubble they are today. There is little historical record as to what happened to the walls, but my guest on this episode, Patrick Wyman believes the city simply outgrew the walls, their usefulness became less important, and they had to be removed. You can hear our entire conversation about these amazing walls and their impact on the region, on this episode of The History Fangirl.

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Outline of This Episode

  • [1:20] My introduction of the topic and my guest today, Patrick Wyman.
  • [2:21] How Patrick became interested in two major strains in the history of world events.
  • [6:05] The basic history of Theodosius II, the builder of the Walls of Constantinople.
  • [9:04] How the capital of Rome moved from the city of Rome to Constantinople.
  • [12:18] The building of the walls: why was it needed?
  • [19:49] How the walls of Constantinople shaped the history of the city.
  • [26:14] Was their really a slow erosion of the Roman empire?
  • [31:21] The reality of what happened during the Crusades.
  • [35:22] The rebuilding of the walls by the conquering forces.
  • [42:10] After such extensive rebuilding, how did the city lose its walls again?
  • [50:40] Patrick’s plug for The Tides of History podcast.
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The Walls of Constantinople
The Walls of Constantinople

2 thoughts on “The Walls of Constantinople”

  1. I recently (September 2020) went to Istanbul and the Theodosian Walls were on my list. I took the light rail to the walls and walked northward along their path to the Golden Horn. It was incredible. Like you mention in this podcast there is almost no tourist infrastructure centered around the wall. I, like you, think if I had to pick one historically rich city, it is Istanbul. Although Rome is amazing, Istanbul for the win! Great podcast. I’m glad I found it.


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