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  • The most important walls in western history aren't even in the West.

  • They surround the modern city of Istanbul, Constantinople as the Romans called it.

  • And for a thousand years, the fate of Europe depended on them.

  • Constantinople was designed to be the center of the world.

  • When the frontiers of the Roman Empire began to crumble in the 4th Century,

  • the capital was moved to the cultured, wealthy, and still stable East.

  • There, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, the hub of the major trade routes of the ancient world,

  • the Emperor Constantine built his city.

  • This was the city of libraries and universities,

  • 20 times the size of London or Paris at the time.

  • It contained the priceless knowledge of the classical world which was fading in the West.

  • To protect this masterpiece from its many enemies,

  • Constantine's successors built the finest defensive fortifications ever made.

  • The first line of protection was a moat 60 feet wide and 22 feet deep,

  • stretching all four miles from coast to coast.

  • Pipes from inside the city could fill it at the first sight of the enemy,

  • and a short wall protected archers who could fire at the soaked soldiers trying to swim across.

  • Those who were lucky enough to clear the moat had to contend with an unceasing barrage from the 27 foot outer wall above.

  • Arrows, spears, or far worse, Greek fire -- an ancient form of napalm that would ignite on contact

  • and couldn't be extinguished by water -- would rain down on them.

  • Squads of Roman defenders would carry portable flame throwers,

  • spraying anyone trying to climb out of the moat.

  • The terrified victims would leap back, only to find that they still burned underwater.

  • At times, the Romans would also mount siphons onto the ramparts,

  • and launch clay pots full of Greek fire from catapults at an invading army.

  • The front lines would turn into an inferno,

  • making it appear as if the earth itself was on fire.

  • If, by some miracle, the outer wall was compromised,

  • attackers would be faced with the final defense: the great inner wall.

  • These walls were wide enough to have four men ride side by side,

  • allowing troops to be rushed wherever they were needed.

  • Attilla the Hun, destroyer of civilizations, who named himself the Scourge of God,

  • took one look at them and turned around.

  • The Avars battled the walls uselessly til their catapults ran out of rocks.

  • The Turks tried to tunnel under them, but found the foundations too solid.

  • The Arabs tried to starve the city into submission,

  • but ran out of food themselves and had to resort to cannibalism.

  • It took the guns of the modern world to finally bring them down.

  • In 1453, the Turks brought their super weapon:

  • a monster cannon that could fire a 15 hundred pound stone ball over a mile.

  • Together with more than a hundred smaller guns,

  • they kept up a steady bombardment day and night.

  • A section of the old walls collapsed, but even in their death throes they proved formidable.

  • The rubble absorbed the shock of the cannonballs better than the solid wall.

  • It took a month and a half of continuous blasting to finally open a breach.

  • The last Roman Emperor, Constantine the 11th, drew his sword

  • and jumped into the gap to stop the onrushing horde,

  • disappearing into legend.

  • The city was taken, and the Roman Empire finally disappeared.

  • But those broken walls had one last gift.

  • As the survivors fled the doomed city, they brought with them their precious books and their ancient traditions.

  • They traveled west to Italy, reintroduced the Greek language and learning to western Europe, and ignited the Renaissance.

  • Thanks to Constantinople's walls, that pile of brick and marble that guarded them for so long,

  • we still have our classical past.

The most important walls in western history aren't even in the West.

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B2 TED-Ed moat constantine roman fire greek

【TED-Ed】The city of walls: Constantinople - Lars Brownworth

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2015/01/13
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