Towards A New Honorific Column: The Column Of Constantine In Early Byzantine Urban Landscape

The first and the most important honorary column in early Byzantine Constantinople, the Column of Constantine, Cemberlitas Sutunu in Turkish, still stands upright at its original location today but remained virtually hidden behind the distinct silhouettes of multiple Ottoman minarets and domes. Completed in 330 AD, during the inauguration of the new capital, this colossal column was the architectural manifestation of Constantine the Great's transfer of imperial administration to the New or the Second Rome. In literature, this monument has been either considered as a city ornament emulating the ones in Rome, or taken up as a monumental post that merely contributed to the iconographic readings of Constantine's statue at its summit. No in-depth investigation was placed on the possible relation to its precedents and successors. The present paper argues that this rather neglected monument occupied a significant place within Constantine's urban reprogramming efforts to build a new capital. The colossal column was as an idiosyncratic combination of two Tetrarchic column monuments, Diocletian's victory column in Alexandria and the Five-column monument in Rome. It was not unusual but differentiated from their contemporaries in terms of its subordinating scale, visual dominance and ritual dimension. As such, Constantine's column gained multivalent urban meanings both within the history of freestanding columns and early Byzantine urbanism. Its formidable presence elicited such awe and wonder that the column figured prominently in the late fourth or early fifth century Tabula Peutingeriana as an undeniable urban icon for Constantinople, along with Old St. Peter's Basilica representing Rome and the Temple of Apollo at Daphne representing Antioch. More directly than any other work of architecture, this Column provided both an image and an identity to the New Rome.


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Citation Formats
P. Yoncacı Arslan, “Towards A New Honorific Column: The Column Of Constantine In Early Byzantine Urban Landscape,” ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 121–145, 2016, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: