Hesychius, Patria of ConstantinoplePatria Constantinopoleos, derived from Hesychios of Miletos (?), English translation by Brady Kiesling (2019) from the Greek edition of Th. Preger (1901, 1-18). This unedited translation makes no claim to accuracy or elegance. Freely usable for any reasonable purpose, with appropriate attribution. For a serious translation with commentary, see Albrecht Berger, Accounts of Medieval Constantinople (Dumbarton Oaks 2013). This text has 70 tagged references to 34 ancient places.
CTS URN: urn:cts:greekLit:tlg2274.tlg005; Wikidata ID: Q87771457; Trismegistos: authorwork/7857 [Open Greek text in new tab]
§ 1 Patria Constantinopoleos according to Hesychios the Illustrious
Three hundred and sixty two years having passed from the monarchy of Augustus Caesar at the elder Rome, with its affairs already having reached their limit, Constantine the child of Constantius taking up the scepters decreed the creation of a New Rome equal to the first. For now already, after experiencing tyrants and kings and being governed in aristocratic and democratic ways, the former city had come to reach its appointed size.
§ 2 We should say how it began and by whom it was colonized making use of the ancient poets and writers.
§ 3 Some say it was first the Argives, after the Pythia prophesied to them as follows, "Prosperous they who settle the sacred city on the Thracian shore by the narrow-watered mouth of Pontos, where two bitches take hold of the watery sea, where fish and deer pasture," who fixed dwellings in that place, in which the Kydaros and Barbyses rivers make their outlet, the latter from the northern parts, the former from the western, and flowing by the altar of the nymph called Semestre they join with the sea.
§ 4 When they came into the appointed country and appeased the native daimones with sacrifices, a crow stealthily snatched a small part of the sacrifice and carried it to another place, which has the appellation Bosporos when a cowherd (boukolos) pointed out the flight of the bird, from which thing that place was also called Boukolia.
§ 5 Others say it was Megarians descended from the race of Nisos who made the voyage to this place, under their leader Byzas, from which story they say the name was given to the city. Others make Byzas to be a child born of the local nymph Semestre.
§ 6 While some used other accounts, we will make the plausible account of the origin from Io the daughter of Inachos. A daughter Io was born to Inachos king of the Argives. Argos, whom they called-many-eyed, guarded her virginity. When Zeus fell in love with the girl he persuaded Hermes to murder Argos, and when her virginity was ended she was changed by Zeus into a cow.
§ 7 Hera was angry and what happened and send a gadfly to the heifer to drive her over land and water.
§ 8 When she came to the land of the Thracians, she left the name Bosporos (cow-crossing) to the place, while she went up toward the so-called Horn (Keras) where the Kydaros and Barbyses mix, foretelling the future to the residents, and by the altar of Semestre she gave birth to a daughter Keroessa (horny), from whom the Keras is named. But others say the name was added from the position of the place, and others that it was called after the horn of the goat Amaltheia (cornucopia) for its richness in bearing fruit.
§ 9 So Keroessa was raised by the nymph Semestre and distinguished by her odd form she greatly exceeded the Thracian virgins, and having sex with maritime Poseidon she gave birth to Byzas, who took this name from the Thracian nymph Bizye who raised him, and from whom even now the citizens draw water.
§ 10 So then when he reached the flower of age the young man went up and spent time in the Thracian mountains being fearsome to the beasts and barbarians, and he received embassies from the local rulers urging him to be their ally and friend.
§ 11 So Melias the king of the Thracians invited him to a hunting contest and Byzas carried off the glory, offering the bull he subdued for sacrifice and appeasing the ancestral daimones at the junction of the above-mentioned rivers, when an eagle suddenly appeared and snatched the heart of the victim and stood at the extreme point of the Bosporian headland opposite the so-called Chrysopolis, which name was left by Chryses, the child born to Chryseis and Agamemnon, when he was fleeing the malice of Klytaimnestra after the murder of his father and was hastening in search of Iphigeneia. When destruction reached him there, the locals made a tomb monument.
§ 12 So Byzas laid out a city at the promontory of the Bosporian brine. He built the walls with the assistance, they say, of Poseidon and Apollo, contriving to make them better in every way.
§ 13 He articulated the seven towers in it so that sounds would pass between them and echo. For if ever a trumpet or voice reached any of the towers, each would pass the echo to the next, and send it to the one at the end.
§ 14 But let us not omit something else remarked on by those who wrote these things: They say that the tower called that of Herakles transmits to those inside the walls the enemy's secrets.
§ 15 Afterwards he completed the circlet of the walls and the precincts of the gods. For Rhea he founded a temple and statue at the Place of the Basilica", where the Tychaion (the shrine of Tyche) is also honored by the citizens. He erected a temenos of Poseidon toward the sea, where now the house of the martyr Menas has been fitted out with adornments, and of Hekate where the Hippodrome is now, and of the Dioskouroi, Kastor and Polydeukes, I mean, in the altar of Semestre and the junction of the rivers, where human passions used to be resolved.
§ 16 Near the so-called Strategion of Ajax and Achilles he set up altars. There he created the bath of Achilles. In the so-called Sykai, which got its name from the fig-bearing trees, he built the [shrine/bath] of the hero Amphiareos. A little above the temple of Poseidon and that of Aphrodite a precinct of Artemis was proclaimed toward the mountain of Thrace.
§ 17 When he was managing these things in his city, he needed to repel the oncoming barbarians, especially Haimos, who was tyrant of Thrace and came to the city of Byzas and challenged the hero to battle, being eager to lay waste to everything. But the hero, not waiting for the onslaught of the barbarian, fought him one on one and overthrew Haimos on the hill of that name.
§ 18 While Byzas, after his victory, was driving the enemy back toward Thrace, Odryses the king of the Scythians crossed the Ister and passing through reached the city walls and besieged those inside. In response, the wife of Byzas, the marvelous Phidaleia, undaunted by the numbers of the enemy, using her feminine hand she intelligently combated the barbarian with serpents as allies.
§ 19 For gathering up all the snakes near the city in one place, she guarded them, and appearing suddenly to the enemy she launched the beasts in the role of arrows or javelins, and infecting most of them in this way she saved the city. From then on, therefore, an old legend had it that one must not destroy snakes caught near the city, in as much as they were its benefactors.
§ 20 Not much time later a man named Strombos, born to Keroessa, waged war on Byzas with a great force. For he stirred up all the Scythian tribes, and there came together the strong men of Greece and a not to be despised force of Rhodians, and Dineos, the toparch of neighboring Chalcedon, a colonist from Megara who arrived there 19 years before the monarchy of Byzas.
§ 21 (The place Chalcedon got its name, as some say, from the river Chalcedon, but as others say from the child of Kalchas the seer after the Trojan War, and still others from the city Chalkis of Euboia, which sent colonists there, the ones who were called blind for having overlooked Byzantion.
§ 22 So Dineos came into the alliance with Byzas with many ships, but not being able to dock his ships, with their king Byzas having just died and the whole people being in agony, he came to the so-called Anaplous, and having passed some time there he called the place Hestiai (hearths).
§ 23 A little later he crossed into the city and, having repelled the barbarians, because the second general of the Byzantines. During these times many kinds of serpents frequented the city and killed the inhabitants, but they were killed through the sudden arrival of the birds called storks, with Poseidon assisting them, as they say.
§ 24 Not long afterwards, the birds turned against them and became the cause of death, catching snakes by the water reservoirs and launching them against the citizens walking in the avenues, attacking them invisibly, and they were at a loss.
§ 25 A certain man from Tyana named Apollonios set up three storks of worked stone facing one another, which remain until these times, which do not permit the race of storks to frequent the city.
§ 26 Following the above, when Dineos the general died, Leon received the aristocracy of the Byzantines. Against whom Philip the king of the Macedonians, the son of Amyntas, brought a great force and besieged the city with a trench and was approaching the walls with all kinds of siege machinery.
§ 27 And he would easily have taken it, attacking on a moonless night when an extraordinary rainstorm burst, if there had not been some sacred alliance that set the dogs in the city howling, while clouds of fire rose in the northern parts. This roused the population and they hotly came to grips with the enemy and rescued the city, which was already in Philip's power, and they took up the destroyed towers using the nearby stones from tombs and raised up the bastions of the wall. For this reason they called the wall Tymbosyne (tombyness) and set up a statue of torch-bearing Hekate. Immediately they turned toward naval combat and were proudly victorious over the Macedonians. And thus the war ended and Philip granted [ ] to the Byzantines.
§ 28 When Leon departed this life, Chares the Athenian general came with forty ships to aid the Byzantines in the war against Philip, and occupied the headland of the Propontis between Chrysopolis and Chalcedon, and anchoring in that place he attempted battle.
§ 29 There his wife, who was following him, was struck down by disease. He placed her in a tomb and stood up an altar and column, on which a heifer is shown carved in stone. So rather it was she who gave the name, which is preserved until our times through written verses.
§ 30 The verses are as follows: "I am not the cow of the Inachian nor from me is called the facing Bosporion sea. For her the prior heavy anger of Hera drove to Pharos. I here am a Kekropian shade, who was the bed-fellow (Eunetis) of Chares, when he sailed here as rival of the Philippian vessels. Boidion was my name then, but now as bed-fellow of Chares I delight in both continents."
§ 31 When Chares sailed back to Athens, Protomachos assumed the military command. He enslaved the insurgent Thracians in battle and set up a bronze trophy at the so-called Milion (milestone) of the city.
§ 32 When this one too had shuffled off, the man Timesios, one of those reared among the Argives, first attempted to reestablish a city at the so-called Euxine Pontos toward Ephesiates (where the Ephesians, having once sent colonies and tried to build a city, soon listened to the Byzantine οracle...where two bitches take hold of the watery sea, where fish and deer pasture in it,"). Disappointed in his hope, he settled down with the Byzantines. And having been appointed strategos of the whole people, he reformed the city, making it bigger and more beneficial, and created laws about everyday matters and set up covenants and established politic and cultivated habits through which the citizens became urbane and philanthropic.
§ 33 He set up most of the sanctuaries of the gods, but those that existed before he redecorated. For he rebuilt the temple toward the headland of the Pontic sea, which Iason once had dedicated to the twelve gods but was now in ruins, and renewed the house of Artemis at the harbor of Phrixos.
§ 34 In addition to this, Kalliades as general of Byzantium combatted both foreign and domestic enemies excellently, and set up the famous statue of Byzas at the so-called Basilica, and inscribed it as follows: "Kalliades dedicated the valiant Byzas and the delectable Phidaleia as an ornament together." (?)
§ 35 While these things happened when the Byzantines were ruled by aristocracies or democracies, but also they were ruled by tyrants at various times. When through the power of the consuls Roman rule prevailed over the dynasties, and enslaved the nations of the Greeks, it was natural that the Byzantines would end up obeying it as well.
§ 36 After some years, when Severus was reigning in Rome, they preferred the hope of Niger, the usurper in the East, and dared to come to blows with the emperor, so they were stripped by him of their polis rights and the circuit of their walls was destroyed, they were ordered to be subject to the Perinthians also called Herakleotes.
§ 37 Once Severus' anger ceased, he soon brought it into greater honor, erecting with great luxury a very large bath by the altar of Zeus Hippios, namely what is called the grove of Herakles (where they say that having tamed the horses of Diomedes he called the place Zeuxippos (horse-yoker). The area near this for horse-racing, lying by the Dioskouroi, he ornamented with grandstands and stoas (there even now the turning posts show the emblems of the ephors through the eggs (cartouches?) on the bronze obelisks. But in addition, he allocated military funds.
§ 38 So while Severus and his child Antoninus were still alive, the city was called Antonina. But when these emperors joined their divine predecessors, it was immediately renamed Byzantion again.
§ 39 After Constantine had acquired the Roman rule the city was called Konstantinoupolis, willingly accepting the name to repay the excessive generosity of the emperor, who had marvelously completed it in terms of beauty, and had extended the walls far beyond, to the so-called Troadesian bastions, whereas before they had not extended beyond the Agora of the King; and causing the city to shine with baths and sacred houses, endowing it with every privilege to rival those of the elder Rome, and he inscribed them on a stone stele in the Strategion Forum, where once the men who served as generals of the city used to receive their honors.
§ 40 And he erected a statue of his mother Helene on a column, and called the place Augustaion. And to the senators who followed him from great Rome he generously gave the houses he built with his own money.
§ 41 When Constantius became ruler after this, the aqueduct was added to the city. He also erected the two apses by the Forum, and the Porphyry and Peribleptos column, on which we see Constantine shining forth like the sun for the citizens. In addition he built the Senate houses, naming them Senata, in which he erected the statue of Dodonaian Zeus and two foundations (?) of Pallas and the courtyard of the palaces.
§ 42 Having completed everything in this way, Constantine carried out the inauguration on the 11th of May in the 25th year of his reign. Watching the horse-racing, he ordered that there be a viewing of his statue in future years on the day of the anniversary with the customary honor by the reigning king and by the Demos. So in this way Constantinople was brought to this greatness, being the royal capital by succession until our times.