Was there any other city on the Black Sea that could have surpassed Istanbul in greatness?

Futurist

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May 2014
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#1
Was there any other city on the Black Sea that could have surpassed Istanbul in greatness? If so, which city and how far back would you need to go to make this happen?
 
#2
It's not quite on the Black Sea, but once upon a time Nicomedia could have become the city to dominate the region. This was the favourite city of Diocletian. In 284 the eastern imperial army acclaimed him emperor just outside Nicomedia, and he resided there for much of his reign. He was in Nicomedia in 303 when he began the 'Great' Persecution of the Christians, and in 305 he abdicated on the space spot just outside Nicomedia where he had become emperor in the first place, the spot now marked by a statue of Jupiter.

He initiated a major building project. To quote the Christian author Lactantius, who despised Diocletian as a persecutor (De Mortibus Persecutorum 7.8-10: '…Diocletian had a limitless passion for building, which led to an equally limitless scouring of the provinces to raise workers, craftsmen, wagons, and whatever is necessary for building operations. Here he built basilicas, there a circus, a mint, an arms-factory, here he built a house for his wife, there one for his daughter. Suddenly a great part of the city was destroyed, and all the inhabitants started to migrate with their wives and children, as if the city had been captured by the enemy. … This was the way he was always raving in his eagerness to make Nicomedia the equal of the city of Rome.'

Lactantius had originally been invited by Diocletian to Nicomedia to be a teacher of Latin rhetoric, and he was an eyewitness to the building program, even if he frames it in hostile terms.

Turkish archaeologists are currently publishing fragments of a painted marble frieze from Diocletianic Nicomedia. Some examples:

Tetrarchy3.jpg
Above: Diocletian and his co-emperor Maximian

Nico1.jpg

nico2.jpg

Ultimately, however, the future of Nicomedia was compromised by Constantine and the ascendancy of Christianity. The legacy of Diocletian became tainted by his leading role in the persecutions, and Constantine wanted to create a great Christian city. The refounding of Byzantium carried with it less baggage than the adoption of Nicomedia.
 
#3
I should add that the famous statue group of Diocletian and his co-rulers (the Tetrarchs) in Venice probably originated in Nicomedia. It was looted by the crusaders who sacked Constantinople in 1204, but it's unlikely to have originated in that city. It is made from Red Porphyry, a stone from a mine in Egypt under the control of the emperor(s). Only emperors, their family and perhaps top imperial officials were allowed to build with this material. No Christian emperor based in Constantinople is likely to have commissioned a depiction of persecuting emperors. Rather, it probably originated in nearby Nicomedia, constructed during the reign of Diocletian.

Tetrarchs1.jpg
 
Apr 2017
1,156
U.S.A.
#4
Had the turks not made Istanbul their capital (instead leaving it to languish), then Trebizond may have been a greater city if it wasn't conquered shortly thereafter.

Alternatively If the Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans made some other city on the black sea their capitals, then it would have been greater.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
17,785
SoCal
#6
Had the turks not made Istanbul their capital (instead leaving it to languish), then Trebizond may have been a greater city if it wasn't conquered shortly thereafter.

Alternatively If the Romans/Byzantines/Ottomans made some other city on the black sea their capitals, then it would have been greater.
Interesting.

Anyway, what about the Russians?
 
#7
Very interesting!

BTW, Nicomedia still exists today--it's now known as Izmit:

İzmit - Wikipedia

With a little more expansion to the east, Izmit (Nicomedia) could become a suburb of Istanbul:

Mapping Population Density Across the Globe
True! Unfortunately most of Izmit's Roman architecture has not survived. We can expect that, like other Tetrarchic residences (Milan, Trier, Thessalonica), it probably had a palace with an attached circus, albeit on a particularly grand scale considering Diocletian's favouritism.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
17,785
SoCal
#10
OK; makes sense.

BTW, do you think that Russia could have ever built any cities on the Black Sea and made them comparable to Constantinople? (Or, alternatively, significantly expand an existing city on the Black Sea to make it comparable to Constantinople.)