Was Constantinople in Europe or Asia during the Eastern Roman Empire Period? (not modern) Thanks!

  • 6
    I'm unsure what you are implying by specifying "Eastern Roman Empire Period" - are you suspecting that definition of the continents were different in antiquity, or that the city of Constantinople moved around, or?
    – Semaphore
    Jun 3, 2018 at 8:31
  • 4
    As far as I know, Asia (Asia minor) started on the other side of the Bosporus. Therefor, in Europe.
    – Jos
    Jun 3, 2018 at 8:32
  • 1
    Constantinople didn't move from continent to continent. During the Roman Empire, the capitol of the Roman empire was in the Roman Empire. Who would have had a reason to differentiate between Europe or Asia? Where did the Romans think that Asia began? I suspect that the Romans would not have understood the question.
    – MCW
    Jun 3, 2018 at 11:47
  • 4
    @MarkC.Wallace Not sure about that last part; the division of the (known) world into Europe, Asia and Africa was set in antiquity long before the Empire, and was adopted by Roman writers such as Ptolemy. Hence the provinces of Asia and Africa. Alternatively, one might say Romans might have understood Constantinople to not be within this province of Asia.
    – Semaphore
    Jun 3, 2018 at 12:06
  • 2
    @MarkC.Wallace I think Ptolemy set it at the Tanais River. I don't believe it was disputed that Europe and Asia was divided by the sea, i.e. the Bosphorus and the Hellenspont. One suspects the original division was made before the Greeks realised that Asia and Europe links up behind the Sea of Azov.
    – Semaphore
    Jun 3, 2018 at 17:14

2 Answers 2


In present day, Istanbul spans over the two sides of the Bosphorus, and it can claim to be the largest transcontinental city in the word.

However, in classical and medieval times the city of Constantinople and its ancestor Byzantium were only in a small part of the European side of modern Istanbul. Therefore, Constantinople was in Europe.


As Pere already explained (+1), Byzantium (and then Constantinople) was centered around the present-day neighbourhood of Sultanahmet on the European side of the Bosphorus, where many the oldest monuments in Istanbul can still be found (the Basilica cistern, hippodrome, the Milion, and the column of Constantine). The city then extended to the other side of the Golden Horn (Pera/Beyoğlu, where Genoese and Venetian merchants were based) and to the Asian side.

There was a Greek settlement on the other side of the Bosphorus (Chalcedon, the present Kadıköy) but it was much more difficult to defend and changed hands frequently, ultimately being conquered by the Ottomans a full century before Constantinople.

Interestingly, the concept of Europe was originally used to designate exactly this region, Thrace and the western shore of the Aegean sea, long before anything resembling our modern idea of the European continent formed. So there is a case to be made that Constantinople was not only at the fringes of Europe like Istanbul is today but that it was the very definition of Europe.

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