An Exploration of Istanbul: Capital of Three Empires with Dr. Guillaume Durand

An Exploration of Istanbul: Capital of Three Empires with Dr. Guillaume Durand


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Istanbul is one of the few cities that can be proud of having been the capital of three Empires: the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman Empire. Established on the Bosphorus, where the shores of Europe and Asia come together, we find the ancient Constantinople, installed on the site retained nearly two millennia before by the Greek colonists who came to found Byzantium. Despite being a largely cosmopolitan city, it remains a magical place with signs of the Eastern Roman Empire and the contributions of Asia. This seminar aims to study and discuss the multi-civilizational heritage of this city.

The remains of Byzantine civilization and monuments from the Ottoman Golden Age coexist to account for the succession in this place of several civilizations. We’ll discuss how the Hagia Sophia cathedral/mosque and the Hippodrome remind us of the splendor and the power of Justinian's empire. On the other hand, the Blue Mosque of Sultan Ahmed, the Topkapi Palace, and its harem bear witness to the wealth and refinement achieved at its peak with an empire spanning three continents. Since Atatürk, right after World War I, Istanbul is no longer the capital of the country but remains by far the most populous, rich, and fascinating city of Turkey.

Led by Guillaume Durand Ph.D., an expert on the Eastern Mediterranean Basin during Antiquity and the Medieval period, this interactive seminar will introduce the participants to one of the most fascinating cities in the world. We’ll discuss the place where Greek and Roman paganism intertwines with Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Sunni Islam. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the connections between the Western European world and the Eastern Asian one. This keen historical sense will also help the participants to shape an analysis of the modern Turkish foreign policy.

Passionate about the regions and countries at the crossroad of civilizations, Guillaume Durand Ph.D. has long-standing expertise in Ancient art and archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. Assistant dean and professor in archaeology and art history at the Institute for American Universities and the American College of the Mediterranean in Aix-en-Provence, France, Guillaume has traveled many times in Iran during these six past years in order to study the Persian Empires. He is also a tourist guide/lecturer in this country for French citizens.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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