Timeline Travel – Nika Riot and Reconstruction of the City by Justinian I

Timeline Travel – Nika Riot and Reconstruction of the City by Justinian I


When Justinian I (r. 526-565 AD) came to the
throne, the Byzantine Empire was in confusion in the religious and political spheres. In such an atmosphere, on January 11, 532,
the Nika Riot against the Emperor began. The riot took its name from the screams of
the rebels “Nika”, meaning “victory” in Greek. This civil rebellion caused massive damage
and physical loss to city of Constantinople. Justinian I first wanted to punish the rebels,
then offered various compromises, but it was not possible to calm the rebels. The rebels damaged public buildings and released
prisoners. The Hagia Sophia Basilica was almost destroyed,
the Baths of Zeukippos, the Church of Hagia Eirene, the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace,
and the Augustaion Forum were greatly damaged, as well as many public buildings, monumental
structures and artworks. Although Justinian I had panicked, then he
decided to resist with the support of the Empress Theodora. Eventually, he massacred 30-35,000 people
in the Hippodrome and he completely suppressed the uprising on 19 January 532. The Hippodrome has always occupied an important
place in the relationship between the people and the emperors. It was a platform for people to convey their
demands to the emperor and to show their reactions. The emperor could choose to evaluate or refuse
their demands by removing the people from there using his troops. In addition, it is stated in some sources
that the hippodrome chariot races, which took an important place in the public life, were
stopped until 537 after the Nika Riot in 532. After the uprising, reconstruction work started
in the city and it was revitalized. The Hagia Sophia Church, which was heavily
damaged, was started to be rebuilt in 532 and completed in 537. Justinian I, commissioned Isidoros of Miletos
and Anthemius of Tralles, both originated from Western Anatolia, as architect-engineers,
for the construction of Hagia Sophia. According to one source, construction was
completed in about six years with the administration of ten thousand workers and one hundred foremen. However, the decorations in the church took
longer and completed in the reign of Justin II (565-578). Justinian I carried out many reconstruction
activities not only in the capital, but throughout the empire. These include aqueducts, monasteries, fortresses,
bridges, large fortifications, inns and majestic churches. In Constantinople, he restored or built thirty
churches and pioneered the rebuilding of the city after the rebellion. The Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, which
we will see in the next section, is a church that was completed in 536, just before Hagia
Sophia, even though its construction started before the Nika Riot. This church is one of the most important examples
of the After Hagia Sophia, Hagia Eirene, the second
largest church of the Byzantine period, was destroyed in the Nika uprising and rebuilt
during the reign of Justinian I. This structure remained within the courtyard
of Topkapı Palace after the conquest of Istanbul. The building, which is still standing today,
was rebuilt with several changes following the earthquake of 738. The structure reflects the characteristics
of the era of Justinian I. The upper floor is covered with a plan of
the Greek cross and the ground floor with a basilica plan. The churches of Justinian I era had rich decorations,
but the Church of Hagia Irene lost its decoration during the Iconoclasm period. The mosaic of gilded crucifix in the half-dome
of the apse has survived to this day from this 8th-century reconstruction. After the Nika Riot in 532, the Justinian
Column was erected in 543 in rebuilt Augustaion Square. On top of this column, which is located to
the south of Hagia Sophia, there used to be a bronze statue of the Emperor. It is believed that this monumental column,
which survived until the Ottoman period, was a talisman for Constantinople and it protected
the city from the plague. The other building activities of Justinian
I include the construction of the Holy Apostles Church, which had been built by Constantine
I before, by rebuilding it as cruciform planned and domed. In addition, Justinian, right next to this
church, built a new mausoleum in which himself and other emperors were buried for the next
five centuries. The Holy Apostles Church was destroyed in
1461 by Mehmed the Conqueror and the Fatih Mosque was built in its place. Another reconstruction activity of Justinian
I following the Nika Rebellion was the Basilica Cistern. The Stoa Basilica, which gave its name to
Basilica Cistern, was destroyed during the riot and was later rebuilt with the cistern
beneath it. 12 rows of columns, each with 28 columns,
are covered by cross-vaults. Justinian had also repaired parts of the Great
Palace that had been destroyed during the Nika Riot. The mosaic floors, which can be seen in the
Great Palace Mosaics Museum in Istanbul today, are also from his period. In addition, the Bukoleon Palace was rebuilt
by him, today’s ruins of which mostly dates from his reign. timelinetravel.net

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *