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Byzantium was an ancient Greek city-state, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas. The name "Byzantium" is a Latinization of the original Greek name Byzantion (Βυζάντιον;. Legend has it that the colonists were told by an oracle, when leaving Megara, that they should build their city across from the "city of the blind". When King Byzas approached the Bosphorus, he wondered why earlier colonists had built Chalkedon on the Asiatic side when the European side seemed much better suited. "Are they blind?" he asked aloud, immediately remembering the prophecy.

After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by Rome and suffered extensive damage in AD 196. Byzantium was rebuilt by the now Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and quickly regained its previous prosperity. The location of Byzantium attracted Constantine the Great who, in AD 330, refounded it as New Rome or Constantinoupolis (Constantinople, Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις) after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city. The East Roman Empire which had its capital in Constantinople from then until 1453, has often been called the Byzantine Empire or Byzantium by modern scholars. By extension, the name Byzantium is often used to refer to the Byzantine Empire, its territory, and its customs.

Of course it did not take a prophet to see that this combination of imperialism and location would play an important role as the crossing point between two continents (Europe and Asia), and later a magnet for Africa and others as well, in terms of commerce, culture, diplomacy and strategy. At a strategic position, Constantinoupolis was able to control the route between Asia and Europe, as well as the passage from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euxinos Pontus (Black Sea).

On May 29 1453, the city fell to the Ottoman Turks and was part of the Ottoman Empire until its official dissolution on November 1, 1922. Since then it has remained a part of the Republic of Turkey (first declared on January 20 1921, generally recognized on October 29 1923).

In the 20th century the city was renamed Istanbul. The renaming became official in 1930.

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