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Headword: Milion
Adler number: mu,1065
Translated headword: Milion, milestone
Vetting Status: high
Statues of Constantine and of Helena were set on the arch of the Milion;[1] at this place [there was] a cross and the Tyche of the city.[2] And at the same Milion [there were statues] of Sophia, the wife of Justinian [sic],[3] Arabia, [Sophia’s] daughter, and Helena, [Arabia’s] cousin;[4] and also two equestrian statues of Arcadius and his son Theodosius, near the statue of Theodosius.[5]
On the Milion [there was] a chariot with four fiery horses supported[6] by two ancient columns. It was here that Constantine was acclaimed after defeating Azôtius, because Byzas was also acclaimed at the same place.[7] When the chariot drawn by the sun descended into the Hippodrome attended by guards, it was equipped with a small new statue by Constantine: the Tyche of the city entered the Stama, was crowned, and departed.[8] It was placed in the Senate during the celebration of the city's founding.[9] Because Constantine carved a cross on its head, Julian buried it in a ditch.[10]
Sculpture in the Milion: see under 'Basilica'[11] for another statue.
Greek Original:
Milion: hoti en têi kamarai tou Miliou stêlai histantai Kônstantinou kai Helenês: entha kai stauros kai hê Tuchê tês poleôs. kai en tôi autôi Miliôi Sophias tês gunaikos Ioustinianou kai Arabias tês thugatros autês kai Helenês anepsias autês: Arkadiou te kai Theodosiou tou huiou autou, plêsion Theodosiou tês stêlês, ephippoi amphoteroi. hoti en tôi Miliôi en tetrasin hippois purinois harma hiptamenon para duo stêlôn ek palaiôn tôn chronôn hupêrchen. entha euphêmêthê Kônstantinos meta to nikêsai Azôtion: epeidê kai Buzas ekeise euphêmêthê. katenechthen de to harma en tôi hippodromôi doruphoroumenon stêlidion kainon para Kônstantinou kataskeuasthen hupo hêliou pheromenon, Tuchê poleôs, eis to stoma eisêiei kai stephanôthen exêiei. etitheto de en tôi senatôi heôs tôn epiontôn genethliôn tês poleôs. dioti de epi tês kephalês autou stauron echaraxe Kônstantinos, Ioulianos auto bothunôi katechôse. stêlai en tôi Miliôi: zêtei agalma heteron en tôi basilikê.
Milion = 'milestone'. See mu 1064 for the generic definition. The present entry treats Constantinople's Milion, a marble arch with a gilded roof erected by Constantine between the Hippodrome and Hagia Sophia in the south-west corner of the Augusteion (for a city map, see web address 1). Modeled on the Milarium Aureum or "Golden Milestone" erected by Augustus in the Roman Forum (Notitia 232), the Milion functioned as the symbolic center of Constantinople (kappa 2287) and the Eastern Empire (Schmidt 1981). Like its counterpart in Rome, the Milion listed distances from the capital to major cities throughout the empire. It was topped by statues of Constantine the Great (kappa 2284) and his mother Helena holding aloft a Cross. Justinian I (527-565) erected a sundial in the Milion’s vicinity. Philippicus Bardanes (711-718) and Anastasius II (713-715) decorated its vault with depictions of the first six ecumenical councils. During the iconoclastic controversy, Constantine V (741-775) replaced these religious portraits with images of the Hippodrome and a portrait of his favorite charioteer (Vita S. Stephani iunioris, PG 100,1172; Grabar 1957, pp.48-49). Because of its prominent location at the intersection of the Mese and Augusteion, many imperial monuments, especially equestrian statues, were erected in its vicinity, including some that predate the Severan and Constantine renovations of the city (Cedrenus, I, 564; Mango 1972, pp. 16, 141, 153; Guilland ii.28-31). A vague reference in a document of Sultan Mehmed II (Topkapi Sarayi, no. 16/1141, p. 25) indicates that the Milion may have survived the Ottoman conquest in 1453. Although excavations in 1958-59 (Firalti 1960) and 1967-68 (Janin 1970) found possible evidence of the Milion at the intersection of the modern avenues of Divanyolu and Yeribatan, its exact form and location remain uncertain (Müller-Weiner 1977, pp. 216-219 includes maps and pictures of the excavations). The testimony of Niketas Choniates, who calls it a "huge arch" (th=s mei/sths a(yi=dos, p.307, 7 Bonn) and refers to its arches in the plural (tai=s a(yi=sin, p.308, 20), and similar structures in Palmyra, Gerassa, and Philippopolis suggest that the Milion was probably a four-sided (quadrifrons or tetrapylon) arch.
This entry appears to be completely dependent on literary sources such as John Malalas, the Chronicon Paschale, and patriographical texts (e.g. the ninth-century Anonymous of Treu and the tenth-century ps-Codinus) derived from the eighth-century *parasta/seis su/ntomoi xronikai/ (Parastaseis), a collection of 'brief historical notices' on Constantinople's monuments. The entry's focus on the Milion's sculptural decoration and role in ceremonies and its failure to report the Milion's location, physical layout, and function are typical of the sources on which the entry depends.
[1] The Milion’s arch (kama/ra) was also referred to as fourniko/n by the Book of Ceremonies and h( a(yi/s by historians; see Guilland ii, pp.28-31 for citations. It is not possible to discern the Milion's form or size from these terms. In Suda entries derived from patriographical texts, the meaning of e)n is ambiguous and can mean 'at', 'near', or even 'on', as it does here.
[2] This first sentence is an abbreviated version similar to descriptions in Parastaseis 34, ps.-Codinus 2.29, and Anon. Treu p. 13,14. The Suda shows numerous parallels with these texts but in nearly all cases either abbreviates them or is following an abbreviated source.
Numerous statues of Tyche, the symbolic representation of the city's prosperity, were erected throughout Constantinople. In its unique role as Nova Roma, Constantinople's Tyche was routinely depicted by two different iconographic forms: 1) a helmeted Minerva modeled on the Tyche of Rome; and 2) a woman with a turreted crown, holding a cornucopia and placing her foot on the prow of a ship. Since Constantine appears to have favored the statues of the Roman type on his monuments, it is likely that the statue on the Milion was a helmeted Minerva (cf. Berger 1988, p. 274). As (erroneously) indicated later in this entry, it was assumed that the Milion's statue of Tyche played a central role in the *gene/qlia, the annual celebration of Constantine’s founding of the city (see note 9 for a discussion of this error).
[3] This statuary group stood at the base of the Milion; see note 1 for e)n with this meaning. This sentence contains both an ambiguity and an obvious error. The au)th=s at the end of this sentence renders ambiguous whether Helena was the cousin of Sophia or Arabia. The ambiguity of the source led related texts (e.g. Parastaseis 34) to erroneously state that Helena was Sophia's cousin. Helena, as the daughter of Justin's brother Marcellus, was Arabia’s cousin. The statement that Sophia was the wife of Justinian is incorrect. Sophia was the wife of Justinian's successor, Justin II (565-578 CE; web address 2). A similar entry in Parastaseis 34 states that "at the Milion [there were statues] of Sophia the wife of Justin, [who was the emperor] after Justinian the Great, and Arabia her daughter...." It seems likely, therefore, that the Suda's source preserved a passage similar to that in the Parastaseis but that, in abbreviating the passage, its source omitted the wrong emperor, with the better known Justinian displacing Justin II as Sophia’s wife. A similar error, with Justinian again substituted for Justin II, appears in Parastaseis 81.
[4] Cameron 1980, pp. 70-71 contains a brief notice about this statue and its relationship to Justin II's building program in Constantinople.
[5] The three emperors mentioned in this sentence are: 1) Arcadius, the son of Theodosius I and emperor of the East (395-408); 2) Theodosius II, son of Arcadius and emperor of the East (408-450), theta 145; and 3) Theodosius I, Roman emperor (378-395), theta 144. The identity of the final Theodosius is confirmed by the nearly identical passage in Parastaseis 35a: "[there are] two equestrian [statues] of Arcadius and Theodosius his son near the statue of Theodosius the father."
[6] i(sta/menon: Anonymous of Treu and ps.-Codinus 2.42. Although the famous bronze horses transported to Venice during the Fourth Crusade (1204 CE) could be from the chariot group on the Milion (see web address 3), it is more likely that they are from Constantinople’s Hippodrome (Berger 1988, p. 555; Cameron 1984, pp. 273-274). Originally placed in the Arsenale, they were installed on the exterior of San Marco in the mid-thirteenth century. For a full account of these masterpieces of ancient sculpture, see Vlad 1979.
[7] Azôtius and Byzas were legendary opponents defeated by Constantine, when he (re-)founded Constantinople as a Christian city. The extent to which the historical events of Constantine's life had yielded to the archetypical mythology of a founding hero is remarkable. Although the mythological accounts of the city's founding are confused, in brief Constantine triumphed over Byzas, the eponymous, pagan founder of the city, and Anthes, his confederate, in either single combat or a horserace. Acclaimed by the local populace, Constantine then renamed Byzantium Constantinople. In some sources Constantine slaughtered 20,000 pagan 'Hellenes' in his combat with Byzas and Anthes (Parastaseis 81), and the two could be mythologized versions of Licinius' generals, who were defeated near Byzantium in 324 CE. The presence of a mysterious fourth combatant, Azôtius, can perhaps be explained by an attempt to syncretize the battle in the foundation myth with the contests in the Hippodrome, with each of the legendary combatants (Constantine, Byzas, Anthes, and Azôtius) symbolized by one of four contestants in the chariot races. This interpretation is supported by Parastaseis 38 where the partisanship typical of the Hippodrome’s athletic contest is fused with the events of the battle: "it was here that Constantine the Great was acclaimed after defeating Azôtius and Byzas and Anthes, and a faction of the Blues cried out, 'You launched your whip backwards and, as one in a second youth, you exerted yourself in the stadium', while the Greens responded, 'We do not have need for you, miserable, gods higher than you removed it'." The exclamation of the Blues is identical to the first verses of an inscription on the base of a statue dedicated to the charioteer Porphyrios around 530 CE on the spina of the Hippodrome (Greek Anthology 15.44.5-6). The confusion between Porphyrios and Constantine could have arisen from confusion between Constantine the Great and the charioteer Constantine, a contemporary of Porphyrios, who was also honored by numerous epigrams (Greek Anthology 15.41-42; Planudean Anthology 364b-375; on these inscriptions, see Cameron 1973, pp. 109-111). While unpacking the confused elements of myth and history is unfeasible here, it is obvious that the Suda author draws from sources for which the foundation of Constantinople was understood in mythical rather than historical terms. This sentence is nearly identical to ps.-Codinus 2.42.
Since information on Byzas, Anthes and Azôtius is not easily accessible in the common reference works on classical mythology, some additional points deserve mention here. Hesychius 3-6 (c. 6th CE) records several different versions of the Byzas myth: he was either 1) the son of the local nymph Semestra, raised by the nymph Byzia; 2) the son of Poseidon and Keroessa, daughter of Io; 3) the leader of a group of Megarian colonists; or 4) a Thracian King. The other elements of his life recall aspects of Rome's and Troy's early mythology. Byzas was said to have founded Byzantium with the aid of Apollo and Posedion at the time of the Argonauts (shades of Troy). Alternatively, Phidaleia, daughter of Barbysios, the local king, founded the city and Byzas gave the city his name when became its king through marriage (shades of Aeneas). Byzas was also said to have quarreled with his half-brother Strombos (shades of Romulus). There exist, therefore, various legends that emphasize the autochthonous, Thracian, Argive, or Roman character of the myth depending on which aspect the source sought to emphasize. For a general discussion, see Dagron 1984, pp. 44-47, 62-63; for ancient citations, see Miller, RE III, s.v. Byzas.
Azôtius is even an even more mysterious figure than Byzas and Anthes. *)azw/teios and *)/azwtos are the names of a prince and of the capital of the Philistines in the Old Testament (Asdod, cf. Joshua 13:3, etc.; 1 Kings 5:1, etc.). *)azw=tos is also the Hellenized version of the Armenian name Asot (De thematibus, Or. 12, ed. Pertusi, p. 75); see Dagron 1984, p. 46. It is also possible that *)azw/tios is a symbolic name derived from a)-zw- and therefore signifies a supernatural or undead creature. Admittedly, none of these possibilities is particularly illuminating.
[8] Preger and Lambeck’s reading sta/ma for sto/ma is certainly correct and is supported by the nearly identical passage in *parasta/seis su/ntomoi xronikai/ 38 and ps.-Codinus 2.42. The Stama is the area before the imperial box in the Hippodrome where victorious charioteers were crowned.
[9] The *gene/qlia, an annual celebration of Constantinople's founding held on May 11th, was thought in the Byzantine period to have been initiated by Constantine. A similar passage at Chronicon Paschale, 530 describes the procession of the statue in greater detail: "Constantine had made another statue of himself in gilded wood, which held the Tyche of the city, itself also gilded, in its right hand. He mandated that on the day when the anniversary of the city's founding was celebrated in the Hippodrome, this same statue of wood be led in, escorted by soldiers in mantles and slippers, all carrying white candles. After having circumnavigated the kampton of the Hippodrome, it is placed in the stama, facing the imperial kathisma, and the ruling emperor rises and prostrates himself before the statue of Constantine and the Tyche of the city.” Similar accounts are told by Parastaseis 38, ps.-Codinus 2.42, Anonymous of Treu p. 14, 14, and John Malalas, 322. See Dagron 307-308 for a discussion of the event. As the description in Chron. Pasch. makes clear, the monumental group on the Milion was certainly distinct from the small wooden, gilded copy of Constantine's statue in the Forum used in the *gene/qlia ceremony. Patriographical texts often confuse the numerous sculptures of Constantine and Tyche in Constantinople and erroneously link them to the *gene/qlia (cf. Parastaseis 5). That a temple of Tyche is attested in the Basilica, which abutted the Milion, probably added to the confusion in this case (Zosimus NH 2.31.2; Cameron 1976, p. 271).
[10] There is no contemporary evidence for Julian (iota 437) desecrating the statue of the Tyche and the event appears to be an invention of later mythographers, who routinely contrasted Constantine, the city's pious founder, with his apostate successor (Dagron 1974, p. 309; Dagron 1984, p. 45) and often portrayed Julian as an iconoclast (Cameron 1984, p. 216).
[11] beta 157.
A note on primary sources: The Parastaseis, Hesychius *pa/tria *kwnstantinoupo/lews , and ps.-Codinus are available in Preger, Th. Scriptores Originum Constantinopolitanarum (repr. Berlin, 1975); other texts are available in independent editions.
Berger, A. Untersuchungen zu den Patria Konstantinupoleos (Bonn, 1988)
Cameron, Alan. Porphyrius the Charioteer, (Oxford, 1973)
------------- "Theodorus trise/parxos." GRBS 17 (1976): 269-286
Cameron, Averil. "The Artistic Patronage of Justin II," Byzantion 50 (1980): 62-84
Cameron, Averil and J. Herrin. Constantinople in the Early Eighth Century: the Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai, (Leiden, 1984)
Dagron, G. Naissance d’une capitale (Paris, 1974)
Du Cange, C. Constantinopolis christiana sue descriptio urbis sub imperatoribus christianis libri quattuor (Paris, 1682)
Dumont, J. "Apollon et la fondation de Byzance." T&MLim(Hist.) 1974: 53-73
Firatli, N. and T. Ergil. "Divanyolu 'Milion' sondaji." Istanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri Yilligi 15/16: 199-212
Grabar, A. L'iconoclasme byzantin; dossier archeologique, (Paris, 1957)
Guilland, R. "Le Milion." Hellenica 16 (1958/59): 91-94
--------- Etudes de topographie de Constantinople byzantine (Berlin, 1969)
Janin, R. Constantinople byzantine: dévelopment urbain et répertoire topographique (Paris, 1964)
--------- "Notes d'archéologie. Travaux et découvertes." REByz 28 (1970): 271-273
--------- Constantinople imaginaire (Paris, 1984): esp. pp. 45-48
Kazhdan, A.P. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (New York, 1991)
Krautheimer, R. Three Christian Capitals (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983)
Mamboury, E. Byazantion 11 (1936): 273-274
Mango, C. The Brazen House: A study of the Vestibule of the Imperial Palace of Constantinople (Copenhagen, 1959)
--------- The Art of the Byzantine Empire, 312-1453; Sources and Documents, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1972)
--------- Le développement urbain de Constantinople (IVe-VIIe siècles) (Paris, 1992)
Miller, J., RE III: 1158-1159
Müller-Wiener, W., R. Schiele, et al. Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls: Byzantion, Konstantinupolis, Istanbul bis zum Beginn d. 17. Jh, (Tübingen, 1977)
Preger, Th. Scriptores Originum Constantinopolitanarum (repr. New York, 1975)
Schmidt, Th.-M. "Konstantinoupolis. Zum städtebaulichen Programm des Zweiten Rom." WZJena 30 (1981): 431-439
Speck, U. Die Kaiserliche Universität von Konstantinopel, (München, 1974)
Waltz, P. Byzantion 13 (1938): 183-192
Vlad, L.B. and A.G. Tonianto. "The Origins and Documentary Sources of the Horses of San Marco", in The Horses of San Marco, Venice, Exhibition Catalogue (London, 1979): 127-136
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: architecture; art history; biography; geography; historiography; history; imagery; military affairs; poetry; politics; religion; women; zoology
Translated by: Bret Mulligan on 8 November 2003@15:27:59.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (x-ref in note 10; augmented keywords; cosmetics) on 9 November 2003@05:49:53.
Catharine Roth (adjusted betacode) on 9 November 2003@16:16:55.
Catharine Roth (another betacode adjustment) on 9 November 2003@16:19:17.
Bret Mulligan (edited translation, notes, bibliography; added web address) on 1 December 2003@14:54:13.
Bret Mulligan (typo) on 1 December 2003@20:33:20.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Added italics in bibliography; cosmetics) on 2 December 2003@15:54:05.
Mehmet Fatih Yavuz (cosmetics) on 20 December 2009@11:07:07.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics; raised status) on 23 May 2013@07:06:12.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 13 November 2014@01:16:32.
Catharine Roth (deleted two links, rearranged others) on 13 November 2014@23:23:15.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 3 January 2015@00:34:17.


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