Performance Tasks Causation: Cities and the Rise and Fall of States

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1 s Causation: Cities and the Rise and Fall of States Setting the Stage Building Block A concept: Students will analyze how the process of state-formation, expansion, and dissolution influenced and was influenced by the development of cities between circa 600 BCE and 600 CE. Rationale: The skill of causation for this building block involves multiple subskills such as differentiation between short- and long-term causes and effects and analysis of different types of cause and effect (e.g., political, economic, cultural), and the skill of contextualization for the local and larger scale of cross-cultural influences. An emphasis on cities in state building facilitates the development of these skills by focusing attention on a manageable topic in more depth. Goal: Students should be able to explain the importance of major cities in the developing power of states and empires as centers of administration, religious ritual, and trade. They should also be able explain how city-states sometimes expanded their power to become major empires and how, in many cases, this expansion eventually led empires to weaken and decline. Overview of student task(s) Background/Description: Students will examine a variety of visual and written sources on Constantinople, mostly during the period from its founding by Constantine in the 4th century CE up to 600 CE. Students will use the documents to analyze how urban areas in general, and this urban area in particular, influenced and were influenced by the development of empire. Task rationale: Capital cities and city-states have played central roles in the rise and fall of empires and civilizations, and yet they are often overlooked in the history of major states and empires. This building block focuses on the causal relationships between state and urban development. Using the skill of contextualization, a specific case study such as the city of Constantinople helps students develop their knowledge and then transfer it to other examples of city-states and empires. Students should have prior knowledge of the role of urbanization in the rise of river valley civilizations and how early civilizations used urban planning and monumental architecture. This particular building block would work well when examining post-classical cities and civilizations, particularly the evolution of the city of Constantinople. Teacher materials: The following supplies are needed for each small group of students: Students should have access to the Internet to view the written sources listed below. Electronic links are provided for each of the maps and photographs. Students should have means for taking notes on the various questions that are addressed. Page 1 of 13

2 Student version of task Goal of task Target concept: For this task you will be evaluated on your ability to: Analyze sources that illustrate how the process of state-formation, expansion, and dissolution influenced and was influenced by the development of cities. Analyze how the process of state-formation, expansion, and dissolution influenced and was influenced by the development of cities. Task summary This task involves the examination of a variety of elements involved in the rise of Constantinople, one of the most important cities of the classical and post-classical ages. You will examine a series of images and primary sources that relate to the religious, economic and political aspects of this city and its relationship to the state formation of the Byzantine Empire. Task 1: Constantine and Constantinople (Individual followed by group, or as homework followed by group) The first task involves examining a map of the Byzantine Empire and two written sources about the founding of Constantinople: one primary source and one secondary source. Examine the documents and respond to the questions that follow on your own. Then, discuss and answer the Analysis Questions in small groups. Document A Map of the Byzantine Empire Map of Byzantine Empire, c Green indicates the conquests during Justinian s reign. Source: Page 2 of 13

3 1. Looking at the map, what advantages did Constantinople have over other cities within the empire? Answer: Constantinople was located near several bodies of water, allowing for faster and easier transportation and trade. It was also located in the interior of the empire, rather than near a border, which might protect it from invaders. Document B Constantinople in Ancient History Encyclopedia by Donald L. Wasson Read the Foundation by Constantine ( CE) section, particularly the second paragraph, of Wasson s document at: 2. According to Wasson, what was Constantine s reason for locating his capital where he did? Answer: Unlike Rome, which was in decline, and Nicomedia, which had been the capital of his predecessors, Constantinople offered several advantages. Constantine wanted some place new where he could build his capital. The site of old Byzantium offered several advantages, including its location near the center of the empire and several bodies of water, making it easily defendable. Document C Sozomen s account of the founding of Constantinople From Fordham University Ancient History Sourcebook: Sozomen (d.c. 450 CE): Constantine Founds Constantinople, 324 CE. From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, ), Vol. II: Rome and the West, Read Sozomen s account of the founding of Constantinople at: 3. According to Sozomen, why and how did Constantine build his new capital where he did? Answer: God led Constantine to Byzantium, where he built high walls, houses, and infrastructure associated with a capital city. He brought families from Rome and imposed taxes to pay for the new construction. Analysis Questions 4. Describe three reasons why Constantine selected Constantinople to be the new capital of Roman Empire. Answer: Students may mention that the new capital was located near the center of the empire, that it was particularly well-defended, and that its location was advantageous for trade reasons. According to Sozomen, Constantine was led by God himself to the site of ancient Byzantium. 5. Describe three ways that the new capital of Constantinople reflected back on the previous glory of the ancient city of Rome. Answer: Constantine brought Roman people to the city, constructed grand monuments and structures like those in Rome, created a Senate like that of Rome, and planned the city to look like the old capital. The size and expanse of the empire was similar to what it had once been under Rome. Page 3 of 13

4 6. Describe at least two differences between the account of the founding of Constantinople from Sozomen and Wasson. Answer: Sozomen mentions the role of God in the founding of the city and provides more detail about how Constantine built the city, including names and places that would mean more to people who were closer in time to the events mentioned. Wasson, on the other hand, does not mention religion, instead focusing on political, economic, and defensive reasons for the decision to build the city at Constantinople. 7. Explain why the primary source might differ from the more modern interpretation. Answer: Sozomen likely wrote to glorify Constantine as a wise Christian leader. He wrote for a Christian audience and would have tailored his account toward their beliefs in a way to further glorify Constantine. Wasson wrote for a wider audience, not just Christians, in an effort to explain the founding in a more political and economic, rather than religious, context. 8. What are some reasons for the success and growth of significant cities in world history? How many of those reasons might apply to Constantinople in the period up to 600 CE? Answer: Students might mention a wide variety of economic, cultural and political aspects that lead to the success of cities. Several of these may not be relevant to Constantinople in this period, but those that do may include economic sophistication, trade center, political capital, religious center, or site less vulnerable to attack and invasion. 9. What are the effects of having a grand city on the success of an empire? Which of these effects might apply to the Roman/Byzantine Empire in period up to 600 CE? Answer: Students might mention a wide variety of effects on the success of an empire. Several of these may not be relevant to the Roman/Byzantine Empire in this period, but those that do may include greater centralization of rule, greater legitimacy through monumental construction, greater cultural sophistication, and greater economic sophistication. Note to the teacher: Teachers could choose to provide the sources and perhaps the questions as well for homework in order to preserve time or devote time in other ways during this building block. The thesis statement that follows these questions could also be incorporated into such a homework assignment. Check your understanding Can you explain a primary source account of Constantine s decision to establish the capital at Constantinople? Can you explain one historian s interpretation of why Constantine chose Constantinople as the capital of the empire? Can you apply your knowledge about the development of cities, city-states, and empires to the case of Constantinople? Page 4 of 13

5 Task 2: Analyzing Visual Evidence of Constantinople (In pairs) The next activity involves examining a variety of visual sources that illustrate the types of public works and monuments associated with ancient Constantinople. Working with a partner, respond to the question(s) for each set of images and then use the information to answer the analysis questions that follow. Visual Evidence A Cisterns and Aqueducts A remaining section of the aqueduct built by Emperor Valens in 4th century Constantinople. Source: Part of the underground cistern built to hold and secure the city's water reserves, which were fed by aqueducts. Source: 1. Why would cisterns and aqueducts be important for a city like Constantinople? Answer: In order for a city s population to survive and grow, it would need to have an adequate water supply. Aqueducts brought water into the city, which was then held in cisterns for use by residents. These public works helped the city grow. Page 5 of 13

6 Visual Evidence B Hagia Sophia The following photographs are images of the Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine church designed in 6th-century Constantinople, along with images of a few of the mosaics from the interior. Hagia Sophia Source: Hagia Sophia Source: Page 6 of 13

7 Hagia Sophia Source: Mosaic inside Hagia Sophia of John II Comnenus, Byzantine Emperor, with his wife, Irene, and Madonna with child, ca Source: Page 7 of 13

8 Imperial Gate mosaic from Hagia Sophia. Emperor Leo VI bowing down before Jesus, with the Archangel Gabriel and Mary in the medallions Source: 2. What do these images of the Hagia Sophia tell us about Constantinople? Answer: Because of its size and the ornate artwork, we can infer that the church was considered important. It likely served as a center for religious worship, which would increase the importance of the city as the center of the faith. It also demonstrates the importance of Christianity for the city and the empire. Visual Evidence C Images from the hippodrome at Constantinople, which served as the center for horse racing and civic gatherings Ruins of the Hippodrome Source: Page 8 of 13

9 Base of the obelisk from the Hippodrome, featuring Theodosius and his court Source: 3. What do the images tell us about the hippodrome and Constantinople? Answer: The obelisk at the center was likely an important monument and was meant to demonstrate the power and prestige of the emperor and his city. The hippodrome itself would have been a center of leisure for the citizens, adding to the attractiveness of the city for residents and visitors. Visual Evidence D Walls constructed to protect Constantinople from invasions after 600 CE, but similar to those built previously Ruins of the Theodosian Walls around Constantinople Source: Page 9 of 13

10 Ruins of the Theodosian Walls around Constantinople Source: Ruins of the Theodosian Walls around Constantinople Source: 4. What purpose did the walls serve? Answer: Walls provided protection against invasion, but also created a sense of importance and prestige. The walls were meant to keep enemies out of the city and to impress citizens and visitors. Page 10 of 13

11 Analysis Questions 5. How do city walls, churches, hippodromes, and aqueducts help build a strong empire? Answer: Cities need infrastructure to support and protect the population and grand public monuments help display authority and convey legitimacy. 6. Describe three ways that the Byzantine Empire was strengthened as a result of these various building projects. Answer: Student might mention a variety of ways that the Byzantine Empire was strengthened including the political power that is communicated by having monumental architecture such as grand churches and sports venues, the large population that can be concentration as a result of urban planning and water supply, and the military protection afforded by an enormous complex of walls. 7. Using your understanding of the factors that helped Constantinople contribute to the greatness of the Byzantine Empire, describe what urban factors would contribute to the decline and dissolution of an empire? Answer: When critical infrastructure such as aqueducts and city walls degenerate, a city s population is at risk. Monumental architecture can also divide a population if cultural aspects are no longer unifying. In these cases leaders soon lose their legitimacy. Note to the teacher: This question is of great significance. It is worth taking time to explore and assess student thinking on how the decline and dissolution of empires is related to urban factors. Check your understanding Can you use images to learn about Constantinople and its significance? Can you describe various aspects of the city of Constantinople, including its infrastructure, religious buildings, and monuments? Can you apply your knowledge about Constantinople to broader ideas about the development and dissolution of a city-state or empire? Page 11 of 13

12 Task 3: Apply your understanding Constantinople in 600 CE (Individual) Compose and deliver a two- to three- minute oral presentation in which you speak of the greatness of Constantinople and how it reflected the greatness of the Byzantine Empire circa 600 CE. Take the role of one of the following: an impressed visitor from another culture, a merchant shopkeeper in the city, a Byzantine soldier, a Christian priest, or the emperor himself. Be sure to support your enthusiasm for Constantinople with specifics about the city itself. Answer: Depending on which role each student has selected, the evidence provided may be slanted to reflect that character s background and point of view. Specific evidence drawn from the written and visual sources is expected. Note to the teacher: Optional Extension If there is time as part of the Building Block debriefing or as part of the debriefing of Task 3, teachers might pose this question, which pulls the entire Building Block together: How does the growth and development of the city of Constantinople reflect the development of the Roman and Byzantine empires from 600 BCE to 600 CE? If the conversation needs focusing, teachers might narrow the focus on the founding of Constantinople, the fall of Rome, and 600 CE as entry points into thinking about the relationship of a city to an empire. Interpretive framework Evaluation of student work: Evaluating student oral presentations is often more difficult for some teachers than evaluating student written work. Just as written work is evaluated on how effectively it addresses the question and how evidence is used to support the argument, so oral presentations can use those same aspects of analysis. Rubric: Criteria Beginning Approaching Target Does the student s response connect the greatness of the city to the greatness of the Byzantine Empire? The student s response only discusses Constantinople without mentioning how the city contributes to the greatness of the empire. The student s response only mentions the empire in passing without linking how factors of the city influenced the empire. The student s response links the development of the Byzantine Empire to factors of the city of Constantinople. Does the student s response mention specifics from the visual and written documents? The student s response is vague and does not mention specific buildings or urban features. The student s response mentions some specific features but does not link them to Constantinople s greatness. The student s response mentions several features within Constantinople and directly links them to the city s greatness. Does the student s response reflect the point of view of the role that he or she chose? The student s response does not reflect the perspective of the person he or she represents. The student s response makes only passing reference to the role that he or she represents. The student s response convincingly reflects the perspective and point of view of the chosen role. Page 12 of 13

13 Helping students close the gap Common student difficulties: Students may have several different types of difficulties with their understanding and presentation of information. First, students might not recognize how cities and larger political units, such as empires, influence each other how the strength of one influences the strength of the other and how the weakness of one influences the weakness of the other. Additionally, students might not grasp how monumental urban features provide political legitimacy. Students may only see these features as pleasant accoutrements rather than expressions of state power. Activities and resources to help close the gap: If students struggle to recognize how cities and empires affect each other, they can read and analyze a brief history on the city of Washington, DC and how it is connected to the larger country of the United States. It was designed and planned deliberately and offers an important model to consider. Students can read about it at: /?no-ist. If students struggle to see the connection between monumental urban features and political legitimacy and power, they can review a quick summary of architecture and power in the Roman Empire: Page 13 of 13

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