The Long View

Taksim and the Nika Riots

By Cornucopia Blog | July 4, 2013


On July 4 Jonathan Freeland returned to 6th-century Constantinople in his BBC Radio 4 series, The Long View, to explore the context of recent events in Istanbul. 

The parallels are uncanny, down to the unification of the Greens and the Blues of the Byzantine hippodrome and today's newfound solidarity between the rival fans of Istanbul's three largest football clubs. The programme includes interviews with Bettany Hughes and Bruce Clark, who writes on the east Mediterranean for The Economist, Dr Gül Berna Özcan and the pro-government MUSIAD spokesman Hakan Kamuz, with readings from Procopius (circa AD 500–565).

As Procopius writes: 'When Justinian came to the throne he straight away succeeded in upsetting everything as though he had assumed the imperial robe for no other purpose than to alter completely the form of government. He did away with existing offices… He acted in the same manner in regard to the laws and the army...'

The parallels end when the riots take over, thank goodness. In Constantinople 30,000 lay dead… As Bettany Hughes concludes, the question for both men, ancient and modern, is how will history judge them?

Link to podcast

Posted in History, News, Gezi Protests
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