The houses of the élite in Byzantine Constantinople
Constantinople was the greatest urban foundation of the Roman world after Rome itself. It then became the greatest Christian city of the Middle Ages. As such, it claims attention primarily for its imperial monuments and spaces, and for its churches and monasteries, especially because these account for almost all the pitifully scarce remains of the Byzantine past. Yet the greater part of the city’s built environment was made up of the houses (oikoi) of its inhabitants, from the emperor down to the poorest urban residents. Particularly numerous and prominent were the dwellings of the social élite who formed the imperial entourage, or staffed the government and administration of state and church. They covered a significant volume of urban and suburban space, and those at the top of the scale were important units of social life; whether they remained as family residences, or were converted into churches and monasteries, they frequently constituted the nuclei of urban neighbourhoods. This lecture summarises the available evidence for the whole Byzantine period, and considers how the appearance and location of élite housing changed over time.