In the beginning

Автор: Maks Ноя 20, 2020

А myriad of fascinating events must have at-ljL tended the founding of Rus, the precursor of modem Russia. About many of these events we can only speculate; as might be expected, relatively few were documented. There are, however, a surprising number of minor yet interesting facts that have sifted down to us, to be marveled at by modem historians. We know, for example, that in the 900s grand princes and their councils of elders began using silver spoons and wearing leather boots. In the following century, Russia’s first library of manuscripts was established in Kiev.

Among the military conquests carried out by Rus the most momentous was surely Prince Oleg’s campaign against Constantinople in 907. Called Tsargrad by the Russians, this capital of the mighty Byzantine Empire had been attacked by others before Oleg and was to be attacked by other enemies afterward. It was the Russians, however, who devised their own successful method of capturing that noble city.

Constantinople was invincible if attacked by sea. The city had become proficient in the use of Greek fire, a flaming substance of oils and resins that kept burning even in water and which was hurled by catapults from within the walls of the city onto enemy ships. Realizing that Constantinople could not be seized if approached by sea, Prince Oleg ordered that wheels be attached to his two thousand ships. The fleet approached Constantinople under sail, but only as close as the nearby fields, rolled up to the unprotected rear walls, and stormed the citadel. The Byzantines surrendered. As a symbol of having humbled the mighty, Prince Oleg nailed his shield to the gates of Tsargrad and extracted great tribute from the vanquished.

Victory gave Russian merchants the right to reside in the villages round Tsargrad, exempted them from paying customs duties, even entitled them to receive monthly stipends. Four years later the agreement signed with the Byzantines gave any Russian the right to enter Constantinople and be received by the city’s residents with respect and hospitality.

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