Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore traces the sacred history of Istanbul. The Turkish capital was once described as the 'city of the world's desire', having been the focus of three faiths - Paganism, Christianity and Islam - and the stage for some of the fiercest political and religious conflicts over the past 2,500 years.

Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities - Netflix

Type: Documentary

Languages: English

Status: Ended

Runtime: 60 minutes

Premier: 2013-12-05

Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities - Star and crescent - Netflix

The star and crescent is an iconographic symbol used in various historical contexts but most well known today as a symbol of the former Ottoman Empire and, by popular extension, the Islamic world. It develops in the iconography of the Hellenistic period (4th–1st centuries BCE) in the Kingdom of Pontus, the Bosporan Kingdom and notably the city of Byzantium by the 2nd century BCE. It is the conjoined representation of the crescent and a star, both of which constituent elements have a long prior history in the iconography of the Ancient Near East as representing either Sun and Moon or Moon and Morning Star (or their divine personifications). Coins with crescent and star symbols represented separately have a longer history, with possible ties to older Mesopotamian iconography. The star, or Sun, is often shown within the arc of the crescent (also called star in crescent, or star within crescent, for disambiguation of depictions of a star and a crescent side by side); In numismatics in particular, the term crescent and pellet is used in cases where the star is simplified to a single dot. In Byzantium, the symbol became associated with its patron goddess Artemis/Hecate, and it is used as a representation of Moon goddesses (Selene/Luna or Artemis/Diana) in the Roman era. Ancient depictions of the symbol always show the crescent with horns pointing upward and with the star (often with eight rays) placed inside the crescent. This arrangement is also found on Sassanid coins beginning in the 5th or 6th century CE. The combination is found comparatively rarely in late medieval and early modern heraldry. It rose to prominence with its adoption as the flag and emblem of the Ottoman Empire and some of its administrative divisions (eyalets and vilayets) and later in the 19th-century Westernizing tanzimat (reforms). The Ottoman flag of 1844, with a white ay-yıldız (Turkish for “crescent-star”) on a red background, continues to be in use as the flag of the Republic of Turkey, with minor modifications. Other states formerly part of the Ottoman Empire also used the symbol, including Libya (1951–1969 and after 2011), Tunisia (1956) and Algeria (1958). The same symbol was used in other national flags introduced during the 20th century, including the flags of Azerbaijan (1918), Pakistan (1947), Malaysia (1948), Singapore (1959) and Mauritania (1959). In the later 20th century, the star and crescent have acquired a popular interpretation as a “symbol of Islam”, occasionally embraced by Arab nationalism or Islamism in the 1970s to 1980s, but often rejected as erroneous or unfounded by Muslim commentators in more recent times. Unicode introduced a “star and crescent” character in its Miscellaneous Symbols block, at U+262A (☪).

Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities - State flags - Netflix

The Ottoman flag of 1844 with a white “ay-yıldız” (Turkish for “crescent-star”) on a red background continues to be in use as the flag of the Republic of Turkey with minor modifications. Other Ottoman successor states using the star and crescent design in their flag are Tunisia (1956), Libya (1951, re-introduced 2011) and Algeria (1958). The modern emblem of Turkey shows the star outside the arc of the crescent, as it were a “realistic” depiction of a conjunction of Moon and Venus, while in the 19th century, the Ottoman star and crescent was occasionally still drawn as the (classical but “astronomically incorrect”) star-within-crescent. By contrast, the designs of both the flags of Algeria and Tunisia (as well as Mauritania and Pakistan) place the star within the crescent.

The same symbol was used in other national flags introduced during the 20th century, including the flags of Azerbaijan (1918, re-introduced 1991), Pakistan (1947), Malaysia (1948), Mauritania (1959), and the partially recognized states of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (1976) and Northern Cyprus (1983). The symbol also may represent flag of cities or emirates such as the emirate of Umm Al-Quwain .

Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities - References - Netflix