full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Lars Brownworth: The city of walls Constantinople

Unscramble the Blue Letters

The most important walls in western history aren't even in the West. They surround the moedrn city of Istanbul, Constantinople as the Romans called it. And for a thousand years, the fate of Europe depended on them. Constantinople was designed to be the cteenr of the world. When the frontiers of the Roman epimre began to crumble in the 4th Century, the capital was moved to the cultured, wealthy, and still stable East. There, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, the hub of the major trade routes of the annecit world, the Emperor cntinstnoae built his city. This was the city of libraries and universities, 20 times the size of London or Paris at the time. It contained the priceless knowledge of the classical world which was fading in the West. To protect this masterpiece from its many enemies, Constantine's successors built the finest dfvseniee fortifications ever made. The first line of protection was a moat 60 feet wide and 22 feet deep, sticntrheg all four miles from coast to csaot. ppeis from inside the city could fill it at the first sight of the enemy, and a sohrt wall protected archers who could fire at the soaked soldiers trying to swim across. Those who were lucky enough to clear the moat had to cnoentd with an unceasing barrage from the 27 foot outer wall above. Arrows, spears, or far worse, Greek fire — an ancient form of napalm that would ignite on contact and couldn't be extinguished by water — would rain down on them. Squads of Roman dfenderes would carry portable flame throwers, spraying anyone trying to climb out of the moat. The terrified victims would leap back, only to find that they still bnured underwater. At times, the Romans would also mount siphons onto the ratrapms, and launch clay pots full of Greek fire from catapults at an invading army. The front lines would turn into an inferno, mkniag it appear as if the etrah itself was on fire. If, by some mlicrae, the outer wall was compromised, aarctekts would be fecad with the final defense: the great inner wall. These walls were wide enough to have four men ride side by side, aolnlwig troops to be rushed wherever they were needed. Attilla the Hun, destroyer of civilizations, who nemad himself the Scourge of God, took one look at them and turned around. The Avars btaeltd the wllas uelslessy til their catapults ran out of rocks. The Turks tried to tunnel under them, but found the fnuoontadis too silod. The Arabs tried to starve the city into submission, but ran out of food themselves and had to resort to cannibalism. It took the guns of the modern wrlod to finally bring them down. In 1453, the Turks brought their super weapon: a monster cannon that could fire a 15 hundred pound stone ball over a mile. Together with more than a hundred smaller guns, they kept up a seadty bmmebnordat day and night. A section of the old walls collapsed, but even in their death throes they proved formidable. The rbuble absorbed the shock of the cannonballs better than the solid wall. It took a month and a half of cntinuuoos blasting to falilny open a breach. The last rmoan erpemor, Constantine the 11th, drew his srwod and jumped into the gap to stop the onrushing hrode, disappearing into legend. The city was taken, and the Roman Empire finally disappeared. But those broken walls had one last gift. As the survivors fled the doomed city, they brought with them their precious books and their ancient traditions. They traveled west to Italy, roitdcuerned the Greek language and learning to wsetren Europe, and ignited the Renaissance. Thanks to Constantinople's walls, that pile of brick and marble that guarded them for so long, we still have our classical past.

Open Cloze

The most important walls in western history aren't even in the West. They surround the ______ city of Istanbul, Constantinople as the Romans called it. And for a thousand years, the fate of Europe depended on them. Constantinople was designed to be the ______ of the world. When the frontiers of the Roman ______ began to crumble in the 4th Century, the capital was moved to the cultured, wealthy, and still stable East. There, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, the hub of the major trade routes of the _______ world, the Emperor ___________ built his city. This was the city of libraries and universities, 20 times the size of London or Paris at the time. It contained the priceless knowledge of the classical world which was fading in the West. To protect this masterpiece from its many enemies, Constantine's successors built the finest _________ fortifications ever made. The first line of protection was a moat 60 feet wide and 22 feet deep, __________ all four miles from coast to _____. _____ from inside the city could fill it at the first sight of the enemy, and a _____ wall protected archers who could fire at the soaked soldiers trying to swim across. Those who were lucky enough to clear the moat had to _______ with an unceasing barrage from the 27 foot outer wall above. Arrows, spears, or far worse, Greek fire — an ancient form of napalm that would ignite on contact and couldn't be extinguished by water — would rain down on them. Squads of Roman _________ would carry portable flame throwers, spraying anyone trying to climb out of the moat. The terrified victims would leap back, only to find that they still ______ underwater. At times, the Romans would also mount siphons onto the ________, and launch clay pots full of Greek fire from catapults at an invading army. The front lines would turn into an inferno, ______ it appear as if the _____ itself was on fire. If, by some _______, the outer wall was compromised, _________ would be _____ with the final defense: the great inner wall. These walls were wide enough to have four men ride side by side, ________ troops to be rushed wherever they were needed. Attilla the Hun, destroyer of civilizations, who _____ himself the Scourge of God, took one look at them and turned around. The Avars _______ the _____ _________ til their catapults ran out of rocks. The Turks tried to tunnel under them, but found the ___________ too _____. The Arabs tried to starve the city into submission, but ran out of food themselves and had to resort to cannibalism. It took the guns of the modern _____ to finally bring them down. In 1453, the Turks brought their super weapon: a monster cannon that could fire a 15 hundred pound stone ball over a mile. Together with more than a hundred smaller guns, they kept up a ______ ___________ day and night. A section of the old walls collapsed, but even in their death throes they proved formidable. The ______ absorbed the shock of the cannonballs better than the solid wall. It took a month and a half of __________ blasting to _______ open a breach. The last _____ _______, Constantine the 11th, drew his _____ and jumped into the gap to stop the onrushing _____, disappearing into legend. The city was taken, and the Roman Empire finally disappeared. But those broken walls had one last gift. As the survivors fled the doomed city, they brought with them their precious books and their ancient traditions. They traveled west to Italy, ____________ the Greek language and learning to _______ Europe, and ignited the Renaissance. Thanks to Constantinople's walls, that pile of brick and marble that guarded them for so long, we still have our classical past.

Solution

  1. steady
  2. reintroduced
  3. continuous
  4. making
  5. foundations
  6. solid
  7. finally
  8. battled
  9. short
  10. sword
  11. western
  12. coast
  13. pipes
  14. defenders
  15. allowing
  16. ancient
  17. modern
  18. center
  19. bombardment
  20. faced
  21. walls
  22. stretching
  23. defensive
  24. earth
  25. roman
  26. uselessly
  27. rubble
  28. contend
  29. world
  30. empire
  31. constantine
  32. miracle
  33. burned
  34. horde
  35. ramparts
  36. emperor
  37. attackers
  38. named

Original Text

The most important walls in western history aren't even in the West. They surround the modern city of Istanbul, Constantinople as the Romans called it. And for a thousand years, the fate of Europe depended on them. Constantinople was designed to be the center of the world. When the frontiers of the Roman Empire began to crumble in the 4th Century, the capital was moved to the cultured, wealthy, and still stable East. There, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, the hub of the major trade routes of the ancient world, the Emperor Constantine built his city. This was the city of libraries and universities, 20 times the size of London or Paris at the time. It contained the priceless knowledge of the classical world which was fading in the West. To protect this masterpiece from its many enemies, Constantine's successors built the finest defensive fortifications ever made. The first line of protection was a moat 60 feet wide and 22 feet deep, stretching all four miles from coast to coast. Pipes from inside the city could fill it at the first sight of the enemy, and a short wall protected archers who could fire at the soaked soldiers trying to swim across. Those who were lucky enough to clear the moat had to contend with an unceasing barrage from the 27 foot outer wall above. Arrows, spears, or far worse, Greek fire — an ancient form of napalm that would ignite on contact and couldn't be extinguished by water — would rain down on them. Squads of Roman defenders would carry portable flame throwers, spraying anyone trying to climb out of the moat. The terrified victims would leap back, only to find that they still burned underwater. At times, the Romans would also mount siphons onto the ramparts, and launch clay pots full of Greek fire from catapults at an invading army. The front lines would turn into an inferno, making it appear as if the earth itself was on fire. If, by some miracle, the outer wall was compromised, attackers would be faced with the final defense: the great inner wall. These walls were wide enough to have four men ride side by side, allowing troops to be rushed wherever they were needed. Attilla the Hun, destroyer of civilizations, who named himself the Scourge of God, took one look at them and turned around. The Avars battled the walls uselessly til their catapults ran out of rocks. The Turks tried to tunnel under them, but found the foundations too solid. The Arabs tried to starve the city into submission, but ran out of food themselves and had to resort to cannibalism. It took the guns of the modern world to finally bring them down. In 1453, the Turks brought their super weapon: a monster cannon that could fire a 15 hundred pound stone ball over a mile. Together with more than a hundred smaller guns, they kept up a steady bombardment day and night. A section of the old walls collapsed, but even in their death throes they proved formidable. The rubble absorbed the shock of the cannonballs better than the solid wall. It took a month and a half of continuous blasting to finally open a breach. The last Roman Emperor, Constantine the 11th, drew his sword and jumped into the gap to stop the onrushing horde, disappearing into legend. The city was taken, and the Roman Empire finally disappeared. But those broken walls had one last gift. As the survivors fled the doomed city, they brought with them their precious books and their ancient traditions. They traveled west to Italy, reintroduced the Greek language and learning to western Europe, and ignited the Renaissance. Thanks to Constantinople's walls, that pile of brick and marble that guarded them for so long, we still have our classical past.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
roman empire 2
outer wall 2
greek fire 2

Important Words

  1. absorbed
  2. allowing
  3. ancient
  4. arabs
  5. archers
  6. army
  7. arrows
  8. asia
  9. attackers
  10. attilla
  11. avars
  12. ball
  13. barrage
  14. battled
  15. began
  16. blasting
  17. bombardment
  18. books
  19. breach
  20. brick
  21. bring
  22. broken
  23. brought
  24. built
  25. burned
  26. called
  27. cannibalism
  28. cannon
  29. cannonballs
  30. capital
  31. carry
  32. catapults
  33. center
  34. century
  35. city
  36. civilizations
  37. classical
  38. clay
  39. clear
  40. climb
  41. coast
  42. collapsed
  43. compromised
  44. constantine
  45. constantinople
  46. contact
  47. contained
  48. contend
  49. continuous
  50. crossroads
  51. crumble
  52. cultured
  53. day
  54. death
  55. deep
  56. defenders
  57. defensive
  58. depended
  59. designed
  60. destroyer
  61. disappeared
  62. disappearing
  63. doomed
  64. drew
  65. earth
  66. east
  67. emperor
  68. empire
  69. enemies
  70. enemy
  71. europe
  72. extinguished
  73. faced
  74. fading
  75. fate
  76. feet
  77. fill
  78. final
  79. finally
  80. find
  81. finest
  82. fire
  83. flame
  84. fled
  85. food
  86. foot
  87. form
  88. formidable
  89. fortifications
  90. foundations
  91. front
  92. frontiers
  93. full
  94. gap
  95. gift
  96. god
  97. great
  98. greek
  99. guarded
  100. guns
  101. history
  102. horde
  103. hub
  104. hun
  105. ignite
  106. ignited
  107. important
  108. inferno
  109. invading
  110. istanbul
  111. italy
  112. jumped
  113. knowledge
  114. language
  115. launch
  116. leap
  117. learning
  118. legend
  119. libraries
  120. line
  121. lines
  122. london
  123. long
  124. lucky
  125. major
  126. making
  127. marble
  128. masterpiece
  129. men
  130. mile
  131. miles
  132. miracle
  133. moat
  134. modern
  135. monster
  136. month
  137. mount
  138. moved
  139. named
  140. napalm
  141. needed
  142. night
  143. onrushing
  144. open
  145. outer
  146. paris
  147. pile
  148. pipes
  149. portable
  150. pots
  151. pound
  152. precious
  153. priceless
  154. protect
  155. protected
  156. protection
  157. proved
  158. rain
  159. ramparts
  160. ran
  161. reintroduced
  162. renaissance
  163. resort
  164. ride
  165. rocks
  166. roman
  167. romans
  168. routes
  169. rubble
  170. rushed
  171. scourge
  172. section
  173. shock
  174. short
  175. side
  176. sight
  177. siphons
  178. size
  179. smaller
  180. soaked
  181. soldiers
  182. solid
  183. spears
  184. spraying
  185. squads
  186. stable
  187. starve
  188. steady
  189. stone
  190. stop
  191. stretching
  192. submission
  193. successors
  194. super
  195. surround
  196. survivors
  197. swim
  198. sword
  199. terrified
  200. thousand
  201. throes
  202. throwers
  203. til
  204. time
  205. times
  206. trade
  207. traditions
  208. traveled
  209. troops
  210. tunnel
  211. turks
  212. turn
  213. turned
  214. unceasing
  215. underwater
  216. universities
  217. uselessly
  218. victims
  219. wall
  220. walls
  221. water
  222. wealthy
  223. west
  224. western
  225. wide
  226. world
  227. worse
  228. years