The Mese: Main Street of Constantinople
By David Bergstein
Published Online (2010)
Introduction: Imagine the main street of your own town, the center of your home city. There are shops and restaurants, markets and amusement centers, bustling activity and the crowds of people. Just like modern urban centers, Byzantine Constantinople had a main street, known as the mese. In fact, the word mese means literally “middle road,” indicating the centrality of this street (Kazhdan). Cutting through virtually the entire city, the mese was the main avenue of traffic running through or alongside almost every major monument and gathering space of civic importance.
And just like the main streets of today, the mese was more than just a road – it was also the center of economic and social activity, surrounded by porticoes, or colonnaded shopping centers. An examination of this monument provides both a greater understanding of daily life in Byzantium, as well as a more unified, comprehensive picture of the city of Constantinople.