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Third Rome

The first symbols of Rome, the eternal city regenerating in "second Rome" and later in "third Rome"

Third Rome was the idea that some city, state, or country is the successor to the legacy of ancient Rome (the "first Rome"). The concept of second Rome is disputed according to different perspectives, either via connection to the Byzantine Empire (also known as the "Eastern Roman Empire") as Constantinople being the "second Rome", or via connection to the Western Roman Empire through its claimed successors such as the Papal States or the Holy Roman Empire.


  • Italy's capital as the Third Rome 1
    • Risorgimento 1.1
    • Fascist Empire 1.2
  • Successor to Byzantium 2
    • Russian claims 2.1
    • Ottoman claims 2.2
  • Successor to the Holy Roman Empire 3
  • In recent popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Bibliography 7

Italy's capital as the Third Rome

In Italy, the concept "third Rome" is related to the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, created in 1861.


Giuseppe Mazzini, Italian nationalist and patriot promoted the notion of the "Third Rome". He said, "After the Rome of the emperors, after the Rome of the Popes, there will come the Rome of the people", addressing Italian unification and the establishment of Rome as the capital.[1] After the unification of Italy into the Kingdom of Italy, the state was referred to as the Third Rome by Italian figures.[2]

An aquila clutching a fasces was a common symbol used in Fascist Italy.

After the unification, Mazzini spoke of the need of Italy as a Third Rome to have imperial aspirations.[3] Mazzini said that Italy should "invade and colonize Tunisian lands" as it was the "key to the Central Mediterranean", and he viewed Italy as having the right to dominate the Mediterranean Sea as ancient Rome had done.[3]

Fascist Empire

In his speeches, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini referred to his Fascist Italy as a "Third Rome" or as a New Roman Empire.[4] Terza Roma (Third Rome; the Fascist Rome after the Imperial and the Papal ones) was also a name for Mussolini's plan to expand Rome towards Ostia and the sea. The EUR neighbourhood was the first step in that direction.[5]

Successor to Byzantium

Coat of arms of the Russian Empire with the double-headed eagle, formerly associated with the Byzantine Empire.
Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror with patriarch Gennadius II depicted on an 18th-century mosaic.

Russian claims

After the fall of Tǎrnovo to the Ottoman Turks in 1393, a number of Bulgarian clergymen sought shelter in the Russian lands and transferred the idea of the Third Rome there, which eventually resurfaced in Tver, during the reign of Boris of Tver, when the monk Foma (Thomas) of Tver had written The Eulogy of the Pious Grand Prince Boris Alexandrovich in 1453.[6][7]

Within decades after the capture of Constantinople by Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire on 29 May 1453, some Eastern Orthodox people were nominating Moscow as the "Third Rome", or the "New Rome".[8] Stirrings of this sentiment began during the reign of Ivan III of Russia who had married Sophia Paleologue. Sophia was a niece of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor. By the rules and laws of inheritance followed by most European monarchies of the time, Ivan could claim that he and his offspring were heirs of the fallen Empire, but the Roman traditions of the empire had never recognized automatic inheritance of the Imperial office.[9] A stronger claim was based on religion. The Orthodox faith was central to Byzantine notions of their identity and what distinguished them from "barbarians". Vladimir the Great had converted Kievan Rus' to Orthodoxy in 988, in return for which he became the first barbarian to ever get an Imperial princess as a wife.

The idea of Muscovy as heir to Rome crystallized with a panegyric letter composed by the Russian monk Philotheus (Filofey) of Pskov in 1510 to their son Grand Duke Vasili III, which proclaimed, "Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!" Contrary to the common misconception, Filofey [10] explicitly identifies Third Rome with Muscovy (the country) rather than with Moscow (the city), although the term "Muscovy" was considered synonymous with the Russian lands at the time. Somewhat notably, Moscow is placed on seven hills, as were Rome and Constantinople.

Ottoman claims

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD,

  • Chambers, Whittaker (1964). Cold Friday. New York: Random House. 
  • Dmytryshyn, Basil (transl). 1991. Medieval Russia: A Source Book, 850-1700. 259–261. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Poe, Marshall. "Moscow, the Third Rome: the Origins and Transformations of a 'Pivotal Moment.'" Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas (2001) (In Russian: "Izobretenie kontseptsii "Moskva—Tretii Rim." Ab Imperio. Teoriia i istoriia natsional'nostei i natsionalizma v postsovetskom prostranstve 1: 2 (2000), 61-86.)
  • Martin, Janet. 1995. Medieval Russia: 980-1584. 293. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK.
  • Stremooukhoff, Dimitri. "Moscow The Third Rome: Sources of the Doctrine". Speculum. (January 1953). 84-101.


  1. ^ Rome Seminar
  2. ^ Christopher Duggan. The Force of Destiny: A History of Italy Since 1796. New York, New York, USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008. P. 304.
  3. ^ a b Silvana Patriarca, Lucy Riall. The Risorgimento Revisited: Nationalism and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Italy. P. 248.
  4. ^ Martin Clark, Mussolini: Profiles in Power (London: Pearson Longman, 2005), 136.
  5. ^ Discorso pronunciato in Campidoglio per l'insediamento del primo Governatore di Roma il 31 dicembre 1925, Internet Archive copy of a page with a Mussolini speech.
  6. ^ An Introduction to Russian Language and LiteratureRobert Auty, Dimitri Obolensky (Ed.), , p.94, Cambridge University Press 1997, ISBN 0-521-20894-7
  7. ^ The concept of the Third Rome and its political implicationsAlar Laats, , p.102
  8. ^ Parry, Ken; David Melling (editors) (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing. p. 490.  
  9. ^ Nicol, Donald MacGillivray, Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261–1453, Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, 1993, p. 72
  10. ^ Filofey
  11. ^ İlber Ortaylı, "Büyük Constantin ve İstanbul", Milliyet, 28 May 2011.
  12. ^ Dimitri Kitsikis, Türk-Yunan İmparatorluğu. Arabölge gerçeği ışığında Osmanlı Tarihine bakış – İstanbul, İletişim Yayınları, 1996.
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Bunson, Matthew. "How the 800 Martyrs of Otranto Saved Rome". Catholic Answers. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d Craig M. White. The Great German Nation: Origins and Destiny. AuthorHouse, 2007. P. 139.
  16. ^ a b Warwick Ball. Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. London, England, UK: Routledge, 2000. P. 449.
  17. ^ a b Craig M. White. The Great German Nation: Origins and Destiny. AuthorHouse, 2007. P. 169.
  18. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1964). Cold Friday. New York: Random House. 
  19. ^ O’Brien, Conor Cruise (19 November 1964). "The Perjured Saint". New York: New York Review of Books. 
  20. ^ Chambers, David (9 July 2011). "Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961): Ghosts and Phantoms". 


See also

  • The concept of a "Third Rome" figures greatly in the second memoir of Whittaker Chambers. Although published posthumously as Cold Friday (1964), Chambers had planned it from inception as "The Third Rome." A long chapter called "The Third Rome" does appear in the memoir.[18][19][20]

In recent popular culture

Claims by the German Empire of 1871 to 1918 of being a "Third Rome" have been criticized because of the fact that the German Empire was led by a Protestant ruler and no concordat had been achieved with the Catholic Church (that was a major basis of the continuation of Roman culture in the West).[17]

Both claimed to be the heir of the Holy Roman Empire.

After the Holy Roman Empire was dismantled in 1806, the Austrian Empire sought to lay claim as the heir of the Holy Roman Empire as Austria's Habsburgs attempted to unite Germany under their rule.[15] Later the German Empire in 1871 also claimed to be the Third Rome, also through lineage of the HRE.[16][17] The title for emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Empire and the German Empire was Kaiser, the German word for "Caesar".[16]

The Germanic-led Carolingian Empire has been claimed to have deliberately sought to revive the Roman Empire in the West.[15] The Carolingian Empire transformed into the Holy Roman Empire, a predominantly German state that claimed to be a continuation of the Western Roman Empire.[15] In 800, the title of Holy Roman Emperor was granted to Charlemagne by Pope Leo III. The HRE for a long period of time was dominated by the Habsburg dynasty.[15]

Successor to the Holy Roman Empire

The Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı is a proponent of this claim, citing the multicultural make-up of the state and Sultan Mehmed's acceptance of certain Byzantine court customs. Professor Ortaylı finds Russia's claim to the title to be only nominal, and that Sultan Mehmed based his court policies and conquests on creating a third, Islamic Rome (the first Rome being polytheistic, the second one Christian).

The title fell into disuse after his death, but the imperial bodies created by Mehmed II lived on for centuries to come. [14] during that period, and Mehmed II was planning on taking Rome itself when the Italian campaign was cut short by his sudden death.Otranto The Ottoman Empire also captured [13].John Tzelepes Komnenos had married a Byzantine princess, and Mehmed may have claimed descent from Orhan I. Mehmed also had a blood lineage to the Byzantine Imperial family; his predecessor, Sultan Western Roman Empire Mehmed's claim rested with the concept that Constantinople was the seat of the Roman Empire, after the transfer of its capital to Constantinople in 330 AD and the fall of the [12]

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