Yorkish delight

In The Story of England, Michael Wood writes that a couple of millennia ago someone could travel from Damascus to Eboracum without leaving the Roman Empire.

Well last month I went from York to Istanbul without leaving Yorkshire.

Yorkshire, AD 337.

This might sound like just another blustering example of self-worth from God's own county, but it only requires a little bit of temporal and geographical stretching.

It begins with Septimius Severus. He was the Libyan-born Roman emperor who conquered, sacked and rebuilt Byzantium (not yet Constantinople) in AD 198, after its residents had erred in backing the wrong team.

Severus relocated to York ten years later, and adopted the city as his base, ruling the Roman empire from Eboracum till 211, when he died there. That makes him an adopted Yorkshireman in my book, and after his death, Severus' son Caracalla proved the family loyalties by naming the city as capital of Upper Britain.

Septimius Severus and his happy Yorkshire family.

It is with Constantine that we can go one better though. He came to York in AD 305 to join his imperial Dad, who promptly followed Severus' example and kicked the bucket there. Thus Constantine was actually crowned emperor in Eboracum and, like all good Yorkshiremen, he were great.

A famous Yorkshireman outside York Minster.

As the first Roman leader to rule over the whole empire for almost a century, Constantine earned this epithet. And then, in AD 330, he decided that Rome wasn't all it was cracked up to be and founded... Constantinople. Suddenly my notion of absorbing Turkey into Yorkshire doesn't seem so daft.

What's more, we can tell where Constantine's boat docked by the name of the modern-day district of Istanbul that straddles the Golden Horn: Eyüp. Does Yorkist evidence get any stronger than that? I think not!

Oh, and then the Vikings came along and gave Constantinople the Old Norse name of Micklegarth.

Micklegarth (not Constantinople)

The Yorkshire connections remain strong today. I was able to enjoy a KitKat on the feribot from Bandırma to Yenikapı. And when leaving our lovely little hotel in Cankurtaran, we were given a nazar boncuğu by the friendly chap on reception.

These are used for warding off the evil eye, and I was delighted, as that's the name of my least favourite boozer in York, a slow-serving, pretentious bar full of hipsters and mixologists.

Unfortunately (but perhaps inevitably), almost as soon as we returned to Britain from Turkey we got invited to a friend's graduation party at that very place. My nazar could not work.

But as those Yorkshire Roman emperors found, when a county stretches from the Ouse to the Bosphorus, it's difficult to keep control of absolutely everything.



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