Who or Where Is “Third Rome”?

From what we know of history’s lasting effects, it’s difficult to imagine that the influences of the Roman Empire will ever truly be lost. The concept of a system of checks and balances–a legislative, executive, and judicial branch in America–was directly taken from Rome’s system, which itself eventually failed to function as intended. When Rome fell to the west, the Byzantine Empire succeeded it as the Eastern Roman Empire. It eventually fell to the Ottomon Empire. It might surprise people to know that there was another attempt at resurrecting the Roman Empire. What and where was Third Rome, and who conceived such an undertaking?

Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Ottomans on May 29 of 1453. It didn’t take long for someone to claim credit for inheriting the legacy. Some members of the church decided that Moscow was as good a place as any, and so the seeds that would grow into a short-lived Third Rome were sown. These events weren’t surprising. Rome’s past can be seen anywhere you look. Buildings constructed during ancient times still stand, and were replicated everywhere, especially in places like New York City or Washington D.C.

The Russian claim was contested by the Ottomans who had taken the Eastern Roman Empire for their own. It was as if brothers were fighting for their claim as heirs. Only one could win the right. The claim of Mehmed II wasn’t recognized by the Roman Catholic Church that still had great influence (and does to this day) in the west. Additional claims were made by the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Germans, French, and Italians.

The Russian Empire used a double-headed eagle for its symbolic coat of arms. When the Russian Empire died, so too did its claim for Third Rome. It shouldn’t be surprising that Italy was a key contender, since that’s where it all began. Even so, it wasn’t meant to last. Benito Mussolini referred to his hold over Italy as Third Rome. The concept still persists.

In reality, no Third Rome exists, and perhaps it never will. Many leaders have tried to use the concept to their own benefit, none succeeding. Perhaps the legacy is best left to the current European Union. Does it really matter if the legacy was never requested? Probably not. The history, the geographical location, the culture, and the lasting influences of Rome are all theirs. In no part of the world can more Roman influence be experienced than in many parts of the European Union. Today, countries that belong to European Union share a common identity, much as conquered regions of Rome did after they were assimilated into the empire. This is, in principle, Third Rome.