Third Rome (since 1393)

Stirrings of this sentiment began during the reign of Ivan III of Russia who had married Sophia Paleologue

Coat of arms of the Russian Empire with the double-headed eagle, formerly associated with the Byzantine Empire
pinterest button

Third Rome is the idea that some city, state, or country is the successor to the legacy of: ancient Rome (the «first Rome») and, according to different perspectives, either via connection to the Byzantine Empire (also known as the «Eastern Roman Empire») as 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 as being the «second Rome».

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.

Coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire starting around 1400
pinterest button Coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire starting around 1400 Ogre, CC BY-SA 3.0

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».

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.

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.

Coat of arms of the Russian Empire with the double-headed eagle, formerly associated with the Byzantine Empire.
pinterest button Coat of arms of the Russian Empire with the double-headed eagle, formerly associated with the Byzantine Empire Лобачев Владимир, Public Domain

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,

Contrary to the common misconception, Filofey 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.