INFORMATION ABOUT ISTANBUL
Istanbul is the largest city in the Republic of Turkey. It is situated on the shores of the Bosphorus, and is bordered to the north by the Black Sea, to the east by the region of Kocaeli and the Marmara Sea and to the west by Tekirdag and the Kirklareli region. The city covers a total area of 5712 square km, within the urban district, the islands of the Marmara known as the Princes Islands. It is flanked by a high range of hills to the east of the Bosphorus, the highest of which is Aydos (573 m.) near Kartal. Çamlica hill (229 m.) east of Üsküdar, is a recognised to urist spot. Forests surround the city sporadically, the most extensive being the Belgrad Forest which is 20 km to the north of the city.Istanbul winters are warm and wet, summers hot and dry. The dimate is tempered by warm
Mediterranean winds which counter frequent Black Sea cold fronts. Temperatures vary moderately between day and night as well as from season to season. The summer season is approximately 90 days long, while winter is 80 days long. Snow falls for an average of 7 days in a year.
The largest river in the region is the Riva , which flows into the Black Sea. In addition there are two rivers flowing into the Bosphorus, Istinye Deresi and Büyük Dere. The region also boasts three smaIl but notable lakes, all on the European shores of the Bosphorus. These are the fresh-water Terkos, which supplies the city with much of its water, and the inland seas of Küçük Çekmece and Büyük Çekmece on the Marmara coast, which are salt water lagoons. Fish are found. in both these lakes, which are situated in game areas.
The city, whose population is 17 million, is a major port and trade centre. It is the most important city in Turkey, possessing a number of universities, high schools, libraries and cultural centres. The city is an impressive sight, situated, as it is, on a site dominating withth the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, and brimming with fine man uments and artefacts of the Byzantine and Ottoman era.
Up to the Turkish conquest of Istanbul by Mehmet Il in 1453, the city was the centre of the Byzantine empire. After that date it became the centre of the Ottoman Empire. After the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the capital of Turkey became Ankara.
EARLY SETTLEMENT AND GROWTH
Although it is not known exactly when the nucleus of the ancient city of Byzantion was founded there is a legend relating to the early settlement of Istanbul. According to the legend, Byzas and his followers of Megara, near Athens, consulted the oracle of Delphi about building a new city, and were advised to build their city “opposite the land of the blind”. On hearing this, the men of Megara left their country and travelled the Iong journey to IstanbuI’s Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu). Looking across from this vantage point they saw the Phoenician coIony of Chalcedon (Kadiköy). Astonished at the bIindness of the colonists who had failed to see the beauty of the SeragIio Point, they proclaimed Chalcedon the oracle’s “city of the blind”, founding their city between the Golden Horn and the point of Lygos. They named it Byzantion, after their Ieader. Some time Iater coIonists from Argos also settled there and before Iong Byzantion grew from a small town into an important mercantile centre, due to its strategic geographicaI position. The city was colonised by the Greeks during the Hellenistic invasion in 750-550 B.C. AIthough its geographical position would suggest that there had been previous coloonisation on the site. Traces of settlement dating from the end of the fourth miIlenium to the beginning of the third miIlenium have been found at Fikirtepe, in Kadiköy. ArcheoIogical evidence of settlement in the 7 century B.C. was also found in the Und court of Topkapi Palace, in ý 937, in the form of Proto-Corinthian sherds.
We may say that the city of Byzantion began to take form during the period of Greek calanisation towards 660 B. C. Its first important histarical role was during the Persian invasions of 479 B.C. when the city was won back from the Persians by Pausanias, king of Sparta, at thebattle of Platae. Later, the city maintained its independence in the struggle between Athens and Sparta for supremacy by being allied with the more powerful of the protagonists. From time to time the city be cam e extremely important, although occasionally losing its importance altogether.
The earliest city of Byzantion was surrounded by a wall with 27 towers. it was in the district of the present Sarayburnu, a..nd from a topographical point of view, it was similarly placed to many cities of the same are. The walls, which stretched from Sirkeci to Ahýrkapý, have left no visible trace at the present ground level. Believed to have been the most sturdy defence system of their time, the walls were of ashlar. A second wall separated the city proper from the Acropolis. The walls were believed to have been built under the guidance of Apollo and Poseidon, with a special constructional technique which provided them with amazing accoustics enabling those within to hear everything that was said on the exterior.
After the city had be en besieged by Philip of Macedonia in 340 B. C., the walls were restored with tombstones, hence their title of Tymbosyne.
Two or three harbours were situated at Sirkeci, where the sea and land walls joined. The most important of these was Neorion (Eminönü), to the east of which was the port of Bosphorion or Prosphorion. Flanked by stone quays, these harbours were protected by towers at the mouth across which were stretehed chains.
The Acropolis, the. most sacred area of the city, was situated somewhere near the site of the present Ayasofya (the Byzantine cathedral of St. Sophia), and was reached via steps. Nearby was an agora surrounded by columned arcades and a statue of Helios in the centre. The arcaded agora was known as the T etrastoon. The city’ s water was stored in large cisteri’ýs. The largest baths in the city were the Akylleos Baths, which stood beside the Thracian Gate (Thrakion Pili). it is known that temples were built in honour of the go ds and goddesses Athena, Poseidon and Zeis on the Seraglio Point, while there are traces of a shrine to Hecata iri the district of Sultanahmed,and others to Aphrodite, Artemis and, Dionysos in and around Topkapi palace. The necropolis was outside the main walls, and stretched from Çemberlitaþ to Bayezit. Several excavations in the area yielded tombstones and mausoleums.
During the period of the Roman empire, Byzantion took the side of Pescenius Niger (193- 194) against Septimus Severus (192-211), by shutting oH the road to Asia. Although Niger was defeated and killed in 194 A. D., the city continued to resist the attacks of Septimus Severus. Af ter a two-year siege, the citizens of Byzantion, having had to resort to cannibalism in their desperation, finally surrendered. The city was severely punished, stripped of its city title and the walls demolished. while soldiers and bureaucrats were put to the sword. It was a calamity for the city which later turned to its advantage. Septimus Severus soon realised the necessity of developing the city. He restored the walls and built many new buildings, restoring Byzantion to its city status. In 203 A. D. he began building a hippodrome which, however, remained unfinished on his leaving the city and subsequent death. it is known that the emperor built the Zeuksippos baths between the Hagia Sofia and the hippodrome, a theatre on Seraglio Point, near the temple of Aphrodite and a stadium on the northern slope. He also restored several temples, namely the temples of Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Poseidon and Demeter, repaired the harbours and constructed a grand columned ‘via’ through the city. The road was on the site of the modern Divan Yolu and stretched from the Hippodrome to the main gate in the lan d walls.
Severus als o constructed the huge Caminia baths, which held 2000 people. The site of the baths is not certain, although they were thought to have been outside the walls. As the city grew, the Necropolis began to extend beyond BeyazÝt .
During the IV century, Byzantion again became the stage of conflict during the power struggle between Constaninus Magnus (Constantine) (306-337 A.D.) and his political opponents. One of these, Licinius I (307-323 A.D.) captured Byzantion, but the city was later restored to the rule of Constantine.
The later Roman emperors felt the need to break away from Rome. Byzantion was an ideal choice as a new capital. Although close to potential enemies to the north and east, it was well fortified and easily defended, and therefore ideal from a military point of view. It was economically ideal being situated on the major trade routes between Asia and Europe, and politically attractive due to its distance from th~ intrigues and unrest of the old ernpire.
Constantine planned to rebuHd the city and declare it the second Roman capital. Work on the construction of a new city was begun in 325 A.D., by removing the walls further west. The new city was declared open on 11 May, 330 A. D. with great pomp and ceremony, although the construction of many buildings was to take several more years. The city was called RomafNova or Roma Secunda the new or second Rome, and possessed all the priviledges of ancient Rome. Many leading Roman famHies were brought to settle to aid the city’s development. At first the city was ruled by a Proconsul and later by a Praefectus. By moving the walls 2 – 2.5 kms. west, Constantine enlarged the city immediately. As in Rome, it was divided into 14 administrative Regiones, 12 of which were within the walls. Among those outside the walls was Galata, whHe the furthest district was the Blachernai, now between Edirnekapi and Ayvansaray.
The titles and functions of all the buildings in these regions were recorded in a document dating to the V century, from which we learn of the existance of large numbers of private palaces. At the centre of the columned way running through the city, the road opened out into an oval piazza, the Forum Constantini, in the centre of which stood. the porphyry monument which today stands at Çemberlitaþ.
The Grand Palace of the emperor was constructed between the Hippodrome and the Sea of Marmara” near the present Sultanahmet mosque. The hippodrome was completed and adorned with a number of monuments and statuary, two temples being buHt near the Hagia Sophia devoted to Rhea and T yche. The first Hagia Sophia and Havarion churches were also buHt during this period.
The task of aggrandizing the city was carried on during the reign of Julian (355-363 A.D.), who built a port on the Marmara. Valens developed the water supply system, building the aquaduct of Valens (Bozdoðan Kemeri). The main cistern and fountain were built at Beyazit Nymphaeum Maximum). The city thus took on the character of a grand Roman capital, as Constantinopolis.
As the city grew and developed a number of important Forums were built where much civic activity was centred. The most important of th’ese were:
1 – The Augusteon: This was between what is now known as Ayasofya and Sultanahmet mosque. There were several statues and columns adorning the square and in the centre was a Triumphal Gate with a milliarrum – milestone monument underneath, symbolising the centre of roads leading to all the provinces of the vast Roman empire.
2 – Forum Constantini: This was in the present area of Çemberlitaþ. An oval piazza with double arcades on several levels, it was decorated with statues, and in the centre on a porphyry column stood the figure of Constantine as Helios in the form of a gilded bronze statue. Af ter later cracks appeared in this column, bronze clamp bands were fitted around it, giving it its Turkish name – Çemberlitaþ – the banded stone.
3-Forum Tauri (Piazza of the bull): Named af ter a commander of the guard known as Taurus, it is said that in the centre of the piazza was the bronze statue of a bull. The piazza was restore d by Theodosius I, and embellished by a grand bronze statue of the emperor with his hand oustretched towards the city, hence the alternative name of Forum TheodosiL
4- Forum Amastrianum: This was to the present neighborhood of Þehzadebaþý.
5- Forum Bovis (Piazza of the ox): named after a large statue of an ox – head which had been brought from Pergamon. The piazza was situated on the site of the present Aksaray Piazza.
6 – Forum Arcadi: Named af ter the emperor Arcadius (395-408 A.D.), it is also known as the Herolophos. Probably rectangular, it had the column of Arcadius in the centre, the marble base of which can be seen today in situ, 100 m. from the Cerrahpaþa mosque. Among! the other columns on ce decorating the square is the so-called Maiden’s column erected for the emperor Marcianus by Tatianus (450-457 A.D.) and the Gothic column now on Seraglio Point.
With the addition of these piazzas and columned roads throughout, Constantinopolis took on the character Ç>f an imperial Roman city, the columned roads . providing protection from the hot summer sun and winter rain.
With the rise of Christianity, the new religion gave the city a new identity, with churches being built onevery corner.
Af ter the great schism of 395 A.D. when the Roman empire was divided in two, a new era began for Constantinopolis, as it became the capital of the so-called new Rome, now known as the Byzantine empire.
During the region of Theodosius ii (408-450 A.D.) the city underwent further considerable expansion; the walls were extended to the west, and the section between the Marmara Sea and T ekfur Sarayý which survives today was built. To begin with, the new area within the city walls was not entirely built-up. Apart from a number of harbours on the Marmara of various sizes, the city had the advantage of being built on the Golden Horn, which is a harbour in itself. The largest of the harbours on the Marmara was the Langa, which later silted up.
While the main roadways were generally columned, auxiliary roads and streets were narrow, dark passages. Restrictions were placed on housing. Houses, which were stone, were to be built in terraces, to prevent restriction of the view from neigh bouring dwellings, and allowing for adequate ventilation. Different streets or neighbourhoods were allocated to artesans, artists and even foreign merchants. There were a great number of churches and monasteries. Meanwhile the Grand Palace was constantly extended to cover an ever-greater area. Other private palaces were built throughout the city, such as the Mangana Palace at Sarayburnu. From the Xi century onwards, imperial palaces began to be built in the district of the Blachernai, and the Grand Palace was gradually abandoned. During the XII century, there were large open spaces, fields, orchards and gardens within the city walIs. Monastries surrounded .’by groves of trees dominated the hills of the city. While the monastery buildings were of wood, houses, palaces and churches tended to be of stone, hence the city was much damaged by successive earthquakes, although relatively little effected by fire. The Latin siege of Constantinople in 1203- 1204, af ter which the city was captured by the LV Crusaders, wrought considerable damage to the city. Successive fires resulted in its eventual desertion. During the 60 years of Latin rule folIowing this the city felI largely into ruin.
By 1261, when Constantinople was recaptured by Michael VIII (1261 – 1282) over half the city was burnt down. The emperor attempted to rebuild it, building new monasteries on the site of the old and re-housing the populace. Although the columned ways were not resored, the city nowacquired roads lined with trees. The Bosphorus region, which had not be en much settled during the earlier Byzantine are was totally vacated.
Palaces and monasteries outside the city walls were abandoned, in preference for new monastries in the farthest corners of the city, such as Chora, Lips, Studios, Panmacharistos, Andreas and others, which were set in their own extensive land in the form of small complexes. At various times in Byzantine history a total of 485 churches and 325 monasteries and convents are known to have existed in constantinople. By the XIVand XV centuries, the city had become considerably impoverished, and was very sparsely populated. Until, in 1453, it was conquered by Mehmet II, af ter which time it became a Turkish city. During the Ottoman period, the walls and many buildings were restored and new neighbourhoods were developed. Palaces, mosques, hans, baths and fountains were among the newly built nýonuments which served to give the city a Turkish character.
The largest Christian church in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was converted, according to tradition, into a mosque soon af ter the city was taken. A palace was built on the site of the prese nt Istanbul University (Eski Sarayý). Churches continued to be use d as mosques throughout the city. Muslims were brought from throughout the ‘Ottoman provinces to resettle in Istanbul, while Christians throughout the empire were given freedom to practise their religion. Genoese and Venetian merchant colonists were given guarantees of their continued fights as citizens. Af ter Mehmet II, the Ottoman throne was occupied by Bayezid II who constructed the Beyazit mosque in the pýazza of the same name. In 1509, the city was much damaged by a serious earthquake. Reconstruction took place on a grand scale with a workforce of 80,000 builders. During the reign of Selim I the Ottomans conquered EgypC Syria and Mesopotamia.
The Ottoman sultans acquired the title of Caliph. Selim I being the first caliph.
Many moslem sacred relics were brought frodý Egypt to Istanbul. including artefacts used by Muhammed the Prophet and his follower. These relics are still preserved in a section of Topkapý Palace.
The city was at its most splendid during the reign of Süleyman i. Belgrade was taken by the Ottomans, who had und ertaken successful campaigns to H ungary and Vienna. The Ottoman fleet had turned the Mediterranean into a Turkish lake; the greatest architect of the Ottoman period, Mimar Sinan was als o a product of this era. He was to make a lasting mark on Turkish architecture. Among his major works were Þehzade mosque and Süleymaniye mosque. it was a lawmaking period, when the organisation of the state wasformalised, and it was an age of ascendancy for art and philosophy. European travellers of th~ period, foreign envoys and visiting artists who experienced Ottoman court life at close quarters described it in their works. From the XVII century onwards, the sultan’s supremacy began to decline, political power falling into the hands of viziers and dowager sultans. Innumerousworks of Baroque and Rococco inspiration in the Turkish st yle were produced during the XVII and XVIII centuries. Turkish rococco is known as the “Tulip Period”.
Throughout the XIX century conflict and struggle were widespread in the Ottoman dominions, which were spread over three continents. The Balkans were struggling for independence, while Russia was in search of access to the sea and ways of dominating the Balkans. The English and French, meanwhile, were be nt on protecting their interests in the Near East. By the end of the century, the Ottoman empire was powerless in Europe. By 1912 the Bulgarians were at the gates of Istanbul and in two years time World War I had begun. Istanbul was under British and French occupation in 1918 and the Ottoman caliph JledOthe coutry in 1922. In 1923 the Turkish Republic was founded and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became its president, in the new capital of Ankara.