"If there had been only one state in the world, Istanbul would have been its capital" Napoléon Bonaparte.
Istanbul, Byzantion or Constantinople. You can use any of these names to call the city. During its long history, it housed three great empires, all of which left so many uncompared works. Mosques, churches, sinagogues, palaces, cisterns, fountains, aquaducts, bridges are only very few of them.
Eventhough it is not the capital of modern Turkey, Istanbul is now the cultural and economical center of the country. It is the city where the hearth of the country is beating. It offers an endless story.
Istanbul is the only city in the world streching over two continents. That's why Istanbul has always been in danger of being captured by different civilizations. The name of the city derives from Greek words "eis-tin-poli" pronounced as "is-tim-poli" which means "towards the city". During the Roman Era, the city was named as Constaninople or Constantinapolis "the city of Constantine" after it was declared as the capital of Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire. After the fall of Constantinople, the city had various names such as Konstantiniyye (arabic) and Pây-i Taht (persian) The name of Istanbul has been in use since the 19th century.
According to the sources the earliest construction of a settlement took place in Istanbul in 667 BC and it was founded by Byzas. One of the names of the city, Byzantion, is derived from this first founder.
In the 5th BC the city fell under the rules of Persians which continued for two-hundred years until the arrival of Alexander the Great 336 BC.
In the first century BC the Roman Era began in the history of the city after a big debate between the emperors, Septimus Severus and Pescennius Niger.
The strategical position of Byzantion attracted Constantine the Great in 330 AD and he founded Nova Roma o Constantinople and divided the Roman Empire two parts in 395 AD, Rome in the west and Constantinople "Eastern Rome". Because of its position between two continents it reached its golden age and was leader in the region on commercial and cultural activities however the city fell down when the Ottomans came and conquered the city in 1453. The name of Constantinople was used in Europe until the 19th century.
The fall of Constantinople was the end of the Middle-Era. The city was conquered by Mehmet II. on 29th of May 1453 after the big conflicts of the Ottomans. Mehmet II. gained a new name "Fatih" meaning "conquerer".
During the time of the Ottomans, many things changed in accordance with the necesseties and traditions of Islam. Many of the churches built by the Byzantines were converted into mosques. Ottomans always respected to holy places. Instead of destroying the Byzantine churches, they carried on using these places as they used to be but for a different religion. Meantime, Ottomans built their own mosques, medressehs (muslim theological schools), fountains, palaces, houses etc.
Modern Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 29th of October 1923 and the capital of the new country was moved into actual capital of Ankara.
The original city was just at the point where Halic "Golden Horn" is today located. But now it streches on a wide area both in European and Asian sides with its total population of 17 millions.
What to see in Istanbul
Today Istanbul holds so many cultural, historical buildings, some of which are listed below:
- Hagia Sophia or Santa Sophia "Holly Wisdom"
- Sultan Ahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque
- Topkapi Palace
- Dolmabahce Palace
- Basilica Cistern
- Grand "Covered" Bazaar
- Suleymaniye Mosque
- Church of Hagia Irene
- Galata Tower
- Avenue of Istiklal
- Halic "Golden Horn"
- The Jewish-Quarter of Balat
- Maiden Tower
- Adalar "Princes' Islands"
- Camlica Hills
As stated at the beginning, Istanbul offers an endless story. Hundreds of books have been written for it and to be continued. You can find some more information on the following link: