Istanbul, which had been the capital of Rome,
Byzantium and the Ottoman
Empire, is one of the most interesting centers of the world owing to its
natural beauties, in addition to the historical structures which are the
heritage of these cultures.
Istanbul is situated like an open air museum on both shores of the strait
which is 33 km in length and separates the continents of Asia and Europe.
We know that habitations had existed in the whereabouts of Istanbul during
the Neolithic age. The first habitation succeeding these ones, came into
existence in Kadikoy which was named Khalkedon in the VII century B.C.
The city that was founded later on the opposite shore of Khalkedon, namely
Byzantium, progressed rapidly because of its
importance and became an important center. This progressive city became
subject to Roman sovereignty, was adorned with
temples and public squares during the period of Constantinus, and was
surrounded with city walls.
The city was made the capital of Rome in the year 330 and
named Constantinapolis and, after Rome was divided into two parts as the
Eastern Rome and Western Rome, it was made the capital of the Eastern
Roman Empire. Finally, when the Ottomans
captured Byzantium in the year 1453, Istanbul was
converted into the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Many historical works of
art showing traces of these empires, have been able to survive up to date.
The obelisks belonging to the Roman period, which were used as ornaments
of the public square Sultanahmet, are still
maintained in their places today. One of these is the obelisk which
Theodosius I had ordered to be brought from Egypt in the year 390; it is
18.54 m (61 ft) in height and seems magnificent today with the hieroglyph
scripture on it. Another column which is seen here is the braided column
with a height of 20.68 m (68 ft), which Constantinus VII had ordered to be
erected in the year 944. The third column, formed by three winding snakes,
was ordered to be brought from the Temple of Apollon in Delphi in the year
360 by Constantinus I.
The most important historical remain belonging to Byzantium
is Hagia Sophia. Justinianus had this most
magnificent temple of the world constructed between the years 532-537 in
the place of a temple which had existed there formerly, and it contains
very valuable mosaics and is still visited as a museum today. St. Irene
located at its side which Justinianus had ordered to be constructed in the
year 537, is also being used as a museum today. The
monastery of Chora, which attracts attention owing to the mosaic art
works inside, and the mosque of Fethiye are also
historical works of art belonging to Byzantium and being visited as
museums at present.
When Istanbul was conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1453, the buildings
of Byzantium were repaired and new ones were
built, and the architectural activities were continued. For example, the
magnificent Topkapi Palace the domicile of the
Sultan and center of government administration, was constructed. The
palace which was built between the years 1472-1478, later acquired the
identity of a great city of 700,000 sqm owing to the extensions which the
other sultans ordered to be made and to its population exceeding 10,000.
It is a magnificent museum today which contains the seraglio and where the
treasures belonging to the Ottoman Empire are exhibited.
The Dolmabahce Palace was constructed
during the years 1843-1853 and the Ottoman
sultans started to live in it. Sultan Abdulaziz had the Palace of
Beylerbeyi Palace constructed on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus
between the years 1861-1865. Besides these palaces, which are used as
museums at present, many buildings which have survived until today such as
the Kiosks named Kucuksu, Chalet, Malta and Aynalikavak, are also open
to visitors and are used as museums. In addition to these palaces, many
historical mosques, which form the silhouette of Istanbul, are also places
worthy of visiting.
Istanbul is adorned with the works of the great architect Sinan, who
was a master of perfection during the Ottoman
period in the 16th century. Some of Sinan's master works which show his
genius are; the Sehzade Mosque which he built for Prince Mustafa, son of
Suleyman the Law Maker in the years 1543-1548; the Mihrimah Mosque which
he built in 1548; the Suleymaniye Mosque which
he built in the years 1550-1557; and the Rustem Pasa Mosque, completely
adorned with encaustic tiles of Iznik, which he
built in the years 1550-1557. The Sultanahmet
Mosque, which Sultan Ahmet I had ordered Sedefkar Mehmet Aga to
construct between the years 1609-1617, is one of the most important works
of art worthy of seeing in Istanbul because of the encaustic tiles
The Archeological Museum of Istanbul
situated near the Topkapi Palace, is one of the
richest museums of the world. There are many other museums in Istanbul
besides this one, such as The Museum of Turkish and
Islamic Arts, Museum of Tapestry and Museum of Sadberk Hanim.
Istanbul, the city of beauties where the history and nature are
interwoven, maintains its quality of one of the most interesting centers
in the world.