The names of İstanbul throughout history
The city, officially known as İstanbul today, has been called 130 different names in various languages throughout history. The number of names for the city in Evliya Celebi's Seyahatname is 25.
Pliny claims Ligos (Lycos) was the first settlement established in İstanbul. This legendary Thracian city's name is probably derived from the Bayrampasa stream, which is near the first settlement areas around the Golden Horn. Byzantion, which was derived from Bizas, the legendary founder of the city, is another one of the names that was used for a long time. After the siege of the city by Roman emperor Severus, the city was for a while called Antoninia, after the emperor's son, Marcus Aurelius Antonninus Bassianus. When Emperor Constantine made İstanbul his capital, the city was for a while called Secunda Roma (Second Rome) or Nova Roma (New Rome). These names, however, were mainly encountered in church documents. For a while, the Latin adjective Anthusa, meaning flowery place, was used as a name for the city.
The name Constantinople (The city of Constantine) which wasn't used during the time of Constantine I, appeared in official documents during the time of Theodosios II and was one of the longest lasting names for the city. The Turks kept the name after they conquered the city, but used the Arabic version, Konstantiniyye. The Vikings and the Scandinavians called the city Miklagard, while the Slavs called it Czarigrad, meaning 'the City of Tsar'.
lt is accepted that the word İstanbul, which was used widely after the city was conquered, is derived from the Greek phrase 'eis ten polin', meaning 'to the city'. Over time this usage underwent various metamorphases, names like Istanbolin and İstanbul were formed. It is generally the common belief that the usage of the word İstanbul starts at the beginning of the 11th century. The Turks also recognized the city by this name before the conquest. In his book Seyahatname, ibn Battuta, one of the world's greatest travelers and the father of modern histography, uses the word 'Astanbul' when referring to Constantinople during his visit to the city in 1334. The word İstanbul was changed to Islambol (Islambul) from time to time by people who wanted to highlight its Islamic character as well as during the period of decline of the Ottoman Empire for ideological reasons.
Many other names derived from Arabic or Persian have been given to the city during the Ottoman Era, names not used by the public but mentioned in old official documents and literary texts, such as: Beldet'u'l Tayyibe (The Beautiful City),Sehr-i Azam (The Grand City),Daru'l Islam (The Dominion of Islam),Dersaadet (The Gateway to Happiness),Der-i Devlet (The Gate of State),Asitane ( The door,the enterance),Asitane-i Aliye (The Elevated Door),Daru's Saltana (The House of Dominion),Daru'l Hilafe (The Dominion of the Caliphate),Pay-i Taht-i Saltanat (The Capital City of the Dominion)
7 B.C. is generally the date offered for the foundation of İstanbul. However, we have archeological evidence which proves that people actually lived in caves as well as various open sites long before that date. Pre-historical relics that were found in areas like Eskice Sirti, Karababa, PashaAlani, Davutpasa, Gumusdere, Agacli, Fikirtepe, Icerenkoy, Dudullu, Umraniye and Domali , show that groups of people who were hunter-gatherers and fishermen lived in İstanbul during prehistoric times and the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
The Yarimburgaz Cave is not just İstanbul's, but one of Europe’s and the Near East's oldest settlement sites. It is like a 700 thousand year old geological archive and may have been a stop-over for people from Africa on their journey to Europe. Some of the tools found in this cave are 300 thousand years old. There are five layers in the cave belonging to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, the oldest being 7500 years old. The best relics from the Neolithic era depicting settlements of permanent viIIage life, based on farming and agriculture, were found in Fikirtepe, near the district of Kadikoy. Another settlement was uncovered in the district of Pendik, just like the one in Fikirtepe which was dated back to 5000 B.C. and is referred to as the Fikirtepe Culture. In addition, some pot shards were recovered around the At Meydani during the Hippodrome excavation. The shards belonged to a settlement of the same kind and date back to 5000 B.C. Some groups of people who were advanced in agriculture may have come to İstanbul from Anatolia during that time.
Even though there have been settlements in İstanbul throughout prehistoric times, western historians mark the foundation of the city with the beginning of Byzantion. The Megaran Dorians first established Halkedion (Kadikoy today,according to Herodotos) and then seventeen years later Byzantium was established at Sarayburnu (Saray Point). This period was a time in which many colonies were founded along the shores of the Aegean, Marmora and the Black Sea by Megaran-Doric peoples.
It is thought that the colonist that came to İstanbul had to settle on Sarayburnu at the mouth of the Golden Horn, seeking a site secure from siege, as they were denied permission to settle elsewhere by previous settlers who had settled themselves on more convenient. Once settled at Sarayburnu, it is believed that they were assimilated with the other occupants of the area, including the Thracians. As a matter of fact, it is possible to come across Thracian influences in Byzantion culture. The Zeus Hippas cult, which was of great importance in Byzantion, might have come about as the result of the merging of Zeus and the Thracian horse deity.
During the archeological excavations carried out in the district of Alibeykoy in 1977 objects dating back to the 6 century B.C were found. These strongly indicate that one of İstanbul's first settlements was founded at the end of the Golden Horn, on rich soil between two rivers with a natural port.
As encountered many times in antiquity, the leader of the Megaran colonists may have adopted the name of a person famous in the area when the Megarans actually formalized their settlement. Hence the name Byzantium from Byzas. The efforts to establish a colony in Kadikoy or Sarayburnu may well be related to the developments in trade in the Black Sea region.
According to philologists, the 'nt' suffix in the word Byzantion is closely related to the names of places in that region during 3 thousand B.C. and the 'ion' suffix comes from the Phrygians who arrived from the Balkans during their Aegean migration in 1200 B.C.
To summarize it all, the first city on the İstanbul peninsula dating back to the year 5000 B.C. as we know it, wasn't established by the Magarans. Hence these colonists, who" settled at Sarayburnu, kept on using the name Byzantion which already existed and adapted the myth to their own history. İstanbul is also a name known and used by the Turks before 1453.
The city, especially around the area where the present Topkapi Palace is situated, rapidly grew and had secure ports (Neorion, Prosphorion) and city walls. Both Khalkedon and Byzantium quickly became richer from the trade of, cereal, forest products and live animals from South Russia, together with olive and wine from the Aegean region. Both settlements fell into the hands of the Persians in the year 512 B.C. as a result of the Scythian Wars.
In the middle of the 5th century B.C., Byzantion, the richest member of the 1st Attica-Delos maritime union, put its own coins into circulation. In the year 4 B.C., the city was besieged by Philip the Second, King of Macedonia; and in 3 B.C. attacked by the Galatians. During the Hellenistic Era Alexander the Great went to Anatolia without passing through Byzantin. Byzantion preserved its commercial importance and continued to prosper from its relations with the great city of Alexandria.
In the year 146 B.C., after the Byzantion-Macedonian wars, Byzantion joined the Roman Empire under the status of a 'free' federal state. This marked the end of its 700 years as city state. Since its foundation and up until the Roman dominance, Byzantion, excluding controversial intervals had always been relatively independent. The city, when first established in the 2nd century A.D., adorned its land with temples to the gods Apollo, Artemisia, Poseidon, Aphrodisiac, Athena, Demeter, Chorea. Later it added theatres, stadiums and beautiful buildings. The population of Byzantion during the Roman era is estimated to have been about 20,000.The coins of the same era bore the six-pointed star and a crescent moon.
The city was besieged when it sided with Pecennius Niger against Septimius Severus during the Roman Civil War in 193 A.D. After two and a half years of siege, the famine-struck city fell and was heavily punished by Severus. Some of jts monuments and portions of the city walls were torn down, its people were slaughtered. Demoted to viIIage status, Byzantion was no longer a city. Possibly at the urging of his son Caracalla, Severus began to rebuild the city. First the old temples were restored, a stadium and a gymnasium were added to the north of the Acropolis; a boulevard, along with, the Tetrastoon, lined with columns was made, one that became the "Mese"; and work got underway to build the Hipodrome and Zeuksippos baths.
Despite some objections historians generally agree that Severus flourished the city and built the walls that were named after him. With the help of Emperor Severus, Byzantion became a true Roman city. There are almost no traces of Roman Byzantion's physical existence today. We have knowledge based on historical texts and the rest is left our imagination, but we may find out more if excavations are conducted in the 3 to 15 meter strata below the present day Saraybumu-Sultanahmet districts.
The unique geography of İstanbul was crowned by Constantine The Great. Constantine, who sought a capital other than Nicomedeia (Izmit), the capital chosen by Emperor Diocletian, to govern the far-flung Roman Empire, first thought of Troy because the founder of Rome, Aeneas, had come to Italy from Troy. However, he later decided on Byzantion. This choice was to initiate the blending of a great history with İstanbul's unique geography.
Constantine I (280-337) became the sole emperor of Rome in 324 after defeating Lieinius. In the midst of a socio-religious quarrel, he chose to side with Christianity. ln the year 313 he announced the Edict of Milan with Lieinius, a document that allowed freedom of worship for all faiths, thus according Christianity the same status with other religions.
Constantine I started rebuilding the city in 324. He spared nothing for this project. The best craftsman were hired, the best materials were used. Taking into consideration the rough terrain of the city, the Roman plan was generally applied. Old temples and some of the old structures were protected The city expanded and its name was changed to New Rome. Septemius Severus' columned street ‘Mese' was widened and made into a main avenue; the Augusteion and Constantinion Forums were established, memorial columns were erectedTwo roads along the shore, the Great Palace, the temples of Rea and Tyche and some official offices were built. The construction of the Hippodrome and the Zeuksippos Baths, which had started during the reign of Septimius Severus, were completed. Antique works of art and statues were brought into the city. New city walls, in which were included the 2nd and 3rd hills, and new ports were built the inauguration of the new capital was celebrated with an extravagant ceremony on May 11, 330.
With the rebuilding of the city, Constantine I encouraged the noble families of Rome and the surrounding communities to immigrate to New Rome. He offered tax exemptions and initiated the distribution of free bread in the year 332. We have no important remnants from the city that was rebuilt by Constantine the Great. It is impossible to know about the city of Constantine by looking at today İstanbul. Details are mainly derived from literary works.
The Roman and Christian era started with Constantine I, the first rebuilder of the city. The city later on became the center of Eastern culture, based on Hellenism, using Greek instead of Latin as the official language. The first traces of the East¬-West conflict can be found in this formation. The conflict can also be witnessed through the Latin invasion of Constantinople (1204-1261), where the Latinas sought revenge from the Orthodox, who were Christians just like them.
Even though they hardly resided in this city, the emperors who came af ter Constantine i and named the new capital Constantinople, continued to rebuild the city. During that period the city appeared to be a ‘prodigal city’; a city that produced almost nothing, consumed what surrounding cities. Produced and grew at the expense of the other cities of the empire. The city kept this identity until the end of the Ottoman Empire. That is why the food supply has always been a problem for the city.
Steps were taken to solve the water problem. The Valens Aquaduct, which still stands in all its glory, was built. The Tauri, Bovis and Arcadius Squares and new palaces were founded. During the reign of Theodosius II (408-450), the population of Constantinople, together with settlements outside the city walls, reached 300 thousand. During this time walls were erected to encircle the seven hills and some of them are still in existence .The building of streets with columns,
While on adorning public spaces with statues, as well as the decoration of public and religious buildings with mosaics, were supported by imperial decree and legislation.
In the beginning of the 5th century what really stood out in the city were the streets and squares. The main street 'Mese' which began at the Augusteion in front of St.Sophia, separates into two branches after Beyazit Square; one leading to Edirnekapi and the other to Altinkapi. Even after 1600 years almost the same roads are being used today, thus establishing a fine sense of continuity in this city.
Historians in agree that upon the death of Theodosius in 395, the Roman Empire was divided into two parts : East and West; and the western part ceased to exist after 476. Constantinople, the symbol of the Roman Empire, was now the capital of the East Roman Empire. In the year 390, Emperor Theodosius passed laws forbidding pagan temples and in 392, all pagan temples were closed down, making Christianity the official religion of the East Roman Empire. The language would eventually change from Latin to Greek.
The people of the East Roman Empire called themselves the Romans (Romaioi), emphasizing their connection to the Roman tradition. The word i Byzan' is an artificial derivative of the word Byzantion, the name given to these people by historians during the second half of the 19th century.
As the capital of the East Roman Empire, Constantinople grew rapidly, it was the headquarters where economic decisions were taken and theological debates heightened. The daily life of the city was shaped by corporations and political parties that gathered in the Hippodrome.
The second important architect of İstanbul was Justinian I (527-565). He redesigned the city as well as passing many famous laws named after himself. He strengthened Byzantine sovereignty both in the East and in the West. Acceptance of Christianity accelerated. He spent huge amounts to build pompous buildings in the city, just as he did for other places in the Empire. He rebuilt the city after the Nicae riot in 532, which resulted in the killing of 30 thousand people in the Hipodrome by his commander Belisarios. Although the Nicae riot presented a very negative picture with its looting, fire and devastation, it gave Justinian an excellent opportunity to rebuild the city around the Sarayburnu ¬Hipodrome axis.
There are four important person in the history of İstanbul, both including and after the Byzantine era. Two founders: Constantine I and Mehmet lI (Mehmet the Conqueror), and two developer: Justinian I (along with Theodora) and Kanuni Sultan Suleiman (with the great architect Mimar Sinan).
While on the subject, let me make this point: No one should sneer at Theodora by calling her 'a hideous prostitute’ or the 'daughter of the dancing bear trainer'. To conceive of Justinian I without Theodora is impossible. At a crucial moment when Justinian I was about to lose his power and maybe his life, Theodora said to him: It's an unforgivable flaw for an emperor to be a fugitive. If you want to run away Cesar, fine… You have the money, the ships are ready and the sea is open...' Justinian was sham ed into no fleeing and resumed responsibility as an emperor.
With Theodora İstanbul received its first feminine touch. We can see this clearly today. This feminine influence continued with Hurrem Sultan, Mihrimah Sultan,Nurbanu Valide Sultan, Mihrisah Valide Sultan, Beyhan Sultan, Bezmialem Sultan and others...
According to many historians a cultural era known as 'Roman', was a passage way to the ‘Middle Ages Byzantine' culture during the reign of Justinian. Justinian had the Zeuksippos Bath repaired, built the Sergios and Bhacos (Little Saint Sophia) churches and rebuilt Aya Irini church along with St.Sophia Basilica, one of the greatest structures ever built. A building that still stands today in all its glory.
In addition to all these works of art, the building of numerous inns, palaces and little churches made Constantinople a magnificent Mediterranean capital during the reign of Justinian. According to travelers from the era, half of the gold and the silver in the world was in Constantinople and the city glittered in the true sense of the word. It was said that the population of the city was around 500 thousand at that time.
Unfortunately this was not to be long-lived. Economic crises, plagues, fires, ceaseless earthquakes ,attacks by the Sassanids Arabs and the Bulgarians during the 7th and 8th centuries- all helped to reduce the population and put an end to all the glory. The controversy over religious dogma and iconography, and the efforts to destroy heresy and iconoclasm- between 726 to 843- shook the empire. Iconoclasm can be interpreted as a movement to destroy art, but in reality it was a political conflict between the monasteries, which were growing stronger, and the emperors, who were trying to keep the religious institutions under control. In the end it was the priests who won.
The city and its way of life changed from one of openness to closed¬ mindedness, from large scale to small scale. Settlements based on monasticism accepted a closed economy. Large and glorious buildings could no longer be seen, the streets, boulevards and squares were no longer so spacious.
During the second half of the 9th century, after the re-establishment of economic prosperity and safe borders, the city was rebuilt again. The most important buildings drawing the city's silouhette would from than on be the growing number of Churches and monasteries repleat with high, framed domes. Many examples of this include: The Mirelaion Monastery (The Bodrum Mosque), Constantine Lips (The Fenari Isa Mosque), The Hora Monastery (The" Kariye Museum), The Pantocrator Monastery ( The Zeyrek Kilise Mosque), The Pammacharistos Monastery (The Fethiye Mosque). And yet the city couldn't quite recover
Than came conflicts with Italian merchants (the Venetians, Genovese, Amalfians, Anconans…In the 12th century 60 thousand foreigners are believed to live in the city who had already taken over the empire's trade. And finally in 1204, the knights of the 4th Crusade occupied the city. The Catholic Christians took revenge on Orthodox Christianity and The Crusaders announced the formation of the Latin Empire, which lasted 57 years. The city was burned and looted for three days, a pillaging of such severity and scope never before witnessed. During the occupation, which lasted until? 1261, all the gold and silver in the city was seized, religious places were desecrated, and the city's religious artifacts (icons, relics , the bonesof saints...) were either plundered or carried to Europe.
With the Latin Empire included, İstanbul can actually be called 'the capital of four empires.'
In 1261, Michael Palelogos VIII, Emperor of Byzantium, took control of the city and destroyed the Latin areas by fire. The Galata area became rich again during the reconstruction of the city in the 13th century, yet the rest of it continued decline. In the 14th century, civil wars, recurring earthquakes, plagues, fire and Mongol and Ottoman raids truly weakened the city.
Calculations the population of Constantinople was around 30-40 thousand during the Ottoman invasion and the number of soldiers defending the city was around 9 thousand.
Both for the barbaric Europeans and the backward civilizations that held sway in the middle Age, Constantinople was a magical place, a glorious legend. One that was propagated from the time it was founded in 330 until it was seized by the Ottomans in 1453.
Ever since the foundation of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople was see n as a prize to be conquered. There were serious attempts to take control of the city in 1391,1396,1411 and 1422. After gaining land in the Balkans and making Edirne (Adrianople) the capital, it was not just an intention but a necessity for the Ottoman Empire to sieze Constantinople. The once grand Byzantine Empire was reduced to a city state, a small island in the midst of Ottoman territory
After claiming the throne for the second time, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet ii (ruler between 1444-1446 and 1451-1481) built Rumeli Fort across the Bosphorous from the Anatolian Fortress, which had been established in 1452. This was done to cut off Constantinople from the Black Sea. Later on he prepared the army for a long battle, building strong ships and large cannons. After such meticulous preparation, he was ready to attack Constantinople.
While the population of the city was around 30-40 thousand, the Ottoman army surrounding the city was believed to consist of 80 to 100 thousand people. The first cannon salvo began on April 6, 1453. Even though it had been reduced to a village and its population had shrunk, the city was well guarded by some foreign soldiers. Mehmed II was somewhat worried and delivered his famous speech on May 26. ' The city’s stones, land and buildings are mine, the rest will be left for the soldiers' he said. On May 29,1453, after 54 days, according Mehmed lI's historian Tursun Bey," after the walls were breached by cannonade, we entered." Constantinople had fallen.
Different ideological approaches concerning the fall of the city have spawned many myths. According to Christians, the city fell because Mary and her angels, who were guarding the city up until that time, left. The Mary Theotakis (Mother of God) icon broke while it was being carried, some priests left the littledoor in the walls open and th~st Emperor, Constantine Paleologos, refused a wooden sword sent to him the angels. The Muslims on the other hand, talk about people like Yavedud and Sultan Eyub and create epics such as that of ' Ulubatli Hasan'.
According to the Ottomans the city was 'conquered', according to Westerners the city had 'fallen'. This difference in opinions is an important landmark in the East-West conflict that has intensified recently. Even the Christians who had looted the city 250 years previously were furious and dismayed at the fall of the city. This fury was so intense that even after 550 European countries still observe a day of mourning on the anniversarv of the “Fall”. The Muslim world on the other hand was overjoyed. They saw it as victory of Islam against Christianity. Prophet Muhammed's words were justified, ‘Constantiniyye will definitely be conquered one day. The commander who does it will be blessed and so will be his soldiers.'
This event is celebrated every year in İstanbul, with shows that depict the conquest. In Turkey today Islamists champion Mehmed II, who resumed the name Mehmet the Conqueror af ter the invasion. But Mehmet the Conqueror was aman with a vision for a new empire; he had Italian painters depict him in portraits and he collected Christian relics. He could see beyond religious sectarianism and ideologies whose sole purpose was to spread Islam. The two parties, his views and those of those of more conservative religious elements never compromised and there are many documents that reveal this.
After he gave his soldiers three days to loot the city, as was the custom back in those days, Mehmet The Conqueror quickly started rebuilding the city, keeping. The ways of the Byzantine Empire but adding his personal touch. The proof of this is that he didn't change the name of the city. Instead, the Ottomans used the Arabic version, Konstantiniyye. This name was used on all official documents and currencies.
The city maintained its Byzantine with its old Greek sacred fountains, religious buildings, altered minimally except for a few churches, streets, boulevards and the 'Mese' of Mehmet the Conqueror; who now called himself 'the Sultan of two Lands, the king of two seas'. First he dealt with security issues and ordered the restoration of the walls. Later on he took precautions to increase the population, to solve problems concerning public works and food supplies, and to strengthen the economy. With careful planning, he rebuilt the city.
The history of İstanbul after the conquest can be divided into four phases : 1453-1520 / 1520-1703 / 1703 - 1924 and 1924-2000.. Even though there is much talk about the many documents concerning this Ottoman capital, we have very little knowledge about daily life or relations between individuals and state regarding the first 500 years of the city.
We can divide the types of buildings established during the first phase by Mehmet the Conqueror into three categories: Commercial buildings such as shops, markets, baths; religious buildings such as mosques, tombs or kulliyes (special institutions usually composed of schools, a mosque, hospital ete..), and edifices like water conduits and cisterns. Mehmet the Conqueror had tied these buildings to a trust fund, a system he had successfully organized
The first thing Mehmet the Conqueror took under his protection was the St.Sophia Basilica, a place of great importance to the Muslim community. This showed his universal approach and proved his will to protect cultural heritage St.Sophia, one of the world's most important structures, was turned into a mosque and funds that were being used for the Grand Market (1461), which later on became the Grand Bazaar, were allocated for its improvement.
For his personal religious space, Mehmet the Conqueror chose the sacred fourth hill which had the Twelve Apostles Church on it. He built the Sultan Bazaar with 280 shops, the Sarachane Bazaar with 110 shops and the Fatih Kulliye (1470) which consisted of a mosque, amedresse, a soup kitchen, a printing house, hospital and a library. In fact, the Fatih Kulliye is the first serious example of the prototype of an Ottomon urban settlement/complex.
Mehmet the Conqueror also encouraged his ministers, such as Mahmud Pasha,Murad Pasha,Gedik Ahmed Pasha,Mustapha Pasha,Candarli ıbrahim Pasha,Hadim Ali Pasa, Rum Mehmed Pasha and Karamanli Mehmed Pasa, to build kulliyes like his Fatih Kulliye.
Mehmet the Conqueror had two palaces built for himself. The first one was The Old Palace (Saray-i Atik),on top of the third hill, where İstanbul University is today. The second one was The New Palace (Saray-i Cedid), on top of the fifth hill, where Topkapi Palace stands today. The building of one part of the palace called The Fatih Pavilion, where the Treasury is displayed today,was finished in 1463, The Tiled Kiosk, which now serves as the Tile Museum, was finished in 1472 and the walls surrounding the palace,Sur-i Sultani, were finished in 1478. Mehmet the Conqueror also built an Ottoman town named Eyub around the area of the tomb of Sultan Eyub, the standard bearer of the Prophet, a place he, and indeed all Muslims, regarded as holy.
Mehmet the Conqueror gave great importance to trade and food supplies. He preserved the traditions of the Latin merchants in the districts of the Golden Horn and Tahtakale, restored the commercial buildings and ports around the area and built new buildings The Tahtakale Baths and the Fatih Bedesten are good examples of such buildings. Mehmet the Conqueror also solved the city's water problem, which was dependant only on cisterns after the Latin invasion. He restored the Halkali water conduit and built many more. During the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror, only 17 churches were turned into mosques; 190 new mosques, 24 schools and medresses and 32 caravansaries were built.
In short, Mehmet the Conqueror built ports, markets, and aquaducts to stimulate trade and control the food supplies in a town which was largely a consumer, a giant stomach, rather than a producer. He established palaces, kulliyes, tombs and buildings for religious purposes, redesigned the dockyard and the arsenal in order to be prepared for war; while at the same time he set down the rules for management, lawand finance. The city was divided into three administrative and judicial parts: Surici, Eyup - Galata and Uskudar, and a Kadi, or judge, was appointed to each.
St.Sophia and the Fatih Kulliye, so dominant on the city's skyline, were joined by the Bayezid Kulliye during the reign of Bayezid II.
Suleiman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-1566) and Mimar Sinan (Sinan the Architect) are the two people who changed the landscape of the city in the first part the 1520-1703 periods. Shores, hills and slopes are the elements that determine the topography of İstanbul. Mimar Sinan, the leading architect for nearly half a century, took good advantage of this topography and built his world-famous Suleimaniye Kulliye, which lends such weight to the city's panorama today. Mimar Sinan created a Mediterannean synthesis and a new high in architecture with his unique style.
Apart from the ones present in kulliyes, Mimar Sinan built many tombs, Turkish baı caravansaries, small mosques, hospitals, kiosks, bridges, soup kitchens, water conduits and aqua ducts. One other important masterpiece of his is the Maglova Aqueduct, which solved city's water problem.
With a population of 500.000, a legendary wealth and mature accomplishments in science, arts, cultural affairs and lifestyle, İstanbul was the world's most admired city during the reign of Kanuni Sultan Suleyman; known to westerners as Suleiman the Magnificent. His reign was the zenith in terms of power and influence of the Ottoman Empire.
During the Byzantine era, Surici (Within The Walls) was the main settlement area There were some settlements outside the walls in areas like Galata, Kadikoy and Us kudar, a couple of palaces and villas were built around the Bosphorus and Golden Horn. After the city was conquered, settlement grew around these areas. Neighbourhoods like Kasimpasa, Haskoy, Tophane, Findikli, Cihangir and Besiktas started to develop. But the most enticing achievement was the use of land on both sides of the Bosphorus, which had consisted mainly of little villages during the Byiantine Era. The Culture of The Bosphorus would later be the most important elerr in separating the Ottomans from the Eastem Romans and this culture would become more visable in the 19th century.
During the Ottoman Empire, people usually came to the capital after revolts in the provinces loss of land. The only things that lessened the , population were plagues or wars. There were major migrations to İstanbul during the 16th and 17th centuries. During that time, when the population had risen to 700 thousand, measures were considered to stop migration to the city.
The building of massive religious edifices came to an en in the17th century.The most important buildings of that century were the Sultanahmet Kulliye(1616) and the Yeni Camii (New Mosque) (1663). With these two, İstanbul's Turkish-Islamic style was almost complete. The single storey buildings in the era of Mehmet the Conqueror became two-storey buildings during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. The panorama was still filled with gardens, colorful houses, vineyards and viIIas.
With the help of the Ottoman Sultans after Mehmet the Conqueror, who preserved Roman-Byzantine tradition but added a Turkish-Islamic touch, the civil houses in İstanbul were restructured: Rooms for single people, little homes, houses with gardens that included women’s and men's sections, big houses with gardens, viIIas, mansions, royal palaces and waterfront palaces were built. The view of the city from the Marmora Sea in the 18th and 19th century was breathtaking, but inside, the streets were messy and dirty.
Natural disasters were the main problem back in those days. The first earthquake that was recorded in İstanbul was in 212 A.D. There were two earthquakes in 553 and 557, during which the dome of St.Sophia was damaged. It is said that 109 mosques were demolished and about five thousand people were killed during the earthquake in 1509. Before 1999, two more important earthquakes were recorded, one in 1766 and the other in 1894. Fires were another problem. Wooden buildings prevailed up until the second half of the 19th century. Although the construction of these wooden buildings was easy, they were easily burned as well. Fires caused great damage to the city ever since it was founded. There were 90 fires alone in İstanbul between 1701-1800.
To conceive of dimensions, let us give some figures: The widest part of The Divan road, the Mese, founded during the reign of Severus in 203 A.D., was 6 meters at its widest; its average width during the height of the Ottoman Empire was 3.80 meters, and the width of big streets in general were approximately 2-2.30 meters.
We don't know the dimensions of streets and alleys during the Byzantion era but we do know for a fact that during the reconstruction of the city under the reign of Septimius Severus and Constantine I, the streets were pretty wide. This width was narrowed down a little bit during the 9th century. Byzantine Constantinople. Yet it was the 16th century structures that started to use wide Byzantine streets and boulevards. Finally narrow streets were built that made it difficult for firefighters to pass.
Ahmed III (1703-1730), came to the throne with a reformist promises. The signing of the Pasarofca Treaty with the help of Nevsehirli Damat Ibrahim Pasha brought partial peace to the empire along with a new style of life based on entertainment, fun and consumption. Called the Tulip Era (1718-1730) at the start of the 20th century, new life styles emerged, great importance was attached to architecture, literature, music and poetry. The buildings in İstanbul were redesigned under French influence. The buildings were planned in accordance with the city landscape; fountains were designed for public squares. Ornamental groves were designed on both sides of the Bosphorus, villas and gardens were built in these groves. The gardens were adorned with flower beds and tulips. The Kagithane stream was turned ifto an irrigation canal and Sa'dabad was constructed a complex of pools, artificial falls, fountains and villas of all sizes.
The Ulema (the religious elite), the wealthy and government officials were encouraged to build waterfront palaces and villas along the shores of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Some city walls, buildings and fountains were repaired. Beautiful fountains were built and with the help of two new dams, the city once again solved its water problem. The first state-owned printing house and paper and tile-making workshops were built, relations with foreign ambassadors were established. Classics of Western and eastern literature were translated into Turkish; arts and sciences were fully supported. Such poets as Nedim and Buhari, the last great miniature painter Levni: these are some the great artists of that age. Different designs were tried on mansions, viIIas, gardens and fountains.
With the colorful nature of the Tulip Era came an enchanting style of entertainment. Promenades along the tulip beds, lamplit festive processions, huge circumcision banquets, caique cruises on the Bosphorous, horse races, speech, poetry recitals in the Divan-i form, concerts, singers, musicians, the tulip craze.., Women started to appear on the street for the first time; their garments underwent champs.
The fun, however, was limited to a small group in the city and the rest, especially the poor and unemployed, started to raise their voices. After one of the most horrible riots in the history of the the city, the Patrona Halil Riot, which lasted two nights, the Tulip Era ended in 1730. Hundreds of mansions, country houses, ¬gardens and works of art were destroyed.
The Taksim aguaduct system implanted reign of Ahmed III, was finished by Mahmud I, who silently continued the innovations of the Tulip Era. The network, which was finally completed in stages by 1839, provided Beyoglu (Pera) and Galata and this was crucial in the prospering of this area.
The official opening of Dolmabahce Palace, the second fully-equipped palace after Topkapi Palace, was in 1856. This was the date at which the Ottoman Dynasty officially left Topkapi Palace. However Topkapi Palace was actually abandoned before that. We know that during Selim II's reign (1566-1574) some villas and mansions were built between the districts of Besiktas and Dolmabahce, and the seashore that became the Dolmabahce area was filled in the first years of the 1610's. Ahmed III built new palaces around the area during the Tulip Era. Selim III (1789-1807) lived in his Besiktas Palace for a long time.
Mahmud II (1808-1839) was the first sultanto leave Topkapi Palace. Fed up with all the bIoody intrigues inside Topkapi Palace, Mahmud II chose to winter in the Besiktas Palace. He had the Armenian architect Krikor Balian rebuild and design the palace accordingly. Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861), who also prefered to live in the Besiktas Palace, ordered architect Garabet Balian to build Dolmabahce Palace in 1846 in its place. His brother Abdulaziz (1861-1876) chose to live in Ciragan Palace which was built in 1871, and the Beylerbeyi Palace. Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) left Dolmabahce Palace after being dethroned twice to live in Yildiz Palace. One of the last Sultans, Mehmet V (Sultan Reshid,1909-1918) lived in Dolmabahce Palace, while Vahideddin (1918-1922) prefered to reside in Yıldiz Palace.
lt was the palace that started the modernization process while the Ottoman Empire was going through its era of decline, unfortunately this reformist movement was not thought through. It was reform attempt from the top down. The Ottoman Sultans were well aware that they couldn't carry on modernizing the country while running it from Topkapi Palace, which was the very symbol of conservativism and closed to anything new. That's why they left Topkapi Palace and Sarayburnu (Saray Point), which represented the 'old' ways, they moved their administrative center to the Beyoglu-Besiktas axis. Later on they would move an important garrison to Taksim, and institutions such as Tibbiye (Medical School), Harbiye (Military Academy) and Mulkiye (Political Science School) were also moved to these districts. While these changes were occuring within the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Czar Peter the Great, like the Ottomans he looked to the West, had also moved his capital from Moscow to St.Petersburg, the first step in the modernization his country.
The 18th century was an age of 'Westernization' for the Ottomans. This term is used in many different ways in Turkey. In truth, the Ottoman Empire, which was founded by people coming from the East and crossing on to the West over hundreds of years, was no more 'Eastern' than that of the Byzantine. 'Westernization' became the motto for Sultans who sought to regain control over the management of the empire, especially in the capital, İstanbul. They did this by trying to revive the economy and the political system; especially when they realized they were falling behind Western European countries, which had already started changing, modernizing and adapting to capitalism. In this regard, the first modernizer was Mahmud I, who introduced the styles of baroque and rococo to the architecture of İstanbul. The Nuruosmaniye Kulliye he had built (1755), symbolizes the end of traditionalism. This edifice would later on be followed by historical İstanbul’s last major structure, the Laleli Kulliye (1763).
In the years that followed, garrisons were trained according to Western standards, schools were opened, industrial compounds were established in palace gardens and many of the old institutions were shut down. One of the essential institutions in the Ottoman Empire, the Janissary Corps, was abolished. New dress codes were applied. In the 18th century settlements spread around the Bosphorus; in districts like Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, Kandilli, Ortakoy, Bebek and Emirgan; suburbs such as Yesilkoyand Bakirkoy were formed, simple buildings like pensions and shanty houses increased, Pera became a fashionable district.
A new page in the history of İstanbul opened with the signing of the 1838 Trade Treaty, which gave British traders the same rights as local merchants. This symbolized the capital's entrance into the 'age of modernization'. This treaty was followed by a series of declarations concerning reform: IImuhaber, signed on May 17,1839, the Tanzimat Firman signed on November 3,1839 and the Islahat Firman, signed on February 18,1856.
The main aim in doing all this was to make the necessary public improvements in İstanbul and to liquidate all the old institutions that no longer functioned in an efficient manner the roads were going to be widened, the districts that were burnt were going to be replaced with public squares, and plots of land were going to be re-surveyed. According to the researcher Stephanos Yerasimos, the IImuhaber Treaty signed on May 17,1839 included articles that proposed the establishment of alleys between Divanyolu and Aksarayall the way to Silivrikapi, between Beyazid Square and Edirnekapi, from Carsamba to Egrikapi; that these alleys were to be 15-20 meters wide, with 3 meter sidewalks and that the other roads should be at least 7,5-11 meters in width. You can understand how 'daring' this suggestion was if we were to remind you that the widest part of Divanyolu was just 6 meters at that time. These recommendations were finally added to the İstanbul City Plan by Henri Proust in 1937 and mostly realized.
The Tanzimat and Islahat Firmans, which declared every citizen equal in the eye s of the law no, matter what their religion or faith may be, also provided protection of life and property, gave all citizens the right to practice their religions and go to school. Before the Tanzimat and Islahat Declarations, Non-Muslims were not allowed to wear certain types of clothing, nor were they allowed to paint the outside of their buildings certain colors or build domed places of worship. After these imperial edicts, magnificent domed churches were built, beautiful civil buildings were established.
The fires in the second half of the 19th century helped reorganize the structure of the city. Stone buildings replaced wooden ones; permission was given to build multi-storey buildings. Municipal services were put on the agenda. In 1857 the 6th District Municipality, covering the areas of Beyoglu and Galata, was established. Neighborhoods such as Kurtulus, Nisantasi, Sisli, Erenkoy, Goztepe, Moda,Yenikoy and Tarabya were formed. Districts like Fener, Balat and Uskudar lost their popularity. Rich people moved from these districts to new neighborhoods. The advances in trade transformed Eminonu and Karakoyand new caravansaries were built in these districts along with The Bankers Avenue and the Grand Rue de Pera, today known as Istiklal Avenue. New bridges were built to connect the two sides of the Golden Horn. Land, sea and railway transportation was improved. Foreign specialists were hired to create new projects for the city's public improvements.
After World War I, İstanbul was occupied by foreign powers. Following the Turkish Independence War (1919-1922), İstanbul, which had been the capital to three empires, lost this title. A week after İstanbul was cleared of foreign troops (October 6, 1923); Ankara was announced as the new capital. The abolishing of the Caliphate and the closing of dervish lodges and saints' tombs, in order to strengthen secularism, after the proclamation of the Republic (October 29, 1923) effected İstanbul's daily life in many important ways.
The political bureaucracy in the new capital was cold to 'cosmopolitan' İstanbul during the first years of the Republic, mainly due to the negative reception to the new regime by of some of its inhabitants, both Muslim and non-Muslim, during the Independence War. Most of its productivity went unrewarded. The population, which was believed to be around 1 million before the First World War, dropped to 700 thousand in 1932. The population of non-Muslims would later on shrink dramatically because of the implementation of the 1942 Property Tax and the Events of 6-7 September 1955.
Furthermore, new political approaches such as 'getting rid of Ottoman history' and 'disregarding Byzantine history', made people indifferent to the historical structure of the city, which was a city established by history. The lack of consciousness in cultural heritage reflected on issues like public improvements. Nothing was done to stop the destruction of the city's cultural and architectural fabric.
The population boom after the 1950's, a rapid wave of migration never before seen, unplanned industrialization and lack of structural planning, political pardons for illegal building, the absence of a metro, the bridge confusion on the Bosphorus, the conflict between roads and motorways, the greed of local administrators; all created a problematic city environment. Surici, consumed by the masses, lost its historical identity and the city acquired a whole different texture with the exception of districts like Eyup,Galata,Bogazici and Uskudar. New neighborhoods such as Sagmalcilar, Gaziosmanpasa,Kucukkoy, Alibeykoy and Esenler were formed. Districts struggled with problems such as garbage disposal, sewer systems, clean water, traffic and environmental pollution.
Many historical buildings were destroyed and cultural heritage was seriously damaged during the reconstruction of boulevards like Vatan, Millet, Bagdat and Barbaros, and the widening of the Dolmabahce-Karakoy Boulevard, all because of ignorance and a lack of respect for history. The population that was targeted in the settlement plans in the1950's was 3-4 million, but this number has risen to more then 11 million today. Now the city is living a different life-style, complete with supermarkets, skyscrapers, limited greenery, polluted air and water, buildings which are both extremely bland and structurally weak against the threat of earthquakes. 'Fast-food' restaurants, ‘folk song bars', and new 'cultural' centers proliferate.
Nowadays, there are also some positive developments taking place in the city, which still maintains its strategic importance. Immigration, population growth and the building of new structures has lessened. Efforts to take better care of İstanbul are underway. The fear of a possible earthquake forces people to build stronger buildings. The city, which once housed half the country's industrial enterprises, is now foreign these enterprises out of its borders. It is being stressed that İstanbul should be a financial, economic, cultural and touristic city. The city, which has existed for 27 centuries, will reinvent itself. It is still possible to create cleaner, more organized, livelier İstanbul, one which has solved its traffic and infrastructural problems, adopted higher living standards and established a wide array of buildings devoted to cultural activity.
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