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Interesting Facts About Istanbul
Turkey as a nation has always been seen as the bridge between the continents of Europe and Asia. The country has been influenced by both and has brought together much of their distinct cultures into its own unique style. The City of Istanbul is built upon the invisible line that separates the two continents, this has lead the city to become known as the "Gateway into Asia".
The City of Istanbul has been known by many names and has been influenced by the major religions of Europe and Asia. It had been the seat of power for ancient Empires such as the Ottoman and Byzantine. It had also been a client state of King Xerxes and his Persian Empire, and has also served as colony of the Greeks from the time of classical antiquity.
The City of Istanbul is built upon the northern area of the geographical feature that we call the Turkish Straits. The Turkish Straits link the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. It is believed that around five thousand years ago the Mediterranean Sea eroded the land around present day Istanbul and rushed down into the fresh water lake that we know now as the Black Sea.
Terrain of the Turkish Straits.
(1) The Continuation of the Roman Ethos.
Modern day Istanbul is heavily influenced by its history. The city was the heart of the Eastern Roman Empire which became known as the Byzantine Empire after the Western Empire was destroyed by barbarian aggression. The Roman Emperor Constantine chose to make "New Rome" in the Roman province of Thrace. In the Roman lands of Thrace he was able to create his own Christian Capital for his reorganized Roman Empire.
He called his City Constantinople and built his new city on the old Greek colony of Byzantium. From 330 AD to 1453 AD the City of Constantinople continued the beliefs that the Roman Empire held in the ancient world. The City of Constantinople out lasted the Western Roman Empire by nearly a thousand years. It was the Muslim Ottoman Empire that would finally end the majesty of the last remnants of Roman civilization.
(2) Topkapı Palace.
The Topkapı Palace was the primary residence for the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire for the majority of their rule. The palace started to be constructed in 1459 AD. The conqueror of the Byzantine Empire, Sultan Mehmed II ordered its construction as a place to serve as his primary residence. The palace as well as being the Sultan's home, also housed great libraries and the royal mint.
The palace also contained four Mosques and a Hospital. It has been estimated that at its peak, as many as four thousand people lived within the palace. By 1856 A.D the Ottoman ruler moved his primary residence to the newly built Dolmabahce Palace further along the Bosporus coastline.
In 1921 the old palace was made a museum to celebrate the cities Ottoman heritage and it has become a major tourist attraction in recent years. On display are artifacts from across the Muslim world, these items include Mohammed's sword and his cloak. The museum also has a large collection of Muslim manuscripts, Ottoman treasure and military weapons and ancient armour.
(3) Ataturk Bridge.
The Ataturk Bridge is named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. The bridge occupies the location of several previous bridges across the river. In 1836 A.D, the opening of the original bridge was made by Sultan Mahmud. The Sultan crossed the 400 metre long original bridge on his horse. In the next hundred years the bridge was rebuilt and replaced a further three occasions.
The newly constructed bridge was named after Atatürk, who had died during its four years of construction and it was opened in 1940 A.D. When comparing the original Ottoman Bridge to the new version, you notice that its length was increased by a quarter over the original dimensions and it was made much wider to allow motor vehicles to pass easier.
(4) Historical Buildings and Ruins.
The City of Istanbul is home to much of European histories great building styles, there are still remains that date back to the foundation of Constantinople and many buildings speak of the cities many cultural influences. Looking around the city, a tourist will see a mixture of Roman, Greek, Ottoman, Islamic, Genoese and several other classical styles.
The surviving grand Mosques have their roots as Byzantine Christian Churches or Cathedrals. The Grand Hagia Sophia was originally the largest Christian Cathedral in the world until Seville completed their Cathedral in the Sixteenth century. The Hagia Sophia is now a museum as it was closed to the public in 1931 by the Turkish government.
One of the oldest monuments that still survive from classical antiquity is the Serpentine Column, the column was originally built to honor the Greek God Apollo for the victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479 BC. The column was moved by Constantine the Great when Constantinople became his new capital, and has stood at the site of the Hippodrome ever since.
(5) Faith and the Europe State.
The religious make up of the city is very varied and over the years religious freedom has been allowed. The five hundred years of the Islamic Ottoman Empire did encourage the worshiping of a Muslim faith, but did not eradicate other religious beliefs. Upon the fall of the Byzantine Empire the Ottoman Sultan encouraged members of other faiths to return to the City. The Sultan wanted the multicultural Istanbul to highlight his own power and show the known world he was a fair and benevolent ruler.
Modern day Istanbul is still an Islamic City with small pockets of Jewish, Christian and Greek Orthodox worshipers within the area. After the rise of the Turkish Republic, Islam was toned down as the New Turkish State wished to be progressive and modern like other European States. Turkey wanted to separate faith from the mechanics of government as it was the only way to maintain its position in a rapidly changing Europe.
Have you ever visited Istanbul?
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© 2013 Andrew Stewart