Five interesting facts about Istanbul.
Turkey as a nation has always been seen as the bridge between the continents of Europe and Asia, the country is influenced by both and has brought together much of their distinct cultures in to it's own heritage. The City of Istanbul is built upon the invisible line that separates the two continents, this has lead the City to be 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 Persian Empire and a colony of the Greeks from the time of classical antiquity.
Terrain of the Turkish Straits.
The City of Istanbul is built upon the Northern area of the Geographical feature 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 we know now as the Black Sea.
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(1) The continuation of the Roman ideal.
Modern day Istanbul was heavily influenced by it's former greatness, The City was the heart of the Eastern Roman Empire and became known as the Byzantine Empire after the Western Empire crumbled. 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 Greek inspired continuation of the Roman Empire of the ancient world. 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 Roman civilization.
(2) Topkapı Palace
The Topkapı Palace was the primary residence for the Ottoman Sultan's 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 it's construction as his primary residence. The Palace as well as been the Sultan's home, also housed libraries and a Royal mint.
The Palace also housed four Mosques and a Hospital, it has been estimated that as many as Four Thousand people lived within the Palace at the peak of it's popularity. By 1856 AD the Ottoman ruler moved his primary residence to the newly built Dolmabahce Palace further along the Bosporus coastline.
In 1921 the Palace was made a museum to the Cities former Ottoman heritage and it has become a major tourist attraction in recent years. On display as 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 weapon's and armour.
(3) Ataturk Bridge
The Ataturk Bridge is It 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, in 1836 AD The opening of the original Bridge was personally 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 it's Four years of construction and it was opened in 1940 AD. When comparing the original Ottoman Bridge to the new version, you notice that it's length was increased by a quarter over the original dimensions and it was 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 cultures. Looking around the City, a tourist will see a mixture of Roman, Greek, Ottoman, Islamic, Genoese and several other cultural 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 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 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 it's position in a rapidly changing Europe.
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