Byzantium means Istanbul
The first thing one thinks of when hearing the word
"Byzantium" is Constantinople, or Istanbul as it is known today. For years upon
years Istanbul was encircled by Byzantium walls, and these walls are actually one of the
leading examples of Byzantium architecture. The greatest part of these walls is still
standing today. It was base of these walls that the city was able to withstand the siege
of the Avar, the Arabs, the Bulgarians, the Sassanids, the Russian and the Ottoman armies.
The walls are decorated with towers. The portion of the walls which stretches from the
Marmara Sea to the Tekfur Palace has 96 large towers. The walls have seven large gates
other than the additional entryways used from military purposes. The gates to the city are
Edirnekapi, Sulukule kapisi, Topkapi, Mevlevihane Kapi, Silivrikapi, Belgrade Kapi, and
Yedikule Kapisi. According to some historians these walls are similar to the Hittite walls
which surrounded the capitol of Hattusa.
Unchanging Byzantine Elements
The most important area in Constantinople was
the Field of Augustinian. Today the Field of Augustinian consists of the park in front of
the Hagia Sophia, and the Hippodrome off to the side which today is the site of the German
Fountain and the park which then stretches down towards the sea. Several Byzantine
monuments, including the Byzantine Palace, used to be situated in this area. The
Hippodrome within the Field of Augustinian was initially only used for chariot races.
Gradually, however, this area began to be used for other social functions. The
construction of the Hippodrome was begun in the preByzantine period by the Roman emperor,
Septimus Severus, and it was completed during the period of Constantine, the first emperor
of the Byzantines. Some of the remains of this work can be seen today. Three monuments in
the center of this field still remain in place.The first of these monuments is the obelisk
in the Sultanahmet Square. This pink granite stone was carved for the Egyptian pharaoh,
Tutmosis III, as a symbol of victory and the stone is inscribed with hieroglyphics.
Constantine brought this obelisk to Istanbul in the year 330. It lay on the ground for
sixty years until Teodosius had it erected and gave it its present form. The immensity of
the feat of transporting this stone is immediately understood when it is viewed in its
Near this obelisk stands the Burmese Column.
This column was built to stand before the Temple of Apollo in Delphi and symbolizes the
victory of the Greeks over the Persians. This monument actually had three legs, but 1,500
years ago the Byzantine Emperor Constantine had one of these legs brought to
erected on this site.
The remaining third monument is a obelisk which
has had its bronze covering ripped away. Another monument that used to stand in this area
was a sculpture of four horses. This monument was taken from Istanbul to Venice and today
this four-horsed figure with gold ornamentations stands before the church of San Marco in
Not far away is found the Cemberlitas or the
"Hooped Column." This column is one of the most important examples of Byzantine
art and it was constructed of various blocks placed one on the other. When it was first
made, it bore the of the statue of the Emperor Constantine dressed as Apollo. It is known
that the stone uprighted when it was stuck by lightening. Its statue having been
demolished, the Emperor Manuel Komnenos had it plated with marble and it remains like this
today. Two more monuments of the Byzantine period are the Kiztasi (The Girl's Stone) in
the Faith neighborhood. This obelisk was built to honor the Emperor Marcianus. Another
monument stands in Sarayburnu and this was built in memory of Cerrahpasa Arkadius.