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 upright position.

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 Istanbul and 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 Venice.

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.



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