History of Constantinople

I found this history of Constantinople in an old book I just bought at a garage sale for 25ยข I'm crazy about history books and love running into historical information about places I've been. The following is the description of history of Constantinople (present day Istanbul) from a 1901 cyclopedia.





Constantinople (photo by Kari)

Constantinople, capital of the Turkish empire, called Stamboul by the Turks, was formerly the ancient town of Byzantium, and capital of the Byzantine or Eastern Empire. A colony from Megara settled it about 658 B.C. and its commanding position caused it to be fought for by Persians, Gauls, Greeks and Romans. In the fourth century, Philip of Macedon lay siege to it, but was driven away by an Athenian army. The story is that the Macedonians' whereabouts was discovered by a crescent which shone out in the sky; so ever since a crescent has been the badge fo the city. In 830 A.D. Constantine was so taken with its fine site, that he made it his capital, giving it his own name, by which it is now known. Of the twenty-six sieges and eight captures, that by the Latin crusaders in 1204 was the worst, when all that was fine in the city, the church treasures and even the bodies of the dead were plundered. In 1453 Constantinople fell before the conquering Turks and has never been besieged since; for many years because of the renown of the Ottoman Empire, and eitherwards because of the jealousy of the European powers, which would not allow any one of them to capture the prize of the Bosporus.

Stamboul, or Constantinople proper, is on the site of old Byzantium, south of the Golden Horn, a creek five miles long and half a mile broad, and deep enough to float near shore the Turkish ironclads. The fourteen miles of walls first built by Constantine, still run around the city. Stamboul, like Rome, has its seven hills, where over 200 beautiful mosques and countless chapels rise up from a mass of tumble-down, ill-smelling wooden houses and long rows of picturesque bazaars. The most famous building is the church of St.Sophia, common-looking outside, but within fascinating by the grace of the mighty dome and the beauty of the mosaics. Not less beautiful is the mosque Suleymamiya.

Also of great interest are the old Greek Hippodrome, with the column of the Three Serpents brought from the temple of Delphi; the Old Seraglio whose first gate, called the "Sublime Porte," gives a name to the whole country, and within which is the treasury, where are kept uncut jewels, gold-embroidered garments, and sumptuously mounted arms of fabulous worth; on the heights above it, the Kafe, or cage in which princes who are too ambitious are imprisoned for life; and on the shore are the grim ruins of the Seven Towers, where so many sultana were put to death by their soldiers.

North of the Golden Horn is what is sometimes called Christian Constantinople. There are three districts; Galata is the merchant quarter; Top-hana is noted for its market and its Circassian slave-dealers; Pera is the aristocratic and foreign quarter. There are many suburbs, including Eyyub, where is the mosque in which every sultan must gird on the sword of Osman before he mounts the throne. No Christian is allowed to approach the holy place. The trade of Constantinople is large and mostly in the hands of Europeans. There are twenty miles of fortifications along the Bosporus. Railroads now connect Constantinople with Paris and other cities. Population, 875,000.

Information about history of Constantinople taken from: The Student's Cyclopedia, Volume 1, 1901.

See mosaics of Jesus from St. Sophia as mentioned in history of Constantinople.
Read Mark Twain's account of visiting Stamboul and more history of Constantinople.
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Mosaics of Jesus in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
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