HIPPODROME OF CONSTANTINOPLE

The oblong square next to the Blue Mosque marks the site of the Hippodrome. This area was once the social center of Constantinople and the capital during the Byzantine Empire.

A chariot racing stadium once stood here, hence why sometimes today it’s still referred to as “Horse Square”. The stadium held up to 100,000 people and also held gladiator fights, celebrations to honor the emperors, and also the site of bloody battles and riots. Little is left from the stadium today but you can at least get a sense of its scale and importance as you walk around it.

The entrance to the Hippodrome was about where the German fountain of Emperor Wilhelm II is now. Along the sides, step-like seats were placed and the central line of the race course, the spina, was decorated with obelisks and columns. The road running around the square today almost directly corresponds with the line of the chariot racing.

Today this area stands as a rectangular promenade between the Blue Mosque and the Turkish Islamic Arts Museum and is home to four relics: German Fountain, Obelisk of Theodosius, Serpent Column and the Column of Constantine.

 

german-fountain

GERMAN FOUNTAIN
Alman Çeşmesi

Constructed to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II’s visit to Istanbul in 1898. (His primary reason for visiting during this time was to aid the Ottoman Empire in expanding the railways). The Neo-Byzantine style fountain was built in Germany, and then transported and reassembled in its current site in 1900.

 

2

OBELISK OF THEODOSIUS
Dikilitaş

The Egyptian Obelisk was built in 1500 BC by Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III in the great temple of Karnak in Egypt. The Roman emperor Constantius II had it transported along the river Nile to Alexandria to commemorate his 20 years on the throne in 357 and it remained in Alexandria until 390, when Theodosius I had it transported to Constantinople and put up on in the Hippodrome in the 4th century AD. It’s one of the oldest monuments in Istanbul today and is said to be only 1/3 of its original height.

 

3

SERPENT COLUMN
Yılanlı Sütun

An ancient bronze column, believed to date from 479 BC and was once part of an ancient Greek tripod in Delphi to commemorate the Greeks who fought and defeated the Persian Empire at the Battle of Plataea.

 

4

COLUMN OF CONSTANTINE
Known as many names including the Walled Column and Constantine Obelisk.

Constructed of roughly cut stones by Constantine VII, supposedly originally it was decorated with gilded bronze plaques that portrayed the victories of Basil I (Constantine VII grandfather). Unfortunately these plaques were stolen and destroyed by the Fourth Crusaders.