This fountain was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm to the Sultan following a visit in 1898 and sits in the hippodrome area. The close relation between the countries lead to the disastrous decision to ally with Germany in WWI which lead to the end of the ottoman empire.
One remaining piece of what must have been a fantastic structure, this hippodrome, or stadium for chariot races was built by the Emporer Septimius Severus in AD 203 then extended by Constantine in 324 to its maximum extent.
It's interesting to know that... once... there was a byzantine hippodrome in that place.
Nowadays we have a modern garden, with a few old columns: an obelisk brought from Egypt, a spiral column from Delphi, and the biggest and ugliest one that, it seems, was originally covered with bronze.
It occupies the area adjacent to Saint Sophia and Blue Mosque but only reading the guides you will find out that... once...
The touristy centre of Istanbul is a garden that links Hagia Sophia with the blue mosque. Always crowded of people, it is the place where photographers will find that there are no nice pictures from the monuments without strange people walking or resting, but always in the most inconvenient positions, everybody bothering everybody in all the directions.
Everything happens there, and life is also a good thing to retain.
We have now reached the really touristy area. Everyone coming to Istanbul will spend some time/hours here, and that's absoloutely right because the Hippodrome is of great historical value and was in ancient time the focal point in town.
The construction of a stadium was begun by emperor Septimus Severus in 203, later extended and remodelled by Constantine the Great. It was 480 metres in length and 118 metres wide. The number that could be seated vary a lot from one source to another, it differs from 30.000 up to 100.000! However, it was used for many things, for instance races with horse-drawn chariots, which was very popular. In short one can say the Hippodrome was the centre for the civil activities like Haghia Sophia was for the religious life. But it was not allways peaceful activities. There were two political factions in Constantinopel at that time, called the Blues and the Greens. The former were generally politically conservative "upper" class whereas the latter were "lower" class and politically more radical. But in January 532 they put their rivalry aside in protests against emperor Justinian for too heavy taxation. In the riots that followed much of the city was destroyed. When Justinian hit back it ended in about 30.000 of the Greens slaughtered, but only a few hundred of the Blues. The lower classes had to pay for it all, as usual. These riots have been known as the Nika rebellion.
Originally there was also an amphitheatre built adjacent to the Hippodrome but it was pulled down to make way for the construction of the Blue Mosque that started in 1609.
The 'Serpent Column' stands in between the Walled Obelisk and the Egyptian Obelisk, the three surviving ancient monuments which were once displayed along the 'spina', the central reservation of the race-track.
It is a magnificent example of the metal-workers' skill in ancient times (probably made around 500BCE) and once stood at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. Three bronze snakes entwine themselves to a height of 8 metres, with their three heads (now lost) looking in separate directions. Each snake was once inscribed with the names of 31 sites where the Greeks battled the invading Persians, though those inscriptions are no longer visible to the naked eye.
The column was erected on the spina in the 4th century CE/AD and written records and drawings show that it was complete until at least the 1500s.
The sheer skill involved in creating this bronze column fascinated me on my first visit and, on my return in 2015, I was hugely pleased to find that excavations in the late 1800s had turned up part of one of the serpent heads. You can find it on display in Istambul's wonderful Archaeological Museum
What was once Roman and Byzantine Constantinople's hippodrome (track for horse racing) is now a pleasant park, popular with local families at weekends as well as with tour groups, visitors, hawkers, grilled-sweetcorn & chestnut sellers, water-sellers...you name it and you'll find it in At Meydam.
The central divide ('spina') of the hippodrome was decorated with at least three ancient monuments from elsewhere. At its eastern end there is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, dating from around 1600BCE. At the western end is the 'walled obelisk'. A Greek inscription in marble at its base suggests it was part of the statue of Apollo at the harbour of ancient Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. That 'wonder' was ruined in the 4th and 5th centuries but the inscription states that this section restored by Emperor Constantine and his son.
All three surviving spina monuments are set deep below the modern-day surface, giving a clear idea of just how much time has passed since the city we call Istanbul was powerful Byzantine Constantinople.
Facing Sainte Sophie, a large square was a Byzantine hippodrome, now transformed in a gardened avenue.
It's highlights (excluded the surrounding marvels) are two obelisks and the ruins of a third one.
The Hippodrome is a place for good photos and walking around. Eat hot chestnuts and drink the hot flavoured milk sold around and generally stroll around the area. There are columns with inscriptions that speak about Egyptian/Turkish History.
The Hippodrome was a main center of life in Byzantine times. A stadium capable of holding some 100,000 spectators once stood here where now open parks give Istanbul an open living room amidst historical splendor. I was here during Ramazan and most of the western side of the park was taken up by a vast crafts fair. There are several ancient columns which used to stand in the middle of the Hippodrome chariot tracks. The Egyptian Obelisk dates to the 16th century BC and was brought here in 390 AD by Theodosius. The Serpentine Column commemorates the Greek victory over the Persians at Plataea in 479 BC. It was sent north from Delphi by Constantine. Another column dating from the 10th century used to be covered with metal tablets which have been stripped off with time.
At the northern end of the former Hippodrome is a more modern monument given to the city in commemoration of a visit by German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900.
Hippodrome of Constantinople is very ancient place. Today it isn't more than place for walking but some time ago there was chariot racing.
There are various monuments from Roman empire: Serpent Column, Obelisk of Thutmose III, Walled Obelisk, Statues of Porphyrios.
I would like to see Serpent Column renewed, but otherwise this is good place before entering to Blue Mosque.
After a really long day of running around sites and buildings, it's just great to end up there. An excellent reward for the kids for being so patient, is letting them feed the pigeons. A great photographic spot,too.