Hippodrome - Atmaydani, Istanbul
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
Directions: Between Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque
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.
Directions: Between Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque
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.
Sultanahmet is the historical part of Istanbul so we had the opportunity to see many landmarks of the city like Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Palace Cistern, The Hipodrome Square, The Turkish And Islamic Arts Museum, the Topkapi palace etc.
Early in the morning the first site we visited at Sultanahmet was the Hipodrome. Although today it is just a square (Sultanahmet Meydani) it used to be a big race circus but you have to imagine about it because there are not many fragments survived from that era. It was first built when the city was called Byzantium although it became popular and much bigger (holiding 100,000 people!) during Constantine the Great days when the city was called Constantinople.
We visited the Serpent Column that was built to celebrate the victory of the Greeks against Persians in Persian Wars. Actually, it was called the Tripod of Plataea and was originally in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece. It was an impressive bronze column with a 8metre high serpent heads at the top that got stolen during the 4th crusade. Not much to see today except the base.
Then we visited the Walled Obelisk which was 32metres high and was originally decorated with gilded bronze plaques but again the crusaders needed some extra income so they stolen them.
Probably the most impressive monument on the area is the Obelisk of Theodosius(pic 1). Theodosius the Great brought from Egypt in 390AD. The obelisk was originally erected in Luxor back in 1490BC during Tuthmosis III kingdom (so I was impressed that I was in front of a piece of granite that was carved more than 3000 years before!!!). What see today is only the top of 3 different pieces that Thedosius brought to Constantinople.
Finally, at the northern end of Hipodrome we saw the German Fountain (pic 2). It was built in Germany in neo-byzantine style and transferred piece by piece in Istanbul in 1900 to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of german emperor Wilhelm II to Istanbul in 1898.
It was already 9.00am so we visited Museum of Islamic Arts(pic 3) which is located at the former palace of Ibrahim Pasha(1493-1536) that was the grand Vezir (and friend) of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. It houses a collection of 40,000 items covering a long period from the first period of Islam (7th century) till 20th century. We were impressed of some special carpets and some special carved woods. There are also glass, porcelain and stone items. Most of the art are religious themed of course but we also enjoyed some ethnographic exhibits like a full scale model of a nomad tent from 19th century. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9.00-17.00 and the entrance fee is 10TL.
Directions: We supposed to find the bus Τ4 from Taksim to Sultanahmet but it never passed from the stop. We finally used some other bus after a long talking with several people that only spoke Turkish. It was very funny trying to communicate with them!
The name hippodrome is a Greek term for a stadium for horse racing and chariot racing. The Hippodrome of Constantinople was first constructed in 203 AD. When Constantine moved the capital of Rome to Constantinople, he expanded the hippodrome, making it a focus of recreation in the city.
The location of the Hippodrome is marked by the Serpent Column (c. 479 BC), the Obelisk of Thutmose III (c. 1490 BC), and the Walled Obelisk (10th century), all located on the original race track. More modern is the Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain (1900), and of course, the Sultanahmet Mosque.
The hippodrome, though today is just a flat square (called the Sultanahmet Meydani), was originally 1,476 feet long, 427 feet wide, and had stands that could seat 100,000 spectators. It is believed that many of the structures of the Hippodrome remain protected below Sultanahmet Square.
Now a part of Sultanahmet Square, the Hippodrome was once one of the largest tracks in the ancient world - second only to the Circus Maximus in Rome. It is now a landscaped park following the road from Sultanahmet Mosque to Hagia Sophia. Its construction started in 203 AD.
The Hippodrome is now an open-air museum displaying relics of ancient and not so ancient times. The oldest is the Egyptian Obelisk from the 15th century BC and brought from Egypt by the then Emperor Theodosius I. I is made from pink granite and was originally 32.5 metres high. It was reduced to 20 metres for transportation and now sits on a marble plinth. The plinth was constructed in 389 AD and depicts scenes of the activities of the Hippodrome.
The column of Constatntine dates from the 10th century and its 32 metre height was covered with decorated copper and brass. This was removed during the invasion of the 13th century and used to make coins.
The latest structure in the Hippodrome is the Kaiser Wilhelm or German Fountain. It ws a gift from the Kaiser in 1898 as he was impressed by the hospitality he received upon his second visit to Turkey.
Built in 203 AD by Emperor Septimius Severus, and enlarged by Constantine the Great, the Roman Hippodrome of Constantinople once seated as many as 100,000 spectators. Although the actual structure gradually disappeared to nothing over the centuries (its stones were used to construct the Blue Mosque), the footprint of the race track has survived remarkably intact. It is now an elongated urban park called At Meydanı, which means Horse Square, a name that refers to its use as a horse market under the Ottomans. Also extant within At Meydanı are some of the monuments imported by various Emperors to decorate the centre of the racetrack. Chief among them is the Egyptian Obelisk, carved in 1450 BC and brought in from Heliopolis by Emperor Theodosius, and its carved marble pediment made in 390 AD. The Spiral Column to the south of it dates from 478 BC and was moved from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi by Emperor Constantine in 330 AD. Further south is a damaged obelisk whose origins are known, but its bronze casing was removed by the Crusaders who sacked Constantinople in 1204 AD. They also stole the quadriga, the group of four bronze horses, which had been mounted on a non-extant column at the northern end of the racetrack. The quadriga was subsequently moved to Venice where it it can still be seen at the Basilica di San Marco.
Address: At Meydanı, Sultanahmet
Hippodrome is located in Sultanahmet area around Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque which we now call Sultanahmet Square. This used to be the place where chariots and horses were racing during Byzantian era and later during Ottoman era Cirit (an ancient Turkish game played with horses) was played in this area. There are 4 interesting spots to check in Hippodrome. The first one is the German Fountain with beautiful details. The second one is the obelisk from Egypy. The thid one is the Serpents Column and the last one is Walled Obelisk. While visiting the main attractions suh as Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia or Blue Mosque, you can give a break to see the Hippodrome.
Address: Sultanahmet Square