Tag Archives: Istanbul

Hippodromes/Circuses Part 1

In the Late Roman Period through the Early Byzantine (Christian) Era chariot racing was one of the most popular events of the public.  “Hippodrome” comes from two Greek words: hippos (meaning horse) and dromos (meaning “course”).  In Greek times they were used for horse races and chariot races.

The Latin equivalent to a Hippodrome was a “Circus,” meaning “circle,” that took over the functions of the Hippodromes and was also used for other events.  The most famous, and largest, of the Circuses, is the Circus Maximus in Rome.

One end of the Circus Maximus in Rome.

The Circus Maximus was over 2,000 feet long and could accommodate over 150,000 people!  It was used for Chariot Racing, Religious Festivals, and Political and Military Processionals.

In Rome the Flavian Amphitheater, aka. the Colosseum, was used for Gladiatorial contest and other public spectacles: mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, etc.

The Flavian Amphitheater in Rome could seat 65,000+ spectators.

For those readers of this blog, many of you have visited Caesarea Maritima.  The west, or seaside, Hippodrome/Circus, evidently dates to the days of Herod the Great (r. 37 t0 4 B.C.).

View looking north from the Promontory Palace where the governor of Caesarea Maritima resided.

This Hippodrome/Circus was 950 [290 m.] feet long and 165 feet [50 m.] wide. The prominent position of this Palace, from which this picture was taken overlooking the circus, was a reminder to those attending the chariot and foot races that Rome (the Emperor as represented through the governor) was the great benefactor of the games and of the political order.

In the second century A.D., a much larger (30,000-capacity) hippodrome was constructed in another section of Caesarea and the southern third of the Circus was converted to an Amphitheater that was used for gladiatorial contests.

View looking south along the length of the 1,476 ft. [450 m.] long hippodrome.

On both the right (west) and left (east) side of the image, the slopes outlining the hippodrome are visible. This is where the seating for 30,000 people was located.

The re-erected obelisk is clearly visible and beyond the hippodrome are three smokestacks from the electrical power plant at Hadera.  The hippodrome is now either used for agricultural purposes—note the stubble of the harvested crop.

In addition, some of you have visited Istanbul/Constantinople and the outline of the large Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet district.

The Hippodrome in Constantinople was 440 yards. 480 m.] long and 107 yrds. [117 m.] wide.  Some believe it could hold 100,000 spectators.

The Hippodrome was first constructed around A.D. 200 by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus as part of his rebuilding of the city of Byzantium.  Constantine the Great and his successors later expanded it. The royal box was close to where the entrance to the Blue Mosque is now situated.

Today a park covers most of the hippodrome and it still reflects its elongated shape.  Here chariot races and other extravaganzas were held: including victory parades and coronations.  Here also the Nike riot of 532 began, and it was here that some 30,000 partisans were slaughtered.

What really happened in an ancient Hippodrome/Circus?  Well, we have the next best thing to an ancient photograph or video.

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Winter in Istanbul — The Thrill of Discovery—in a Museum!

The Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul contains a number of “world class” objects that were gathered by the rulers of the late Ottoman Empire from all over the Middle East—including glazed tiles from the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon and a copy of the Treaty of Kadesh (between the Egyptians and the Hittite—late 13th century B.C.).

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“I am happy to meet you Mr. Lion!”
See below for the ferocious lion that this child is making friends with!
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Often times people tire quickly when visiting museums, but one January we observed one young visitor who was in the process of making friends with a ferocious looking lion that once guarded the approach to an 8th century Hittite Palace at Zincirli (ancient Samal).

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One of the pair of basalt lions that guarded the entrance
to the 8th century Hittite Palace at Zincirli
Note the detail of the mane and whiskers
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Oh, to see the world through a child’s eyes.  The joy of discovery/encounter!

Erecting an Obelisk

TWMRISHP11Have you ever wondered how the ancients actually set up an obelisk?  In the Late Roman/Byzantine hippodrome in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul there is still standing the top third of an obelisk of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III (r. 16th century B.C.).  This obelisk was brought from Egypt to Constantinople and erected by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius around A.D. 390.

One of the reliefs on its marble base depicts the erection of the obelisk with the emperor and his family watching.

TWMRISHP06For additional images of the obelisk and the hippodrome area Click Here.

Istanbul — An Informative 55 minute video

Here in the USA, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting air a 55 minute presentation of Istanbul.  This progam is NOW (13 September 2018) available on the internet, but I am not certain how long it will remain available.

The only well–known structure in the video is the Hagia Sophia.

Included is the well–known Hagia Sophia, and lesser–known places such as the Bucoleon Palace, the Hippodrome Cistern, the Ayazam Church, the Valen’s Aqueduct, etc.

I assume that this VIDEO is available worldwide at THIS LINK.

NB there are three items available.

  1. Hagia Sophia in 3D (3 min)— this did not impress me at all and seems to be poorly done.
  2. THE VIDEO — 54 minutes
  3. Nine pictures — not impressive

Back Seat of the Plane — Aerial Views of Istanbul

On airline flights I can typically put up with any seat assignment for 1 to 4 hours.  However, when I found out that on our one hour flight from Istanbul to Denizli (Turkey) that my wife and I were assigned seats in the second row from the back of the plane (window/center), near the lavatory, I was less than happy.

But, as we settled in, I noticed that the sky was clear, the window was relatively clean, and that there was no wing to block my view of the ground!  “Heh Mary, hand me my camera!”  Now all I needed was for the pilot to take the “right” flight path out of Istanbul on our way to Denizli.  Well, he/she did!  And we flew just west, then north, and then east of the Bosporus—and I was on the “right” side of the plane to see/photograph everything!  My dreams had come true!!  Here are a few images that I took on that flight.

View looking south southeast over Istanbul.

In the upper right of the image is the Sea of Marmara. The landmass in the lower portion of the image is European Istanbul. The land mass in the upper left is Asian Istanbul. The Bosphorous/Bosporus Strait separates these two continents.

The meandering “river” in the lower center of the image is the “Golden Horn” (river) that “flows” into the Bosporus. There are four bridges over the Bosporus—faintly visible.

View looking south over part of Istanbul where the Golden Horn enters the Bosporus.

In the upper portion of the image is the Sea of Marmara. The water on the left (east) side of the image is the Bosporus Strait. The “Golden Horn” (river) “flows” from right to left in the center of the image—entering the Bosporus. Note the three bridges that span the Golden Horn.

The landmass in the image is European Istanbul.

To view additonal images Click Here.

The Tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent

Suleiman the Magnificent was the most powerful ruler during the long period of the Ottoman Empire (ca. 1517–1917).  He died in 1566 and was a contemporary of Luther (d. 1546) and Calvin (d. 1564) and was the builder of the walls of Jerusalem!

tomb-of-suleiman-exterior

View looking north northwest at the Türbe of Süleyman that houses his cenotaph and those of his daughter and two later sultans: Suleiman II and Ahmet II. All total, it houses 8 cenotaphs. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This structure was designed by the famous architect Sinan and was completed in 1566, the year that Suleiman the Magnificent died.  Note the porch that surrounds this octagonal structure and the slender columns that support it.

tomb-of-suleiman-interior

View looking at the cenotaphs in the interior of the Türbe of Süleyman. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Besides Suleiman’s cenotaph there are those of his daughter and two later sultans: Suleiman II and Ahmet II.

Looking at the walls, from bottom to top, note the Iznik tiles, the Arabic freeze, the marble paneling, and the colorful glass windows.

The “Suleymaniye” is a mosque complex that was built between 1550 and 1557 by the famous architect Sinan to honor and house the remains of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 to 1566).   The complex (Turkish külliye; ca 18 acres in size) consists of the famous mosque, schools, a hospital, a hospice, a “soup kitchen,” a Turkish bath, and the tombs (Türbe) of Suleiman, his wife Roxelana, the architect Sinan and others.

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Sounds of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

For almost 1,000 years the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was the main church of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium).  It was converted into a Mosque in 1453 and in 1935 it opened as a museum.  As a “museum” no “services”—Christian or Muslim—are to take place in the building.

But would it not be interesting to hear the sounds of a Christian service in the building?  Well, you can!  For a group has produced the sounds of a Christian liturgy from the Hagia Sophia—but not in the building itself.  What?  To find out how they did this, along with samples of the liturgy, check out the following 5:00-minute video.

See some descriptive commentary Here.