Tag Archives: Istanbul

Connections: Istanbul and Delphi

Today we spent time in Istanbul visiting the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Archaeological Museum.

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Istanbul: from the south end of the hippodrome looking north. The obelisk of Thutmose III and in the foreground the “Serpents’ Column” from Delphi. On the right is one of the six minarets of the “Blue Mosque.”  In the distance are two minarets of the Hagia Sophia.

When visiting the Hippodrome we “ooh and ah” at the obelisk of Thutmose III and  south of it the “Serpentine Column.”

serpentine-column-detail

A detailed view of the “Serpentine Column” from Delphi that is now located in the Hippodrome in Istanbul.

Constantine brought the Serpentine Column from Delphi (Greece) to his New Rome (Constantinople/Istanbul) after he had established his capital there.

Snake Delphi

An artist’s drawing of what the original column may have looked like. Note the “tripod” on top of the three serpents’ heads.

This column/tripod had three intertwined heads (see diagram above; two heads are now missing).    It originally stood near the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Greece; see picture below).

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Delphi (Greece): view looking down on the remnants of the altar associated with the Apollo (just to the left of the two people in the lower right portion of the image). Just to the left of the altar is a square base on top of which a circular base rests. This is where the Tripod (Serpentine Column”) of the Plataeans rested.

The column and tripod were dedicated in 479 B.C.  They commemorated the victory of 31 Greek cities over the Persians in the battle at Plataea in 479 B.C.  One of its surviving heads is in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.

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One of the three Serpents’ Heads that graced the Bronze Serpent Column that originally formed the base for a “trophy” that was dedicated to the god Apollo after the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.

The Archaeological Museum in Istanbul has been under renovation for over three years.  And during that time selected artifacts are on display in a narrow winding maze.  Unfortunately, most people pass by, without even noticing, the one remaining serpent’s head from the Serpentine Column.

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.

The Roles of the Roman Emperors

Groups traveling to Turkey will often fly into Istanbul and spend a day or two there before continuing on to other parts of the country.   One of the stops in Istanbul is typically the world-class Archaeological Museum located near the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace.  For students of the Bible it houses some extremely important artifacts.  The main ones are located on the top floor of the museum including the Siloam Tunnel Inscription, The Second Temple Warning Inscription, and the Gezer Calendar (the first two from Jerusalem).

Bronze Statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (r. AD 117-138)
In Toga depicting him as “the first citizen” of Rome
Archaeological Museum in Istanbul
For additional information about this statue Click Here

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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.).

BoyAndLion02

“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 this 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!

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).

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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Suleiman: The Builder of the Walls of Jerusalem

All visitors to the Old City of Jerusalem are impressed with the 2.5 miles of walls, and seven gates, that encircle the 220 acres and 33,000 inhabitants of the Old City.

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“David’s Tower” at the Citadel south of Jaffa Gate—Portions of which were built by Suleiman the Magnificent. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In the main, these walls were built under the direction of Suleiman the Magnificent between 1537 to 1541 (Suleiman died in 1566).  Suleiman was the most powerful ruler during the long period of the Ottoman Empire (ca. 1517–1917).

After many years living in and traveling to Israel, and oohing and aahing at the the Old City walls, I was very excited on my first visit to Istanbul to visit the Topkapi Palace, from which Suleiman ruled the Ottoman Empire and the Süleymaniya.

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).  [For Christians, remember Luther died in 1546 and Calvin in 1564; the very time of Suleiman] 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.

suleiman-mosque-smView looking southwest at the exterior of the Suleymaniye Mosque.  Note the four minarets and the large central dome of the mosque.  Just below, and to the left (east) of the mosque there are two domes.  The large dome covers the Türbe of Süleyman while the small dome covers the Türbe of Roxelana, his wife.

suleiman-mosque-interior

View looking across the interior of the beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque toward the minbar (pulpit) and the miqrab (niche facing Mecca). It measures 230 x 200 ft. (70×60 m.). Note the individual prayer spaces on the carpet. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Next time—the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Hagia Sophia and Loeb Classical Series

Two items that struck me of interest.  The first is that the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey—one of the most historic/grandest churches of Christendom—now a “museum”—is being “eyed” to be converted back to a mosque!  Recently the Koran was read within the “museum” and this may be the “nose of the camel inside of the tent!”

The current “Hagia Sophia” is the third structure to stand on this spot.  The first church was built by the son of Constantine the Great,Constantius.  It was burnt down in 404.  The second was built by Theodosius II, and it was burnt down in 532.

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View of the exterior of the Hagia Sophia. The minarets were 1,000 years after the first church was built here! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The present building was built by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was dedicated on December 26, 537.  It took six years to build and over 10,000 men worked on it.  Although the dome has been repaired (rebuilt) a number of times, the church built by Justinian served as a Christian place of worship until Constantinople was captured by the Turk, Mehmet II on May 29, 1453.

interior-2

Interior of the Hagia Sophia—without scaffolding!! The roundels were added by the Muslims over 1,000 years after the church was built. The contain the names of Allah, Mohamed, and early Califs. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Mehmet II immediately turned the building into a mosque and it served as one of the major mosques of Istanbul until the reforms of Atatürk.  It reopened in 1934 as a museum.

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