Tag Archives: Istanbul

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

When walking up to visit the gallery containing these precious objects you will usually pass a bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.   Because the lighting in the room is typically not too good, and the room really looks “dated,” most groups will bypass this statute.

However, it is worthy to pause for a minute or two to view it.  First of all, it is very rare to have a statue preserved in bronze from ancient times!  Most of the statues that are preserved are marble copies from the Roman Period—but here a real bronze original is on display.  And secondly, it is worthy to notice the dress of the emperor—in a toga that depicts him as the first among Roman Citizens.

On other statues, for example several on display in the Archaeological Museum in Antalya,

Roman Emperor Hadrian in Military Garb
Depicting him as the head of the Roman armies
Antalya Archaeological Museum
From Perge — Second Century AD
For additional information about this image Click Here

Hadrian is depicted in military garb as the head of the Roman army

Roman Emperor Hadrian in the Nude — Reflecting His Divine Status
Antalya Archaeological Museum
From Perge – near Antalya
For additional information about this statue Click Here

and in others he appears in the nude—depicting his divine status!

Thus back at the bronze statue in the Istanbul Museum, this is a great place  to begin to introduce your group to the various roles played by the Roman Emperors—for certainly you will be “bumping into them” again and again in your travels in Turkey.

Visit All of Turkey in 2 Hours?

On one of our visits to Turkey, my wife and I had a few extra days in Istanbul and we decided to visit a place that we had never been to before.    The place is called Miniatürk Park and is located about a 35-minute bus ride northwest of the bridges that cross the Golden Horn.

A general view of one area of the Miniatürk with people—for perspective. In the center is a model of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, below it a mosque complex, and above it to the right, the long red building, is the Church of Mary at Ephesus.

Miniatürk is a 15-acre site that displays 1/25 scale models of 131 structures found mainly in Turkey.  Sixty–one models are from Istanbul, 58 from Anatolia, and 12 from outside of Turkey.  The time periods represented are from earliest times up to the present.  By way of comparison, the model of Second Temple Jerusalem at the Israel Museum is on a 1/50 scale.

There is a wonderful  Panorama of the Park at the end of this Post!

Several examples of the models follow.

View of the Süleymaniye Complex in Istanbul that features a large mosque with four minarets that was designed and built by Sinan, the architect of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Note the three structures this side of the mosque. The structure closest to the mosque is where the Tomb of Suleiman (builder of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem) is located.  The one in the middle is the Tomb of his wife Roxelana.  The structure on the wall is the Dal–ül Kuran—a place where the proper reading of the Koran was taught.

View of the famous Zeus Altar that was discovered at Pergamum (the Throne of Satan?).

To see the altar of Zeus as reconstructed in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin Click Here. The altar is rectangular in shape measuring 118 x 112 ft. [36 x 34 m].  To view the site of the altar at Pergamum Click Here.

To appreciate the full vista of the Panorama, click twice on image and scroll right and left. The image is 3,000 pixels wide!

Note the people walking around the 15-acre site that displays 1/25 scale models of 131 structures found mainly in Turkey. Sixty–one are from Istanbul, 58 from Anatolia, and 12 from outside of Turkey. The time periods represented are from earliest times up to the present.

To view additional images from Miniatürk Park Click Here.

 

 

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.

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.).

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 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).

TCMZIL20

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Connections: Istanbul and Delphi

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

obelisk-and-serpentine-column

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).

altar-and-serpent-column

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.

serpent-s-head

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.