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The Hippodrome of Constantinople

One of the most significant sights in Istanbul, the Hippodrome of Constantinople, was originally built by Emperor Septimius Severus in 203AD to compensate the damage he had done to the city a couple years ago. About a hundred years later, Constantine the Great wanted a much bigger and grander hippodrome for his new Capital city; New Rome. In 330AD a 480 meters long and 117 meters wide hippodrome with a 100,000 spectator capacity was completed.

Not much of Constantine’s Hippodrome is left, as the Ottomans recycled most of it to build the famous and must see Blue mosque, only 3 significant columns standing right in the middle of the park stand today.

  • The Egyptian obelisk: It was originally erected in Karnak in Upper Egypt for Pharaoh Thutmose the third in 15th century BC. And brought to Constantinople in the 4th century AD to adorn the new capital. The obelisk we see today is not the whole thing; it is just one third of the original obelisk but probably was cut to transport. It looks brand new as it is made of granite. On it is written, ‘’Thutmose, who crossed the great river of Naharin (Euphrates) as a mighty conqueror at the head of his army.’’
  • Serpent Column: Right next to the Egyptian obelisk there is a strange looking bronze column which is a triumphal statue of three snakes intertwined each other. Originally erected in front of Apollo temple at Delphi in Greece to commemorate the victory of 31 Greek city states over Persians in the island of Plataea in 479 BC. The original statue had a golden cauldron on top of the snake heads but not present now along with the heads unfortunately. When Constantine the great moved the capital to Byzantium, he needed some new adornments for his new capitol that’s why Serpent column is in Istanbul today. Golden cauldron was stolen by the 4th Crusaders in 1204 and we don’t know what happened to it. As for the snake heads, one of them is in British museum in London like everything else, one of them is in Archeological museum in Istanbul, and the other is still missing; probably in a private collection.
  • The Column of Constantine Porphyrogenitus: This column is at the west end of the Hippodrome and looks older than the other monuments but actually it is younger. Probably it was erected by Constantine the Great but in 10th century Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus had it encased in bronze and inscribed in the celebration of the deeds of his grandfather; Basil I Macedonian. As you may guess, the bronze was stolen by the 4th crusaders leaving only the plain obelisk beneath.
  • German Fountain: The last monument in the Hippodrome is called ‘’ German Fountain’’ as it is given by the German Kaiser Wilhelm the second as a generous gift. Well, when you look at the history, you certainly understand that there is no such a thing as gift from The German as they were only after the railway job and in the end they got it. So even now some of the railroad in Turkey was built by the German. But I must say that it is a beautiful octagonal fountain and still works.

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