The illustration above is the city map of ancient Constantinople.
The city was named after Constantine, the first emperor to welcome Christianity in the Roman Empire. It was the capital of the ancient nation of Byzantium, part of the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire. The empire occupied much of southeastern Europe and Turkey; the latter was then known as Asia Minor. The city was also the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Today, it is known as the city of Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey.
There are a few noticeable landmarks on this map.
First, the large open area in the center of the map is the Hippodrome of Constantinople. This is a popular venue for horse racing when the Byzantine Empire was around. Where the Hippodrome once stood is now the Sultanahmet Square; the arena’s remnants are in public display there.
Next, the white mosque located a little further east from the Hippodrome lies the Hagia Sophia (meaning “Divine Wisdom”), a structure standing for more than 1,400 years now. When it was first built in the 6th century, Hagia Sophia was designed as a Christian church. Having gone through several conversions in different Christian denominations, it was finally remodeled to an Islamic place of worship in 1453.
Lastly, the Forum of Constantine is the open circular area in the extreme northwest. It was said that buried underneath the forum are important relics of the Christian faith, but these were eventually unfounded.
The forum was also home to the Column of Constantine, which remains standing today. The column, known in Turkish as Çemberlitaş, initially had an Apollo statue, which is reminiscent of Rome’s pagan origins. The statue was then changed to a cross signifying the city’s Christian conversion. The cross was eventually removed when the Ottoman Empire took over the city and converted it to Islam, in what is the column’s present appearance.
Interested in this ancient city’s history? Check out these books:
- Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium
- Constantinople AD 717-18: The Crucible of History
- The Rise of Constantinople: The Ancient History of the City That Became the Byzantine Empire’s Capital
- Captivating History: The Fall of Constantinople
- The Siege and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453
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