Hippodrome in Ancient Rome and History
The “Hippodrome” (horse race track) was built in the 2nd century during the reign of the Roman emperor Septimus Severus and was explaned to colossal deminsions under constantine the Great. Most historians record the seating capacity of this huge arena as 30,000, but some estimates go as high as 60,000.
The hipodrome, during the Roman and Byzantine empires was the city’s centre for entertainment, amusement and sports. Two- or four- horse chariot race highlighted each day’s programe, which also featured performances by groups of musicians, dancers, acrobats and animal trainers. Especially during the Roman Empire, when holidays were numerous, people had ample leisure time and spend most of it at the Hippodrome.
The Hippodrome was a Ushaped structure, and the Emperor’s box, with four bronze statues of horses on its roof, was on the eastern side of the track. A low wall separated the two tracks and also displayed mementoes brought from all around the empire, as well as statues of famous chariot drivers and horses. In those days, a chariot champion was regarded as a public hero and worthy of all conceivable riches. Drivers, therefore, competed vigorously, sometimes employing the most ruthless tactics to win. The teams of “Blues”, “Greens”, “Reds”, etc. even had political power. This mingling of sport and politic sometimes led to street fights and even massacres during a chariot race. For centruies, the Hippodrome stood intact and remained one of the most important landmarks in the Byzantine city. But, after the invasion of the Crusaders in 1204, it was stripped of almmost all the monuments that once adorned it and eventually destroyed.
During the Ottoman role, the Hippodrome grounds were used occasionally for festivities and the ceremonies that recalled its early times.
What is the left once magnificent arena is the racetrack or rather the outline of it- (4-5 meters above the original), and only three monuments: two obeliks and the Serpentine Column
Sultanahmet Square and Hippodrome
Sultanahmet and its surroundig which is the center of the Historical Peninsula is also the most lively tourism center of Istanbul . During Byzantine and Ottoman period, this area also experienced a lively past that suits its identity today. It is the most important area one has to see in Istanul with Hagia Sophia Museum and Sultanahmet Mosque rising at bothends of the square, museums with rich collections, artists and monuments of hippodrome.
The square at the south of Hagia Sophia was called augusteion on Byzantine period. The reason was because it was presented in the memory of Augusta Helena. With the Constantine Forum (Çemberlitaş) nearby, this was the most important square of the town. On its southeast, there was Khalke Gate, the entrance of Grand Palace amd hammams and palaces of important people were lined around the square.
Hippodrome on the west of Sultanahmet Mosque was the most glorious and lively square of Byzantine and Ottomanperiod. Hippodrome had rectangular plan with a circle on south side and it was the race area for horse cars that could be watched by approximately a hundred thousand people. The racing cars used to travel around the wall called Spina. Only three of the monuments on Spina have reached today; these are: Egypt Obelisk, Serpent Column and Constantine (Bonded) Column. The emperor watched the races from his box named Kathisma which was linked to the Great Palace. Hippodrome was also an area where dances and shows of wild animals and rope dancers were held apart from the races. The walls of the Hippodrome were ornamented with many statues and paintings and were used until the end of 12th century and the car races ended after 1261 at the and of Latin invasion Byzantine Palace moved to Blahernai.
The name of the Hippodrome was changed as Atmeydanı during Ottoman period. The palace weddings, big ceremonies, javelin games and riots were carried out at this square. The Hippodrome area today is reduced in size compared to its orginal. On the east side, at the area where there used to be the viewers ‘stands, there is Sultanahmet Mosque; on the west there is İbrahim Pasha Palace (Turkish-Islamic Arts Museum) and on the south at the section with a square plan, there is Marmara University building.
What You Can See in Hippodrome
was brought from its former location in fron of the temple of Luxor in Egypt. It was brought by Emperor Theodosius I by sea and was erected in its current location in the Hippodrome in Constantinople in 390 A.D. Oriiginally, the obelisk was erected for Pharaoh Thutmosis III in 1700 B.C. The tall obelisk, approximately 20 meters high, is made of pink granite and covered on all four sides by hieroglyphic pictograms which recount the glories of Pharaoh Thutmosis III and depict the anicient Egyptian god Amon- Ra. At the very bottom is a marble base which has epigraphs in Greek and Latin while there are scenes retelling the erection of stone pillar and chariot races on the other two sides. The obelisk is the oldest monument in Istanbul and is located exactly in the middle of the hippodrome. The reason for its relocation in Constantinople was, in addition to decoractive purposes, to demonstrate the dominance of the East Roman Empire and its superioty over Egypt.
At the southern end of the Hippodrome stands an obelisk of roughly shaped blocks of stone. Its date is unknown. Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetus had it repaired in the 10th century. The bronze plates that covered its surfaces were stripped during the Fourth Crusade.
The Serpentine Column, one of the most ancient monuments in Istanbul, was originallly the base of a golden cauldron and was first erected at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. The heads of three interwined serpents provided the three points on which the caudorn rested. Bronze items, captured by 31 Greek cities when they defeated the Persians in the 5th century B.C., were melted and used to make the eight-metre column and the cauldron. In 324 A.D., Emperor Constantine the Great Had it carried to Istanbul and erected at the Hippodrome. The heads of the serpents were still intact in the early 1700s, but were broken at a later time. One of the heads was found and placed in the Istanbul Archaellogical Museum.
This fountain was a present from the German emperor Wilhelm II to Sultan Abdulhamid II in 1898 as a commemoration of Turkish- German friendship. It was transported, piece by piece, from Germany and installed in Istanbul. Both of the rulers were present at the opening ceremony. The dome is covered with gold mosaics. In Ottoman times, sweet drinks would be dispensed to the public from the fountain on religious holidays.
This church consired by many authers and historians to be the eight wonder of the world. This structure one of the few strectures of such huge dimensions to have survived for so long. It is masterpiece of architecture. Hagia Sophia built between 532 and 537 at the age of justinian I (527-565) is among the foremost works in the world of architecture and art history. (read more)
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, one of the most revered masterpieces not only of Turkey but of the entire Islamic world, inspires deep admiration in all those who visit it. This mosque with six minarets, built between 1609 and 1616, is a striking example of the classic Turkish mosque and surrounded by many monuments dating to earlier phases of history of Istanbul. (read more)
The entrance to Istanbul’s largest and most interesting covered cistern is through a small building to the west of Hagia Sophia Square. The cross-vaulted ceiling of this forest of columns is made of brick. A street runs above a section of the cistern. Because a basilica once stood above the cistern, it is known as the Basilica Cistern. (read more)
Do you know Topkapi Palace in Istanbul Turkey? Are you think about come to Istanbul or do you want come to Istanbul? Don’t think, just come. Because, I’m sure this magnificent city will captivate you. İt is not an exaggeration. Actually, so many people can say to this who they came to Istanbul. This city views, pictures, monuments, structure, historical places… all of them amazing. You will not be ragret. Plus, you shoud know Topkapi Palace is one of the must see part of this city. (read more)