Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, and the Basilica Cistern

In Istanbul, we stayed in the historic area of Sultanahmet where the most famous tourist spots are. In AD 330, Istanbul -- then Constantinople -- was the capital of the Roman / Byzantine Empire and the Great Palace of Constantinople stood next to the Hippodrome -- the stadium for horse and chariot racing. The palace is almost entirely gone; the Blue Mosque now sits on that site, but the Hippodrome is still there. They've paved the old racetrack and the surface is several feet above the surface in ancient times. There are three monuments in the Hippodrome. One was erected in the 10th century and was covered in scaffolding when we visited. The other two were were brought to the Hippodrome and erected in the 4th century AD as relics of the ancient world. One of them is the Obelisk of Theodosius:

It's from ancient Eygpt -- 1490 BC. The other is the Serpent Column. It once was 8 meters tall, with 3 serpent heads supporting a golden bowl and was created to commemorate the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. One of the serpent heads is displayed in the istanbul Archaeology Musuem, but this is all that remains at the Hippodrome:

Next to the Hippodrome is the Blue Mosque, built in the early 1600s and so named for the blue tiles in the interior.

Next to the mosque (on the same grounds) is the tomb of Ahmed I.

Underneath Sultanahmet is the Basilica Cistern, dating to the 6th century. It's huge with columns everywhere. And a nice escape from the heat. At the back, there are two Medusa heads used a column bases and clearly taken from some other location and brought there for unknown reasons.


Unknown said...

cool! i always wondered what a/the hippodrome is/was.

Jackie said...

Hi Tim!

Funnily enough, Wikipedia informs me that hippodromes are Greek and the Hippodrome in Istanbul is Roman, so technically it's not a hippodrome but a circus.

DY said...

Thanks for sharing these photos! Turkey looks very exciting. Did it feel like Europe? Or more like Asia?

Also, did you hear that Theo Epstein is going to join the Cubs? Could the curse be over in '12?

Jackie said...

DY - I'll just say that Turkey was very different. And I'm still working on plenty of photos (I'm just very slow).

As for the Cubs, plenty of people have been brought in to save them in the past with varying amounts of success. So I'm going to wait and see.