Istanbul - History


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Prompted by the oracle at Delphi, a man named Byzas established a town on the site of present-day Istanbul around 657 BC. Although conquered by Alexander the Great and eventually subsumed by the Roman Empire, Byzantium fared pretty well until it annoyed a Roman emperor by backing his rival in a civil war, and it was subsequently destroyed. A new city was erected in 330 AD, at first called New Rome but quickly rechristened Constantinople in deference to a new Roman emperor.

Constantinople was regarded as the capital of the Eurasian world, thanks in large part to its magnificent architecture - many of the Christian churches and palaces, as well as the impressive Hippodrome, are still visible today. Embellishments to the city continued as the Eastern Roman Empire grew in strength, reaching its peak in the time of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Over the next few centuries the city weathered attacks by the armies of the Islamic and Bulgarian empires, but the crusaders finally sacked it in 1204. The city was reclaimed by a rejuvenated Byzantine Empire 50 years later.

The fall of Constantinople occurred in 1453 when the Ottoman army of Sultan Mehmet II took the city. It was under the Ottomans that a classic mosque design was established and many other great buildings constructed in the city, which was soon renamed Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire overextended itself militarily in the 18th century and went into a decline, accentuated by the fact that it was well behind Europe in the areas of science, politics and commerce. This led to modernisation attempts and in-fighting, including the eventual slaughter in Istanbul of the janissaries, the sultan's bodyguards and a prominent symbol of the old regimes.

Ethnic nationalism ultimately splintered the Ottoman Empire. Greece asserted itself in 1832, with Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and the Arabs primed to follow suit. Meanwhile, other European powers were getting ready to squabble over the geographical pickings. Russia tried to pressure the Ottomans for control of the faltering empire's subjects, but the unfortunate result was the Crimean War, fought 1853-56 with British and French support for the Turks against encroaching Russian power.

The turn of the 20th century was greeted with more nationalist uprisings in Macedonia, Crete and Armenia, and Turkish stability hit a new low after the country opted to side with Germany during WWI - the result was the British occupation of Istanbul. The Turkish War of Independence, during which revitalised nationalist forces fought off invaders from Greece, France and Italy, finally led to the birth of the Turkish republic in 1923.

The seat of the new nation was established in Ankara, and Istanbul, no longer regarded as a political or cultural powerhouse, was relegated to a back-seat role in terms of its prominence as a city. All that changed during the 1980s and 1990s, however, when Turkey experienced an economic and tourism boom, and Istanbul is now re-staking its claim as the 'capital' of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Unfortunately the shine came off its tourist-friendly reputation when, on 17 August 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale devastated an area 90km (56mi) east of the city. A boom in prosperity conversely contributed to the disaster; jerry-built structures, erected ad-hoc in an attempt to cash in on the economic windfall, folded like matchstick models and fatalities numbered in the tens of thousands. It was enough to put a severe kink in Istanbul's tourist industry, although numbers are now beginning to rise to pre-earthquake levels.


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Thanks Umit, that was really interesting.

Even though it took me ages to read, as i have the concerntration of a fly.

I am dying to goto Istanbul. It is most definately near the top on my 'places to go' list...
I would have loved to have seen Istanbul in the Byzantine time when it was Constantinople. It sounded amazing...mostly though when i think of it, i remember the poem by the famous Irish poet, William Butler Yeats "Sailing to Byzantine" where he glorifies Constantinople and longs to become a piece of artwork and live forever there.


I must find that peom at home and put it up here, its amazing!
Umit i was just reading back over that info on Istanbul, im going there in Sept and i was just wondering if you or indeed any of the other lovely members can give me any "must see" places to go to?


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i was burn in istanbul and there are hundreds of must see places, like Topkapi Palace Museum, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, Sultan Ahmed, Blue Mosque, Galata Bridge, underground Basilica Cistern museum, lots of great nightlife places....

September is very nice time to visit belive me.