What happened to the hippodrome in Constantinople

Istanbul not Constantinople - or Byzantium?

I'm going for a walk through Byzantium today and Constantinople!

Byzantium, Nova-Roma, Constantinople, Poli, Gostantnubolis, Caringrad, Kostantiniyye, Istanbul? This city is everything a city that is full of history and stories. History is here in the truest sense of the wordlayered.In modern Istanbul today, a Moloch of 12,000,000 inhabitants, traces of the past can be found everywhere.

Today I'm going to look at Byzantium. I am going on a journey through time to January 27, 477 AD in the Eastern Roman capital.

The City Walls of Byzantium: The Theodosian Wall

The motorway ring leads along the Theodosian Land Wall

January 27, 477

I chose the worst possible day for my walk along the city wall. There is turmoil and panic everywhere: An earthquake partially destroyed the Theodosian city wall during the night. And now of all times: theHuns under Attila threaten Byzantium, the land around the golden horn is devastated. “Flying commands” of around 16,000 men will clear the trenches of rubble and rebuild walls and towers - everyone has to help. The Byzantines are used to that, even in peacetime all citizens have to take part in the maintenance of the wall. Will the Byzantines manage to rebuild the fortifications before the Hun king attacks?

660 BC

Byzantium even looks back on almost 1000 years of history in the year 477, since it was from Doric Greeks 660 BC. founded has been. Even at this point in time, the geographically excellently located and much sought-after city had a turbulent time behind it:

513 BC - 236 AD

First internal Greek conflicts, 513 BC invasion of the Persian king Darius, 478 BC occupied by Sparta, destroyed in 196 AD by the Roman emperor Septimus Severus, then rebuilt, plundered by the Goths in 236 ... What boring enumerations of numbers and names are for us was destruction, displacement, tears and death for the people of Byzantium. Only shortly after Emperor Constantine united the two parts of the Roman Empire in 324 and appointed Byzantium as "Nova Roma" as the main city, the city limits of the Constantinian Wall became too small. It was high time that the city limits were expanded at the beginning of the 4th century and the construction of the new Theodosian city wall was completed.

January 27, 477

Back to the year 477. I only walk a bit along the Theodosian Wall, including the sea walls it is almost 20km long and the land wall an impressive 70 meters wide. Of course I'm within the city limits (don't want to be caught by Attila). The new urban area was laid out very generously. Most of the parts have not yet been built on, fruit and vegetables are grown and livestock are kept. But now there is a state of emergency, there is no getting through. I am annoyed that I haven't picked a better day for my trip. For example one of the days when one of the Processions for Saint Mary, the patroness of the plant takes place. The local residents thought they were more effective than all the military precautions. Although that wouldn't have been a better day - these processions always take place during sieges.

By the way: Yes, they managed to rebuild the fastening system in time. The city wall, higher and with an additional wall, was rebuilt within 2 months. Attila and his army had no chance. After this bankruptcy, he instead invaded the Western Roman Empire.

Chora church

5th century

I continue to the Chora Church (Kariye Camii). Chora means "surrounding area" because when the monastery church was built in the 5th century it was still outside the city walls. Only between 1215 and 1217 will the Chora Church with its impressive mosaics and frescoes be furnished for which it is famous.

When the church was converted into a mosque, the mosaics and frescoes under the plaster disappeared.

They were exposed again in the middle of the 20th century

The mosaics show biblical scenes from the ancestors of Jesus to the Welgericht

Valens Aqueduct

375 AD

Begun by Constantine the Great and completed under Emperor Flavius ​​Valens in 375, the Valens Aqueduct named after him supplied over The city with water for 1500 years from the nearby Belgrade Forest.The Valens Aqueduct runs through the Fathi district

Yereban cistern

542 AD

It is difficult for me not to take a detour to the year 1963 in my mental journey, I would have liked to have sat in the rowboat with Sean Connery while filming “From Moscow with Love”.

But in the end I want to go for a walk in Byzantium and walk to the basilica that used to be above the water reservoir. The Yereban cistern is through336 columns, which were purchased from various places. The water for the palace that came from the Belgrade Forest via the Valens Aqueduct was stored here. Up to 80,000 cubic meters.

If you look a Medusa in the face you turn to stone. It's good that the two medusas in the cistern are upside down - then nothing can happen

D.Most of the 336 pillars that support the vault have Corinthian capitals

The great palace

410 AD

I am on my way to the great palace. Now my imagination is asked, because there is almost nothing left of the palace. In a practical location, namely with its own entrance to the hippodrome, so as not to miss a chariot race, Emperor Theodosius built the palace around 410. Until the 10th century, the Byzantine rulers had the palace complex expanded. But the palace district began to decline from around 1150: the Byzantine rulers preferred smaller, cheaper palaces.
The Mosaic Museum is hidden behind the Blue Mosque

Many of the floor mosaics in the Grand Palace depict scenes from animals

The remains of the palace's once-magnificent floor mosaics, forgotten in the Mosaic Museum, are all that remains of the Grand Palace.


203 AD

In my journey through time to the year 530 I beam myself to the Hippdrom. There are horse races going on and the city is packed with people. I can hardly imagine how 100,000 people fit into the hippodrome built in 203! Only the Circus Maximus in Rome is larger in that of the ancient world, and Istanbul's modern football stadiums also offer no more than around 50,000 visitors.

How did you arrive
long before the times of public transport?

The crowd is not enthusiastic about football, everyone is crazy about horse racing. The question here is not Fenerbahçe or Galatsaray, but rather the circus parties of the “blues” or the “greens” compete against each other.

It's good that I didn't travel to the year 532, because the circus parties, which were actually racing stables, temporarily gained strong political power and mobilized the people. So it was 532 on the Nika uprisings which probably killed up to 30,000 people and the city was devastated.

The hippodrome was the sporting and social center of the city. The people were amused, but as already mentioned, the emperor also liked to visit the hippodrome. He had his own grandstand, of course, on the roof of which a bronze four-legged friend was enthroned. The Venetians kidnapped this quadrigee during the 4th Krez procession in 1204, today it is in Venice on St. Mark's Church.

A give and take (or take and go ?!), as the two oldest buildings in Istanbul can be found on the hippodrome: One Obelisk from Egypt and the bronze serpent column from Delphi. From the hippodrome today is on At Meydanı
only the ground plan can be recognized - the obelisk and the serpentine columns hold position on the former center line (spina) of the racetrack.

I wonder where I can get a beer from here, or what do you drink at an ancient horse race?

Millienium stone

4th century

Formerly a pompous gold-adorned double triumphal arch, the Millenium Stone is easily overlooked today. Probably built by Emperor Constantine I in the early 4th century, the Millienium stone was the zero point of all roads: from here the distances were measured.

Hagia Sophia

573 AD