Constantinople There are few cities which unite more points of interest than Constantinople. It is unsurpassed in many elements of beauty, And for twenty-five centuries has been a place of great political and commercial importance. During several hundred years it was the chief center of learning, refinement, and military power. As the seat of the Greek Church, in it were held a large number of councils. The indications are that its future will be as important as its past history. Yet no city has suffered more from the desolations of earthquakes, pests, famine, fire, and sword.
I. History. — There are three defined epochs:
1, from the foundation of the city (B.C. 667) till it became the capital of the Roman empire (A.D. 303);
2, from this time till its conquest by the Turks (A. D. 1453); and,
3, under the Turkish dominion till the present time.
1. Byzantium. — The ancient Greeks attributed the foundation of Byzantium to a colony of Megarians, who, directed by an oracle of Apollo, built a city (B. C. 667) on the high land formerly occupied by the old seraglio. This city soon became the entrepot for the grain trade from the Black Sea to Greece. Without any great military power or ambition of its own Byzantium fell into the hands of the different cities that successively became dominant in Greece. It yielded without resistance to Darius (B.C. 512). The ten thousand rested here in their retreat (B.C. 400). During a siege by Philip of Macedon (B.C. 340), a light suddenly appeared one night, enabling the Athenian garrison to see and thwart an intended assault by the besiegers. In commemoration of this event, a crescent appears on some Byzantine coins, and to this is usually attributed the origin of the crescent, the emblem of the Turkish empire, adopted immediately after the conquest of Constantinople. With Greece this city fell under the dominion of Rome (B.C. 146). An ancient legend relates that the apostle St. Andrew, on his arrival at Galata, a suburb of Constantinople, pressed the form of a cross into the reck with his hand. After preaching here two years, he was driven away by the tyrant Zeuxippus, and he continued his labors on the opposite Asiatic shore. Byzantium had, in order to resist the frequent sieges of the Northern barbarians, been made the strongest fortified city in the Roman empire. For harboring Piscinus its walls were razed by Septimius Severus (A.D. 169). These were soon rebuilt, but the city was conpletely destroyed by Constantine (A.D. 324) for having rebelled again.
2. Under the Eastern Empire. — Many reasons combined to induce Constantine to remove the capital of the Roman empire from Rome to Byzantium, especially his desire to free himself from the remnants of the power of the Roman senate; his desire to follow the Oriental custom of a great emperor and conqueror founding his own capital; the central commercial position of Byzantium in the then known world, and its favorable position for controlling the troublesome parts of the empire on the Danube and the Euphrates. On May 11, 330, the new capital was inaugurated by festivals and ceremonies, half Christian and half pagan, and lasting forty days. Among the many embellishments which Constantine added to the city were the hippodrome, surrounded by palaces, porticoes, and statues brought from all parts of the Roman empire; the cistern of a thousand columns, the church of St. Sophia, and many other churches and public buildings. Theodosius also greatly embellished and enlarged the capital. In 396 Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern or Greek division of the Roman empire. The glory of the city increased until the time of Heraclius (A.D. 641), although subjected to many scourges. Justinian (527-595) may be regarded as its second founder. After a civil commotion in A.D. 532, in which 30,000 men were slain, and which reduced the city to ashes, Justinian rebuilt St. Sophia with unparalleled magnificence. His gorgeous palace, the twenty-five other churches and many public edifices that he built, have all since perished. The size of the city may be estimated from the fact that 300,000 persons died from the pest in one year. In 675 the Arabs lost 30,000 men before the walls, and in 718 1161 ships of war. The greatest destruction of works of art in all history occurred in the ravaging of Constantinople by the Crusaders (1204), who spent eight days after they took the city in burning and plundering all public and private property. The restoration of the Byzantine empire (1261) had little effect in restoring the glory of the capital. The Genoese and Venetians, who had established themselves in the suburbs of Galata and Pera, had many contests near the city for commercial supremacy. In 1391 the Turks, who had already conquered most of European Turkey, forced the Byzantine emperor to permit a mosque to be erected in Constantinople, to permit the appointment of a kadi to look after the interests of the resident Mohammedan merchants, and to pay the sultan a yearly tribute of 10,000 ducats. In 1453 the Turks took the city by assault, after a siege of forty days. In this siege the Turks had several cannon of three and four feet calibre.
3. Under the Turks. — For the space of three days after the taking of the city it was given up to pillage, and was the scene of frightful massacre and destruction of public and private property. After the three days had elapsed Mahomet caused the carnage to be stopped, and offered to such Greeks as chose to remain protection in their property and in the exercise of their religion. The sultan then entered upon the erection of a series of public edifices. He built the castle of seven towers, the two seraglios, and a number of magnificent mosques. He also transformed St. Sophia and other churches into mosques. The chief sultans after Mahomet have followed his example in building at least one magnificent mosque. Constantinople has suffered frequently from fires that have often devastated whole quarters. In 1726 the first printing-press was set up in the city. During an outbreak in the Greek quarter in 1821, during the Greek Revolution, the Greek patriarch was hung by the mob. In 1826 the power of the Janissaries, who had opposed most fanatically the introduction of modern civilization by the sultan, was completely broken by the shooting of 40,000 of them by, the other troops of the army.
II. Description of the City previous to its Occupation by the Turks (1453). — The ancient Byzantium occupied the extreme point of the peninsula between the Sea of Marmora and the Golden Horn, upon which the great capital was afterwards built. As Constantinople, the city was enlarged to its present limits. On the water side was built a single wall without a ditch. On the land side was a double, later a triple wall, each part from 14 to 20 feet high, 20 feet thick, with a ditch 28 feet broad in front, defended also by 548 towers, and a castle at each corner of the great triangle which the city covered, and penetrated by 3 gates. The private houses were small and poor.
Of the many public places or edifices we can notice but a few.
(a) The Forum of Constantine (now part of the seraglio palace), which Constantine surrounded with a circus, an imperial palace, churches, baths, and many private palaces. Here he placed the porphyry column surrounded with wreaths of gold, "the Palladium of Rome," which he brought from that city; on this pillar he placed a bronze statue of Apollo, brought from Heliopolis, in Phrygia, and which Constantine wished to have considered as his own statue, substituting the nails of the passion for the rays of the sun, in order to give the statue a resemblance to Christ. This statue is now lost. The column is partly destroyed, the remainder being called the "Burnt Column."
(b) The Forum of Theodosius, laid out by Theodosius (A.D. 394), and containing a triumphal pillar like the Column of Trajan in Rome, and an equestrian statue of a man with winged feet, whom the popular tradition held to be Joshua commanding the sun to stand still; under the left foot of the horse was buried the Palladium of Constantinople, consisting of a doll or body wrapped in woolen garments, and which the Latins (in 1204) dug up and burnt, after having destroyed the statue.
(c) The Forum Bovis, containing the brazen bull in which criminals were burnt to death.
(d) The Hippodrome or Circus, near St. Sophia, in which races and other games were held, and which Constantine adorned with the best works of Grecian art, brought from all parts of the empire; over the gate through which the horses entered the circus stood the four horses of Lysippus, which originally were placed in Athens, were brought here from Chios, then taken to Venice (1206), to Paris by Napoleon (1797), and finally returned to Venice (1815); an obelisk, 61 feet high, brought from Egypt to Athens, and thence to Constantinople, is yet standing; the triple bronze snakes, that formed the interior of the Tripod of Delphos, 13 inches in diameter and 10 feet high, is yet standing, one serpent's head having been cut off by Mahomet with his sabre when he entered the city (1453), the other two having been removed during the last century. These, then, are all the remains of ancient art that have been preserved from the immense number brought to Constantinople. What few the Crusaders left (1204) the Turks have since destroyed.
(e) The Imperial Palace stood on the site of the old seraglio. It contained many magnificent buildings and rooms; in the chapel of St. Theodor were the relics, consisting of the "original cross" and the "staff of Moses."
(f) The Hebdomon Palace, where Leo Philosophos held his school, containing five golden towers, supporting a golden tree on which golden birds sung, and containing the "head of John the Baptist."
(g) The Palace and Baths of Lausos, adorned with many works of art, and containing the imperial library of 120,000 volumes (burnt 475).
(h) The many heathen temples were either turned into churches or secularized by Theodosius.
(i) Of churches, by far the most important is that of St. Sophia (q.v.).
(j) The Choras Church contained a "picture of the Virgin Mary painted by St. Luke," which the Turks cut to pieces when they took the city.
(k) The Church of the Holy Apostles, built by Constantine, together with the Heroon (the burial-place of the emperors from the time of Constantine), with their rich ornaments and treasures, were plundered by the Crusaders in 1204, and destroyed in 1463.
(l) The Church of St. George, the Greek patriarchal church, is an ancient edifice, with many mosaics and Byzantine paintings. Externally it is entirely destitute of ornament. It contains the "chair of St. Chrysostom," richly inlaid with pearl, and on which the patriarch sits during great festivals; also the "pillar to which Christ was bound when he was scourged."
(m) The Blachednen Church, containing the "holy chest with the garments of the Virgin Mary," and a "miraculous image whose veil lifted itself every Friday evening, and settled down again on Saturday at vespers." On the yearly festival of this church a great procession took place, with the emperor at its head.
(n) The Church of the Virgin at the Golden Spring, near a spring or cistern of that name containing golden or "fried fish." A tradition has it that "during the last assault by the Turks, a Greek monk in the monastery at this place disbelieved the report that the Turks had entered the walls, saying, 'I would sooner believe that these fish I am frying would leap out of the pan of hot oil and come to life again in the cistern.' Scarcely had he uttered these words when the fish sprang out into the cistern. Their descendants are red on one side and brown on the other, in commemoration of this event."
(o) Monasteries abounded in the city soon after the origin of this institution. Some of them were large, and occupied sightly positions.
(p) The Jews were allowed a synagogue by Constantine, but they were expelled from the city by Theodosius.
(q) Large aqueducts supplied the city with an abundance of water; some of these are yet in use, others are out of repair.
(r) Vast cisterns, or subterranean reservoirs, were dug out during the reigns of the first emperors. Most of these are now out of repair, and but few contain water. One of the most remarkable of these was the cistern of Philoxenus (now called the cistern of the thousand and one columns), containing three stories, supported each by 224 pillars. It is now used for silk-spinning. It contained 1,000,000 cubic feet of water. The cistern of St. Peter contained 6,000,000 cubic feet of water.
III. The Modern or Turkish City. — With Christian nations the city retains its Greek name, Constantinople. The Turks call it Stamboul, or Istamboul; also Assitana. The beauty of situation of the city is world- renowned. Each of the seven hills is crowned by a mosque, with its tall slender minarets. The rich profusion of foliage from the public and private gardens blends with the brown of the unpainted wooden houses, and contrasts with the white of the mosques and other public buildings, presenting a picturesque effect to be seen in no other European city. The harbor is crowded with vessels and steamers from all parts of the world. Slight, slender caiques dart between the larger boats, and give an unusual animation to the already over-crowded harbor. The suburbs of Pera and Galata rise on the other side of the Golden Horn, covered with massive palaces and stone houses. Across the Bosphorus is Scutari, with its vast, dark, cypress-bound cemeteries; and in the distance the snow-capped Olympus raises its head above the horizon.
Constantinople is at present the capital of the Turkish empire, of which it forms a distinct province. It is the residence also of the Greek patriarch, who holds here the patriarchal synod, composed of twelve bishops. Here are also an Armenian patriarch and a Greek-Catholic bishop. The Protestant missions of Europe and America for the Orient have their headquarters in Constantinople. The city, with its immediate suburbs, contains above a million inhabitants. Stamboul, or the old city, contains about half this number. More than half of the population are Turks; the remainder are Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, and some thousands each of nearly every nation of Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa.
Within, the city loses much of its charm. The streets are narrow, uncleanly, and full of dogs; they are not lighted, and every passer-by, after nightfall, is arrested if he has not a lighted lantern: the streets are not named, nor the houses numbered.
(a) The houses are almost entirely of wood, are unpainted, of two or three stories, and have projecting latticed windows.
(b) Of public squares there are but few of importance. The chief are the Hippodrome (see above, d) and the Seraskai Place, containing the offices of the war department and the lofty, fine tower from which is to be obtained the finest view of Constantinople and its environs. This place is about a mile in circumference.
(c) The Seraglio, once so famous as the splendid palace of the sultans, had not been used as a royal palace since the erection of the new Seraglio on the Bosphorus. It was burned in 1865. Near the old seraglio is the office of the grand vizier, entered by the "Sublime Porte," where the sessions of the cabinet are held, and where the sultan meets the foreign ambassadors. There are many kiosks, or royal summer-houses on the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.
(d) Constantinople contains thirteen imperial mosques, above a hundred large mosques (or Djami. i.e. places of reunion), and more than a hundred besides of smaller mosques (or Medjid, i.e. places of prayer). The chief mosque is that of Omar. SEE ST. SOPHIA. The second mosque of importance is that of Achmet the First (built in 1610). Here are celebrated with great pomp the festival of Bairam, that of Mevloud (the birth of the Prophet), and that of the departure of the caravans for Mecca. It is said to contain a piece of the black stone of Mecca.
(e) Churches and Synagogues. — The Greeks have twenty-one churches in the old city. Of these, St. George's (see above, II, 2) is the chief or patriarchal church. The Armenians have a number of churches, among them the Patriarchal church (or, rather, two churches — one for men, the other for women), and the Church of the Nine Angelchoirs, containing a "miracle-working pillar," to which the sick of fevers are brought. The Romish and Protestant churches are in Pera. There are several synagogues in the old city. The British and American Bible Societies have their head- quarters in the old city.
(f) There are many Mohammedan monasteries for the different orders of dervishes, and also several Greek monasteries.
(g) Burial-places for the Turks are found near all the mosques. Burial- chapels (Turbes) for the sultans, the founders of mosques, and their families. are found within the enclosure of the mosques.
(h) The public instruction was reorganized in 1847. Schools were divided into three grades. Attendance upon the primary schools is obligatory. In them are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, religion, history of the Turkish empire, and the Turkish language. In the second grade, the history of the Mohammedan religion, mathematics, natural science, and other branches are taught. The technical schools are many in number, as the two schools in the mosques of Achmet and Selim for the persons designed for civil offices; the school founded by the sultaness in 1850 for the education of diplomatists and other high officers of state; the colleges for the education of the ulemas or priests; the schools of military and naval instruction; the college of medicine; the veterinary, and other schools. All of these are supported by the state when the endowments do not suffice. The University, comprising many of their highest schools, has a large building, but is only partly organized. The school systems of the Christians and Jews stand under the direction of their church authorities, and are much neglected.
(i) Of libraries there are over a hundred smaller ones connected with the mosques, and forty large ones, some of which have fine rooms, and are accessible to non-Mohammedans.
IV. The Environs of Constantinople. —
(a) Eyoub, above Stamboul, on the Golden Horn, is the most sacred spot in Turkey. Eyoub was the standard-bearer of the Prophet, and perished in the first attack on Constantinople by the Saracens (668). His body was miraculously discovered by Mahomet II (1453), who built here the mosque of Eyoub. There is also a stone, surrounded by a silver plate, containing an "impression of the foot of the Prophet," which he made in the rock at the building of the Caaba. Within this mosque is the sword of Othman, which the sultans gird on as their inaugural ceremony instead of being crowned.
Around the mosque, which is richly built and decorated, are tombs of many great men of state, mingled with trees and shrubbery, and surrounded by hospitals and an extensive cypress-covered grave-yard.
(b) Galata, on the opposite side of the Golden Horn, was formerly a Genoese city. It now contains many important European houses of business, and one part is filled with the scum of all European nations.
(c) Pera, on the crown of the hill above Galata, contains the residences of European ambassadors and merchants, many fine and lofty residences, and many Christian churches.
(d) At Kassim-pasha, where vessels of war are built, and at Top-hana, where cannon are made, the works rival those of any European power.
(e) Scutari, on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus, is the landing-place of all the commerce to and from Asia, and hence has many and large khans. As the place from which Mohammedanism set out in its conquest of Europe, it is considered by the Turks to be sacred ground, and its burial- place is by far the largest around Constantinople. Near this burial place are the famous mosque and barracks of Selim, and the hospital where Florence Nightingale performed her deeds of mercy during the Crimean war.
(f) The Bosphorus is lined with palaces of the sultan, of pashas, merchants, and ambassadors, and with cities and villages. In one of them, Bebek, is a college founded by the missionary Dr. Hamlin, and endowed by American Christians with $100,000. — Hesychius, De originibus Constantinopoleos, 1596 (Leipzig, 1820); Visqucsnel, La Turquie (Paris, 4 vols. 8vo); Th. Gautier, Constantinople (Paris, 1853); Dallaway, Constantinople, Ancient and Modern; Adolphe Joanne et Emile Isambert, Itineraire, descriptif, historique, et archeologique de L'Orient (Paris, 1867); Hammer, Histoire de l'empire Ottoman (Paris, 8 vols. 8vo); Hammer, Constantinople und der Bosporus.