Discover Hippodrome of Constantinople 


For 1,000 years, the Hippodrome was the focus of Byzantine life, and for another 400 years, it was the center of Ottoman life. This square formerly had two galleries, a central axis, beginning squares, and the semicircular southern end known as the Sphendone, portions of which are still visible at the square’s south end. The galleries that originally stood on top of this building were demolished during the Fourth Crusade, and many of the original columns were utilized in the construction of the Sulaymaniyah Mosque during the Ottoman period. 

History of Hippodrome of Constantinople

Throughout the city’s history, the Hippodrome has been the site of numerous political battles. During the Byzantine period, there was a rivalry between two political parties, which were differentiated by the colors blue and green. Supporting one of the two teams was akin to being a member of a political party, and the winning team had a significant influence on politics at the time. In 532 B.C., when chariot racing was disrupted by protestors protesting Justinian’s over-taxation system – which developed into the Nika riots (named after the rioters’ cries of the Nika word), the Greens and Blue teams joined forces against the emperor. (Or triumph!) Imperial troops slaughtered hundreds of protesters on the racing track as a consequence of their activities. For a while, chariot racing was prohibited. 

The Ottoman sultans were also paying attention to what was happening at the Hippodrome. If the empire’s fortunes deteriorate, the people gathered in this field may start discontent, which may escalate to rioting, and ultimately revolt. Sultan Mahmud II, a reformer, drove out the corrupt Janissary factions (the Sultan’s personal guard) in this area in 1826. In 1909, riots erupted in this Hippodrome plaza, culminating in Abd al-Hamid II’s demise. 

Although it may seem that this racecourse was the cause of the Byzantine emperors’ and Ottoman sultans’ downfalls, they went to great lengths to beautify it one by one. Unfortunately, many of the square’s magnificent sculptures carved by early pioneers have vanished. The troops of the Fourth Crusade, who stormed Constantinople in 1204, were among those guilty for these crimes. 

Obelisk of Theodosius

Around 1450 BC, the beautiful granite obelisk of Theodosius was carved in Egypt. It was built at Heliopolis (today a suburb of Cairo) to honor Thutmose III’s conquests, according to the hieroglyphic inscription (1479-1425 BC). It was introduced to Constantinople in AD 390 by Theodosius the Elder (379 – 395) from Egypt. Theodosius, his wife, sons, state officials, and bodyguards are engraved on the marble panels under the obelisk, watching the chariot racing from the Kathisma (imperial cabin). 

A unusual pole emerges from a hole in the earth to the south of the obelisk. This spiral column, also known as a Platea bearing, was formerly higher and topped with the heads of three snakes. This column was built to commemorate the Greek Union’s triumph over the Persians in the Battle of Platea, and it stood in front of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi from 478 BC until Constantine the Great’s reign, when he moved it to his new capital in 330 AD. The heads of snakes remained intact until the beginning of the eighteenth century, despite being badly damaged during the Byzantine era. All that is left of these skulls now is a single upper jaw, which has been discovered at Istanbul’s Archeology Museums. 

Fountain of Caesar William

The Fountain of Caesar William is a tiny stone cottage located near the northern end of the racecourse. It was given to Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1898 by the German Emperor as a symbol of goodwill to the Sultan and his people. The symbolic markings on the stone allude to Abd al-Hamid II and William II, respectively, and reflect their cordial political ties.