Suitcase and World: Istanbul. The Hippodrome.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Istanbul. The Hippodrome.

rom the Aya Sophia, Lei and I made our way to the Blue Mosque via the Hippodrome which lies inside Sultanahmet Park.

Back in the day when Istanbul was known as Constantinople, the Hippodrome was a race track where chariots races were held. To raise the image of his new capital, Byzantine Emperor Constantine brought works of art from all over the empire to adorn it. The monuments were set up in the middle of the Hippodrome. Today, little remains of the original track and only a few of the monuments have survived the years.

The German FountainThis octagonal, domed fountain sits at the entrance to the Hippodrome. It was built in Germany and presented by German Emperor Wilhelm II to Sultan Abdulhamid II and the city of Istanbul in 1898. As beautifu as it is, the fountain which was built in a neo-Byzantine style, does not blend with the ancient monuments that surround it.

Obelisk of Thutmose III
Originally erected by Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III at Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt to commemorate the victories of his forces in Mesopotamia, the obelisk was brought to Constantinople in 390 AD by Theodosius I. To transport the obelisk from Egypt, Theodosius had it cut into three sections. Only the top section remains and it stands today where Theodosius placed it, on a marble pedestal decorated with reliefs that depict Theodosius I, his children and other prominent personalities watching the races from the imperial box, as well as the spectators, musicians, dancers and chariot races. Built in 1490 BC, the obelisk is the oldest monument in the city and has always been considered by the Turkish to be magical.

The Noodle
Okay, this monument isn't really called "The Noodle". I nicknamed it that because it reminded me of a piece of gemelli.

Officially known as "The Serpent Column", this bronze piece was originally cast to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians during the Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. In 324 AD, Constantine ordered the column to be moved from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and set in middle of the Hippodrome.

Originally, the top was adorned by the heads of the three intertwined serpents that formed the legs of a golden bowl. The bowl was destroyed or stolen during the Fourth Crusade. The serpent heads were destroyed as late as the end of the 17th Century. Parts of the heads were recovered and are displayed at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

A short walk through the Hippodrome and we soon found ourselves at the visitor entrance to the Blue Mosque.