Istanbul

Istanbul  is the largest city in Turkey, constituting the country’s economic, cultural, and historical heart. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, with its commercial and historical centre lying on the continental European side and about a third of its population living on the Asian side of Eurasia. With a population of 14.4 million, the city forms the largest urban agglomeration in Europe as well as the largest in the Middle East, and the fifth-largest city proper in the world. Istanbul’s area of 5,343 square kilometers (2,063 sq mi) is coterminous with Istanbul Province, of which the city is the administrative capital. Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus strait in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.

Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople (Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoúpolis; Latin: Constantinopolis) or New Rome (Greek: Νέα Ῥώμη, Nea Romē; Latin: Nova Roma) in 330 AD, it served as an imperial capital for the Roman and Byzantine (330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.

Istanbul’s strategic position along the historic Silk Road, rail networks to Europe and the Middle East, and the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean have helped foster an eclectic populace, although less so since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Overlooked for the new capital during the interwar period, the city has since regained much of its prominence. The population of the city has increased tenfold since the 1950s, as migrants from across Anatolia have flocked to the metropolis and city limits have expanded to accommodate them. Arts festivals were established at the end of the 20th century, while infrastructure improvements have produced a complex transportation network.

Approximately 11.6 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2012, two years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world’s fifth-most-popular tourist destination. The city’s biggest draw remains its historic center, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its cultural and entertainment hub can be found across the city’s natural harbor, the Golden Horn, in the Beyoğludistrict. Considered a global city, Istanbul is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan economies in the world. It hosts the headquarters of many Turkish companies and media outlets and accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. Hoping to capitalize on its revitalization and rapid expansion, Istanbul bid for the Summer Olympics five times in twenty years.

Toponymy

Main article: Names of Istanbul

The first known name of the city is Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion), the name given to it at its foundation by Megarean colonists around 660 BC. The name is thought to be derived from a personal name, Byzas. Ancient Greek tradition refers to a legendary king of that name as the leader of the Greek colonists. However, modern scholars have also hypothesized that the name of Byzas was of local Thracian or Illyrian origin and hence predated the Megarean settlement. After Constantine the Great made it the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD, the city became widely known as “Constantinopolis” (Constantinople), which, as the Latinized form of “Κωνσταντινούπολις” (Konstantinoúpolis), means the “City of Constantine”. He also attempted to promote the name “Nova Roma” and its Greek version “Νέα Ῥώμη” Nea Romē (New Rome), but this did not attain widespread usage. Constantinople remained the most common name for the city in the West until the establishment of the Turkish Republic, andKostantiniyye (Ottoman Turkish قسطنطينيه) and Istanbul were the names used alternatively by the Ottomans during their rule. Nevertheless, the use of Constantinople to refer to the city during the Ottoman period (from the mid-15th century) is now considered politically incorrect, even if not historically inaccurate, by Turks.

By the 19th century, the city had acquired a number of other names used by either foreigners or Turks. Europeans used Constantinople to refer to the whole of the city, but used the name Stamboul—as the Turks also did—to describe the walled peninsula between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. Pera (from the Greek word for “across”) was used to describe the area between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, but Turks also used the name Beyoğlu (today the official name for one of the city’s constituent districts). Islambol (meaning either “City of Islam” or “Full of Islam”) was sometimes colloquially used to refer to the city, and was even engraved on some Ottoman coins, but the belief that it was the precursor to the present name, İstanbul, is belied by the fact that the latter existed well before the former and even predates the Ottoman conquest of the city.

The name İstanbul is commonly held to derive from the Medieval Greek phrase “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” (pronounced

[is tim ˈbolin]), which means “to the city”. This reflected its status as the only major city in the vicinity, much in the same way people today often colloquially refer to their nearby urban centres as “the City”. An alternative view is that the name evolved directly from the name Constantinople, with the first and third syllables dropped. In modern Turkish, the name is written as İstanbul, with a dotted İ, as the Turkish alphabet distinguishes between adotted and dotless I. Also, while in English the stress is on the first syllable (Is), in Turkish it is on the second syllable (tan). İstanbul was officially adopted as the sole name of the city in 1930. A person from the city is an İstanbullu (plural: İstanbullular), although Istanbulite is used in English.

History

Main article: History of Istanbul
See also: Timeline of Istanbul history

Remains of a Byzantine column found at Byzantium’s acropolis, located today within the Topkapı Palace complex

Neolithic artifacts, uncovered by archaeologists at the beginning of the 21st century, indicate that Istanbul’s historic peninsula was settled as far back as the 7th millennium BC. That early settlement, important in the spread of the Neolithic Revolution from the Near East to Europe, lasted for almost a millennium before being inundated by slightly rising water levels. Before the archaeological discovery, conventional wisdom held that Thracian tribes, including the Phrygians, began settling on the Sarayburnu in the late 6th millennium BC. On the Asian side, artefacts originating around the 4th millennium BC have been found in Fikirtepe (within Kadıköy). The same location was the site of a Phoenician trading post at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC as well as the town of Chalcedon, which was established around 680 BC.

However, the history of Istanbul generally begins around 660 BC, when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosphorus. The settlers proceeded to build an acropolisadjacent to the Golden Horn on the site of the early Thracian settlements, fueling the nascent city’s economy. The city experienced a brief period of Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century BC, but the Greeks recaptured it during the Greco-Persian Wars. Byzantium then continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, the Second Athenian Empire, before ultimately gaining independence in 355 BC. Long allied with the Romans, Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in 73 AD.

Byzantium’s decision to side with the usurper Pescennius Niger against Roman Emperor Septimius Severus cost it dearly; by the time it surrendered at the end of 195 AD, two years of siege had left the city devastated.Still, five years later, Severus began to rebuild Byzantium, and the city regained—and, by some accounts, surpassed—its previous prosperity.

By | 2017-02-20T12:30:20+00:00 May 17th, 2015|Categories: Istanbul Main Attractions|

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