Saturday, January 3, 2015

Istanbul - Hippodrome of Constantine

When Constantine built his New Rome he built the Hippodrome. Naturally Christians didn’t fancy the old stadium where so many of them had been fed to the lions, so the new Hippodrome which allowed a hundred thousand spectators featured mainly chariot races. The word Hippo comes from the greek word for horse and dromos  meaning way.  A total of 8 chariots (2 chariots per team) powered by four horses each were separated into the Blues and the Greens. The most famous chariot racers were sports heroes of the day.  My guide Mehmet Titek (90-532-61200113) said that one charioteer’s salary was known and today with the conversion it would be in the millions of dollars, no different than that of our days greatest footballers, hockey players and Nascar drivers.
In the centre of the Hippodrome to stop chariots from short cutting there was a large wall. All that is left of it today are columns.   One was  Serpent Column, a twisted rope like stand that held a golden bowl on the heads of three snakes.   It had originally been at Delphi but was relocated by Constantine.  It had been built to commemorate the Greeks who defeated the Persians in 479 BC. It was made from the shields and armour of the Persians slain in battle.  The snakes heads have long since been removed but the twisted column remains as evidence of victory.  The Obelisk of Thutmose III from 1490 BC  was brought from Egypt by Emperor Theodosius the Great.  The third column known as the “Walled Obelisk” was built in the 10th century and originally covered by gilded brass plaques which were later looted by Latin troops in the Fourth crusade.
Surrounding the hippodrome today are the Hagia Sophia. This was built first by Constantine and then after it was destroyed restored and restored again to remain in the state it is today. It remained the largest church in the world till St. Paul’s Cathedral was built.  The Blue Mosque is on one side of the Hippodrome today and the Palace is on the other.

Further along from the palace and colums is a small domed shrine that was small shrine to honour the pact between German Kaiser II and Turkey.  Mehmet pointed out the alternating Germany and Turkey crests inside the dome.

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