Pictures, images & photos of Istanbul and the historic buildings of the Roman Byzantine Constantinople. Istanbul is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It literally straddles the East West divide of the Bosphorus with its western bank in Europe and its Eastern bank in Asia.
Originally the Greek city of Byzantium, the strategic importance of its peninsula was recognised by Emperor Constantine who made it into the Imperial City of the Roman Empire in AD 330. The city was founded on the Seraglio Point, a peninsular with the sea of Marmara to the south and the natural harbour known as the Golden Horn to the north. The peninsular overlooks the southern entrance to the Bosphorus, a narrow channel that links the Mediterranean via the sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. The importance of this was not lost on Constantine who saw that the city would not only control trade from the West north into the Black sea but being at the end of the Silk road, which brought precious goods from the far East to the West, Constantinople would be at the hub of East West trade. This gave Constantinople far more power and economic potential than Rome which Constantine never liked.
Constantine built his new city at an incredible pace looting whole buildings and statues from Rome and the other cities of the Empire. This new city was also a Christian city and Constantine built the first great churches of the Roman Empire.
As Constantinople prospered its Emperors took less interest in the Western Roman Empire which slowly weakened and was taken over by Barbarians that swept into the Empire from the north. With what is called the Fall of The Roman Empire in the 5th century history starts calling the Emperors of Constantinople Byzantine after the Greek city of Byzantium. The Emperors of Constantinople would not have understood themselves as Byzantine as they were Emperors of The Roman Empire and remained so until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Even Mohammed refers to them as Romans in his writings but by the time of Mohammed they were Greek speaking Romans not Latin speaking.
Constantinople became fabulously rich and powerful and therefore a target for conquest. The massive land walls that protected the peninsular and its sea walls made it impregnable to many attempts to take it by force. It did though fall in 1204 to the stealth of the Venetian Dodge Enrico Dandolo when he diverted the 4th Crusade to Constantinople to help "protect" it from the Islamic onslaught that had conquered most of Asia Minor. The taking of Constantinople led to a 3 day sack of the city during which time the Venetians loaded all of its treasures onto their ships and sailed off to Venice. The four bronze horses that adorn the from of St Marks Basilica come from Constantinople as do the marble columns and decorations that adorn the palaces of the Grand Canal.
Even though the Byzantine Roman Emperors retook Constantinople it never regained its glory and went into slow decline. In 1453 it finally fell to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II and it became the centre of the Ottoman Empire until its fall at the end of the First World War in 1918.
Little remains of Constantinople but buildings like the Hagia Sophia, built by Emperor Theodosius II and inaugurated it on 10 October 415, give an idea of the heights of sophistication the Roman Empire had reached. It would be a thousand years before a bigger dome was built than that on Hagia Sophia.
The Ottomans have endowed Istanbul with splendid mosques & palaces which fused the mystique of Eastern architecture with that of the west which along with its famous Bazaars make Istanbul one of the most colourful cities in the world.