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Top:Topkapı Palace – Hagia Sophia – Blue Mosque;
Center left: Beyoğlu,
Center middle: Hagia Sophia at night,
Center right: Galata Tower;
Bottom: The Bosphorus Bridge, linking Europe and Asia.
Emblem of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
L Coordinates: 18px-Erioll_world.svg41°00′44″N 28°58′34″E / 41.01224°N 28.976018°E / 41.01224; 28.976018
Country 22px-Flag_of_Turkey.svg Turkey
Founded 667 BC as Byzantium
Roman/Byzantine period AD 330 as Nova Roma (original name given in 330 and used during Constantine’s reign) and later Constantinople (following Constantine’s death in 337) Ottoman period 1453 as Konstantiniyye (in Ottoman Turkish), Constantinople (internationally) and various other names in local languages
Republic of Turkey period 1923 as Istanbul (in Turkish) and Constantinople (internationally), renamed as Istanbul also in foreign languages following the Turkish Postal Service Law of March 28, 1930
Area – Total 1,830.92 km2 (706.9 sq mi)
Elevation 100 m (328 ft)
Population (2007) – Total 12,573,836 (4th)
– Density 6,211/km2 (16,086.4/sq mi)
– Demonym Istanbulite
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
– Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 34010 to 34850 and
80000 to 81800
Area code(s) (+90) 212 (European side)
(+90) 216 (Asian side)
Licence plate 34
Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul; historically Byzantium and later Constantinople; see the other names of Istanbul) is the largest city in Turkey, largest city proper and second largest metropolitan area in Europe, and fourth largest city proper in the world with a population of 12.6 million. Istanbul is the cultural and financial center of Turkey. The city covers 27 districts of the Istanbul province. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the Europe (Thrace) and on the Asia (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. In its long history, Istanbul served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). The city was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010. The historic areas of Istanbul were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
The modern Turkish name İstanbul (IPA: [isˈtanbul] or colloquial [ɨsˈtanbul]) has been used to describe this city, in a range of different variants, from as far back as the 10th century; it has been the common name for the city in normal Turkish speech since before the conquest of 1453. Etymologically, it derives from the Greek phrase “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” [istimˈbolin] or in the Aegean dialect “εἰς τὰν Πόλιν” [istamˈbolin] (modern Greek “στην Πόλι” [stimˈboli]), which means “in the city”, “to the city” or “downtown”.
Byzantium is the first known name of the city. In 667 B.C., this Doric colony was founded by settlers from the city-state of Megara, and they named the colony after their king Byzas. When Roman emperor Constantine I (Constantine the Great) made the city the new eastern capital of the Roman Empire on May 11, 330, he conferred on it the name Nova Roma (“New Rome”). Constantinople (“City of Constantine”) was the name by which the city became instead more widely known. It is first attested in official use under emperor Theodosius II (408–450). It remained the principal official name of the city throughout the Byzantine period, and the most common name used for it in the West until the early 20th century.
The city has also been nicknamed “The City on Seven Hills” because the historic peninsula, the oldest part of the city, was built on seven hills (just like Rome), each of which bears a historic mosque. The hills are represented in the city’s emblem with seven triangles, above which rise four minarets. Two of many other old nicknames of Istanbul are Vasilevousa Polis (the Queen of Cities), which rose from the city’s importance and wealth throughout the Middle Ages; and Dersaadet, originally Der-i Saadet (the Door to Happiness) which was first used towards the end of 19th century and is still remembered today.
With the Turkish Postal Service Law of 28 March 1930, the Turkish authorities officially requested foreigners to adopt Istanbul as the sole name also in their own languages.
In 2008, during the construction works of the Yenikapı subway station and the Marmaray tunnel at the historic peninsula on the European side, a previously unknown Neolithic settlement dating from circa 6500 BC has been discovered. The first human settlement on the Anatolian side, the Fikirtepe mound, is from the Copper Age period, with artifacts dating from 5500–3500 BC. In nearby Kadıköy (Chalcedon) a port settlement dating back to the Phoenicians has been discovered. Cape Moda in Chalcedon was the first location which the Greek settlers from Megara chose to colonize in 685 BC, prior to colonizing Byzantion on the European side of the Bosphorus under the command of King Byzas in 667 BC. Byzantion was established on the site of an ancient port settlement named Lygos, founded by Thracian tribes between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, along with the neighbouring Semistra, of which Plinius had mentioned in his historical accounts. Only a few walls and substructures belonging to Lygos have survived to date, near the Seraglio Point (Turkish: Sarayburnu), where the famous Topkapı Palace now stands. During the period of Byzantion, the Acropolis used to stand where the Topkapı Palace stands today.
After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Roman emperor Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by the Romans and suffered extensive damage in 196 AD. Byzantium was rebuilt by Severus and quickly regained its previous prosperity, being temporarily renamed as Augusta Antonina by the emperor, in honor of his son.
The location of Byzantium attracted Constantine I in 324 after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city; but the true reason behind this prophecy was probably Constantine’s final victory over Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis (Üsküdar) on the Bosphorus, on 18 September, 324, which ended the civil war between the Roman Co-Emperors, and brought an end to the final vestiges of the Tetrarchy system, during which Nicomedia (present-day İzmit, 100 km (62 mi) east of Istanbul) was the most senior Roman capital city.Byzantium (now renamed as Nova Roma which eventually became Constantinopolis, i.e. “The City of Constantine”) was officially proclaimed the new capital of the Roman Empire six years later, in 330. Following the death of Theodosius I in 395 and the permanent partition of the Roman Empire between his two sons, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. As well as being the centre of an imperial dynasty, the unique position of Constantinople at the centre of two continents made the city a magnet for international commerce, culture and diplomacy. The Byzantine Empire was distinctly Greek in culture and became the centre of Greek Orthodox Christianity, while its capital was adorned with many magnificent churches, including the Hagia Sophia, once the world’s largest cathedral.The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, still remains in the Fener (Greek: Phanar) district of Istanbul.
In 1204, the Fourth Crusade was launched to capture Jerusalem, but had instead turned on Constantinople, which was sacked and desecrated. The city subsequently became the centre of the Catholic Latin Empire, created by the crusaders to replace the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which was divided into a number of splinter states, of which the Empire of Nicaea was to recapture Constantinople in 1261 under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus.
Panoramic view of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, as seen from the Galata Tower. The Galata Bridge can be seen in the center of the picture. The Seraglio Point where the Topkapı Palace is located is seen at the left tip of the historic peninsula; followed by (left to right) the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Yeni Mosque near the Galata Bridge, the Beyazıt Tower rising high in the background, and the Süleymaniye Mosque at far right, among others. The Sea of Marmara and the Princes’ Islands are seen in the background, on the horizon. At the extreme left of the picture, the district of Kadıköy (ancient Chalcedon) on the Asian side of the city can be seen. Behind the Galata Bridge, towards the horizon, the Column of Constantine (which was surrounded by iron bars for restoration at the time of this photo) rises.
In the last decades of the Byzantine Empire, the city had decayed as the Byzantine state became increasingly isolated and financially bankrupt, its population had dwindled to some thirty or forty thousand people whilst large sections remained uninhabited. Due to the ever increasing inward turn the Byzantines took, many facets of their surrounding empire were now falling apart, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Ottoman Turks began a strategy by which they took selected towns and smaller cities over time, enveloping Bursa in 1326, Nicomedia in 1337, Gallipoli in 1354, and finally Adrianople in 1362. This essentially cut off Constantinople from its main supply routes, strangling it slowly.
On 29 May 1453, Sultan Mehmed II “the Conqueror” captured Constantinople after a 53-day siege (during which the last Roman/Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, died near the Porta Aurea while defending the city) and proclaimed that Constantinople was now the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mehmed’s first duty was to rejuvenate the city economically, creating the Grand Bazaar and inviting the fleeing Orthodox and Catholic inhabitants to return. Captured prisoners were freed to settle in the city whilst provincial governors in Rumelia and Anatolia were ordered to send four thousand families to settle in the city, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, to form a unique cosmopolitan society.The Sultan also endowed the city with various architectural monuments, including the Topkapı Palace and the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. Religious foundations were established to fund the construction of grand imperial mosques (such as the Fatih Mosque which was built on the spot where the Church of the Holy Apostles once stood), adjoined by their associated schools, hospitals and public baths. Suleiman the Magnificent’s reign of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 was a period of great artistic and architectural achievements. The famous architect Sinan designed many mosques and other grand buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics, calligraphy and miniature also flourished.
Bosphorus Bridge and the skyline of Istanbul as seen from Çamlıca Hill, with Levent financial district in the center, and Maslak financial district at right
When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara. In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favour of the new capital. However, starting from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new public squares (such as Taksim Square), boulevards and avenues were constructed throughout the city; sometimes at the expense of the demolition of many historical buildings. Starting from the 1970s, the population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase, as people from Anatolia migrated to the city in order to find employment in the many new factories that were constructed at the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis. This sudden sharp rise in the city’s population caused a large demand for housing development, and many previously outlying villages and forests became engulfed into the greater metropolitan area of Istanbul. Illegal construction, combined with corner-cutting methods, have accounted for the reason why 65% of the buildings in Istanbul are built without proper planning. The concerns have increased due to the serious nature of the Izmit earthquake of August 17, 1999.