Hippodrome Istanbul, Istanbul Overview

Hippodrome of Constantinople, located in the Square of Blue Mosque, was a public area for various activities like chariot races, gladiator fights and many wars in the past. It was the hub of various social and cultural meetings in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The place is now known as Sultanahmet Meydanı that still contains a few pieces of the ancient structure. The word ‘hippodrome’ comes from the Greek words hippos meaning horse and dromos meaning path, as it was a racing platform for the horses.

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Monuments Within Hippodrome, Istanbul

1. The Serpent Column

Earlier known as the Tripod of Plataea, this work of art was brought from delphi to commemorate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians. The heads and top parts are destroyed in 1700, however, the base still lies in the center of the hippodrome.

2. Obelisk of Thutmose III

Brought by another emperor Theodosius the Great from Egypt, the Obelisk was erected on a marble pedestal. Out of the whole monument, the remaining parts include the top section and the marble pedestal, and durability of the monument continues to surprise everyone.

3. Statue of Porphyrios

Porphyrios was the most celebrated charioteer in the 4-5th centuries and raised the Roman chariot racing to another height. Seven monuments have been made in his honour in the hippodrome, however none of the statues have survived till now.

4. Walled Obelisk

Constantine VII built another obelisk on one end of the hippodrome with other decorations of bronze put up on it. Only the stone core survives today and is now known as the walled obelisk.

How to Reach Hippodrome, Istanbul

Tram: Take a tram to Sultanahmet and walk for 2 minutes

Walking distance from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia

History

The hippodrome was built in 203 AD when the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus took over this city which was then known as Byzantine, and renamed it to Augusta Antonina. He built several other structures along with the hippodrome, and the place served as a centre for various sporting events. In 324 AD, Constantine I shifted the headquarters from Rome to Byzantium, and further glorified the hippodrome with and renamed the city Constantinople. The hippodrome was the location of all public events - from festivals or live performances to public executions and shaming of enemies. Constantine used hippodrome as an arena where he could show his authority, wealth and luxury, inviting several rich nobles and aristocrats. 


The U shaped hippodrome and the Great Palace was very well directly connected to the Kathisma where the Emperor acknowledged matters of his kingdom through a well defined passage that only the Emperor and his family could use. 


The hippodrome was 400m long and 200m wide having a seating capacity of about 70,000 people, with separate areas for VIPs and the general public. There were four teams - the Blues, the Greens, the Reds and the Whites. The major rivalry between the Blues and the Greens caused many riots to break out in the city. 


When the Ottoman Turks took over the city and made it the Capital of Ottoman Empire in 1453, they had no interest in chariot racing and the legacy of hippodrome was eventually forgotten and the major part of the monuments were destroyed.

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