Posted by Vi Warkentin on
The Hippodrome of Constantinople - as one exits the exterior gate of the Blue Mosque, you step into a long narrow area that was once the ancient Hippodrome of Constantinople (built in the 4th century AD and the primary venue for chariot races). The Hippodrome stood intact for centuries and was one of the most important landmarks of the Byzantine city. But after the invasion of the Crusadors in 1204, the Hippodrome was stripped of almost all its monuments that once adorned it. All that remains are two obelisks and a column (sorry no photos of Serpentine Column).
Today this area is called Sultanahmet Square and is used as a gathering place for the locals and tourists. The park-like square contains a fountain along with the two obelisks (or rather, reminents thereof) of past days.The race track has been replaced with a modern road and the last stones of the Hippodrome’s seating area are said to have been used to build the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) next door.
On the northeastern edge of the ancient Hippodrome is the gazebo-style German Fountain (the least ancient of the structures currently in Sultanahmet Square) and was a gift from the German Emperor Wilhelm ll to Sultan Abdulhamid ll. It was built in Germany and was shipped in pieces to Istanbul and was assembled in its current location in 1900. The inauguration of this fountain took place in 1901 on the birthday of Wilhelm ll.
The neo-Byzantine style fountain stands on a base with eight steps up to an entry gate. Over the main reservoir sits a bronze dome supported by eight columns and marble arches. Detailed mosaics line the interior of the dome.
The ceiling also reveals ornate mosaics including eight alternating monograms - 4 green medallions showing Sultan Abdulhamid ll’s tughra (calligraphic monogram or signature) and 4 blue medallions showing Wilhelm’s W along with a crown above it and the ll below it.
Also in Sultanahmet Square, just northwest of the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is the Obelisk of Theodosius, also known as the Egyptian Obelisk. What remains now is just the top third of this obelisk. Imagine to what heights this obelisk soared in times past. The Obelisk of Theodosius is the ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Tutmoses lll which was re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople (here in Sultanahmet Square) by the Roman emperor Theodosius in the 4th century AD. This obelisk was first erected by Pharaoh Tutmoses lll in the mid 1400’s BC, then transported along the Nile by Roman emperor Constantius ll to Alexandria, Egypt in 357 AD. Theodosius had the obelisk transported to Constantinople in 390 AD and it was erected in the Hippodrome.Next to the Obelisk of Theodosius near the southern end of Sultanahmet Square is the Walled Obelisk, aka Constantine Obelisk which rises up approximately 32 m. The exact date of it’s construction is unknown but it’s said to be named after Constantine Vll in the 10th century. It is said to have been decorated by guilded bronze plaques but these were stolen in the early 1200’s. All that remains are some holes in the obelisk that reveal where the plaques were once attached.