Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Constantinople (Turk. Stamboul or Istamboul), the capital of the Turkish Empire, was founded by Constantine on the site of the ancient Megarian colony of Byzantium (q.v.) in the year 330 A.D., and was designated by him "New Rome," a title that is still preserved in ecclesiastical phraseology. The Turkish name is said to be a corruption of the Greek words (eis ten polin). Constantinople proper or Stamboul stands on a promontory at the west of the entrance to the Bosphorus, being washed to the south by the Sea of Marmora, and to the north by the Golden Horn, an inlet said to derive its name from the shape of its antler-like branches, and sufficiently capacious to afford anchorage to the largest navies of the world. On the opposite side of this creek lie the large quarters of Galata and Pera (q.v.). The extreme eastern point of the promontory is occupied by the old Seraglio, which fills the place of the ancient Greek acropolis. Of the walls raised by Constantine no trace remains. They were built and manned by 40,000 Goths, who, as Arians, were not allowed within the Holy City, but lived in a district named Hexe-Kionia or Hexe-Marmora, an appellation preserved to this day in the form Alti-Mermer. The existing walls date from Theodosius II. (412), but were completed by various hands at different epochs. They consist of two inner lines with an outer ditch and rampart, and at intervals of fifty yards are strengthened by towers. The vast subterranean reservoirs are contemporary with these works. The position of the Imperial palace is marked by the mosque of Ahmed, but in the 12th century the court was transferred to Blachernae in the north-western quarter. The main streets are identical with those laid out by Constantine, and retain some traces of the ancient arcades. The city comprises like Rome seven hills with dividing valleys, and among the more important secular buildings or monuments may be noted the Babi Ali or Sublime Porte, or landward gate of the Seraglio, used as a synonym for the Ottoman Court, the Burnt Column, and that of Constantine, under which the instruments of the Crucifixion and the Palladium of Troy are said to be buried, the Seraskierate or War Office, the Aqueduct of Valens, the At or Horse Bazaar, the Fire Tower, the Maiden's Column, once dedicated to Venus, the Church of the Patriarchate, the palace of the Hebdomon, and the Pentapyrgion. Of the four or five hundred mosques included within the walls, many are desecrated Christian churches. Chief among these must be reckoned the mosque of St. Sophia or Aya Sofia Jamisi, begun in 532 on the site of an older structure reared by Constantine. Huge, unsymmetrical, and barbaric externally, the grand proportions of the dome, 180 feet high and 107 feet broad, the many-coloured marbles and mosaics that adorn the interior, and the columns pillaged from the noblest temples of Greece, Asia, and Egypt, render it one of the most remarkable examples of the Byzantine style. Brick is the chief material used in the construction, pumice stone for its lightness being largely employed in the upper part of the dome. Two bridges span the Golden Horn; the outer one - that of Karakeui - is comparatively modern; the inner or old bridge, though now rebuilt in iron, was originally constructed by the Sultan Mahmoud. The space between the two forms the commercial harbour, the port of war being situated higher up in front of the arsenal which stands on the Galata side. A large import and export trade is carried on chiefly by foreigners, the produce of the coasts of Asia Minor and the Black Sea, such as wool, mohair, skins, and grain, being exchanged for European manufactures. The bazaars are large and numerous, and there are many khans or warehouses. Steamers keep up communication with all the ports of Europe, and ply frequently to and from the suburbs and adjacent coast towns. In addition to the primary and provincial Mohammedan schools and religious seminaries, Government institutions exist for training students for the military, naval, engineering, and medical professions. The Imarets or poor-houses, about 300 in number, deserve notice. Of late years considerable improvements have been effected in the lighting and paving of the streets, and a tolerably efficient fire-brigade has been established. No city has been more sorely tried by war than Constantinople. In the fifth and sixth centuries it was frequently threatened, but not actually attacked by barbarian invaders. Between 668 and 782 it was thrice besieged by the Arabs. The Russians made four attempts on its walls in the two succeeding centuries. Then ensued the struggle for its possession between Greeks and Latins, and it was captured by Dandolo and Michael Palaeologus. Lastly, after these assaults by the Turks it yielded to Mahomet II. in 1453, when the dispersion of its citizens and of its literary treasures brought about that great revolution known as the Revival of Letters.