Hippodrome of Constantinople History

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18th July 2023

Hippodrome of Constantinople History

The Hippodrome of Constantinople, loated in Turkey was a circus hosting the sporting and social events of Constantinople, which is the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square called Sultanahmet Meydan (Sultan Ahmet Square) based in Istanbul: Today only sections of the orignal structure exists.

It is often referred to as the “Horse Square” in Turkish. The word hippodrome comes from the Greek word “hippos” for horse, and “dromos”, meaning a pathway.

Horse racing and chariot racing were of course popular leisure pastimes in the ancient world and hippodromes were common features of Greek cities in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople Today

In recent times , the area is called Sultan Ahmet Square, and is carefully maintained by the Turkish authorities.

The course of the old racetrack has been replaced with paving but the actual track is some 2 m (6.6 ft) below the present surface.

Remaining monuments of the Spina (the middle barrier of the racecourse), the two obelisks and the Serpentine Column, now sit in holes in a landscaped garden. The German Fountain (“The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain”), an octagonal domed fountain in neo-Byzantine style, which was constructed by the German government in 1900 to mark the German Emperor Wilhelm II’s visit to Istanbul in 1898, is located at the northern entrance to the Hippodrome area, right in front of the Blue Mosque.

The Hippodrome was excavated by the late Director of the Istanbul Archeological Museums, archeologist Rüstem Duyuran in 1950 and 1951.A portion of the substructures of the Sphendone (the curved end) became more visible in the 1980s with the clearing of houses in the area.

In 1993 an area in front of the nearby Sultanahmet Mosque called the Blue Mosque was bulldozed in order to install a public building, uncovering several rows of seats and some columns from the Hippodrome. Investigation did not continue further, but the seats and columns were removed and can now be seen in Istanbul’s museums. It is possible that much more of the Hippodrome’s remains still lie beneath the parkland of Sultanahmet. The Hippodrome was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 500 lira banknotes of 1953-1976.

Covered Hippodrome

The Covered Hippodrome was a located in Constantinople, serving as an anterchamber to the Great Palace of Constantinople. It was also klnown as the emporors’ private hippodrome, situated on the south eastern area of the palace, connecting the Palace of Daphne in the north with the later lower palace in the south, through the gate of Skyla.

It often featured in imperial ceromones, but should not be confused with the far larger adjacent Hippodrome of Constantinople, which in Byzantine sources was often distinguished as the “uncovered” Hippodrome.

During the 9th to the 11th centuries, it was also the site of one of the Byzantine capital’s highest courts

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