Acropolis Now

Athens, 9 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC or tablet at least.)

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Having arrived in Athens, our first objective of course was to visit the Acropolis.

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Parthenon.

The Acropolis sits us on top of a huge flat rock and here is the Parthenon from below, from near the stage of the Theatre of Dionysius.  The Acropolis is the whole complex; the Parthenon is the main building.

The rock is also encased on all sides by an ancient wall.  I infer that was to ensure it was not climbable.  Access is only from one end (to the left).

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From about the same point, here is the Theatre of Dionysius.

We go up a path to the right of here and if you look closely (or click to expand) you can see a line of people walking along at the base of the walled cliff.  They first head to the Ticket Office, then back up through the entrance to the Acropolis (both out of sight to the left).

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And here it is from much later, looking down from the Acropolis.

The theatre was constructed in the sixth century BC and at its peak could accommodate an audience of 17,000.  It continued in use in the Roman period but gradually fell into disuse in the late Byzantine era.

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Again from below, this is the Temple of Athena Nike.  Athena was the Goddess of Wisdom and Nike was the Goddess of Victory, so it is a temple of wisdom and victory rather than celebrating the shoes Athena wore.

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And though we haven’t ascended to the Acropolis yet, we are looking down on the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, where some people are setting up for a concert.

It is much more recent than the Theatre of Dionysius.  It was built by Roman citizen Herodes Atticus in 161AD in honour of his wife, but was destroyed be the Heruli, a tribe of Scythian raiders, in 267.

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Mounting the steps of the Propylaea, the monumental gateway to the Acropolis.

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Although not fortified, the Propylaea denied access to the sacred areas to people such as the ritually unclean and runaway slaves.

In 480BC, after winning the Battle of Thermopylae, the Persians sacked Athens, including overrunning some forces holed up in the Acropolis.  The Propylaea was part of the rebuilding of the Acropolis subsequently undertaken by Pericles.  Construction started in 437BC and terminated unfinished in 432BC.

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Looking back at the Propylaea.

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… and now, heading towards the Parthenon.

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The front steps of the Parthenon (obviously, under reconstruction).

The Parthenon was another project to restore the Acropolis following the Persian War.  It was built from 447BC to 438BC and decoration continued until 432BC.  As well as a temple to Athena, the city’s patron, it also served as the city Treasury.

It was converted into a church in the 6th century AD and a mosque in 1460.  Unfortunately, in 1687, when a Venetian army was besieging an Ottoman force in the Acropolis, a mortar shell hit the Ottoman ammunition dump and blew the roof off the Parthenon and damaged many of the columns.  The Venetians took Athens, held it for a while, and then withdrew.

Restoring the Acropolis doesn’t just involve trying to reverse the ancient ravages of time.  It also involves trying to reverse some of the less-than-competent restoration attempts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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The Parthenon from the far end.

Unfortunately you are not allowed inside the Parthenon, probably for reasons of safety.

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This is now the Erechtheion.

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The Erechtheion with the Parthenon in the background.

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You can see this doorway in the previous image.

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Classical Greek buildings are usually symmetrical but this has quite different aspects on each of its faces.

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The Erechtheion was built in 440BC on uneven ground.  It was designed to avoid disturbing altars to Poseidon and Hephaestus, the spot where Poseidon hit the Acropolis with his trident, a sacred olive tree, a sacred sea water well, the tomb of Kekrops, and the Pandrosion sanctuary.

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The female figures serving as columns here are the Caryatids.  They are actually replicas.  Five of the originals are in the Acropolis Museum and one was carried away by Lord Elgin in the nineteenth century and is now in the British Museum.  He actually wanted to take all of them but was not able to obtain a suitable ship in a restricted timeframe.

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The Temple of Athena Nike, beside the Erechtheion, that we glimpsed earlier in the fourth image of this post.  It was completed in 420BC, converted into a church in the 5th century AD and dismantled by the Ottomans in the 17th century to construct fortifications (presumably to defend against the Venetians).  It was reconstructed after Greek independence (in 1832) and further restored in the 1930s.

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This is a closer view of the frieze at the top of the Temple of Athena Nike from the previous image.

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Details of surviving structures from the Parthenon.

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This stela appears to be in the Propylaea.  I can find no reference to it online.  I’m not about to try to painstakingly enter Greek characters into Google Translate as in any case, the words probably run toghether and it’s in ancient Greek, not modern Greek.

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Surviving relief sculpture high in the eaves of the Parthenon.

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Many of these show serious erosion over time, including recent deterioration due to air pollution.

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Lord Elgin removed many of the sculptures from the Parthenon in the early 19th century with (somewhat questionable) permission from the Ottomans but not the Greeks (who were of course not independent at that time).  They may have been better preserved in the British museum but still suffered some deterioration from pollution and inappropriate cleaning methods.  Greece would like them back for the new Acropolis Museum.

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This is probably the best preserved example on the Parthenon.  You can see it in situ in the top left corner of the first image.

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Conservators at work (on the Parthenon).

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Roof of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries of Kolokynthis.

This and following images are views from the Acropolis.

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The Gate of Athena Archegetis, the largest remaining part of the Roman Agora (or Forum), constructed 11BC.

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View looking north-west from the Acropolis.

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Zooming in to the top of Mount Lycabettus.

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Probably roof of Church of St Nicholas Rangavas (11th century).

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Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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Looking down towards the Port of Piraeus.

The main harbour of Piraeus is out of sight past the promontory to the right but we are looking towards another smaller harbour we can’t quite see.

Rebuilding Athens after it was destroyed by the Persians also included constructing protective walls.  Athens itself was fortified with a wall with about a one kilometre radius and the Acropolis in the middle.  Pireus was also fortified, so most of the populated area we see in the middle distance as well as the main port to the right (out of picture) was enclosed by walls including on the coast.  Then there was also a stretch of twin walls over the six kilometres from Athens to Piraeus.

This came into its own in the Peloponnesian Wars with Sparta of 432 BC to 404 BC.  Sparta was land-based whereas Athens was a sea power.  Sparta could not breach the walls and Athens could supply itself by sea and also launch raids of Sparta by sea.  Sparta eventually won in 404BC when they built a fleet that successfully challenged Athens at sea and they then tore down the walls.

However, Athens rebuilt the walls from 395BC to 391BC.  Sparta was defeated by Persia in this time and Athens rebuilt the walls with Persian support (because Persia though Sparta had got too powerful).  Roman General Sulla destroyed the Long Walls in 86BC.

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We are looking a bit further west.  Some buildings in Piraeus are at the bottom and the land in the background is the Island of Salamis.  Just in case there is any ambiguity, the vessel you saee is a container ship, and not an Athenian or Persian Galley.

In 480BC the Persians had won the Battle of Thermopylae and were advancing on Athens.  Rather than surrender, the Athenian citizens moved across to the Island of Salamis and abandoned the city for it to be sacked by the Persians.  Then the Athenian fleet pretended to flee in the Straits of Salamis, drew the Persians in and destroyed the much larger Persian fleet.

Most of the Persian army was forced to withdraw back to Persia and the forces left behind were defeated the next year at the Battle of Plataea.  The Persians never invaded Greece again.

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After leaving, looking back at the entrance of the Propylaea.

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Monochromes from Istanbul (2)

7 to 8 October 2018, Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey.

Links go to colour posts (with more information and historical context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger (if on a PC at least).

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This is Monochromes from Istanbul, last was from Constantinople. There are more Ottoman images in this one, though there are still East Roman images.

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Archaeology, Architecture, Basilica Cistern, Black and White, Bosphorous, Constantinople, Hippodrome, History, Istanbul, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Street photography, Travel

Basilica Cistern.

Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern.

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Medusa head.

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The other Medusa head.

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Galata Tower.

Bosphorous Cruise.

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Cihangir Mosque.

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Dwellings of the local population.

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Dolmabahçe Palace.

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Camlica Mosque.

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Vahdettin Pavilion.

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An interesting architectural assembly at the water’s edge.

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Anatolian Fortress.

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Rumeli Fortress.

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Rumeli Fortress.

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Beylerbeyi Palace Bathing Pavilion.

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Büyük Mecidiye Mosque (Ortaköy Mosque).

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Probably not a palace.

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Kuleli Sahil.

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Can’t identify this but looks old, perhaps even from East Roman times.

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Kuz Kulezi (Maiden’s Tower).

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It’s an Indian!

Islamic Museum and Hippodrome.

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Doorway to another place and time?

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Street-side displays.

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Top of the Blue Mosque.

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The Obelisk of Theososius and some minarets of the Blue Mosque.

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The Serpent Column in the front and the Obelisk of Theodosius in the rear.

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A family sitting on a low fence, with Hagia Sopha in the background.

Monochromes from Constantinople

7 to 8 October 2018, Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey.

Links go to colour posts (with more information and historical context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger (if on a PC at least).

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Hagia Sophia.

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Passageway to Mezzanine Floor, Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia.

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Looking down on the main hall and up to the main dome.

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Closeup of Christ Pantocrator (or the all-powerful) from the Deesis Mosaic.

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The Comnenus mosaic, dating from 1122, shows John II Comnenus (Emperor 1118 to 1143), Virgin Mary and Christ Child, and Empress Irene (from Hungary).

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The Empress Zoe mosaic, from the 11th century, shows Constantine IX Monomarchus (Emperor 1042 to 1055), Christ Pantocrator and Empress Zoe. .

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Mysterious inscription just below a marble hand rail.

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Remarkable marble panelling.

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Graffiti on a marble hand rail.

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Heading down to the ground level again.

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Evidence of differing building projects in different eras.

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Looking up at the main dome.

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Mihrab, Mingar and Apse.

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Looking up at old Christian and later Islamic decorations..

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The Vestibule Mosaic.

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Central part of bronze door from Hellenistic Temple of Tarsus.

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Altar of the Hagia Irene.

Topkapi Palace.

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Inside Hagia Irene.

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The gateway to the Topkapi Palace.

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Views of the Bosphorous.

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Kara Mustafa Pasha Pavilion.

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Mother of pearl inlay wall decorations.

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Mother of pearl inlay wall decorations.

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A small viewing platform..

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Baghdad Kiosk.

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Looking south, beyond the Bosphorous at the Sea of Marmara.

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Palmyran funerary reliefs.

(Istanbul Archaeology Museum).

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Aphrodite removing her sandal.

(Istanbul Archaeology Museum).

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Ring-necked parakeet.

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A surviving fragment of Roman-era construction.

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Night shopping.

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Hagia Sophia at night.

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Looking up at one of the side domes.

Blue Mosque.

Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern.

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Looking up at one of the side domes.

Blue Mosque.

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Looking out of Blue Mosque towards Hagia Sophia.

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Islamic Museum and Hippodrome

Istanbul, 8 October 2018.

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(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC at least.)

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It’s an Indian!

All kitted up to travel, but no external gear lever. How can that be? (Indian was the first US motorcycle manufacturer, dating from 1901 until 1953 when they went bankrupt. I hadn’t realised Indians have been in production again since 2014).

(In the first images, we are walking back from the ferry ride in the last post).

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Inside a spice shop with some curious teas….

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Walking alongside an ancient wall.

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The ancient debris beside the road may be stray remains from the Great Palace of Constantinople.

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A closer look at some of the curious ancient debris.

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Two women walking beside an ancient wall.

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Doorway to another place and time?

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I presume this is from an entrance arch to a mosque, perhaps Hagia Sophia.

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Street-side displays.

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A North African Koran from the 13th century.

(We are now in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts).

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A Koran from the Mamaluk period of Egypt, c. 1380.

(Egypt was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1517).

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An illustrated book from the Timurid Empire 1370-1507.

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A Koran from the Safavid period in Shiraz (Persia), 1591-1592.

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Kaaba door cover, Ottoman period, 19th century.

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Koran, Ottoman period, 1526.

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Double wooden doors, Karaman, early 15th century.

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Top: Wooden window shutters, Konya, early 14th century.

Bottom: Cenotaph and coffin, Anatolian Seljuk period, 1521.

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Illustrated book, prepared by Zubdet’ut Tevarih for Sultan Murad III, 1583.

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This is a view from a balcony of the museum, looking past the Obelisk of Theodosius (and the Hippodrome) to the Blue Mosque.

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Top of the Blue Mosque.

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Remains of some of the terracing around the Hippodrome, now below ground level.

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This is what the remains of the Hippodrome looked like in 1600. It was already in ruins by the time the Ottomans invaded in 1453. Constantinople never really recovered from its sack by the Latins of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

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This is what the area looked like in East Roman times. In front of the Hippodrome is the massive Great Palace. This included protected walkways for the Emperor to attend Hagia Sophia (far right) and the Hippodrome.

You can also get a better idea of the shape of the Hippodrome here. It had a U-shape with terraced seating that could accommodate 30,000. There were entrance/ exit lanes at one end and participants could race laps around the long thin spina in the centre. Though the Hippodrome was never built over, its stone was used as material for other buildings.

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Near the entrance gate end, looking towards the Obelisk of Theososius and the Walled Obelisk, which lay along the spina.

Originally there were also many other statues of gods, animals and heroes. For example, the Venetians looted four gilded copper statues of horses, which were incorporated in the facade of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The original level for the Hippodrome is two metres underground.

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Looking now in the other direction, towards Hagia Sophia.

The chariot races were very popular and the crowd divided into blue and green factions, which could make crowds of English football hooligans look very tame indeed. In 532, the factions united in riots, the Nika riots, that burned much of the city. The main precipitating cause was high taxation due to Justinian’s wars. In the end, Justinian paid off members of the blue faction just as the assembled factions were electing a new Emperor and then sent in General Belisarius with the army, who sealed off the entrances to the Hippodrome and massacred all who remained, said to be around 30,000. The East Romans had a different concept of democracy in those days. The blue and green factions were never as powerful again.

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The Obelisk of Theososius and some minarets of the Blue Mosque.

Emperor Theodosius brought this obelisk to Constantinple in 390. He cut it in three and only the top third survives. It was originally at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor from the reign of Thutmose III at around 1490 BC.

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In its day, the Hippodrome was alive with excitement, with thousands of spectators watching chariot races, with teams of four hippos thundering around towing their chariots. It was quite dangerous as riders could fall off their chariots and be trampled by the hippos or be dragged behind, tangled in the reigns.

The Hippodrome was about 450 metres long and 130 metres wide. Races were usually for seven laps and of course, all the turns were hairpin turns which must have created its own opportunities for carnage.

Hippos hence Hippodrome. Not hippopotami though, hippos is the Greek word for horse. (Hippopotami are actually water horses though I don’t recommend trying to ride one).

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Looking up to the top of the Walled Obelisk.

This is not an Egyptian obelisk, it was built by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the tenth century. It was originally covered in gilded bronze plaques but these were looted by Latin troops of the Fourth Crusade.

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The Serpent Column in the front and the Obelisk of Theodosius in the rear.

We are near the U-shape at the end of the Hippodrome, looking back along the line of the spina, and the minarets in the distance are from Hagia Sophia. The Serpent Column marks one of the two turning points at each end of the spina.  Its base (not shown) is at the original ground level of the Hippodrome.

The Serpent Column was originally erected in Delphi in 478BC to commemorate the victory of an alliance of Greek city-states against Persia at Plataea. This was the final land victory and the Persians never invaded the Greek mainland again.

Constantine brought it to the Hippodrome. It had three snake heads radiating out from the top. Originally there was a golden tripod and a golden cauldron surmounting it but they were removed to fund a war about a hundred years after it was erected in Delphi. It survived with the snake heads until about 1700, when it was thrown down and the heads broken off. Part of one of them survives in the Istanbul Archæological museum.

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A family sitting on a low fence, with Hagia Sopha in the background.

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Bosphorous Cruise

Istanbul, 8 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC at least.)

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The Bosphorous is the strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.  We opted for an afternoon cruise to see Istanbul from the water.

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Galata Tower.

The Galata Tower was built in 1348 by the Genoese colony in Constantinople, replacing an earlier Galata Tower from 528.  The current tower was the tallest building in Constantinople when it was built.  It has been damaged several times by fires and storms and rebuilt.

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Tug boat?

It says on the side of the cabin “İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi” or “The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality”.

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Nusretiye Mosque

A baroque-style mosque, built 1823 to 1826 by Sultan Mahmut II.  (Perhaps he said to his architect “Let’s go for broke!”)

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Built by Sulieman the Magnificent in 1559 in honour of his sons Şehzade Mehmed and Şehzade Cihangir, both of whom died in their early twenties.   Damaged on several occasions by earthquakes and fires and last rebuilt in 1889.

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Dwellings of the local population.

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Dolmabahçe Palace.

This is is the largest palace in Turkey, covering area of 11 acres with 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths and 68 toilets.  It was built between 1843 and 1856 by Sultan Abdulmejid I.  As well as the residence of sultans until the sultanate was abolished in 1924, it was the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire from 1856 to 1887 and from 1909 to 1922.

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I think this must also be part of Dolmabahçe Palace.

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A wider view of Dolmabahçe Palace, showing the ferry we were travelling on.

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Entrance way of Ciragan Palace Kempinski.

Ciragan Palace was built by Sultan AbdulAziz between 1863 and 1867. AbdulAziz lived in the palace until he was deposed in 1876 and died mysteriously soon after.  His successor Murad II only reigned for 93 days until he was deposed for mental illness and he then lived in the palace under house arrest until he died in 1904.  The palace was gutted by fire in 1910 but was purchased by a Japanese corporation and was renovated in 1992 and 2007 and is now a five-star hotel.  A night in the Sultan’s Suite costs $US35,000.

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Camlica Mosque.

This is the largest mosque in Turkey and was opened in March 2019, five months after I took this picture.

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This is the Vahdettin Pavilion. 

The original timber building was constructed in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century by Sultan Abdul Hamid II and given to his brother, Prince Mehmed Vahdettin.  Mehmed became the last sultan, Mehmad VI, from 1918 to 1922.  When he was forced to leave the country in 1922, he gave the property to one of his odalisques (maid serving the harem).  Prime Minister Ozal started a reconstruction in 1989 that was abandoned when he died in 1993.  It was later rebuilt by Erdogan but in concrete with no attention to the original design.  It now servers as a Prime Ministerial residence and state guest house.

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An interesting architectural assembly at the water’s edge.

At a rough guess, I would say this is neither a palace nor a mosque.

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The Consulate General of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1517 to 1914.  This was built for the mother of Abbas II, the last Ottoman Khedive of Egypt and Sudan.

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Anatolian Fortress.

The Anatolian Fortress was built between 1393 and 1394 by Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, in preparation for a siege of Byzantine Constantinople.  The siege did not succeed because Bayezid was defeated and killed by Timur (Tamerlane) in 1402 at the Battle of Ankara, which led to an Ottoman civil war.  Constantinople held out for another sixty years.

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Küçüksu Pavilion.

Küçüksu Pavilion was built as a summer hunting lodge for Ottoman Sultans in 1857.  It is now a museum.

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Rumeli Fortress.

This and following images show sections of Rumeli Fortress and finally there is an overall view.

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Rumeli Fortress was built be Ottoman Sultan Murad II from 1452 to 1452 to blockade shipping in concert with the Anatolian Fortress on the other side of the Bosphorous. This was part of the final siege of Constantinople.  Passing ships were levied a toll and a Venetian ship that did not stop was sunk by cannonfire and the surviving crew beheaded.  Constantinople fell in 1453.

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Rumeli Fortress and Faith Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

The fortress and the bridge are here because this is the narrowest part of the Bosphorous, at only 660 metres.

In 480BC, Xerxes crossed from Asia Minor in his ill-fated attempt at an invasion of Greece, including Athens and Sparta.  He did not cross here though; it was further south, past the Sea of Marmara at the Hellespont.  The strait there was much wider but perhaps he didn’t want to walk around the Sea of Marmara or maybe the currents were more favourable.  He lashed together 360 boats to make one pontoon bridge and 314 to make another.  An earlier attempt had been destroyed by a storm and by the time the remnants of his army returned, these bridges had been destroyed also by another storm.

The Hellespont is now called the Dardanelles and it was here that troops from Britain, Australia and New Zealand landed in 1915 at Gallipoli in another unsuccessful invasion attempt.

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Overall view of Rumeli Fortress.

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The Bosphorous remains a strategic sea route.

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Beylerbeyi Palace Bathing Pavilion.

Beylerbeyi Palace was built from 1861 to 1863 as a summer residence for sultans and a place to entertain visiting heads of state.  What we see here though, is one of the two bathing pavilions.

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Üryanizade Ahmet Esat Efendi Camii.

A wooden mosque, built in 1860.

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Büyük Mecidiye Mosque (Ortaköy Mosque).

Ortaköy Mosque was built between 1854  and 1856.  Its original brick dome proved unstable and was replaced with a concrete one.  It has also been repaired after an earthquake in 1894 and a fire in 1987.

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Probably not a palace.

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Kuleli Sahil.

Kuleli Military High School was established in 1847 and occasionally used as a hospital but turned into a museum following an attempted military coup in 2016.

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Can’t identify this but looks old, perhaps even from East Roman times.

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Small boats must have to be careful on the Bosphorous.  Supertankers aren’t going to give way.

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Kuz Kulezi (Maiden’s Tower).

Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus erected a wooden tower here in 1110.  There was also a chain that could be raised across the Bosphorous in the event of war.  It was for example used during the siege when Constantinople fell in 1453.  That tower was destroyed by an earthquake in 1509 and burned down in 1721.  Rebuilt in stone in 1763 and used as a lighthouse.  Restored several times including in 1998 for the James Bond movie The World is Not Enough.

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Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern

Istanbul, 8 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC at least.)

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Looking up at one of the side domes.

In the morning of our second day in Istanbul, we visited the Blue Mosque, constructed between 1609 and 1616.

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A wider view.

The Blue Mosque was built on the foundations of the Great Palace of the East Roman Empire, though the palace was massive, much larger than the mosque.

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Recent structure inside the mosque.

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I actually found the Blue Mosque disappointing, as I was expecting much more and was expecting it to be more spectacular than Hagia Sophia and as impressive as the mosques and mausolea in Uzbekistan.  I had earlier seen a spectacular photograph from inside it but I did not see anything like that.  I suspect it was taken from he second level, which was closed.  While it is a working mosque, I suspect the main shortcomings were due to the extensive renovations scheduled from 2016 to 2020.  Probably they are now finished and the experience inside may be now quite different.

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Centre of a sub-dome.

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Looking up a wall and sub-dome.

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Visitors to the Blue Mosque.

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Looking up at one of the minor domes.

This shows how spectacular the fully restored mosque could potentially be.  The main dome is off to the right but there was no view available from directly underneath it.

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The area available for viewing was quite restrictive.

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The carpet is obviously recent.  I wonder what the original floor coverings were.

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It might have been a seventeenth century statue of a worker with a vaccuum cleaner, but since it was moving it is likely it was a real person. 

This shows how extensive the next floor is and how recent, presumably from the last fifty years.  Previously the space was probably open below the central dome.  I don’t know whether this is a measure to provide more space for worshippers or a temporary part of the renovations, but the view from above it is likely to be much more impressive than the view from below.

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At the entrance to the Blue Mosque, looking towards the Hagia Sophia.

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Basilica Cistern.

Next we visited the Basilica Cistern, a vast underground water storage, 140 by 70 metres, and contains 336 marble columns (each 9 metres high), not far from Hagia Sophia. Its name comes because it was below the square for the basilica.  A basilica is a large Roman administrative building, associated with the forum.  The water came from a forest 19 kilometres away.

It was built by Constantine and later rebuilt by Justinian following damage during the Nika Riots.  It was also restored several times in the Ottoman period.

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Medusa head.

Two of the columns have Medusa heads at their base. They are said to be sideways or upside down to neutralise their power.  Where they came from is unknown.

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Medusa head the “right” way up.

So what do they look like the “right” way up?  Here you see it.  I’ve tested it out and after looking at the image, as far as I can tell, I haven’t turned to stone.  If you have a different experience, I take no responsibility (and you’re unlikely to complain anyway).

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The other Medusa head, this one is inverted.

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… And here it is, the “right” way up.

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Topkapi Palace

Istanbul, 7 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC at least.)

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Altar of the Hagia Irene.

From Hagia Sophia we headed off to the Topkapi Palace.  On the way we visited the Hagia Irene, even older than Hagia Sophia.

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Inside Hagia Irene.

These days it is little more than a shell, though it does have relatively recent seating and is used for concerts.  It apparently has very good acoustics.

It was the first church built in Constantinople and was completed by Constantine before the end of his reign in 337.  It was then the prime church of Constantinople until Hagia Sophia opened in 360.  It burnt down during the Nika Revolt in 532 and was rebuilt by Justinian by 548.  It was later damaged by an earthquake in 740 and restored by Constantine V.  It wasn’t converted into a mosque during Ottoman times, but was instead used as an arsenal until the nineteenth century.

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Some faint traces of artworks, probably dating to an iconoclastic period in the eighth century.

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Ancient arches.

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A section of ceiling.

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We are now at the gateway to the Topkapi Palace.

The Topkapi Palace is the Ottoman Palace, not to be confused with the Roman Imperial Palace or Great Palace, which was massive and ajoined both Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome but has now largely disappeared.  Construction started on the Topkapi Palace in 1459 and it was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1509 and a fire in 1665.   It was the main seat of government and residence of the Sultans in the 15th and 16th centuries and after wards slowly lost importance.  It became a museum in 1924.

Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the Sultan’s residence, harem and political chambers, so I am not able to show you the most spectacular views there.

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After passing through those areas, we come out to views of the Bosphorous.

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Looking down on the Sultan’s Gardens (no doubt very different in their day) and north in the direction of the Black Sea.

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Kara Mustafa Pasha Pavilion.

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The same pavilion, looking in the opposite direction.

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Mother of pearl inlay wall decorations.

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A small viewing platform.

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Baghdad Kiosk.

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Revan Kiosk.

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Looking south, beyond the Bosphorous at the Sea of Marmara.

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Chariot relief, Cyzikus (Greek town on the south bank of the Sea of Marmara), 6th century BC.

(We are now visiting the Istanbul Archaeology Museum).

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Letter from Hittite King Hattusili III to Akkadian Emperor Kadasman-Enlil II (based in Babylon), proposing war with Egypt.

In 1274BC Hattusli’s father Muwatalli III fought the battle of Kadesh against Egyptian Pharaoh Ramases II.  This was the largest chariot battle in history with 5,000 to 6,000 chariots.  The result of it is not clear though it did head off an attempted invasion of the Hittite Empire. 

This letter would have been early in Hattusli’s reign (which started from 1267BC, though it must have been at least 1263BC, the start of Kadasman-Enlil’s reign) and he probably never went to war with Egypt.  Instead, Kadasman-Enlil restored relations with Egypt with a dynastic marriage and Hattusli negotiated the Eternal Treaty or Treaty of Kadesh with Egypt, which Rameses ratified in 1258BC.  This is the earliest known peace treaty and also survives in the versions of both sides.

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Palmyran funerary reliefs (200-273AD).

Palmyria was a Roman client state based in Syria that at one time stretched from Asia Minor to Egypt.  It was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 272 after the unsuccessful revolt of the Empress Xenobia.

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Aphrodite removing her sandal.

(Roman 1st to 2nd century but copy of Classical Greek original).

I was impressed by the informality and realism of this statue.  Of course, in ancient times it would have been painted.

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Personal seal.

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These ring-necked parakeets are descended from recent aviary escapees.

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A surviving fragment of Roman-era construction.

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Freighter on the Bosphorous.

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Ancient walls, don’t know the provenance.

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And after dinner, it was time for some shopping….

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Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, 7 to 8 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size, if you are on a PC at least.)

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(This is a longer post than usual with 44 images. I was going to break it into two but here it is, as one post.  This is a very historic building so there’s also a fair amount to read.)

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Here it is, Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul was called Constantinople until 1930.  Constantine founded Constantinople in 330AD to be the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.  Before that, there was the city of Byzantium on the site from the 7th century BC.  It was mainly a minor independent town but at various times occupied by Athens, Sparta and Persia until the Romans took over, I presume at the same time as the rest of Greece in 146BC. (Ancient Greece included all the islands and shores of the Aegean Sea, including the western edge of what is now Turkey).

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The spire and crescent atop the dome, dating from 1577.

The original church on the site, the “Great Church”, was built in 360, or possibly a decade or two earlier.  It mainly burnt down in 404 in riots resulting from the banishment of Archbishop Chrysostom by Empress Aelia Eudoxia and Emperor Arcadius.  The next church on the site was built by the Emperor Theodosius II in 415 and the name Hagia Sophia (meaning “Holy Wisdom”) came into use around 430.  That Hagia Sophia was destroyed by the Nika riots in 532, by the Blue and Green factions in the Hippodrome (chariot racing), protesting high taxation levied by Justinian in a time of war with Persia.  Much of Constantinople was also burnt.  The current Hagia Sophia was consecrated in 537 and was originally clad in white marble.

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Entering the Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia has been affected by many earthquakes requiring subsequent reconstruction.  Earthquakes in 553, 557 and 558 caused the main dome to collapse and reconstruction was completed in 562.  Among similar events was a fire in 859 and earthquakes in 869, 989, 1344, 1346, 1509 and 1895.  There have been many restoration efforts over the years.

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Inside now, this is the Mihrab, the focal point of the interior of a mosque, indicating the qibla, or the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, showing the direction to pray. 

Its final form dates from the nineteenth century.  The stained glass windows appear to have been modified or replaced since the Ottoman takeover.  In Byzantine times, this was the apse and housed the altar, so it was also the focus of the Cathedral.

The Hagia Sophia was an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral from 537 to 1204, when Constantinople was conquered by a renegade army from the Fourth Crusade, then a Roman Catholic Cathedral until 1261 when the Byzantines conquered it back.  It reverted to an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral until 1453 when the Ottomans took over.  It was then a Mosque until 1935 when under Kemal Ataturk’s secular state it was converted to a museum. It was still a museum when I visited but in July 2020, Erdogan controversially converted it back to a Mosque.

Supporting buttresses were added at various times by the Byzantines, Latins and Ottomans and the Ottomans added four minarets around it.

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Islamic calligraphic ceiling art.

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An ancient passageway to the upper level.

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Looking down on the main hall and up to the main dome.

Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world for around 1,000 years and the dome was the largest in the world for around 900 years.  The floor is marble from an island in the Sea of Marmara and it dates to the post-earthquake restoration of 558 under Justinian.  As of 2020, it is now covered in carpet.

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This is the Deesis Mosaic, from the thirteenth century, showing the Virgin Mary, Christ and John the Baptist.  It is thought to have replaced an earlier mosaic.

Hagia Sophia was looted in 1203 and 1204 by the Latin army (which had already been excommunicated by the Pope) and by the Ottomans in 1453.  Some of the mosaics are incomplete due to the temptations of gold leaf.  The mosaic tiles were glass tesserae, with two small squares of glass and gold leaf between them.  Thus looters had to chisel off mosaic tiles to get to the gold leaf.  Surviving mosaics are very high up because gold leaf was valuable and surviving ones were difficult to access.

Also, there were two periods of iconoclasm, 726 to 787 and 814 to 842, when religious pictures and statues were removed from the Hagia Sophia.

In the initial period after the Ottoman takeover in 1453, at least some of the mosaics were covered in whitewash.

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Closeup of Christ Pantocrator (or the all-powerful).

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The Comnenus mosaic, dating from 1122, shows John II Comnenus (Emperor 1118 to 1143), Virgin Mary and Christ Child, and Empress Irene (from Hungary).

Forty-five years before John came to the throne, in the aftermath of the Battle of Manzikert, the Seljuk Turks took over Asian Minor from the Empire.  Then at the end of the eleventh century, John’s predecessor, Alexios I Comnenus, inadvertently summoned the First Crusade who won it most of it back for him.  John II was a competent Emperor who was able to stabilise the Empire with successful campaigns against the Normans in the Balkans and the Seljuk Turks in Asia Minor, coupled with strategic fortifications.

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The Empress Zoe mosaic, from the 11th century, shows Constantine IX Monomarchus (Emperor 1042 to 1055), Christ Pantocrator and Empress Zoe. 

Zoe had a curious history.  Her father, Constantine VIII had no sons and persuaded her to marry Romanos Agyros in 1028, who became Emperor Romanos III a day later after Constantine died.  In 1034, Romanos was found dead in his bath, though to have been murdered by either Zoe or her lover, who married on the same day and he became Emperor Michael IV on the next day. Michael died in 1041 and Zoe became co-regent with his nephew who became Michael V.  A few months later, Michael V exiled Zoe for plotting to poison him.  However, this lead to a popular revolt and Zoe returned in 1042 as co-Emperor with her sister Theodora.  That was not so comfortable so Zoe married a former lover who became Constantine IX (in the mosaic above).  Zoe died in 1050 (at the age of 72) and  Constantine died in 1055.  Although Constantine wanted someone else to succeed him, Theodora then returned as sole Empress for two years. 

The heads of Constantine IX and Zoe in the mosaic are believed to have replaced different heads from a somewhat earlier period in family history.  Apart from Theodora, this was not one of the more competent periods in Byzantine administration.

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Looking up at a Byzantine decoration remnant.

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Mysterious inscription just below a marble hand rail.

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Various decorations from periods I am unable to determine.  However, the marble facings must date to the sixth century.

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This is a seraphim or one of the “six-winged fiery angels that surround God”.  There would originally have been a face under the golden metal centre or perhaps it is still there.

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One of the round calligraphic panels on each side of the apse wall (also seen in other views of the main chamber).

They date to between 1847 and 1849 and the descriptive panel says “Allah (the God), Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), The four Caliphs:  Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman, Ali.  The descendants of the Prophet Muhhammad Hassan and Hussein.”  I presume that is the summation of the inscriptions on all the panels (which differ).

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Remarkable marble panelling.

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Graffiti on a marble hand rail.

There are various examples of graffiti.  This one is perhaps Greek, but they include examples of Viking runes from the Varangian Guards, who were originally Vikings from Kievan Rus.

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Looking up, probably above the viewing area.

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Heading down to the ground level again.

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Evidence of differing building projects in different eras.

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Back by the main chamber. 

On the right is a large marble jar from Pergamon dating to the Hellenistic Period (post Alexander the Great) and carved from a single block of marble.  Pergamon was a major Greek city on what is now the western coast of Turkey.  The jar was brought to Hagia Sophia during the reign of Murad III (1574-1585).

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Looking up at the main dome.

Although architecture of previous ancient cultures, including Persia, had included domes, none had been of the scale of Hagia Sophia.  It was a prime influence of architecture in succeeding cultures, including the Islamic World and the domes I photographed in Uzbekistan.  The Hagia Sophia of course predates the Islamic World.

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Islamic wall tiles.

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Back to near where we started, the Mihrab is in the centre distance at floor level and the Minbar, where the Imam speaks from, is on the right.  More generally, this is also the Apse, with a mosaic of the Madonna and child above the windows.  We can also see a clearer view of the now-covered marble floor (dating from the sixth century).

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Here is a closer view of the mosaic. 

It probably dates to the late fourteenth century, though this is not certain.  It was covered towards the end of the eighteenth century and rediscovered during the renovations of 1847-48.

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This is the Angel Gabriel Mosaic (or what remains of it), from about 867.

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Islamic stained glass window.

While the Ottomans conquered Byzantium in 1453, it was really the renegade Latin crusaders of the Fourth Crusade who were more responsible for the fall after they took Constantinople in 1204.  At the death of Manuel I Comnenus in 1180, the Byzantine Empire had included the Balkans, Greece, the Aegean Islands, Cyprus and much of Asia Minor.  While the Byzantine Empire was restored in 1261 to include Northern Greece and Western Turkey, it did not remain this way for long.  For most of the next couple of centuries Constantinople was isolated with hardly any local territory and a few small outposts in Greece.  It lacked resources and by the time the Ottomans took over, the Hagia Sophia was in a state of disrepair.

Even then, in 1453 there was a Venetian relief fleet on the way that did not arrive in time.  Since it was the sea wall rather than the land walls that were breached, Constantinople would have been able to hold out for at least another few more years. 

Constantinople had massive city walls and formidable defences.  There were eighteen unsuccessful sieges by external powers prior to 1453.  One of the most significant was that of the Sassanian (Persian) Empire in 626.  But Emperor Heracles broke free and destroyed the Sassanians in their heartland in 627.  After that, both empires were exhausted and the Sassanian Empire fell to the Arabs within the next twenty-seven years.  In a different period, the rapid advance of the Arabs may not have been so easy.

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Cross faintly visible on the floor under later Islamic patterns.

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The Omphalion.  The place of East Roman coronations.  Unlike the rest of the floor, not now covered in carpet.

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Looking up and old Christian and later Islamic decorations.

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Polychrome marble revetments, or bracing structures, dating back to the original cathedral opened in 532.

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Ancient mosaic under an arch.

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Here there appears to be later plastering and painting to the same pattern as the mosaic underneath, perhaps to cover up earthquake damage.

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Looking up in the main chamber.

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The Vestibule Mosaic, from the 9th century.

The Virgin Mary and Christ Child are in the middle between Justinian I (left), holding a model of the Hagia Sophia, and Constantine (right), holding a model of the city of Constantinople. Justinian is described as “Emperor of Illustrious Memory” whereas Constantine is described as “the great Emperor amongst the saints”.

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Madonna and child closeup.

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Central part of bronze door from Hellenistic Temple of Tarsus of the second century BC, placed in Hagia Sophia by Emperor Theophilos (829-842).

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Next day, students posing outside for Istanbul Autumn Agora 2018, a kind of student conference concerned with sustainability.

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An Islamic group in front of the Hagia Sophia.

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Hagia Sophia at night.

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Monochromes from Samarkand (Part 2)

3 to 5 October 2018, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Links go to colour posts (with more information and historical context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger (if on a PC at least).

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Architecture, Black and White, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Here is a side mosque from the archway of the main Bibi Khanum Mosque.

Bibi Khanum Mosque, Samarkand

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The top of the dome of one of the minor mosques.

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On the left is Bibi Khanum Mosque and its pishtak; one of the side mosques is in the background.

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Side mosque.

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Ulugh Beg Pishtak, the entrance gate to Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis

Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand.

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Inside the Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum.

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The two domes of the Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum, this image and the next, viewed from the inside.

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In the avenue of the mausolea.

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Looking back at the twin domes of the Qazi Zadeh Rumi Mausoleum.

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Looking through a chortak, or a gateway on the avenue.

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Inside the Shadi Mulk Adi Mausoleum.

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Near the far end of the avenue.

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The pishtak of Alim Nasafi Mausoleum.

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Tuman Aka Mausoleum.

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The top of Gur Emir from a distance.

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Rukhabad Mausoleum.

Ak Saray, Samarkand.

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This and following images, Ak Saray Mausoleum…

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Young woman extracting strips of bark from branches of young mulberry trees to make paper.

Ulugh Beg and Afrasiab, Samarkand

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Water mill for paper making.

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Surviving part of Ulugh Beg’s astrolabe.

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Remains of Ulugh Beg’s astrolabe.

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Country farm and mosque.

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Gur Emir at night.

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This was the last post on the ancient and modern wonders of Uzbekistan.  There have been 31 posts with 850 images and 17,000 words.  I have updated the links to the posts in the trip itinerary so you can access them from there.

Next, Istanbul….

Monochromes from Samarkand (Part 1)

3 to 5 October 2018, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Links go to colour posts (with more information and historical context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger (if on a PC at least).

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Architecture, Black and White, History, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Samarkand, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking up at an archway in Gur Emir, Timur’s (Tamerlane’s) mausoleum.

(Next six images are in Gur Emir).

Gur Emir (Timur’s Mausoleum in Samarkand)

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Actually gold leaf inside the mausoleum.

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The main hall of the mausoleum.

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Wedding party in front of the Registan.

The Registan, Samarkand

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The Registan.

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The dome of the mosque that is incorporated into the Ulugh Beg Madrassah..

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One of the domes of the Shir Dor Madrassah.

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Ulugh Beg Madrassah is on the left, Tillya-Kari Madrassah on the right.

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Tillya-Kari Madrassah.

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Markets inside the courtyard of the Ulugh Beg Madrassah.

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Entrance steps of the Ulugh Beg Madrassah.

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Outside the mosque in the interior courtyard of the Ulugh Beg Madrassah

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Heading into the mosque.

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The interior of the mosque (and following images).

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Not sure whether this is inside the mosque or the madrassah.

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Ulugh Beg Madrassah.

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One of the domes of the Shir Dor Madrassah.

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Inside the Shir Dor Madrassah.

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The pishtak (or portal) (viewed from the side) of the Bibi Khanum Mosque.

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Detail of earthquake damage.

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Pishtak, minaret and wall.

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The dome of one of the side mosques, seen from its rear. .

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The top of one of the minarets.

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Looking up at the dome of the one of the minor mosques at the sides.

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The interior of the Bibi Khanum Mosque.

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