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History of Istanbul

Prompted by the oracle at Delphi, a man named Byzas established a town on the site of present-day Istanbul around 657 BC.


Prompted by the oracle at Delphi, a man named Byzas established a town on the site of present-day Istanbul around 657 BC. Although conquered by Alexander the Great and eventually subsumed by the Roman Empire, Byzantium fared pretty good until it irritated a Roman emperor by backing his rival in a civil war, and it was subsequently ruined. A brand new city was built in 330 AD, at first called New Rome but quickly re-christened Constantinople in deference to a new Roman emperor.

Constantinople was regarded as the capital of the Eurasian world, thanks in large part to its impressive architecture - many of the Christian churches and palaces, as well as the magnificent Hippodrome, are still visible today. Adornments to the city continued as the Eastern Roman Empire grew in strength, reaching its top in the time of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Over the next few centuries the city weathered attacks by the armies of the Islamic and Bulgarian empires, but the crusaders finally sacked it in 1204. The city was repossessed by a rejuvenated Byzantine Empire 50 years later.

Istanbul Tour - Galata Bridge

On May 29 1453 the city fell to Ottoman Turks (when the Ottoman army of Sultan Mehmet II took the city) and was part of the Ottoman Empire until its official dissolution on November 1 1922. Since then it has remained a part of the Republic of Turkey (first declared on January 20 1921, generally recognized on October 29 1923). It was under the Ottomans that a classic mosque design was established and many other great buildings constructed in the city, which was soon renamed Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire overextended itself militarily in the 18th century and went into a decline, accentuated by the fact that it was well behind Europe in the areas of science, politics and commerce. This led to modernization attempts and in-fighting, including the eventual slaughter in Istanbul of the janissaries, the sultan's bodyguards and a prominent symbol of the old regimes.

Istanbul only became the official name in 1930. When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara.