Skip to main content
Select source:



Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Istanbul, Turkey, Europe and Asia

Founded: Ottoman Turks captured present-day Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople and before that as Byzantium) in 1453.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey, is the only city in the world that sits on two continents: Europe and Asia. The city lies on both sides of the Bosporus channel and the Sea of Marmara, which connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. On the European side of the Bosporus, old Istanbul developed on the western side of the narrow Golden Horn, a canal about 4 miles in length that empties into the Bosporus.
Flag: White emblem on a red field.
Time Zone: 3 pm = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: About 99% of Istanbul residents are Muslim Turks, two-thirds of them Sunni. The rest are Alevi, a sect similar to Shiism. Christian and Jewish minorities continue to shrink in numbers.
Elevation: Approximately 600m (2,000 ft) above sea level
Climate: Istanbul has a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and dry, hot summers. The prevailing northeast winds, or poyraz, come from the Black Sea, sometimes bringing extreme cold to the city. At times, the cold winds have frozen the Golden Horn and the Bosporus.
Temperature: Temperatures average about 40.5° F (4.7°C) in January and about 73°F (22.8°C) in July.
Average Annual Precipitation: About 31.5 inches, with most falling in the winter
Government: A mayor appointed by the President of the Republic
Weights and Measures: Standard metric
Monetary Units: The Turkish lira. It comes in notes of 50,000; 100,000; 500,000; 1,000,000 and 5,000,000. Coins come in denominations of 5,000; 10,000; 25,000 and 50,000.
Telephone Area Codes: 90 (Turkey country code); 212, 216 (Istanbul city codes)

1. Introduction

Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, the old walled city of Istanbul was one of the most coveted places in the world. To resist invaders, its inhabitants built massive walls, 5 meters (16 feet) deep and 9 meters (30 feet) in height. Yet, the walls were more like an invitation, a signal that something worth taking hid within its walls.

Formerly known as Constantinople, and before that as Byzantium, Istanbul was founded at a crossroad between Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam. It was the capital city of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires and briefly the capital city of the Turkish Republic, each opening the city's doors to friends and firmly shutting them to enemies. The city was attacked more than 60 times. In ancient times, the Greeks, Athenians, Persians, and Spartans fought to capture it; so did the Gauls and the Macedonians. The Romans finally took it and renamed it after Constantine the Great, who declared it the new capital of a united Roman Empire. Something about this city by the water compelled its leaders to spare no efforts in aggrandizing it. The Byzantine Empire spent countless fortunes building palaces, churches, and other buildings. So did the Ottoman Empire, which captured the city in 1453 and proceeded to cover the city with palaces, mosques, and water fountains. Their efforts stood in stark contrast with those who were left outside the walls. Those who penetrated its walls by force took great pleasure in tearing the city down, stealing its treasures and hauling anything that could be carried back home across long distances. What man could not destroy, nature took away. Dozens of earthquakes have shaken the city throughout its history, turning buildings to dust. Like many cities in the world, Istanbul long ago lived its golden era. Today, it is poverty, pollution, and social problems that besiege the city. Yet, Istanbul retains its exuberance, its charm, and its place in history.

2. Getting There

Because of its location, Istanbul functions as the crossroads between Europe and Asia.


A major highway connects Bulgaria to Turkey.

Istanbul Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 5,000,000
Area: 1,991 sq km (769 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: About 99% of Istanbul residents are Muslim Turks, two-thirds of them Sunni. The rest are Alevi, a sect similar to Shiism. Christian and Jewish minorities continue to shrink in numbers.
Nicknames: The ancient name of Byzantium is believed to come from its founder, Byzas. Constantine I named it New Rome before naming it after himself: Constantinople. The name Istanbul is derived from the Greek term stin poli, meaning "to the city" or "in the city." Used for many centuries, it did not officially become the name of the city until 1930.

Metropolitan Area

Population: 9,413,000
Area: 2,204 sq mi (5,712 sq km)
World population rank 1: 23
Percentage of national population 2: 14.3%
Average yearly growth rate: 3.5%

  1. The Istanbul metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Turkey's total population living in the Istanbul metropolitan area.

Bus and Railroad Service

One of the best means of travel is by inter-city bus. Esenler and Harem are the two main bus stations. The best of the companies offer comfortable, quality transportation, an excellent and cheap alternative to flying. Many buses are double deckered, and all are non-smoking and offer tea and snack service.

The railroad is slower but can be fun, especially in a first class compartment. The Sirkeci train station serves Europe while Haydarpasa Station serves parts of Asia and the Middle East. Trains run between Ankara and Istanbul, Istanbul and Izmir, and reservations are required.


Ataturk International Airport has daily service to just about every part of the world. The Havas bus service has frequently scheduled trips between the airport and the city. The service between terminals is free. Metered taxis are also available to get to the city.


As Byzantium, present-day Istanbul was built along the Golden Horn, which provided the best natural harbor in the region. The Golden Horn inlet provides a safe harbor next to the city, not far from the Bosporus, a major maritime route connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Istanbul Cairo Rome Beijing
(Turkey) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 9,413,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1453 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $159 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $78 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $19 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $256 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 22 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Sabah Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 722,950 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1985 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

3. Getting Around

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Public buses are the main mode of transportation in Istanbul, carrying about 1.5 million passengers per day. The city's dolmus (public shared taxis) carry thousands of passengers each day. There are many taxis and thousands of private automobiles. There is also sea bus service between the Asian and European sides, as well as regional train service. The city is in the midst of expanding a limited underground metro service.


Istanbul is a city with great architectural heritage. Visitors travel from around the world to see Turkish palaces, mosques, museums, monuments, and water fountains. Some of the most popular ones include the Ayasofya Museum, the Kariye Museum, the Cinili Kosk, the Ibrahim Palace Museum, the Museum of Turkish Carpets, and the Mosaic Museum. Many of the mosques and other historic landmarks were even added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1985. Many people also come to Istanbul to purchase the country's famous carpets, tiles, and ceramics.

4. People

During the 1990s, Istanbul grew at a rate of about 3.8 percent annually. Most of the migrants came from the countryside, moving into shantytowns known as gecekondus (literally "set down by night"). About 99 percent of Istanbul residents are Muslim Turks, two-thirds of them Sunni. The rest are Alevi, a sect similar to Shiism. Christian and Jewish minorities continue to shrink in numbers. The dominant language is Turkish although some minorities do speak other languages.

5. Neighborhoods

In a traditional sense, Istanbul is not a city of neighborhoods. With nearly 3,000 years of continuous habitation, the only constant has been people's desire to live there. Wars, invasions, occupations, and the systematic destruction of the city, as well as plagues, devastating earthquakes, and fires, have forced residents to rebuild Istanbul many times over. Somehow, through all the remarkable changes, the remains of ancient buildings and monuments still stand today. Old Istanbul remains a walled city. A close inspection of the walls explains how the city remained invulnerable to so many attacks. In some places, the walls are 9 meters (30 feet) high and 5 meters (16 feet) thick, with 18-meter (60-foot) towers every 55 meters (180 feet).

Two bridges cross over the Golden Horn and connect old Istanbul with Beyoglu, which is characterized as "modern Istanbul." Since the eleventh century, Beyoglu has been considered the foreign quarter. This area is made up mostly of post-nineteenth-century buildings. Earthquakes, fires, and warfare just about destroyed everything before that date. Beyoglu is divided into two sections: the lower Galata water-front and the Pera Plateau, home to consulates and Turkish government offices, as well as many of the city's largest hotels and best restaurants. The city reaches across the Bosporus to its Asian side with two bridges, one completed in 1973 and the other in 1988.

Housing is a problem in Istanbul; occupancy rates hover at about 13 persons per unit. As migrants, especially from the Asian side of Istanbul, have moved into the city, large shantytowns have appeared throughout the metropolitan area.

6. History

Archaeological remains show that people have inhabited the immediate area of present-day Istanbul for tens of thousands of years. A large population lived in the area around 5,000 B. C.

Greeks from Miletus and Megara began to settle along the coasts of Bosporus and the Black Sea during the latter part of the eighth century B. C. According to legend, the colony of Byzantium was founded in 660 B. C. by a Megarian named Byzas. The colony was named after him. Because of its strategic position, Byzantium didn't take long to establish its economic dominance over the region, inviting unwanted attention.

Byzantium was built along the Golden Horn, which provided the best natural harbor in the region. Fish were abundant, and the fertile surrounding countryside was suitable for agriculture. The Golden Horn inlet provided a safe harbor next to the city, not far from the Bosporus, a major maritime route connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Greeks, Athenians, Persians, and Spartans fought over the city early on. Even the Gauls attacked Byzantium in the third century B. C. In 202 B. C. Byzantium, besieged by Macedonians, asked Rome for protection. By 73 B. C. the city had become part of a Roman province.

In A. D. 196, Byzantium found itself on the wrong side of an internal Roman power struggle and paid dearly. Roman emperor Septimus Severus (146211; r. 193211) massacred its residents and destroyed most of the city. He rebuilt Byzantium, which continued to prosper despite serious attacks, civil wars, and rebellions that broke out in the Roman Empire over many decades.

On September 18, 324, Constantine I (c. 274337; r. 306337) defeated rival emperor Licinius and united the vast Roman Empire under his leadership. On May 11, 330, Byzantium officially became the capital of the empire, which stretched over three continents. Briefly known as New Rome, the city was renamed Constantinople in honor of Constantine, the first Roman ruler to adopt Christianity.

Constantinople became one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful cities of its time. Until the eleventh century, it was virtually untouchable, dictating Christian religious doctrine and controlling vast amounts of wealth. No longer did all roads lead to Rome. They led to Constantinople, the meeting point between East and West.

With the death of Theodosius in 395, the Roman Empire was split into East and West. Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which came to be known as the Byzantine Empire. The city developed into the center of the Greek Orthodox Christian world.

With vast amounts of wealth at its disposal, the Byzantine Empire transformed Constantinople into a beautiful city. Some of the best architects of the time designed its churches and palaces. Artists and sculptors left their mark throughout the city. The hippodrome could sit more than 100,000 people. The Haghia Sophia, today a museum, was one of the largest churches of its time. As the city grew, its nearly impenetrable protective walls were built further out.

During the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian (527565), more than 500,000 people lived in Constantinople. Justinian oversaw the construction of some of the city's most spectacular buildings, including the Haghia Sophia. Under his rule, the city reached its zenith.

The accumulation of wealth continued to attract enemies. In 542, a plague devastated the population, killing three out of five inhabitants, and marked the beginning of the city's decline. Its enemies besieged the weakened city but could not penetrate its walls. Between the seventh and eleventh centuries, Russians, Persian Sassanids, Avars, Muslim Arabs, and Bulgars attacked the city.

During the Fourth Crusade (a series of religious wars between Western European Christians and Muslims for control of the Holy Land), the Latins (Roman Catholics) broke through the walls and seized the city in 1204.

They held it until 1261, when Byzantine troops recaptured the city. Under Latin rule, the city was plundered and ruined. The invaders stole most of the city's precious religious and civic symbols, melted its bronze statues for coin, and took just about anything of value that could be carried away. Constantinople would never recover from the destruction, even after the much smaller and weakened Byzantine Empire regained control. The city's population shrank to 50,000, and its people were constantly on the brink of famine. In the distance, the advancing troops of the Ottoman Empire moved closer and closer.

The Ottoman Turks attacked Constantinople for the first time in 1396. Ottoman is the Western derivative for the followers of Osman (12591326), a Sunni Muslim warrior who led raids on Christian Byzantine enclaves in western Anatolia (the Asian side of present-day Turkey).

The Ottomans built a fort on the Asian side of the Bosporus to prevent aid from reaching Constantinople. Yet the city would not fall for several decades. By 1452, under leader Mehmed II (r. 14511481), the Ottomans tightened the noose, building a second fortress on the European side of the Bosporus.

Mehmed commissioned the manufacture of large cannons to bombard the city's powerful walls. In March of 1453, Ottoman troops attacked the city by land and water. A massive chain prevented enemy ships from entering the Golden Horn. But Mehmed rolled his fleet by land on top of logs from the Bosporus into the Golden Horn. On May 29, Mehmed entered the city and prayed in the church of Haghia Sophia. It was a symbolic gesture that signaled the end of Constantinople's Christian era and the beginning of Muslim rule. The Haghia Sophia was immediately turned into a Muslim temple.

The city had been nearly abandoned during Mehmed's siege. He began to repopulate it by moving people into the city from other communities. In 1457, Constantinople, known by now as Istanbul, became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Within a few years, the city was repopulated by more than 50,000 people.

During the rule of Suleyman the Magnificent (r. 152066), Ottoman Istanbul reached its zenith. The magnificent buildings of architect Mimar Sinan (c. 14891587) defined this period. As chief architect of the Ottoman Empire, Sinan is credited with more than 300 buildings. He designed palaces, mosques, tombs, and government buildings. With his buildings and the contributions of others, the city embraced a distinct Ottoman identity. For a while, it was the center of Islam.

By the nineteenth century, moderate sultans opened the doors to the West and sought better relations. Muslim Turks, Orthodox Greeks, Christians, Armenians, Jews, and many Europeans populated Istanbul. Yet, not all was well within the Ottoman Empire. Many non-Turkish people were in open revolt. The Greeks declared their independence in 1829, and soon others followed. The Europeans invested heavily in the Ottoman Empire. They openly sought to exert influence while secretly desiring the empire's territories and its wealth.

British, French, and Germans were involved in just about every aspect of Ottoman society. Foreign experts were reshaping the Ottoman Army and government administration with the approval of the ruling class. Sultans and government officials adopted the dress of Western diplomats, replacing their traditional clothes with Western pants and jackets. The fez replaced the turban. With European investment, Istanbul continued to modernize.

By the 1870s, Europeans were building a railroad to connect the continent with Istanbul. Modernization had come at a high price, and the empire was heavily indebted to European powers. In the meantime, many young Ottomans sought to limit the powers of the sultan and his western-style administration. The power struggles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would mark the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Turkish Republic.

In 1908, a group known as the Young Turks forced Sultan Abd al-Hamid to restore the constitution and parliament. Al-Hamid attempted a counterrevolution in 1909, dissolving Congress and arresting many Young Turks. But allies of the young revolutionaries marched from Macedonia into Istanbul and dethroned the sultan. The Young Turks, who ruled until 1918, introduced many social changes, including Western-style elections and broader women's rights. During World War I (191418), the Ottomans aligned themselves with the Central Powers (the German and Austro-Hungarian empires). Istanbul was blockaded. At the end of the war, British, French, and Italian soldiers occupied Istanbul until 1923.

The nationalist Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (18811938) and his Turkish troops fought European intervention from 1918 until 1923 when hostilities ended with the Treaty of Lausanne. Atatürk abolished the sultanate and moved the capital city to Ankara. Turkey remained neutral during World War II (193945) and later became an ally of Western nations and member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

During the twentieth century, Istanbul lost more than just its status as capital of empires. As it grew, large historic parts of the city were demolished to make space for highways and new buildings. Today, Istanbul struggles to retain its heritage as the portal between two worlds. Many of its buildings have been declared world heritage treasures by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

7. Government

The mayor governs the city and the province of Istanbul. The president of the republic appoints the mayor. The municipality of Istanbul, which was organized by Constantine I into 14 districts in imitation of Rome, is currently divided into 12 districts (kazas ). The Turkish Minister of the Interior appoints the heads of the kazas. The municipal government distributes funds to each of the districts for transportation, water, roads, and other services. A metropolitan municipality handles planning for the region.

8. Public Safety

The city has the typical problems of a large metropolis, but it is generally considered safe. Tourists are most likely to be affected only by petty crime.

9. Economy

Istanbul remains one of the most important commercial centers in the country. About 36 percent of exports and 40 percent of imports pass through Istanbul. It is an industrial city, accounting for 45 percent of national production and about the same percentage of jobs. Its factories produce textiles, oil products, rubber, metals, leather, chemicals, glass, electronics, and automobiles. The city is a banking and insurance center.

10. Environment

Air and water pollution are serious problems in Istanbul. Many beach resorts do not allow swimming because of pollution. Many of the shantytowns lack adequate sanitation facilities and clean water. Water and sewage treatment facilities have not kept up pace with the growing population. During the summer, Istanbul has experienced severe water shortages.

11. Shopping

Istanbul, at the crossroads of two continents, seems like it was made for shopping. The city has many colorful bazaars, including the historic "Kapali Carsi," or covered Bazaar, in the old city. It has more than 4,000 shops, and each trade has its own section. Turkish arts and crafts, carpets, and jewelry are found there, among thousands of other items. The Spice Bazaar is filled with the smells of cinnamon, mint, thyme, and hundreds of other spices and herbs. Istanbul also has many modern shops and malls.

12. Education

The city has 3,500 primary and secondary schools. The national literacy rate is about 70 percent, with a much higher percentage in the city. Theodosius II (401450) founded the first University of Istanbul in A. D. 425. It was succeeded by Istanbul University in 1453. There are two other major universities in the city. Among foreign institutions are The American Robert College for boys (1863) and the American College for girls (1871).

13. Health Care

The city has 90 public and private hospitals serving the Istanbul metropolitan area. The government subsidizes health care. The are only two doctors per 1,000 persons, and many hospitals and clinics lack adequate personnel and equipment. Istanbul is home to the country's two medical schools.

14. Media

Istanbul has 17 daily and 13 weekly newspapers, as well as dozens of periodicals. The city is also served by television and radio. It is home of Turkish cinema and a major book publishing center. The press has been largely uncensored.

15. Sports

Sports are important in Istanbul, and soccer is the most important of all. The city has three major soccer stadiums and several professional teams in the area. Wrestling and sailing are also popular. The city has golf, tennis, and many other sports facilities.

16. Parks and Recreation

The city has many public parks, including Yildiz Park and the Gulhane Park at Topkapi, home of the Istanbul Zoo. A park was developed on the site of the Byzantine Hippodrome. It displays the remains of the ancient horseracing venue. Turkish men are known for spending their leisure time at coffeehouses (kiraathane ), where many customers still smoke water pipes (hookahs ). Both men and women enjoy the public steam baths (haman ), but there are separate facilities for each gender.

17. Performing Arts

Ballet, opera, and theater presentations are held at the 1,300-seat AKM Grand Hall. The Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, Istanbul Modern Folk Music Ensemble, Istanbul State Classical Turkish Music Choir, and the Istanbul Historical Turkish Music Ensemble perform in the city. The International Arts and Cultural Festival is held each year in June and July.

18. Libraries and Museums

The city has exceptional museums. Among them is the Ayasofya (Saint Sophia) Museum. The ancient basilica was built by Constantine the Great (c. 274337) and reconstructed by Justinian (c. 482527) in the sixth century. Architecturally, it is considered one of the most important buildings in the world. Its decorations include fine Byzantine mosaics. The Kariye Museum, built as a church in the eleventh century, is decorated with fourteenth-century frescoes and mosaics on a gold background. The Archaeological Museum has a rich collection of antiquities, including the Alexander Sarcophagus. It has displays on the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hatti, and Hittite civilizations. The Cinili Kosk (The Museum of Turkish Ceramics) was built in the fifteenth century and contains Iznik tiles from the sixteenth century, as well as examples of Seljuk and Ottoman tiles and ceramics. The Ibrahim Palace Museum (The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art) was built as a private residence in 1524. The museum has many Turkish and Persian miniatures, Seljuk tiles, and antique carpets. The Museum of Fine Arts has paintings and sculptures from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among others are the Museum of Turkish Carpets, the Mosaic Museum, and the City Museum, which covers the Ottoman period to the present. The city has many public and private libraries, including the Köprülü Library (1677), which has books more than 1,000 years old.

19. Tourism

Istanbul is one of the great architectural and cultural cities of the world. Turkish palaces, mosques, museums, monuments, and hundreds of water fountains help tell the story of this old city. Many of the mosques and other historic landmarks were added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1985. Many people come to Istanbul to purchase the country's famous carpets, tiles, and ceramics.

20. Holidays and Festivals

The Turkish people observe many religious festivals, including the end of Ramazan (called Ramadan in Arab countries). Muslim religious holidays are based on the lunar calendar and shift about ten days backward each year.

New Year's Day

National Independence and Children's Day

Ataturk's Commemoration Day

Zafer Bayram, or Victory Day

Cumhuriyet Bayram, or Republic Day

Anniversary of Atatürk's death

21. Famous Citizens

Anna Comnena (1083c. 1148), Byzantine princess, daughter of Emperor Alexius I Comnenus, and historian, whose Alexiad is considered an important historical document.

Constantine the Great (c. 274337), founder of Constantinople and first Roman ruler to convert to Christianity.

Bulent Ecevit (b. 1925) poet, political leader, and national hero, Turkish Prime Minister (1974 and 197879).

Pasha Enver (18811922), one of the main leaders of the Young Turks Revolution of 1908 and nationalist leader who directed Turkish war efforts during World War I.

Mimar Sinan (c. 14891588), great architect of the early Ottoman Empire, credited with more than 300 buildings in Istanbul.

22. For Further Study


Istanbul City Guide. [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Ministry of Culture. [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Structural analysis of the Hagia Sophia Museum [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Government Offices

Embassy of Turkey
1714 Massachusetts
Washington D.C. 20036

Government of Turkey [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Ismet Inonu Bul
5 Bah Celievler
Ankara, Turkey


Aksam Gazetesi newspaper [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Fanatik (sports Internet site from Istanbul). [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Milliyet Gazetesi newspaper [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).

Turkish Daily Ne ws. [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2000).


Clari, Robert de. The Conquest of Constantinople. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

Kagitcibasi, Cigdem, ed . Sex Roles, Family, and Community in Turkey. Bloomington: Indiana University Press Turkish Studies, 1982.

Lewis, Bernard. Istanbul: And the Civilization of the Ottoman Empire. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Mansel, Philip. Constantinople: City of the World's Desire: 14531924. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Queller, Donald E. with Thomas F. Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

Tapper, Richard, ed. Islam in Modern Turkey: Religion, Politics, and Literature in a Secular State. London: Tauris, 1991.

Treadgold, Warren. Byzantium and its Army: 284 1081. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Whittow, Mark. The Making of Byzantium: 600 1025. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Istanbul." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cities. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Istanbul." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cities. . (October 20, 2016).

"Istanbul." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cities. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from



CONSTANTINOPLE. The city of Constantinople, called Kostantaniyye in Arabic and in formal Ottoman usage and Istanbul in the vernacular, was the most cosmopolitan city in the Mediterranean world and the Middle East during the early modern period. Its geographic locationit connected Asia and Europe as well as the Black Sea and the Mediterraneanenhanced its importance during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. In addition, its natural beauty, monumental architecture (Byzantine and Ottoman), size, and commercial importance surpassed former Ottoman and Islamic capitals like Bursa, Cairo, and Isfahan in the early modern period. European visitors to the Ottoman capital have left numerous accounts and hundreds of sketches of its beautiful panorama, its magnificent Byzantine and Ottoman monuments, and the colorful daily life of its residents, including women, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to Lady Mary Montagu, the wife of the English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 17171718, Istanbul surpassed European cities like London and Paris in size in the eighteenth century. It was the most exotic and yet familiar city for visiting Europeans who lived among local Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in the European neighborhood of Pera in the eighteenth century.


The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed II (ruled 14441446, 14511481) on 29 May 1453 led initially to its physical devastation as a result of a two-month siege and violent takeover by the Ottoman troops, who pounded the walls with heavy cannon fire. A good number of its residents fled the city during the siege, reducing the defending force to only seven thousand men, which included Venetian and Genoese volunteers. Lack of unity among its Greek residents, who defied Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI's (ruled 14491453) call for union with Rome, combined with the superior force of the Ottoman army, which numbered eighty thousand men, made possible the conquest of the city. The sultan assumed the title of Conqueror (Fatih) after this victory, which marked the end of Byzantium and the beginning of an imperial age for the Ottomans.

After witnessing the looting and pillaging of the city by his soldiers, Mehmed II immediately set out to rebuild Constantinople and convert it to an Ottoman-Islamic capital. He first granted amnesty to former residents who had fled and pressed Greeks and Turks from all over the empire to settle in the city in return for tax relief. In the process of occupation and resettlement, many former residents who had survived lost their property to the new settlers. The sultan entered the great Cathedral of Haghia Sophia (Turkish, aya sofya ) mounted on his horse and ordered the erection of a minaret and the construction of a pulpit (mimber) and an ornamental niche (mihrab) indicating the direction of Mecca. The magnificent mosaics were obscured by plaster in accordance with the orthodox Islamic ban on human imagery. Many Greek and Armenian churches fell into ruin or were converted into mosques, symbolizing the new status of Islam under the Ottomans. Mehmed II ordered the construction of a new palace, the Topkapi Sarayi, next to the Aya Sofya mosque on the first Hill, which replaced the old palace on the third Hill and became the residence of the dynasty and the center of government until the late eighteenth century. The imperial harem, the residence of the Ottoman household, and its dependents became part of the Topkapi Palace. Mehmed II also ordered the construction of a royal mosque (Fatih Camii) complex with a commercial district that became known as the covered bazaar (Kapali Çarşi) at the heart of the city on the third Hill to revive the economy and promote trade. He commanded the members of the ruling class to set up similar religious and charitable foundations in the vicinity of his mosque.

The city was divided into four districts: Eyüp, which contained the tomb of Abu Ayyub (Eyüp) al-Ansari, one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammed who had taken part in the first Muslim siege in the seventh century; Galata, the Genoese town; Istanbul, the walled royal district; and Usküdar, on the Asiatic shore. Galata and Istanbul were the most populated towns. The city expanded beyond the walls and on both shores of the Bosphorus in the eighteenth century. In the absence of detailed and regular surveys, it is impossible to reach any firm conclusions about demographic trends in the city before the nineteenth century. The earliest Ottoman census for the two districts of Galata and intra muros Istanbul in 1477 records a civilian population of 16,324 tax-paying households, 9,486 of them Muslim, 3,743 Greek Orthodox, 1,647 Jewish, 434 Armenian, 332 European, 31 Gypsy (Roma), and various others (İnalcik, 1973, p. 141). According to some estimates, the population of the city, including its immediate suburbs, rose from 80,000 or so in the late fifteenth century to 500,000 in the sixteenth century. Foreign travelers estimated the population of the city to have been anywhere from 300,000 to 700,000 in the mid-eighteenth century, with Muslims making up 58 percent of the population. Orthodox Greeks continued to be the most dominant non-Muslim element in the capital as in the empire as a whole. Jews made up about 10 percent of the population of Istanbul in the eighteenth century. The Latin Catholic population of Galata is said to have numbered around 3,000 in 1714. Several hundred French households resided in the neighborhood of Bereket-zade in Pera, the neighborhood above Galata, in the eighteenth century.

The fires, plague, and earthquakes so often recorded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries periodically reduced the population and destroyed whole neighborhoods. Rural migration, however, more than restored demographic balance. The state had to impose limits on rural migration to the city and deported unemployed single men regularly in the eighteenth century. The first formal census survey estimated the population of greater Istanbul to be around 359,000 people in the early decades of the nineteenth century. It rose to 1,077,000 in 1897. The population of greater Galata alone reached 291,406 persons (49.8 percent Muslim) in 1927.


The Ottoman dynasty played an important role in the physical and economic development of the city. The sultan ordered the members of his household and his grandees to endow pious foundations (vakf) all over the city and particularly in the district of Istanbul, which became the residence of the dynasty. The female members of the Ottoman dynasty, like valide-sultans ('queen mothers') and princesses of the blood, also played an important role in founding the new complexes. These vakf complexes provided religious services, education, health care, shelter, and food for the population. The income to support the foundations came largely from commercial properties attached to these complexes. Philanthropy through vakf also enhanced the legitimacy of the dynasty and integrated the city physically, socially, and economically. The Süleymaniye mosque in the district of Istanbul on the seventh Hill and the Hürrem Sultan (d. 1558) mosque in Usküdar, built by Sultan Süleiman (15201566) and Hürrem, his beloved wife, are two outstanding examples of such vakf complexes.

The city was divided into thirteen districts (nahiye), each subdivided further into neighborhoods (mahalle). Every district, with the exception of one, was named after a mosque complex established by sultans and viziers, for example, Süleymaniye, Mahmud Pasha, Fatih, Beyazit, Aya Sofya, and so on. The districts were mixed in their ethnic and religious makeup while individual mahalle s developed around mosques, churches, and synagogues.

The non-Muslim community was generally forbidden from building new churches and synagogues but received permission from the state to repair religious buildings, particularly after major fires. Sometimes the state urged communities to move and settle in new neighborhoods after major fires. In the late sventeenth century, the Jewish community of Bahçe Kapi was forced to move after a major fire to clear the way for the construction of a new imperial mosque, Yeni Cami. The displaced Jews were resettled in Hasköy, on the Golden Horn (an estuary that divides European Istanbul). The district of Galata housed Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and European communities. The Muslims settled in increasing numbers in the neighborhoods of Kasim Pasha and Tophane in the same district. Rural migrants and other single men settled in the bachelor lodges (bekar odalari) in these two neighborhoods, where jobs were available in the arsenal and the cannon foundry. The villages along the Bosphorus, Beşiktaş, Ortaköy, Arnavütköy, Bebek, Kuskunçuk, and so on also remained mixed in their ethnic composition. The neighborhoods enjoyed great autonomy and were usually divided along religious lines. Religious strife and tension, however, rarely undermined the harmony of intercommunal life. The city had become more cosmopolitan with the settlement of a growing number of western European merchants and visitors in Pera.


Istanbul had become an important center of commerce between the Middle East, western Europe, and Russia in early modern Europe. Its commerce with western Europe, particularly with France, expanded greatly in the eighteenth century. The European merchants exchanged bullion, woolen textiles, sugar, coffee from the colonies, and other luxurious goods for Russian furs, Iranian silks, carpets, hides, and cotton textiles. The Greek, Jewish, and Armenian merchants played an important intermediary role in trade with western Europe and Russia. The neighborhood of Pera, on the northern hills of Galata, the former Genoese colony, became the residence of western European diplomats and merchants. Galata and Pera also emerged as the center of banking and international commerce in the eighteenth century, overshadowing the traditional commercial center, the bazaar in the old district of Istanbul. This shift also symbolized the incorporation of the Ottoman Empire into the world economy and the dominance of Western trade in the economic life of the city. The new urban bourgeoisie composed of Greeks, Armenians, and, to a lesser extent, Jews and members of the Muslim elite, who enjoyed strong ties to European houses of commerce and credit networks, set up business in fashionable shops in Pera, later known as Beyoǧlu.

The royal household also moved out of the old district and settled in newly built palaces like the Dolmabahçe and the Yildiz Palace on the European shores of the Bosphorus. These palaces displayed European artistic and architectural influences like the baroque and rococo of the eighteenth century. In addition, the members of the dynasty, particularly the Ottoman princesses like Fatma Sultan, the daughter of Ahmed III (ruled 17031730) and wife of the Tulip era grand vizier Nevşehirli Ibrahim, built public parks and gardens and erected public fountains to supply water for the new neighborhoods. An air of leisure and festivity dominated the private and public lives of the Ottoman ruling class and, to some extent, that of the masses during the Tulip period (17181730). The royal household took every occasion to celebrate publicly new victories in the Morea (1715) and Tabriz (1725), the birth and circumcision of Ottoman princes, and the weddings of Ottoman princesses. This period came to an end with the Patrona Halil rebellion in September 1730 that led to the overthrow of Ahmed III and his grand vizier Ibrahim. The rebels, led by disgruntled janissaries and guildsmen, also destroyed the Sa'dabaâd palace in Kaǧithane and numerous others to express their resentment of ruling-class frivolities and perceived decadence.

Despite frequent outbreaks of popular discontent, the city continued to grow and attract rural migrants and Western visitors. Because inflation and food shortages caused numerous riots in the city (1687, 1703, 1730, and 1740), the provisioning of the Ottoman capital assumed a central importance in the urban administration. The courts sentenced bakers to the galleys for short-weighting and violating official prices of bread in the eighteenth century. The police department, which primarily consisted of the janissary corps, expanded its authority to reach into hitherto autonomous quarters of the city. Community policing under the control of the local Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious authorities and notables also assumed greater importance in keeping the criminal elements, the unemployed, and single rural migrants out of residential neighborhoods. The ruralization of Istanbul, however, continued at a regular pace during the nineteenth century. The Tanzimat reforms of 18391868 led to the physical and administrative reorganization and centralization of the city along European lines such as the widening of streets, construction of pavements, street gas-lighting, the establishment of municipal councils, and a mayorship to enforce new municipal regulations.

See also Architecture ; Commerce and Markets ; Harem ; Holy Roman Empire ; Islam in the Ottoman Empire ; Janissary ; Jews and Judaism ; Mehmed II (Ottoman Empire) ; Mercantilism ; Ottoman Dynasty ; Ottoman Empire ; Suleiman I ; Sultan ; Topkapi Palace ; Tulip Era (Ottoman Empire) ; Turkish Literature and Language ; Vizier ; Women .


Çelik, Zeynep. The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century. Seattle, 1986.

Eldem, E. French Trade in Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century. Leiden, 1999.

Eldem, E., B. Goffman, and B. Masters. The Ottoman City between East and West: Aleppo, Izmir, and Istanbul. Cambridge, U.K., 1999.

Freely, John. Istanbul: The Imperial City. London, 1996.

İnalcik, Halil. "Istanbul." Encyclopedia of Islam, Volume 4. 2nd ed. Leiden, 1978.

. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 13001600. London, 1973.

. "Ottoman Galata, 14531553." In Essays in Ottoman History, edited by Halil Inalcik, pp. 275376. Istanbul, 1998.

Mantran, Robert. Histoire d'Istanbul. Paris, 1996.

Montagu, Mary Wortley, Lady. Turkish Embassy Letters. Edited by Malcolm Jack. Athens, Ga., 1993.

Tekeli, Ilhan. "Nineteenth Century Transformation of Istanbul Metropolitan Area." In Villes Ottomans à la fin de l'empire, edited by P. Dumont and F. Georgeon. Paris, 1990.

Zarinebaf-Shahr, Fariba. "Gendering Urban Space: Women's Smaller Vakfs in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul." In The Turks, edited by H. C. Güzel, C. Oǧuz, and O. Karatay, vol. 4, pp. 554563. Ankara, 2002.

. "The Role of Women in the Urban Economy of Istanbul: 17001850." International Labor and Working Class History 60 (Fall 2001): 141152.

. "The Wealth of Ottoman Princesses during the Tulip Period." In The Great Ottoman-Turkish Civilization, edited by Güler Eren, pp. 696701. Ankara, 2000.

Fariba Zarinebaf

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from



Largest city of Turkey; capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

Istanbul is the only city in the world straddling two continents (Europe and Asia). Its situation at the southern end of the Bosporus Strait and on the Golden Horn (an inlet of the Bosporus bisecting the European side) provides the city with excellent harbors. When the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453, he took the title "Master of the Two Seas and Lord of Two Lands," glorifying his new capital at the junction of land routes from Asia and Europe, and of sea routes from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean (through the Dardanelles Strait).

Istanbul's roots date to a short-lived Mycenean settlement in the second millennium b.c.e. and the foundation of Byzantium as a Megaran colony in the seventh century b.c.e. The city rose to greatness when the Roman emperor Constantine I chose this "New Rome" as his capital in 324 c.e., renaming it Constantinopolis and extending its area over seven hills on the peninsula between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. The most imposing Byzantine monuments of the city date from the reigns of early emperors who followed Constantine, and throughout its eleven centuries as capital, the city continuously was adorned by fine examples of Byzantine architecture. By the mid-fifteenth century, however, the once mighty Byzantine Empire had shrunk to such an extent that it held only the city and its immediate environs, surrounded on all sides by the rising Ottoman state. Mehmet II conquered the city in 1453 and set about to rebuild and repopulate his new capital. Within a century, Istanbul had a cosmopolitan population that reflected its international status and the multiethnic character of the empire. Of the two Greek names of the city, Kustantaniyye remained an official designation, but the colloquial eis ten polein, Turkified as Istanbul, was firmly established as the city's name.

In the seventeenth century Pera, located on the heights above Galata, became the site of European embassies and merchants' mansions, leading to the Europeanization of the city's municipal administration, architecture, banking, and trading. Greater Istanbul covered a large area beyond the walled city. However, the population was concentrated in the walled city and across the Golden Horn in Galata; fishing villages along the Bosporus became fashionable summering suburbs, expanding with the advent of steam ferry service. Railway lines constructed late in the nineteenth century led to the further development of European and Asian suburbs along the Sea of Marmara. In the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the city and its suburbs had a total population
of about 900,000: 560,000 Muslims, 205,000 Greeks, 73,000 Armenians, 52,000 Jews, and several thousand Europeans, according to a 1914 census.

During World War I, the Ottoman capital was defended successfully at the Dardanelles (Gelibolu/Gallipoli). Despite this victory, the city suffered typical wartime deprivations, and after the armistice it was occupied by the Allied powers. It was the only defeated capital to be subjected to occupation, primarily because of its strategic position and the international importance of the Turkish Straits. The Turkish nationalist movement that defeated the occupation was directed from Ankara, then a secondary city on the Anatolian plateau. After victory, the sultanate and the caliphate were abolished (in 1922 and 1924, respectively), and the Turkish republic (founded in 1923) chose Ankara as its capital, because it was both easier to defend against foreign powers and untainted by the Ottoman past. During the occupation, Istanbul experienced an in-flux of White Russians fleeing Bolshevik rule. Most of these Russians, along with many of the local Greeks and Armenians, left in the early years of the republic. Istanbul became much more Turkish, albeit at the cost of a reduced population. The prewar population level was regained only after 1950, when an explosive rate of growth began. Much of this new growth was due to the migration of the rural poor to the industrializing urban areas. By the 2000 census, Istanbul's population had reached 9,119,135.

With the population explosion, the city has suffered the breakdown of transport, electricity, gas, and water supply. Temporary shantytowns, or gecekondu s, gradually have transformed into permanent tenements. In older quarters of the city, graceful wooden houses have given way to blocks of characterless
apartments. Nevertheless, this ancient capital of two great empires retains a rich architectural heritage and extraordinary setting, so that Istanbul remains one of the great cities of the world. Two bridges across the Bosporus connect the European and Asian suburbs, and a new business center has developed further to the north. Istanbul has regained its historical role as the region's international trading and financial capital.

see also gecekondu.


Celik, Zeynep. The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986.

Freely, John. Istanbul, 2d edition. New York: Norton, 1987.

Mansel, Philip. Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 14531924. New York: St. Martin's, 1996.

i. metin kunt
updated by eric hooglund

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Istanbul." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Istanbul." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . (October 20, 2016).

"Istanbul." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from



ancient roman and byzantine capital, now the city of istanbul in modern turkey.

The construction of the Roman city of Constantinople was begun in 324, after the final victory of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306337 c.e.) over his rivals for power. It was intended as a new, central capital, which would straddle the eastern and western portions of the Roman Empire. Originally known as New Rome, it came to be known as Konstantinoupolis, the City of Constantine.

The city was completed in May 330 on the site of the existing Greek settlement of Byzantium. It was set on a promontory extending eastward into the Sea of Marmara at the mouth of the Bosporus and was bordered on the north by a sheltered inlet known as the Golden Horn, which served as its harbor. In homage to the city of Rome, it was laid out on seven hills, with its own royal palace and square, senate, forum, and hippodrome. Lying at the crossroads of land routes through Europe and Asia and guarding the strategic and lucrative sea routes connecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas, it quickly assumed prominence as one of the wealthiest cities in the empire and benefited from both imperial patronage and intercontinental trade. The city's growth led it to extend toward the west and construct a new set of walls under Theodosius in 439.

A fire in the time of Justinian (r. 527565) during the Nika Rebellion of 532 destroyed half the city. In its wake, Justinian embarked on an ambitious program of new building. This included a new hippodrome, which held up to 60,000 spectators, a new palace, and a massive church, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, dedicated to the wisdom of Christ. The latter stood on the site of the original church, which was built by Emperor Constantius in 360 and replaced after a fire in 404. Completed in 537 and rebuilt in 558 after an earthquake damaged it, the church is noted for its impressive, 110-foot-diameter domed vault, which dominates the city skyline to this day.

With the decline of Rome, Constantinople remained the capital of the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire and the center of Eastern Christianity. A period of decline occurred during the eighth century, when losses to the early Muslim conquests threatened the empire. Yet Constantinople went on to become the wealthiest and largest city in medieval Europe, home of various nationalities and a trans-shipment center linking Europe with southwest and central Asia. It was venerated as the home of libraries and countless sacred relics. Its wealth and prestige made it the target of several invading armies. It was attacked and besieged variously by the Slavs (in 540, 559, and 581), the Persians and Avars (in 626), the Arabs (in 669679 and 717718), the Bulgarians (in 813, 913, and 924), and the Russians, who assaulted it four times in the period from 860 to 1043.

Following the schism of 1054, which divided Christianity between the Eastern and Western churches, Constantinople became a commercial rival to the Roman Catholic kingdoms in the western Mediterranean, especially Venice. The bishop of Constantinople came to be the ecumenical patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the religious power of the city continued to be strengthened into the late Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The crusades of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries passed through Constantinople relatively peacefully. However, the common perception among the Crusaders that the Byzantine Empire sympathized with the Seljuk Turks allowed Venice to persuade the leaders of the fourth crusade to sack Constantinople. This established a Latin kingdom, centered on the city, that lasted until 1261, when the Byzantines restored their ancient capital. The city was greatly weakened and depopulated as a result and never reclaimed its earlier splendor. The weakness of Constantinople led the Byzantines to ally with Genoa, which came to eclipse the Byzantine state.

In 1453, the Ottoman Turks under Mehmet II defeated the last Byzantine emperor of Constantinople, Constantine XI, who was killed in battle over the city. Turks resettled the city under the Ottomans, changing its cultural makeup over time, although Greeks remained an important part of the population until the early twentieth century. Ottoman building activity ushered in a new age of Islamic architecture, and the church of Hagia Sophia became a mosque, surrounded by four towering minarets. Over time, the Turkish corruption of the Greek phrase eis teen polin (into the city) led to the popular renaming of the city as Istanbul. The city became the administrative capital of the Ottoman Empire, and continued as the capital until it was moved to Ankara under the modern state of Turkey in 1923. It remains the largest city in Turkey, and that nation's most important commercial center. In the early twenty-first century it had a population of more than 12 million.

see also eastern orthodox church; istanbul; ottoman empire.


Mango, Cyril. Studies on Constantinople. Aldershot, U.K.: Variorum, 1993.

Mansel, Philip. Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 14531924. London: John Murray, 1995.

Sherrard, Philip. Constantinople: Iconography of a Sacred City. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Paul S. Rowe

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


İstanbul (Ĭs´tănbōōl´, Ĭstan´bōōl), city (1990 pop. 6,748,435), capital of İstanbul prov., NW Turkey, on both sides of the Bosporus at its entrance into the Sea of Marmara. Its name was officially changed from Constantinople to İstanbul in 1930; before AD 330 it was known as Byzantium. (For the history of the city, see Byzantium and Constantinople.)

The Modern City

One of the great historic cities of the world, İstanbul is the chief city and seaport of Turkey as well as its commercial, industrial, and financial center. Manufactures include textiles, glass, shoes, motor vehicles, ships, and cement. The European part of İstanbul is the terminus of an international rail service (formerly called the Orient Express), and at Haydarpaşa station, on the Asian side, begins the Baghdad Railway. Yeşilköy International Airport is nearby.

Always a cosmopolitan city, İstanbul has preserved much of its international and polyglot character and contains sizable foreign minorities. The city experienced explosive population growth in the 1970s and 80s (it tripled in size), with the Turkish Muslim majority increasing. The present administrative districts of İstanbul include Fatih and Eminönü on the European side and Kadiköy (ancient Chalcedon) and Üsküdar (Scutari) on the Asian side. Massive efforts have been made to keep up with recent growth by modernizing the city's infrastructure and municipal services. In 1973 the European and Asian sections of the city were linked by the opening of the Bosporus Bridge, one of the world's longest (3,524 ft/1,074 m) suspension bridges. This was followed by the Second Bosporus Bridge (3,322 ft/1,012 m), completed in 1988. The first section of a new subway system opened in 2000, and a rail tunnel under the Bosporus opened in 2013.

İstanbul is the seat of İstanbul Univ. (founded 1453 as a theological school; completely reorganized 1933), a technical university, Univ. of the Bosporus (formerly Robert College), Marmara Univ., Mimar Sinan Univ., and Yildiz Univ. It is the see of the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, of a Latin-rite patriarch of the Roman Catholic Church, and of a patriarch of the Armenian Church.

Points of Interest

The city is visited by many tourists and is a popular resort. The environs of İstanbul, particularly the villas, gardens, castles, and small communities along the Bosporus, are famed for their beauty. The part of İstanbul corresponding to historic Constantinople is situated entirely on the European side. It rises on both sides of the Golden Horn, an inlet of the Bosporus, on one of the finest sites of the world, and like Rome is built on seven hills. Several miles of its ancient moated and turreted walls are still standing. Outside the walls and N of the Golden Horn are the commercial quarter of Galata, originally a Genoese settlement; the quarter of Beyoğlu (formerly Pera), which under the Ottoman sultans was reserved for foreigners and their embassies; and Hasköy, the Jewish quarter.

The Golden Horn is crossed by two bridges, the new Galata Bridge (which replaced the famous old Galata Bridge) and the Atatürk Bridge. The former leads into the historic quarter of Stambul, the city's ancient core, abutting the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara. The quarter of Phanar in the northwest, near the former site of the palace of Blachernae of the Byzantine emperors, contains the see of the Greek Orthodox Church and is inhabited mainly by Greeks. Some palace walls still stand. Excavations on the sites of the former Byzantine palaces have found fine works of art, and İstanbul has many monuments of the Byzantine past. Remains of the imperial residence, the Great Palace, were unearthed in 1998. The chief monument surviving from Byzantine times is the great Hagia Sophia. Originally a church, it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and is now a museum.

The city was destroyed (1509) by an earthquake and was rebuilt by Sultan Beyazid II. Turkish culture reached its height in the 16th cent. and from that period date most of its magnificent mosques, notably those of Beyazid II, Sulayman I, and Ahmed I. They all reflect the influence of the Hagia Sophia—yet are distinctly Turkish—and give the skyline of İstanbul its unique character, a succession of perfectly proportioned domes punctuated by minarets. In the gardens by the Bosporus stand the buildings of the Seraglio, the former palace of the Ottoman sultans, now a museum. The Seraglio, begun by Muhammad II in 1462, consists of many buildings and kiosks, grouped into three courts, the last of which contained the treasury, the harem, and the private apartments of the ruler. In the 19th cent. the sultans shifted (1853) their residence to the Dolma Bahçe Palace and the Yildiz Kiosk, N of Beyoğlu on the Bosporus.

See C. King, Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul (2014).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"İstanbul." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"İstanbul." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (October 20, 2016).

"İstanbul." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Constantinople (kŏn´stăn´tĬnō´pəl), former capital of the Byzantine Empire and of the Ottoman Empire, since 1930 officially called İstanbul (for location and description, see İstanbul). It was founded (AD 330) at ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Constantine I, after whom it was named. The largest and most splendid European city of the Middle Ages, Constantinople shared the glories and vicissitudes of the Byzantine Empire, which in the end was reduced to the city and its environs. Although besieged innumerable times by various peoples, it was taken only three times—in 1204 by the army of the Fourth Crusade (see Crusades), in 1261 by Michael VIII, and in 1453 by the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II. Defended by Greek fire, it was also well fortified. An early inner wall was erected by Constantine I, and the enlarged Constantinople was surrounded by a triple wall of fortifications, begun (5th cent.) by Theodosius II. Built on seven hills, the city on the Bosporus presented the appearance of an impregnable fortress enclosing a sea of magnificent palaces and gilded domes and towers. In the 10th cent., it had a cosmopolitan population of about 1 million. The Church of Hagia Sophia, the sacred palace of the emperors (a city in itself); the huge hippodrome, center of the popular life; and the Golden Gate, the chief entrance into the city; were among the largest of the scores of churches, public edifices, and monuments that lined the broad arcaded avenues and squares. Constantinople had a great wealth of artistic and literary treasures before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453. Virtually depopulated when it fell to the Ottoman Turks, the city recovered rapidly. The Ottoman sultans, whose court was called the Sublime Porte, embellished Constantinople with many beautiful mosques, palaces, monuments, fountains, baths, aqueducts, and other public buildings. After World War I the city was occupied (1918–23) by the Allies. In 1922 the last Ottoman sultan was deposed and Ankara became (1923) the new capital of Turkey.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Istanbul City and seaport in nw Turkey, on both sides of the Bosporus, partly in Europe and partly in Asia, at the entrance to the Sea of Marmara. The city was founded by Greek colonists in the 7th century bc. It was known as Byzantium until ad 330 when Constantine I chose it as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and renamed it Constantinople. Captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the city was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1509 and rebuilt by Sultan Beyazid II. When the new Turkish Republic was established after World War I, the capital was moved to Ankara and Constantinople was renamed Istanbul. Today, it is the commercial and financial centre of Turkey. Industries: shipbuilding, cement, textiles, glass, pottery, leather goods. It also derives a valuable income from tourism. Pop. (1997) 8,141,163.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Istanbul." World Encyclopedia. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Istanbul." World Encyclopedia. . (October 20, 2016).

"Istanbul." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The chief see of the E. Roman Empire from the 5th cent. By the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) the Turkish Republic is bound to protect the Greek Christians in Constantinople; but the patriarch must be a Turkish citizen.

Constantinople was the venue for three ecumenical councils. Constantinople I (381) marked the end of the Arian controversy. See also NICENE CREED.

Constantinople II (553) secured the condemnation of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and certain writings of Theodoret and Ibas of Edessa. The council also condemned Origenism.

Constantinople III (680) was convoked to settle the Monothelite controversy.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Constantinople the former name for Istanbul from ad 330 (when it was given its name by Constantine the Great) to the capture of the city by the Turks in 1453. Constantinople is the anglicized form of Constantinopolis, ‘city of Constantine’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Constantinople Former name of Istanbul

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." World Encyclopedia. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." World Encyclopedia. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Constantinopleapple, chapel, chappal, Chappell, dapple, grapple, scrapple •scalpel •ample, trample •pineapple •carpal, carpel •example, sample •sepal •stemple, temple •maple, papal, staple •peepul, people, steeple •tradespeople • sportspeople •townspeople • workpeople •cripple, fipple, nipple, ripple, stipple, tipple, triple •dimple, pimple, simple, wimple •Oedipal • maniple • manciple •municipal •principal, principle •participle • multiple •archetypal, disciple, typal •prototypal •hopple, popple, stopple, topple •gospel •Constantinople, copal, nopal, opal, Opel •duple, pupal, pupil, scruple •quadruple • septuple • sextuple •quintuple • octuple •couple, supple •crumple, rumple, scrumple •syncopal • episcopal • purple

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Constantinople." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Constantinople." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (October 20, 2016).

"Constantinople." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from


Istanbulbull, full, Istanbul, pull, push-pull, wool •Kabul • bagful •manful, panful •capful, lapful •hatful • carful • armful • artful •wilful (US willful) • sinful • fitful •eyeful • boxful • potful •awful, lawful •woeful • joyful • rueful • useful •tubful •jugful, mugful •cupful • earful • ring pull • lambswool •schedule • residual

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Istanbul." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 20 Oct. 2016 <>.

"Istanbul." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (October 20, 2016).

"Istanbul." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 20, 2016 from