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ISTANBUL , city in N.W. *Turkey, on both sides of the Bosphorus at its entrance on the Sea of Marmara (for history prior to 1453, see *Constantinople). Constantinople was taken from the Byzantine emperor in 1453 by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed ii (1451–81) and became the new capital of his state, known from then on as Istanbul. The Arabs called it Qusṭanṭīniyya, and the Jews wrote the name Qustantina (or Qustandina), hence the name Kushta in Hebrew. During the Ottoman period three townlets in its vicinity became quarters of Istanbul: Galata, between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus; Eyüp, at the northwest extremity of the Golden Horn; and Üsküdar (Scutari), on the eastern shore of the Bosphorus. The town occupied a central position on the routes between Asia and Europe and the maritime communications between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea passed through it. It also served as an administrative and commercial center. After World War i the capital of Turkey was transferred to Ankara.

The 15th and 16th Centuries

Immediately after the conquest of the town on May 29, 1453, the armies of Mehmed, ii, the Conqueror, perpetrated a massacre of its inhabitants which lasted for several days; they did not, however, according to one opinion, attack the Jewish community, and according to some Ottoman sources (fermans

from the 16th and 17th centuries) the Jews assisted the Ottoman armies in their conquest of the town. Some sources say that the fate of the Jewish residents in the city was not different from that of their Greek neighbors, and Jews who did not run away in time were killed, their women and daughters were raped and their houses were plundered by the Ottoman soldiers. During the conquest the old synagogues of the community in the district of Balat were destroyed. Prior to the siege, the majority of the Jews resided in the area called now Galata, Kasim Pasha and Hasköy. In the census of 1455, which was incomplete, the names of Jews appeared as residents of two quarters: Fabya, near the church of San Fabyan, and Samona, near Karaköy. There was also a Jewish quarter near the church of San Benito, but only a few Jews lived there. The survey of 1472 does not mention even one Jewish household in Galata, and this remained the situation until the middle of the 16th century. In order to renovate the town, populate it, and convert it rapidly into a flourishing and prosperous capital, Mehmed ii adopted a policy of transferring Muslim, Christian, and Jewish inhabitants, most of them merchants and craftsmen, from various regions of the empire – principally from Anatolia and the Balkans – to the new capital. All the transferred Jews were Romaniots (see *Romaniot) and were called by the Ottoman authorities "sürgün" (after the Turkish word for "those who were exiled") to distinguish them from the other Jews, principally from Spain, Portugal, Ashkenaz (Germany), and other European lands, who were named "kendi gelen," meaning "those who came of their own free will." The sürgüns also included the survivors and escapees of Jews from the city who resettled in it as sürgün. All the Jewish population of Asia Minor and many communities in Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria were deported to Istanbul over a period of 20 years. They paid taxes to the vakif of the Sultan Mehmed ii and had a special status forbidding them to leave Istanbul without a license of the Ottoman authorities. There were sürgüns in the 16th century who left the city, and continued paying their taxes in Istanbul. They paid higher taxes than those paid by the kendi gelen directly to the central treasury. The sürgün settled in the vicinity of the commercial complex of Mahmud Pasha. The surveys made for the vakif of Mehmed ii in 1535, 1540, and 1545 noted the existence of a congregation named Galata, but it is clear that this congregation must have been located not in Galata and was comprised of Jews whose origin was Galata. Most sürgüns settled in a trapezoid-shaped area formed by Eminönü, Sirkeci, Tahtakale, Mahmud Pasha, and Zeyrek. The 1495 register of the vakif of Mehmed ii mentions many locations where Jews were living. In addition to the Edirne (Karaite) quarter near the harbor of Eminönü are Balik Pazari, Zindan Hani, Sari Demir, on the way to Unkapani, Tahtakale, the area near Edirne Kapi, Sirkeci, and locations in the other direction from Eminönü toward Sarayburnu. In 1569 a great fire broke out in the Jewish area, but according to the 1595–97 register of the vakif of Mehmed ii, 60 percent of the Jews were still living in the trapezoid. The main settlement was the quarters of Balik Pazari and Babi Orya. There were a few sürgüns who settled in Balat near Egri Kapi, where the Jewish community had its most important cemetery. The congregations there were Okhrida, Yanbul, Kastoria, and Karaferiye. Only 20 percent of Istanbulʾs Jews resided in Balat at the end of the 16th century. Another place where Romaniots settled after the conquest was in the neighborhood of Samatia (Psamatia) near the Castle of Yediküle on the Marmara coast. The Jews also had an old cemetery in Kasim Pasha, and it is clear that Jews resided in Kasim Pasha and in Hasköy in the middle of the 15th century. Hasköy had been a center of *Karaite Jews at the beginning of the 16th century. Many Ashkenazi Jews settled in this area in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. In the middle of the 16th century Portugese Jews settled in Galata. In 1540, 47 Romaniot congregations based on their places of origin existed; each was conducted by an autonomous leadership and had separate institutions. The Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Italian Jews also built separate and autonomous congregations. A few Ottoman censuses make it possible to evaluate the demographic changes in the community of Istanbul in the 15th and 16th centuries. The census of 1477 shows 1,647 Jewish households in Istanbul, forming 11 percent of the total population; in 1489, the number had risen to 2,027 and by the turn of the 15th century we find 3,600 Jews in the city out of 100,000 inhabitants. An Ottoman register from 1535 lists 8,070 Jewish households in the capital. In the middle of that century the Jewish population rose from some 18,000 persons to nearly 50,000. A jizya register of 1542 informs us about 1,490 Jewish householders. A slight growth from 2,645 Jewish hane (family) in 1529 to 2,807 hane in 1566 is recorded in another survey, and all together we find 1,647 Jewish households in the years 1520–1539 out of a total of 16,326 households. European travelers in Istanbul and Jewish sources give higher figures for the Jewish community of Istanbul.

On the eve of the Ottoman conquest and after it, the community was led by R. Moses b. Elijah *Capsali. The Jews of Istanbul constituted a religious-administrative unit which enjoyed an extensive internal autonomy. The first to represent the Jewish community of Istanbul was the Romaniot Rabbi Moses Capsali. In addition to its religious importance, this function was also of a political nature. Capsali concerned himself with the internal affairs of his community, served as the representative of the Istanbul Jewish congregations before the government, and collected the Jewish taxes. He was named "The leading rabbi" but had difficulty imposing his authority over the congregations of the newcomers, especially the Sephardim. He had disputes with some rabbis and secular leaders from Istanbul and other cities. After his death, around 1498–1500, R. Elijah *Mizraḥi was actually the rabbi bearing the title "the leader Rabbi" of the Romaniot congregations. During his tenure he had grown weak, and, as he states himself, he could not take care of the task because the problems of the congregations were numerous, so the secular affairs of the community were in the hands of a Spanish Jew, *Shealtiel (Salto) who had the office of *kahya, collected taxes from the Jews and dealt with all their financial matters with the Ottoman authorities. After 20 years of service, Shealtiel was ousted from office by the community leaders on October 19, 1518, after many complaints of bribery and arbitrary taxes were lodged against him by Jews. The community banned him and his sons from holding the position of kahya or performing any other function involving contact with the Ottoman authorities. He was returned to office on April 29, 1520, by the leaders of the congregations and R. Elijah Mizrahi. After the death of Shealtiel no successor replaced him. After R. Elijah Mizrahi died in 1526, R. Elijah (son of R. Binyamin) ha-Levi was recognized by all the Romaniot communities, and after his death in 1534 or 1535 R. Abraham Yerushalmi inherited his office in the year 1555. Some of the Romaniot scholars who were forced to leave the city during the conquest later returned. Among them we note R. Mordecai Comitiano and R. Shalom ben Joseph Anavi. Among the Romaniot scholars settling in Istanbul after the conquest we note R. Efraim ben Gershon, R. Meshullam, R. Abbaye, R. Menachem Tamari, and R. Elijah ha-Stipyoni. A few Spanish scholars settled in the city before the expulsion, such as R. Hanokh Saporta of Catalonia and R. Gedaliah ibn Yahya (d. in Istanbul in 1488), the author of Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah.

Ashkenazi Jews had already settled in the town before the Ottoman conquest, but their greatest numbers arrived at a later date. Some from Hungary and Austria first arrived during the 15th century in reaction to the enthusiastic appeal which was included in a letter sent by R. Isaac Ẓarfati, an inhabitant of Adrianople (second half of the 15th century), to the Jews of Germany, Austria, and Hungary, in which he described the agreeable, peaceful, and happy life of the Jews of Ottoman Turkey. The proximity to Ereẓ Israel and messianic aspirations also drew many Jews into settling in Istanbul and other towns of the Ottoman Empire. Refugees from Bavaria, who had been expelled by King Ludwig ix, arrived during the late 1460s. The second wave arrived after the conquest of Hungarian territories during the reign of the sultan *Suleiman the Magnificent (1526). For many years the Ashkenazi community enjoyed an independent status. The Ashkenazim continued relations with their coreligionists in their countries of origin, and were slow to assimilate among the Sephardim. In time the differences disappeared. Spanish and Portuguese Jews arrived in the town as a result of the massive expulsions of 1492 and 1497. Among the refugees who came to the capital after 1492 were eminent Torah scholars, rabbis, dayyanim, rashei yeshivot and authors of significant books. Between 1492 and 1520 there settled in Istanbul R. Abraham Hayyun, R. David Ibn Yahya, R. Isaac ben Joseph Caro, R. Abraham Ibn Ya'ish, R. Judah Ibn Bulat, R. Solomon Taitazak and his famous son Joseph Taitazak, R. Isaac Dondon, R. Solomon Altabib, R. Moshe ben Shem Tov Ibn Habib, R. Solomon Almoli, and R. Jacob Tam ibn Yahya. Other active rabbis in Istanbul in the 16th century were R. Joseph ibn Lev, R. Samuel Ḥakham Halevi, R. Samuel Jaffe Ashkenazi, R. Elijah ben Hayyim, R. Gedaliah Ibn Hayyun. The Italian R. Joshua Soncino served as rabbi of a Spanish congregation.

Strong tensions also existed between the Romaniot scholars who came with the sürgün, and the spiritual leaders of the native Romaniot community over questions of halakhah and minhagim. Later, disputes occurred about hegemony between Romaniot and Sephardi leaders. The *Karaites in Istanbul were also involved in a dispute between the Romaniot and the Sephardi scholars over the attitude toward them. The Romaniots wanted to follow their tradition to teach the Karaites. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Sephardim were still struggling with the Romaniots over issues such as the right over a proportionate amount of the meat supplied to the Jewish community; they did not recognize the authority of the Romaniot leader rabbi. By the time of R. Elijah Mizrahiʾs death, the influence of the Sephardi minhagim had increased. The Sephardim in town agreed to accept the Romaniot custom considering the erusin as kidushin, and this decision was upheld in Istanbul for hundreds of years. In the years 1582–1603 the Romaniots were still a majority of the Jews in the city. The Jews of Istanbul established famous yeshivot which were headed by R. Elijah Mizrahi, R. Joseph ibn *Lev, R. Isaac *Caro, R. *Tam ibn Yaḥya, R. *Elijah b. Ḥayyim. The Spanish yeshivot in the city continued the teaching methods of the original Spanish yeshivah. R. Yosef Taitazak was brought from *Salonika to head a Spanish yeshivah supported by wealthy patrons, and in 1554/5 Gracia Mendes appointed the Spanish Salonikan Rabbi Joseph Ibn Lev to head the new yeshivah she founded.

the organization of the kahal, and economic and social life of the jewish community

The refugees founded various *congregations (kahal-kehalim) according to their country of origin, the region-province, or the town which they had abandoned. The refugees of Spain, Sicily, and Portugal who arrived in Istanbul founded the congregations called Gerush Sepharad, Cordova, Aragon, Messina, Sicily, and Portugal. These congregations jealously maintained their independence and individuality. Every kahal had its own synagogue, rabbi, teacher, talmud torah, ḥevra kaddisha, welfare institutions (hekdeshim), and various societies, such as gemilut ḥasadim ("benevolent society"), bikkur ḥolim ("visiting of the sick"), and societies for the support of the yeshivot of Tiberias; in most cases they also had a bet din. Moreover, secular affairs were handled by a group of functionaries called maʿamad. The members of the maʿamad were called memunnim, berurim, and gabbaʾim, tovei hakahal, or nikhbadim. A majority of these persons were important businessmen. They were elected in the presence of all the taxpayers of the kahal and administered the affairs of the kahal according to established agreements and takkanot. These leaders were responsible for the registration of the kahal members, and the imposition and collection of taxes, and their transfer to the Ottoman authorities. In every kahal, the ḥakham (Rabbi) was the spiritual leader of the congregation and headed its law court. Penalties, such as the ḥerem and niddui ("bans"), were imposed on those who challenged the opinion of the rabbi of the kahal. The takkanot and agreements on which they based their decisions concerned various matters, especially social and economic ones, such as the prohibition of leaving one kahal for another, tax assessments, the appointment of rabbis and Torah teachers and the conditions of their actiivity, the prohibition of wearing expensive apparel and jewels by women, ḥazakot. Sephardi congregations did not have a single rabbinical authority over all the rabbis. During the 16th century the new settlers from Europe, especially from Portugal and Italy, founded many new congregations. A significant congregation named "Seniora" was founded by Gracia Mendes in the middle of the 16th century for the anusim from Portugal settling in Istanbul. Following disputes in some congregations, there were individuals or groups who preferred to set up new congregations or to join others. The congregations enabled individuals to change their affiliations only before the tax assessment and payment. Great fires that ruined the southern shore of the Golden Horn in 1539 and 1554 caused many Jews to move to areas where they joined congregations whose customs differed from theirs. The 1569 fire in what became Yeni Cami brought many Jews to Hasköy and elsewhere before the famous mosque was built there. Other fires broke out in 1568, 1569, and 1588.

The numerous kehalim of the capital had their roof organization, which was known in responsa literature as Ha-Vaʿad ha-Kolel shel ha-Kehillot, to which every kahal sent its delegate. There were also other institutions in which all the kehalim were associated.

The 16th century was thus a flourishing period for the community, and Istanbul became one of the world's most important Jewish centers. Not long after the settlement of the sürgün, the Jews in Istanbul were excelling in traditional fields of big business, especially in commerce, crafts, medicine, and the manufacture of firearms. They were involved in a lucrative trade of cloth and spices, and Jews from Istanbul traveled to trade with centers such as Bursa, Salonika, Caffa, Kilia, and Akkerman, Egypt, Aleppo, Dubrovnik, Venice, and Ancona. In 1514 the Jewish guild of physicians in Istanbul had six members and the Muslim guilds had sixteen members. A considerable number of Jews were involved in tax farming and the farming of mints all over the empire in the second half of the 15th century. Until the end of the 16th century the richest congregations of Istanbul were the Romaniot. Jews of Istanbul were allowed to work in all aspects of economic activity except those performed by the Ottoman administrative-military system of government. Many Jews of Istanbul produced and sold food and wine. There were Jews compelled by the government to bring sheep from Anatolia and the Balkans to Istanbul, causing some of them to go bankrupt. Many Istanbul Jews were engaged in all the various occupations dealing with precious metals and stones. The farming of the minting house of Istanbul was often in Jewish hands in the second half of the 15th century and in the 16th century Many Istanbuli Jews were *sarrafs (money changers). Other Jews focused on the production of luxury textiles such as silk and also traded in angora wool brought from Anatolia. Many other crafts and occupations were engaged in by Jews in Istanbul; they were, for example, tailors, carpenters, pharmacists, bakers, fishermen, tinsmiths, glassmakers, blacksmiths, painters, bookbinders, and also actors, dancers, and musicians. Many Jews owned shops in the markets of Istanbul. For international trade some of the Jewish merchants of Istanbul used the services of larger entrepreneurs, exporters and importers, and others sent their representatives to other cities. The Spanish Jews in Istanbul had close trading connections with Spanish communities in Italy, Europe, and the Levant. Many Jews in Istanbul became wealthy, and the economic elite in the Jewish community included many Romaniots and Sephardim.

Another significant phenomenon which contributed to the security of the Jewish community was the activism of the court Jews, especially physicians. It is worth noting Jacob (Hekim Yakub) who served as personal physician to Mehmed ii until his own death in 1481, and received a tax exemption for himself and his descendants in the Ottoman Empire. Jacob was also a financial adviser to the sultan and his translator, and he seems to also have been a companion to the sultan on every military campaign. Moreover, he maintained close connections with Italian diplomats in Istanbul. Mehmed ii appointed this qualified Jew as defterdar, the high official in charge of the treasury. Later he converted to Islam at an advanced age and was appointed vizier. Some of his sons remained Jewish and enjoyed the privilege exempting them from all taxes. Jacob's career ended in the early 1480s, and at the same time (c. 1481) the physician Efraim ben Nissim Ibn Sanchi arrived in Istanbul from Portugal. He became a court physician and his son Abraham also fulfilled the same role in the court. During the 16th century the most significant physicians of the court were the members of the *Hamon family, Joseph and his son Moses of Granada (who served the sultans *Bayazid ii, *Selim i, and *Suleiman i, the Magnificent) and the grandson and great grandson, Joseph and Isaac Hamon. There were also prominent Jewish capitalists and bankers who held central positions in the financial areas of the empire – treasury and lease of taxes – and positions of a political nature; their influence at court was beneficial to the Jewish communities of Istanbul and other towns. During the third quarter of the 16th century, the *Mendes family played an important role in the life of the city. This Marrano family from Portugal owned a bank in Lisbon with a branch in Antwerp. After the death of Francesco Mendes, the head of the bank, his widow Gracia (*Nasi) left Lisbon with her young daughter Reyna and her nephew João Micas for Antwerp and from there continued to Venice and Turkey. In Istanbul they openly returned to Judaism in 1553 and João Micas called himself Joseph *Nasi. A short while later, he married Reyna, the daughter of Gracia. There were now ample opportunities available to the Nasi family for financial and commercial activities in the town. Their affairs were not limited to giving credit but also included commercial negotiations with various European countries and competition with the Venetian merchants for the Levantine trade. The friendship of Joseph Nasi with the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his son Selim ii won him an influence in state affairs which he exploited not only for his own benefit but also for the Jews in general. He made generous donations to the yeshivot of the capital, while at the same time the Mendes family established a large and renowned yeshivah, supporting its students and its head R. Joseph ibn Lev. This yeshivah was named Yeshivat ha-Gevirah after Dona Gracia Mendes, by means of whose financial contributions the novellae and the responsa of R. Joseph ibn Lev, which were debated in the yeshivah, were published. They also supported the Hebrew printing press in the capital (see below). Through its extensive influence Gracia Mendes obtained as a multazima (lessee) a concession from the sultan to rebuild the town of *Tiberias, which lay in ruins. Joseph Nasi supported this act, but he and Gracia Mendes did not manage to visit the town. The family assisted in its reconstruction and gave financial support to the yeshivah of Tiberias, which had been reestablished by the ḥakhamim of *Safed who had come down to the town. This yeshivah was later supported by Don Solomon ibn Ya'ish of Istanbul whose son Jacob settled there and was known as a pious scholar. During the 16th century a few Jewish women were active in the harems of the sultans by rendering various services. These women had the title *kiera. The most famous kieras were Strongilah, Espiranza Malki, and Esther *Handali. In 1566 R. Moshe Almosnino prepared a list of court Jews in Istanbul who helped him to obtain the Writ of Freedom (mu'afname) from the sultan for the Jewish community of Salonika: Joseph Nasi, Judah Di Sigura, Abraham Salma, Meir Ibn Sanji, and Joseph Hamon. Generally those court Jews were very wealthy and attempted to help their brethren in Istanbul and other Ottoman Jewish communities by using their political connections, Sometimes they became involved in internal quarrels of other communities. Gracia Mendes and Joseph Nasi used their status in the Istanbul community and at court, after the burning of the anusim in Ancona in the year 1555, to ban the harbor of Ancona and transfer the Jewish Ottoman mercantile representatives to the city of Pesaro. From 1564 R. Shelomo Ashkenazi served as the personal physician of the sultan; he was sent by the sultan Selim ii to arrange the peace treaty in 1573 between the Ottoman Empire and Venice. During the reign of the sultan Murad iii (1574–95), however, the Jewish community was shaken by a decree ordering the killing of Jews, which resulted from the appearance of men and women in the streets in rich clothing and jewels. As a result of the intervention of the physician R. Solomon *Ashkenazi at court, the decree was mitigated, but Jews were forbidden to wear such apparel. Subsequently, the rabbis of Istanbul and the community leaders reached an agreement that "the women and the girls shall not go out in grandiose apparel, golden jewelry, and precious stones." Bula Ikshati Ashkenazi, the wife of Solomon Ashkenazi was also active as a physician at court at the turn of that century.

Don Solomon Ibn Ya'ish (1520–1603) also had very important political and economic status in Istanbul. He was an active diplomat of the Ottoman Empire after settling in Istanbul in 1580 and was also the farmer of the Istanbul customs. Until his death he served the sultans Murad iii (1574–1595) and Mehmed iii (1595–1603) and was deeply involved in Ottoman politics.

The 17th Century

The economic and cultural decline of the Jewish community of Istanbul began during the 17th century, together with a general decline of the Ottoman Empire. The great fires which devastated a number of quarters during the 17th century (1606, 1618, 1633) induced the Ottomans to transfer the Jews especially to Hasköy, causing changes in the structure of the kehalim. The ancient organization according to origin and synagogue fell into disuse and many Jews joined synagogues near their new residence even if they belonged to another kahal. This process was essentially responsible for the fusion of the Romaniots with the Sephardim. From this time onward each individual identified himself according to the quarter or neighborhood he lived in. In 1608, 24 Romaniot congregations existed in Istanbul including 1,152 households, one Karaite congregation with 70 households, 8 Spanish congregations with 539 households, 4 Italian congregations with 209 households, 2 Ashkenazi congregations with 77 households, one Hungarian congregation with 59 households, and two unidentified congregations including 89 households. The total Jewish population was 2,195 households. In the Hasköy cemetery in 1609–1623 the Romaniots were 30.7 percent of the identified stones, the Ashkenazim were 15.3 percent, and the Iberian Jews were 38.4 percent. In the period 1624–1700 the Romaniots were 27.1 percent of the identified stones, the Ashkenazim were 14.2 percent, and the Iberian Jews were 46.3 percent. According to the Ottoman census of 1603–1608, 55.6 percent of the Jews of Istanbul were Romaniots, 5.9 percent were Ashkenazim, and 38.5 percent were Iberian Jews. According to the Ottoman census of 1623, the Romaniots were 57 percent of the Jewish population, the Ashkenazim were 1.5 percent, and the Iberian Jews were 41.5 percent. In 1634, according to one source, there were in the city 2,555 Jewish tax-units. The last census of the century, in 1688, reflects the drastic change in the ethnic groups of the community, especially reflecting the decrease in Romaniot figures over time. There were 3,611 Jewish jizya payers, i.e., 18,000 individuals. In Balat there were 1,547 Jewish households; in Galata, 1,033; in Hasköy, 515; and in Orta Köy, 637 households. The Romaniots were only 27.8 percent of the Jewish population, the Ashkenazim were 4.1 percent, and the Iberian Jews were 68.1 percent. Maps describing the Jewish population in the city in the 17th century indicate major Jewish concentrations alongside both the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. In Orta Köy the Jews were a majority of the local population, and according to the Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi the same situation existed in Hasköy. In that century there were some wealthy Jews who lived in palaces.

During the 17th century many Sephardi Jews, former anusim, and many Italian Jews settled in Istanbul, which assisted the growth of the Sephardi and Italian congregations. In that century the Jewish population became much more integrated and homogenous in its culture, and the majority of its spiritual leaders were Sephardim. " Va'ad Berurei Averot," whose authority was to deal with offenders, was very active in Istanbul. Special appointees to deal with ritual questions (issur ve-hetter) functioned in Istanbul from the 17th century until the beginning of the 20th. The appointees issued regulations on many matters relating to kashrut, ritual matters, and personal morality. In the community batei din functioned in the various districts, and there also existed a supreme beit din. In that century every kahal had at least one kahya, and it is possible that at times there also served one kahya of the Romaniots and another of the Sephardim. At the beginning of the century the palace medical staff consisted of 41 Jewish physicians and 21 Muslim physicians. Following the economic decline in the number of Istanbulʾs Jewish residents, the number of Jewish physicians and advisers at the court fell. By mid-17th century the medical staff was reduced to fourteen Muslim physicians and four Jews only. Still, Jews served at the court of the sultan until the second half of the 18th century and even at the beginning of the 19th. Sultan Ibrahim i (1630–1648) sent a Jewish diplomat, Samuel Markus, to Madrid. The Italian Israel Conegliano (Conian; c. 1650–c. 1717) settled in Istanbul in 1675 and became the physician of Grand Vezir Kara Mustafa Pasha and was also consulted by Sultan Mehmed iv (1648–1687).

During the reign of Sultan Murad iv, in 1633, a blood libel against the Jews of Istanbul occurred, saying that they had murdered a Turkish child on the eve of Passover (see *Blood Libels). Following the massacres of 1648–49 in *Poland, the Cossacks, Tatars, and Ukrainians took many Jews into captivity and sold them in Istanbul. The Jews of Istanbul competed with one another in observing the precept of redeeming captives, thus saving thousands of Jews. The community of Istanbul sent a special emissary to Italy and Holland in order to raise funds for the redemption of captives. R. Nathan *Hannover, the author of Yeven Meẓulah, who was an eyewitness to the events in Podolia and Volhynia and escaped through Western Europe, writes:

There was among them [the Jews] a ḥazzan and his name was R. Hirsch. When the Tatars came, he began to lament and to intone the El Male Raḥamim [prayer for the departed] in a loud voice over the deaths of our brothers of the House of Israel; all the assembled broke into a great weeping and they aroused the mercy of their captors who comforted them with kind words and said to them: "Be not concerned, you will not lack food nor drink. Tomorrow we shall bring you to your brothers in Constantinople and they will redeem you." In this fashion the Tatars dealt with our brothers of the House of Israel in Istanbul, who redeemed them together with the other captives from Poland – about 20,000 souls – and they spent much money on them.

In the 17th century the Jews of Istanbul lost many of their former professions and were gradually reduced to secondary positions, typically as agents or tax farmers. They suffered further disadvantages, such as growing economic competition with the European-backed Christians and incessant internal disputes. In 1666 *Shabbetai Ẓevi arrived in Istanbul, and the opinion of the Jews of the capital was divided: the majority feared that his appearance would be the cause for actions against Jews in general. Others were attracted by his messianic enthusiasm and went out to meet him in order to pay him homage. The opponents informed the grand vizier of this and he ordered Shabbetai Ẓevi's arrest. The imperial police seized and imprisoned him in Gelibolu. After Shabbetai Zevi's conversion the communal leadership sought to limit the damage within the Jewish communities as much as possible. They did it by calming the people and by attempting to prevent discussion on the subject. The leaders of the Istanbul community decided to neither attack nor prosecute the believers or former believers but rather to ignore them. There is practically no evidence of Shabbateans in Istanbul at the end of the 17th century and during the 18th. A ḥerem ("ban") was also issued there against Nehemiah Ḥayon in 1714.

In spite of the economic and political decline of the Jewish community of Istanbul during the 17th century, the community had a considerable elite which included old families such as Ibn Ya'ish, Hamon. Ankawa, Benveniste, Ibn Faraj, Ibn Valiasid, and Zonana. In the middle of the century a difficult dispute about the rabbinate of the Neve Shalom congregation broke out. The quarreling parties involved the Ottoman authorities in this discussion. In the community many scholars were active such as R. Joseph *Trani, R. Isaac ben R. Yom Tov Ibn Faraj, R. Kalev Ben Samuel, R. Aaron Hamon, R. Barukh Ben Hayyim, R. Solomon Caro, R. David Egozi, R. Yom Tob Barbinya, R. Jacob and R. Isaac Elnekave (Ankawa), R. Yesha'ya Mitrani, R. Moses and R. Joshua Benvinste, R. Moses Shilton, R. Joseph Kazbi and R. David Falcon. R. Joseph Trani from Safed who settled in Istanbul in 1605 was appointed by the wealthy Ibn Ya'ish brothers, head of the Gerush congregation yeshivah. In 1620 he preferred to be appointed rosh yeshivah of the wealthy figure Jacob Elnekave, but he continued to visit the former yeshivah in the mornings. R. Joseph Trani was the spiritual leader of the community from 1607 until his death in 1639.

The 18th Century

During the 18th century several fires (in 1704, 1715, 1729, 1740, 1751, and 1756) devastated the Jewish quarters. The greatest of these was in 1740 after which the Jews were not allowed to rebuild their quarter. As a result most of the Jews moved to Ortaköy and Galata. Others settled in Üsküdar, Hasköy, and Piri Paṣa. In 1740 the Grand Vizier issued new proclamations regarding the dress of the Christians and Jews, forbidding them to wear certain colors and furs. By then the Jewish community of Istanbul had become more homogenous and better organized. It developed institutions adjusted to the topography, administrative structures, and general character of the city. The local Jewish leaders in each quarter communicated with the quarter's authorities on local issues. In the 18th century the sultans continued to hire Jews as physicians and advisers. The physician Tubias (Toviyyah) Cohen (ca. 1652–1729), a native of Metz, settled in Istanbul and entered the service of Sultan Ahmed iii (1703–30) until his retirement and settling in Jerusalem in 1714. Another Jew, Daniel de Fonseca (ca. 1668–ca. 1740), former Portugese anus, settled in Istanbul in 1702 and served as a physician and diplomat to the French Embassy, and in 1714 he became the physician of Ahmed iii, serving until 1730. Other Jewish court physicians during the reigns of Mahmud i (1730–54) and Osman iii (1754–57) were Isaac Çelebi, Joseph the Rofeh, David Halevi Ashkenazi, and Judah Handali. In the second half of the 17th century there was a sharp decline in the number of Jews at the court. According to the inheritance register of the chief rabbi of Galata which was written in 1770, there existed an active millet yazicisi, a post unknown before, possible referring to an official, probably a kahya, who registered transactions within the Jewish community.

In 1772, up to 300 of Istanbulʾs 1,500 Jews who could not pay the increased war taxes served instead in the military. Upon Napoleonʾs invasion of Egypt, Sultan Selim iii demanded that the Jews furnish men for the navy, which they did. In 1807 the Jewish community fulfilled among the other citizens the government's order to strengthen the city's defenses. During the Greek war of independence, the Ottomans also drafted non-Christians, including some 500 Jews. In 1772 Mustafa iii (1757–74) ground the Jewish community into bankruptcy when he levied great sums to finance a military campaign: 18,000 members of the Jewish Community Paid Jointly 65,000 kuruș. The community's debts amounted to 325,000 kuruș. According to the 1772 budget, 15 percent of Istanbulʾs Jews were in the lower class of taxpayers, 15 percent in the higher, and the remainder in the middle category. Jews in Istanbul continued to serve as tax farmers, contractors and purveyors for the military, and there were also traders and bankers. In spite of the economic decline of the community in the second half of the century, local Jews still were in prominent positions. Jews in Istanbul were members in mixed guilds until the late 17th century. Much of this changed after the end of the 18th century, when communally-based guilds began to replace mixed ones. The francos who settled in Istanbul during the 18th century had many economic rights, were protected by foreign ambassadors, benefited from preferential taxation in trade, and enjoyed relative independence from the local Jewish community. By the end of the century the Istanbul Jewish community had lost much of its former traditional advantages and was sharply affected by the ongoing decline process in Ottoman society.

Istanbul was one of the most important centers for funds because of its geographic proximity to Ereẓ Israel, and since it was the capital of the central government of Ereẓ Israel, its ḥakhamim were spiritually close to those of the Holy Land throughout the Ottoman period. The funds destined for Ereẓ Israel from Eastern Europe also passed through the capital and it was there that the letters and recommendations of the emissaries and their missions were verified, in Istanbul as in many other communities. The "officials for Ereẓ Israel" (pekidei Kushta), were active from 1726 until the beginning of the 19th century and the Jewish settlement of Erez Israel was under their patronage. They collected various contributions for the Jews in Ereẓ Israel and transferred them through special emissaries. In 1727 the community of Istanbul imposed a payment of one para per week per person in favor of Jerusalem on all the communities of the Ottoman Empire and later on other Oriental countries and Italy. They also solved problems of the Jerusalem community with the Ottoman government, established many takkanot, and forced Jerusalem Jews to act according to the takkanot. Other committees of pekidei Kushta in Istanbul were economically responsible for *Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed. On some occasions there were also indirect taxes, for example, a tax imposed on the capital in 1763, which consisted of "half a lavan (the Ottoman coin akçe, whose common appellation was lavan, "white") on every metro (measure of volume) of wine and beer" in order to save Hebron from its debts. There were special societies, whose members contributed regularly to charities for Ereẓ Israel, the first having been founded during the last third of the 16th century for the benefit of the yeshivah of Tiberias. Pekidei Kushta organized the immigration and the Jewish pilgrimage to Erez Israel during the 18th centuries and also helped immigrants from East Europe who passed through Istanbul on their way to Ereẓ Israel. There were many active benevolent societies in the community during the Ottoman era. A noteworthy example is the "Benevolent Society of the Congregation of the Kaïkçis," founded in about 1715 by the Jewish boat owners whose task it was to ferry people from one side to the other on both the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. The objective of this union was not a professional one but to provide its members with assistance in times of need. They were later joined by workers from related professions: the balikçis, fishermen; the mayvecis, fruiterers, who often sailed on boats because of their occupation; and the mayahaneçis, wine merchants, the owners of taverns, who used boats in order to convey their goods from the town to the villages. Every member was required to contribute one perutah per week, i.e., an akçe or para, toward the society's fund. The mayahaneçis brought four metros (measure of volume in Ladino) free of charge in every boat for the fund. This money was used for supporting the members of the society in difficult times. In order to assure the proper function of the society, the bet din of Istanbul appointed two scholars as "supervisors of all the affairs of the society." It appears that the society continued to exist until shortly before World War i.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the study of the Torah decreased and the cultural standard reached such a low point that the majority could not even read the Bible. It was for this reason that books came to be published in Spanish and Ladino (see below, Hebrew Printing). The leading author of the Spanish literature period was R. Jacob *Culi, who was active in Istanbul during the middle of the 18th century and wrote Me-Am Loʿez. *Ladino literature also began to develop at that time and many works were published in this language. Besides Rabbi Culi, R. Abraham b. Isaac Asa, who may be referred to as "the father of Ladino literature," is worthy of note. He translated religious works, the Bible, the Shulḥan Arukh, and works of history, ethics, and science into Ladino. In Istanbul during the 18th century the most distinguished intellectual families included the Kimḥi, *Rosanes, and Navon families. R. Ḥayyim Kimḥe and R. Binyamin Kazish headed yeshivot. Some members of the Rosanes family were rabbis, dayyanim, and authors, and R. Judah *Rosanes was an author and opponent of the notorious Shabbatean sect. In the 18th century scholarship and intellectual life were in decline. The number of yeshivot declined, but many rabbis were active and compiled significant books, especially responsa and sermons. The dominant posekim were R. Efraim Navon (1677–1735), R. Isaac Ben David (d. in 1755), R. Eliezer Yiẓhaki, R. Meir Yiẓhaki (d. in 1753/4); R. Raphael Isaac Yerushalmi (d. in 1782), R. Shabbetai Halevi, R. Samuel Halevi (d. in 1829/1830), R. Isaac Lahmi, R. David Matalon, R. Ḥayyim Moda'i (d. 1793), R. Abraham Meyuḥas (d. c. 1773), R. Judah Meyuḥas, R. Hayyim Jacob Meyuḥas, R. Binyamin Kazish, R. Ḥayyim Kimhe, R. Isaiah Solomon Kimhe, R. Abraham ben Joseph Rosanes (d. 1748), R. Aaron ben Samuel Rosanes (d. 1759), R. Judah ben Samuel Rosanes (d.1727), R. Isaac Rosanes (d. 1748), R. Eliezer ben Nissim Ibn Sanji (d. 1724), R. Ḥayyim Shelomo Sefami, R. Jacob Sasson (d. 1714), R. Moshe Hacohen (d. 1735), R. Elijah Palombo, R. Abraham Ben Avigdor, R. Ḥayyim de Toledo, R. Judah Navon (d. 1761), R. Abraham Anavi (d. 1813), R. Eliyahu Palombo, R. Moshe Frisco (d. 1807), R. Aharon Zonzin, R. Elijah ben Jacob Alfandari (1670–1717), R. Solomon Alfandari (d. 1774); R. Raphael Jacob Assa, R. Michael Ashkenazi, R. Reuven Mizrahi, R, Nissim Samuel Gabbai, R, Ḥayyim Jacob ben Emmanuel Hamon (d. 1788); R. Emmanuel Zonana, R. Yom Tov Elnekave (d. in Koskonjuk, 1786).

The 19th and Early 20th Centuries

In the 19th century there was a general atmosphere of tolerance between Jews and Turks, but relations with Christians were usually bad. On April 27, 1821, The Grand Vizier Benderli Ali Pasha ordered three Jews to take away the body of the executed Greek Patriarch. After they fulfilled the order, a riot led to the injury of an estimated 5,000 Jews. In 1826 several leading Jews in Istanbul who had economic connections with the Janissary corps were executed by an order of the Sultan Mahmud ii. In the course of the 19th century the population of Istanbulʾs Jews remained stable at around 50,000–55,000. This statistic is based upon Ottoman censuses and other sources. In 1830 42,000 Jews lived in Istanbul; between 1881–1882 and 1906, the Jewish population of Istanbul grew by one-third. In the Istanbul census of 1830, almost a quarter of the Jews subject to the jizya were placed in the highest or good category, over half were classified as average, and only a fifth were labeled poor.

The Jewish population in 1885 numbered 44,361; in 1893/4, 46,440; in 1906/7, 47,779; and in 1911/12, 53,606 Jews. The Jewish residents lived in 1885 and in 1906/7 in ten districts: Bayezit, Fatih, Cerrah Pasha, Beshiktash and Bosporous to Rumeli Hisar, Yeniköy and Upper Bosporus; Beyoglu and Dolmabahçe, Dolmabahçe to the end of the Golden Horn, Kanlica and Upper Anatolian Bosporous, Üsküdar and Kadiköy. The majority of Jews lived in Fatih (10,133 persons in 1885 and 10,698 persons in 1906/7), Beshiktash (4,581 persons in 1885 and 4,591 persons in 1906/7), Beyoglu and Dolmabahçe (22,865 persons in 1895 and 24,658 persons in 1906/7), and Üsküdar (5,197 persons in 1885 and 4,097 persons in 1906/7). From the middle of the 19th century the Jewish population of Istanbul increased in absolute numbers. According to the 1882 census, there were about 26,000 Jews, and by 1885, the Jewish population had grown to 44,361 persons. In 1914 52,000 Jews were recorded in the city. From then on, the number has been steadily decreasing to about 49,500 in 1945 and about 36,900 in the 1955 census. After the attacks on the Jews of Thrace, thousands of Jews from Kirklareli, Galipolli, Tekirdag and other towns in Thrace fled to Istanbul and remained there. The main reason for the population drop from 1948 onwards is the mass immigration to Israel and other countries, which explains the number of 19,000 Jews in the city in 1988. In 1844 they constituted five percent of the total population. Between 1844 and 1945 their percentage went up and down alternately, stabilizing at 4.9 percent in 1945. In 1882 there was a relative increase to 7 percent of the city population, and in 1927 there was also a relative increase to 8.6 percent of the general population. In 1955 the percentage of Jews in the general population dropped to 2.4 percent, because of the large immigration to Israel in 1948–1952, reaching 0.3 percent in 1988, due to continual emigration and other demographic processes. In 1988 between 18,900 and 19,200 Jews lived in Istanbul. The above data indicate a decrease in fertility and aging as well as erosion in the size of the Istanbul Jewish community. In 1988 Istanbul South and old neighborhoods in the North and Asia sections were emptied of their Jews, while a massive expansion took place in the Jewish neighborhood of the new Istanbul North. Another accelerated trend, which is still continuing, is a return to the new suburbs of Istanbul/Asia, a place offering them better living conditions. Most of the Jews continue to work in Istanbul South and look for work in Istanbul North.

Fires broke out during the 19th century in 1872, 1874, 1883, 1890, 1891, 1894, and 1896. They destroyed c. 2,000 Jewish houses. Fires also broke out in various quarters in the years 1900; 1905, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1912, 1915, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, and 1941. In 1856 Ludwig Frankel pointed out that about half of the Jews were employed as artisans, i.e, makers of cloth, leather, metal products, etc. In 1885 a census showed 31.1 percent of Jewish males classified in commerce, trade, and industry. The vast majority of Jews were, however, unskilled workers, peddlers, or petty-retail traders.

During the first half of the 19th century powerful Jews from distinguished families were prominent. Isaiah Adjiman, Bekhor Isaac Carmona, and Ezekiel Gabbai were the allies of the Janissaries, for whom they acted as bankers and moneylenders, and some of them bore the title Ocak Bazergani. They also held positions of leadership in the community of Istanbul. Jewish physicians began to reappear at the sultan's court. In the late 1830s, the Jewish dentist Jacob Bivaz entered the palace and served there for 30 years. In 1844, Dr. Spitzer, a Moravian Jew, became a physician and adviser to sultan Abdul Mejid (1839–1861). Some Jewish physicians served at the court of Abdul Hamid ii, including Elias Pasha Cohen, Isidore Pasha Greiwer, Leon Behar, David Hayun, and Sami Gunsberg. Influence was wielded by Abraham de *Camondo, the representative of a respected family of scholars and wealthy merchants. He was also influential in ruling circles and founded a modern school. Sultan Mahmud ii (1808–39) conscripted a unit of 30 Jewish soldiers from Hasköy and 30 from Balat into the army which set out to suppress the revolt in Morea (the Peloponnesus). In 1835 the office of *ḥakham bashi (chief rabbi) was instituted and R. Abraham ha-Levi was its first incumbent. The office of ḥakham bashi gained increased prestige and importance during the 19th century. It also became the focus of an intense power struggle within the Jewish community of Istanbul. During the reign of the sultan Abdul-Mejid I the authorities allowed the admission of Jews into the military school of medicine and the poll tax was abolished (1853). The era from 1839 to 1876 became known as the tanẓīmāt period (after the name of the sultan's progressive legislation). As a result of the publication of the khaṭṭ-i humayun ("sultanic decree," 1856), the secular leadership began to gain strength at the expense of the religious leadership in various communities, including that of the Jews. In 1840 Moses *Montefiore visited Istanbul. After the foundation of the modern school by Abraham de Camondo, a Vaʿad Pekidim (Majlis jasmi, "Committe of Functionaries") was founded; it was composed of wealthy men and intellectuals of progressive views, under the leadership of Camondo. In 1860 the three members of this body were Carmona, Hamon, and Adjiman. At that time the ḥakham bashi was R. Jacob Avigdor. Splits occurred between the progressive-intellectual circles and the conservative-religious Jews within the community. In the course of this conflict the French language was introduced into the school. Missionary schools were opened for Jewish children in Istanbul by the American Board Mission to the Jews, the Church of Scotland Mission, and the English Association for Promoting Christianity among Istanbul Jews, but only a few Jews converted to Christianity. In that century 40 synagogues functioned in the community. All the religious services of the Istanbul community were supplied by ten " Hashgakhot."

In the middle of the 19th century the francos in Istanbul such as Jacques de Castro, had come into close contact with European Jewry who were interested in spreading Western culture and education in the community. When Albert Cohn arrived in Istanbul in 1854 as the representative of Baron Rothschild and the Central Consistory, Camondo and other francos and some Ashkenazim were ready to open a modern school. The school was inaugurated in November 1854 and was supported by important Jewish philanthropists.

In 1856 a campaign against Camondo was led by R. Isaac Akrish and R. Solomon Kimḥi, who claimed that the new school encouraged children to convert to Christianity. Thereafter, a ḥerem was issued against Camondo, but Isaac Akrish was imprisoned upon the order of the ḥakham bashi. He was set free by Sultan Abdul-Aziz and settled in Hebron. The school operated during the years 1858–1889. In 1875 the Alliance Israélite Universelle founded a school in Istanbul. In 1878 Dr. Moshe Alatini founded a modern school for girls in Balat. Madame Fernandez headed a girls' school in Hasköy. Schools were established in Galata and Balat for Ashkenazi boys. In the beginning of the 20th century, 35 percent of the Jewish school-age population in the community attended Alliance schools. There were approximately 1,000 Jewish students who attended English protestant schools in Hasköy and in French Schools in other quarters of the city. Not many Jews joined the modern institutions established by the Ottoman government. Three days after the announcement of the 1856 decree, a blood libel case occurred at Balat, where a mob of Greeks, Armenians and Turks started attacking Jews. Another blood libel broke out in Istanbul in 1874. An order by the name of ḥakham-khane niẓam namesi ("Organizational Regulation of the Rabbinate") was issued (1864), which defined the administration of the town's kehillot, which was to consist of 12 notables and, among them, four senior rabbis. In 1865 a law was passed which defined the institutions of the community. It was to be headed by the ḥakham bashi, a secular council, and a religious council.

The first council included most of the Jewish officials of the government administration, while the second included rabbis. Both were elected for three years. In every quarter there was a local rabbi who headed the synagogue committee, as well as a kahya whose duty it was to report births, deaths, and the like to the authorities. There were also three batei din which dealt only with matrimonial matters. All other matters were brought before the secular tribunals of the state. The above-mentioned regulations remained in effect until the establishment of the republic, when they were allowed to lapse without being replaced. Groups of Jewish immigrants of Ashkenazi descent from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Russia who arrived in Istanbul in the mid-19th century managed to survive as separate entities, alongside the Ottoman Sephardi community. This statute was recognized by the Ottoman authorities and also by the rabbinate, which signed tax agreements with them regarding burial and ritual slaughter. After 1856 a large number of Karaites from Crimea settled in Istanbul. In 1866, R. Shelomo Kimḥi published a pamphlet against the Karaites, in which he collected all the arguments which had been voiced against them over the generations. The Karaites addressed petitions to the chief rabbi, who ordered the destruction of all the copies which had been circulated. During the second half of the 19th century other disputes broke out in the community. In 1862, following an article in the Ladino journal Journal Israelite by its editor Yehezkel Gabbai, in which he attempted to show that not all freemasons were atheists, bans were issued against the newspaper and its editor. This dispute resulted in the resignation of the ḥakham bashi Ya'akov Avigdor in 1863. In 1862 the francos established in Şişli a separate Italian Jewish community with its own synagogue, cemetery, and administration. This act caused a deep split in the community of Istanbul. During the reign of Abdul-Hamid ii (1876–1909), individual Jews of the town are mentioned as having received decorations and as having held senior positions in the administration. In 1880–1884 the leadership of the community was involved in a deep crisis. In this crisis Abraham Ajiman, David Carmona, the ḥakham bashi R. Moshe Ha-Levi, Abraham ben Zonana, Bechor Ashkenazi, and other leaders were involved. A new leadership of the community was established in 1883. The local Jewish press had considerable influence on leadership politics. Jewish religious life in Istanbul suffered a decline, especially from the second half of the 18th century until the beginning of the 20th. During the entire 19th century, up to the beginning of the 20th, 26 authors composed 40 books. These rabbis concentrated on halakhic creativity and attempted to meet the challenges of the problems of their generations and tried to offer the best possible halakhic solutions.

In 1906 a large number of refugees arrived from Russia as a result of the revolution of 1905. The Jewish population of Istanbul grew to 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Shortly following the Young Turk Revolution (1908), Jews appear to have been active in government service in Istanbul. Among them were Emmanuel Shalem, Ezekiel Sasoon, Nissim Russo, Vitali Strumsa, and Samuel Israel. But Jews never became cabinet ministers as did Christians in Istanbul. During the 19th century the Jewish community of Istanbul rebuilt its synagogues. From the second half of the 19th century, newspapers and periodicals began to be published in Ladino. The first periodical appeared in 1853 under the name of Or Yisrael and was edited by Leo Ḥayyim de Castro. A soup kitchen and relief and charitable institutions were also established. At the beginning of the 20th century the community organization consisted of two separate councils: the religious council (bet din) and the secular council, the latter of which dealt with the administrative and financial affairs of synagogues, schools, hospitals, etc. There were cases of conversion to Islam performed in Istanbul in the 18th and 19th centuries, for example in 1771 the conversion of 14 rabbanites and several Karaites residing in Hasköy was reported to the government by the local kadi. In 1838 and 1839 the local kadi reported the conversion of two Jews. In the 19th century Galata served as a major Jewish residence area, and functioned as a political and cultural center for the entire Jewish community of the Capital. Many businessmen maintained their headquarters in this district. A sizeable number of Jews also moved to new neighborhoods north of Galata (around Şişli) and on the European bank of the Bosphorus (Ortaköy, Beshiktash, Arnavutköy) districts, which underwent a rapid development process at that time, while Balat and Hasköy remained poor. The Asiatic neighborhood of Kuzguncuk, known for the Western orientation of its residents, as well as Haydarpasha, played an important role in the modernization process and the penetration of Western culture into Jewish life. Many of the Jews adopted secularism. Nevertheless, throughout the 19th century there existed in Istanbul the yeshivot of R. Eliyahu Anav (in Balat), R. Joseph Alfandari, R. Joshua Zonzin, Uziel Yeshivah, and Kimhi Yeshivah (in Orta Köy) headed by R. Solomon Eliezer Alfandari. At the end of the century R. Shemarya Gabbai established a yeshivah for R. Refael Bitran in Daj Hamami. The responsa literature and the minutes registers of the batei din of the community from the 18th and 19th centuries contain dozens of names of Istanbul scholars in every generation. Almost 100 special minhagim of Istanbul Jews were written by the rabbis of the community throughout the Ottoman period.

[Abraham Haim and

Yaacov Geller /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

Under the Republic of Turkey (from 1923)

The national and secular nature of the Turkish state, which was created by Kemal Ataturk, severely affected the position of the Jews in Istanbul. The laws giving religious autonomy to the Jewish community were allowed to lapse and the millet system was abolished. Matters such as personal status (e.g., marriage) were under civil jurisdiction. The community lost the right to levy its own taxes, causing communal institutions to depend for support on voluntary contributions. The measures of secularization affected not only the Jews but, in general, all non-Muslims. In accord with this policy, Turkish became the language of instruction in the schools instead of French (which was used in the *Alliance Israélite Universelle schools throughout the Middle East and North Africa); the use of French was allowed to continue for a time in the upper grades. The government proscribed the affiliation of any local groups with foreign organizations. Jews, therefore, were prohibited from being represented on such international Jewish bodies as the World Zionist Organization, the World Jewish Congress, and others. In 1932 the schools in Turkey were secularized, in accordance with the character of the state, and religious instruction was prohibited. As other non-Muslim subjects, the Jews of Istanbul were most severely affected by the imposition of the capital levy (varlik vergisi) of 1942. In January 1943 the government confiscated the property of those who did not pay as ordered and sent them to labor camps. Some 1,500 Jews from Istanbul were sent to labor camps in Ashkale, and about 40 died there. On the other hand, dozens of Georgian, Kurdish, and German Jewish families which arrived in Istanbul between 1925 and 1950 functioned within the general community's central organizational framework.

Contemporary Period (from 1948)

In 1949 the Turkish National Assembly passed a law which granted the Jewish community autonomy in its internal affairs. This law had been proposed by the Jewish delegate in the house of representatives, Solomon Adato. Religious instruction, which until then had been restricted exclusively to the synagogues, was permitted in schools as part of the normal curriculum. A large number of Jews attended the government schools and continued their studies at the universities. The general educational standard of the Jews of Istanbul was improved as a result of the powerful influence of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Jewish physicians, lawyers, and engineers of the community played an important role in the life of the country and Jews were also well represented in its commerce. They were rarely employed in the civil services. The number of Jews in Istanbul, estimated at 55,000 in 1948, dropped to 32,946 and 30,831 in the 1955 and 1965 censuses, respectively, as a result of the large-scale emigration to the State of Israel. In 1970 an estimated 30,000 Jews lived in Balat, Hasköy, Ortaköy, and other quarters. The wealthy lived in the Pera and Şişli neighborhoods. The Haschgaha in the above-mentioned and six other quarters elects a committee which constitutes the members of the city's general community council. This is comprised of 60 men, including a few members of the Ashkenazi congregation. The general council elects the president of the community and administrative and religious committees. Each congregation also has a rabbi. The council's income is derived from dues, synagogue contributions, and donations. By 1950 the general council numbered only 42 members, since for several years new members were not elected to replace those who had died or emigrated. In 1950, elections were held to fill the 18 vacancies. Samuel Abrevaya was elected president of the community, and held the post until his death in 1953. He was succeeded by Henri Soriano and, later, Israel Menaşe. Until 1953, Istanbul Jewry had no official chief rabbi recognized by the authorities. In that year R. Raphael Saban was chosen. In 1968, the following institutions were supervised by the community's general council: the Or Ḥayyim Hospital (built in 1885); an orphanage; the Ẓedakah u-Marpe charitable organization (founded in 1918), which was responsible for the education of underprivileged students; an old-age home (founded in 1899); a Maḥzikei Torah organization, which provided training one day a week for cantors and mohalim; and the Mishneh Torah association, which helped poor students. In 1968 the community also had three elementary schools and a high school. In 1966 the attendance figures at these schools were 950 pupils, most of them poor, since the wealthy Jews preferred to send their children to foreign schools. There were also Jewish youth organizations in Istanbul in 1968, such as Ne'emanei Zion, Amical, and others, some of which undertook a certain amount of Hebrew education. Most of the community members in the 1980s and 1990s worked in the following occupations: light industry, trade, engineering, medicine, law, clerical work, religious services, and various aspects of the technical trade. There are also rich businessmen, such as Jack Kimche, who had an industrial-cum-commercial firm in Istanbul. He simultaneously held a representative position as a member of the Turkish National Bureau of Commerce and Industry. The academic-teaching sphere is still modest among the local Jews.

Among the members of the community in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st there is a high level of solidarity. Many of them plan to emigrate and do not establish permanent relations with the majority population. They oppose mixed marriages and live in their own neighborhoods. They establish schools for their children, but the majority of the local Jews send their children to Turkish schools. The Jews of Istanbul under the Turkish republic preserve their religion and avoid involvement in local politics, except for issues that directly affect them as a group. The majority of Istanbul Jews are businessmen, but there are many poor Jews who receive a monthly income from the community. The Jews in the period 1948–1992 still preserved the characteristics of a middleman minority, with its economic and social aspects. The Muslim majority population, as in the previous centuries, still considers the local Jews a foreign minority and not ordinary Turkish citizens. In the riots of 1955 and 1963 against minorities that erupted in Istanbul because of economic conditions, Jews also sustained damage. In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of local Jews were caught by the Turkish authorities for smuggling their financial savings to Israel and other countries, and for other crimes: the exchange of money on the black market in Istanbul and Izmir, and the so-called exploitation of the country's resources. However, the reforms of the republican period were adopted voluntarily and readily by the community leadership, and the European day of rest was adopted by the vast majority of community members, to the dismay of their leaders. Adoption of the Swiss civil law permitted marriage between Jews and non-Jews. From the 1960s on, the process of intermarriage increased. In the early 21st century intermarriage was making serious inroads into the community fabric: in 1990 – 25.8% percent; in 1991 – 39.4%; in 1992 – 42.1%; and in 1993 – 41.9 percent.

In the 1970s and 1980s the Jewish community of Istanbul was involved in certain aspects of Turkish foreign policy, and there were appeals to the community to act in the United States on behalf of its foreign and domestic affairs. The Turkish government also invited community representatives to accompany Turkish personalities on their visits to Israel. In 1992 the community celebration of the Quicentennial of Sephardi Jewry in Turkey was supported by the government. Later the community founded a Jewish school in Ulus, instead of the Jewish school in Galata.

Very few Jews function openly in their political parties in Istanbul, but many more of them provide support and advice behind the scenes.

At the end of the 1980s the secular Council (Conseil Laïc, Parliament) ran into problems when the entire work load had to be borne by about six persons. In 1988, a committee was established which proposed a new structure. The membership of the council was expanded from 27 to 41, and that of the Executive Committee to 17. Together they comprised the Senate which also comprised the members of the Vakifs and their leaders, the heads of the communities of Izmir, Ankara, Adana, Bursa, etc. – all in all about 150 members. This body, which is not recognized by the government, meets once every half-year to receive a report. The council elects its president as well as the president of the Executive Committee and the president of the Senate. Since the establishment in 1892 of B'nai B'rith in Turkey, its leaders and their descendants have been active in community life and have been the cultural and intellectual elite of the Istanbul community. In 1994, the organization numbered 335 persons. B'nai B'rith operates a recreational house for poor children in Istanbul and provides scholarships for students each year; other welfare institutions are old people's neighborhood burial societies that were united at the beginning of the 1970s into one ḥevra kaddisha serving the entire community; and Barin Yurt, a shelter for the poor, that was opened by the community in 1991.

The weekly Shalom is the Istanbul community's only written press. There are 16 synagogues in the city, three of them are open daily; 63% of the Jews attend the synagogue once or twice a year. About 600 students aged 6 to 18 attend Mahazikei Torah, an educational institution that supplements the synagogue. The Istanbul Rabbinate comprises five dayyanim, including the president of the Rabbinical Court and the ḥaham bashi, who heads this body.

For further information, see *Turkey.

[Hayyim J. Cohen /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]

Hebrew Printing

From the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 18th, Istanbul was one of the centers of Hebrew printing. The Ottoman Empire and its capital served as a refuge for Jews fleeing from Spain and Portugal after the expulsions of 1492 and 1497, some of whom brought with them their skill in the new art of printing, as well as manuscripts of great rabbinic writers and Kabbalah writers of the past. Later, Marranos escaping the Inquisition played a similar part. In the Ottoman Empire Hebrew books could be printed and sold freely, without the hindrance of the Christian Church. Books were also printed in Spanish (in Hebrew characters), both original manuscripts and translations from Hebrew and other languages, for which there was a growing demand throughout the Spanish-Portuguese Diaspora.

the 15th and 16th centuries

The first Hebrew printing press – which was the first printing press in any language in the Ottoman Empire, the first book in Turkish being printed in 1728 – was set up in Istanbul in 1493 by David and Samuel ibn *Naḥmias, exiles from Spain. Their first book was Jacob b. Asher's Arba'ah Turim. It was followed a year later by a volume of the Pentateuch with Rashi, haftarot with David Kimḥi's commentary, the Five Scrolls with the commentary of Abraham Ibn Ezra, and the Antiochus Scroll. The Naḥmias family were active until 1518. In this early period of Hebrew printing in Istanbul (1504–30) more than 100 books of remarkable range and quality were published, among them Midrashim, the Aggadot ha-Talmud (forerunner of Jacob *Ibn Ḥabib's Ein Ya'akov), geonic works, Alfasi, *Maimonides' Code – printed for the second time, but on the basis of another manuscript – and his Sefer ha-Mitzvot as well as his responsa and letters. Meanwhile, Gershom *Soncino and his son Eliezer had arrived in Istanbul from Italy, and their press published over 40 books between 1530 and 1547, including a Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos, Rashi, and *Saadiah's Arabic and Jacob b. Joseph *Tavus' Persian translations (1545–46), followed by another Pentateuch edition, also with Targum Onkelos and Rashi, and translations into Greek and Spanish, both in Hebrew characters with vowel signs (1547). Eliezer also printed a Hebrew translation, by the physician Jacob Algabe, of the Spanish romance Amadís de Gaula, the first secular work in Hebrew to be printed in Istanbul. A former employee of the Soncinos, Moses b. Eliezer Parnas, continued printing on their press after Eliezer's death in 1548, publishing at least five books by 1553. Others active in printing during the period were the *Halicz brothers, printers from Cracow who publicly returned to Judaism in Istanbul after having undergone baptism in Poland in 1537. Between 1551 and 1553 they printed a Hebrew Bible, Isaac of Dueren's halakhic compendium Sha'arei Dura, and a Hebrew version of Judith. More important were the activities of Solomon and Joseph, the sons of Isaac *Jabez from Spain, who arrived in Istanbul via Salonika and Adrianople. From 1559 until his death in 1593, Solomon, in partnership with his brother Joseph from 1570, printed such important items as the responsa of R. Elijah Mizraḥi (1559) and R. Joseph ibn Lev (1561) and, in particular, the larger part of the Talmud (1583–93). Eliezer b. Isaac (Ashkenazi) of Prague, a Hebrew printer from Lublin, went to Istanbul in 1575 with his equipment and printed geonic responsa and part of the Maḥzor Romania. After a dispute with his partner in this enterprise, David b. Elijah Kashti, the rest of the Maḥzor was printed by Kashti at the press of Joseph Jabez (1575–78). Under the patronage of Reyna, daughter of Doña Gracia and the widow of Joseph Nasi, Joseph b. Isaac of Ashkelon printed some 15 books, one of them in Ladino, of no great distinction, first at the palace of Belvedere at Ortaköy, 1592–94, and later at Kuru Çeşme, 1597–99. Manuscripts from Joseph Nasi's library were published by his interpreter, R. Isaac b. Samuel Onkeneira.

the 17th century

A Marrano, Solomon b. David, revived the trade by printing Rashi's Pentateuch commentary in 1639. He was followed by his son Abraham and son-in-law Jacob b. Solomon Gabbai. They published mainly Sephardi authors, such as the responsa of Joseph b. Moses *Trani (1641). They also published a Midrash Rabbah in the same year, a vowelled Mishnah text with the commentary Kav Naḥat by Isaac Gabbai (1644–45), and other halakhic, homiletic, and kabbalistic literature.

the 18th century

Hebrew printing during the 18th century in Istanbul was dominated by Jonah b. Jacob Ashkenazi, his sons, and his grandsons, who between 1710 and 1778 issued 188 works, employing at one time as many as 50 workers. Jonah designed and improved his type, and was among those who cast the first Turkish type in 1728. He traveled widely in search of worthwhile manuscripts. He printed such important works as the Zohar (Istanbul 1736–37); the first edition of the famous and influential book Ḥemdat Yamim (Smyrna, 1731–32; Istanbul, 1735–72); and a Bible with Ladino translation (in partnership with the Venetian Benjamin b. Moses Rushi). Altogether, his Ladino productions, originals or translations from the Hebrew, brought about a revival of Ladino literature and language.

the 19th and 20th centuries

Using the remnants of the Ashkenazi press, Elijah Pardo produced six books between 1799 and 1808, among them Rashi's Pardes (1802) and the Zohar on Genesis (in installments, 1807–08). Isaac b. Abraham Castro, his sons and his grandsons printed with interruptions from 1808 to 1848, beginning with Tikkunei Zohar, rabbinical works, Ladino translations, and polemics against the Christian missions. The Castro press remained active until 1925. The Christian printer Arap Oglu Bogos, commissioned by Jews, printed at least 18 books in Hebrew and Ladino from 1822 to 1827. In the 20th century, with the gradual decline of the Hebrew presses, Ladino literature was eventually published by Christian missionaries; French and English literature in Ladino was published by Greek and Armenian printers. From 1860 to 1940 the Ladino newspaper press, as well as some Jewish printers and publishers, printed mainly Ladino literature.

[Abraham Haim /

Yaacov Geller]


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Gerber, in: Pe'amim, 12 (1982), 27–46; M. Benayahu, in: M. Stern (ed.), Umma ve-Toldoteha (1983), 281–87; H. Gerber, Yehudei ha-Imperiya ha-Otmanit ba-Me'ot ha-Shesh-Esre ve-ha-Sheva-Esre, Ḥevrah ve-Kalkalah (1983); A. Cohen, Jewish Life Under Islam (1984), index; A. Shmuelevitz, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire in the Late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries… (1984); Y.R. Hacker, in: Zion, 49 (1984), 225–63; J.M. Landau, Tekinalp, Turkish Patriot (1984); R. Cohen, Kushta-Saloniki-Patras (1984); B. Lewis, The Jews of Islam (1984), H. Inalcik, Studies in Ottoman Social and Economic History (1985); L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: Shevet ve-Am, 10 (1985), 101–9; idem, in: Michael, 9(1985), 27–54; Z. Çelik, The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman City in the 19th Century (1986), 9, 21, 26, 38, 40–1; H. Gerber, in: jss, 10 (1986), 143–54; Y. R, Hacker, in: Zion, 52 (1987), 25–44; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: Z. Ankori (ed.), Mi-Lisbon le-Saloniki ve-Kushta (1988), 69–95; Y.R. Hacker, in: Galut Achar Gola, Sefer Yovel Le-Chaim Beinart (1988), 497–516; S. Sadak, in: Vidas Largas, 7 (1987), 33–7; Barnai, in: S. Almog (ed.), Antisemitism Through the Ages (1988), 189–94; M.C. Varol, Balat-Faubourg juif d'Istabul (1989); L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: The Mediterranean and the Jews: Banking, Finance and International Trade (xvith–xviiith Centuries) (1989), 75–104; idem, in: Sefunot, 19 (1989), 53–122; A. Rodrigue, French Jews, Turkish Jews, The Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Politics of Jewish Schooling in Turkey, 18601927 (1990); Y.R. Hacker, in: Zion, 55 (1990), 27–82; E. Bashan, in: Pe'amim, 48 (1991), 54–65; Y. Okon, in: Kiryat Sefer, 63 (1990–1991), 1341–42; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: A. Haim (ed.), Ḥevrah u-Kehillah (1991), 3–24; idem, in: A. Rodrigue (ed.), Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership (1992), 87–122; A. Levi, Toledot ha-Yehudim ba-Republikah ha-Turkit, Maʿamadam ha-Politi ve-ha-Mishpati (1992); idem, The Jews in Palestine in the Eighteenth Century under the Patronage of the Istanbul Committee (1992); J. Barnai, in: Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership (1992), 174–5; W.F. Weiker, Ottomans, Turks and the Jewish Polity, A History of Jews in Turkey (1992); A. Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (1992); R. Kastoryano, in: Ottoman and Turkish Jews, Community and Leadership (1992), 253–77; I. Karmi, Jewish Sites of Istanbul (1992); A. Cohen & E. Simon-Pikali, Yehudim be-Veit ha-Mishpat ha-Muslemi (1993), 37–52; A. Levy, in: Pe'amim, 55 (1993), 38–56; M. Rozen, Hasköy CemeteryTypology of Stones (1994); E. Benbassa, Une diaspora sépharade en transition: Istanbul xixxxesiècles (1993); A. Levy, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 1–150, 425–38; S. Spitzer, in: Asufot, 8 (1994), 369–86; J. McCarthy, in: A. Levy (ed.), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 380, 387; T. Be'eri, in: Pe'amim, 59 (1994), 65–76; S. Yerasimos, in: Turcica, 27 (1995), 101–30; F. Müge Göçek, in: A. Levy (ed.), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 705–11; B. Arbel, Trading Nations, Jews and Venetians in the Early Modern Period (1995), 13–28; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: M. Rozen (ed.), Yemei ha-Sahar (1996), 273–311; M.Z. Benaya, Moshe Almosnino Ish Saloniki (1996); A. Levy, in: Yemei ha-Sahar (1996); I. Karmi, The Jewish Community of Istanbul in the 19thCentury (1996); Y.R. Hacker, in: Zion, 62 (1997); L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: Michael, 14 (1997), 139–70; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: Jewish Law Association Studies, 9 (1997), 9–18; idem, in: A. Demsky, Y. Reif & J. Tabory (eds.), These Are the Names, Studies in Jewish Onomastics (1997), 7–13; idem, in: Y. Bartal & Y. Gafni (eds.) Eros, Erusin ve-Issurin (1998), 305–34; M. Rozen, in: Turcica, 30 (1998), 331–46; M.M. Weinstein, in: Studies in Bibliography and Booklore, 20 (1998), 145–76; Y. 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Rozen, The Last Ottoman Century and Beyond, The Jews in Turkey and the Balkans 18081945 (2005).


views updated May 17 2018


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


views updated Jun 11 2018


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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
Population of urban area19,413,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1453AD 969753 BC723 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 city22132011
Largest newspaperSabahAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper722,9501,159,339754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1985194419761948
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.


views updated May 18 2018



Istanbul was founded in antiquity as the Greek city-state of Byzantium. It was the Byzantine imperial capital, known as Constantinople, from November of 324 c.e. until May of 1453, when it became the Ottoman imperial capital under Sultan Mehmed II. It remained the political, cultural, and economic center of the Ottoman Empire, often with the epithet "The Gate of Felicity" (Dersaadet), until that empire's demise and the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923. After 1,600 years of political supremacy, the twentieth century saw Istanbul's political marginalization with the establishment of Ankara as the capital of the Turkish republic on 13 October 1923. Modernization and Turkification were two, often conflicting, processes in Istanbul's history between 1914 and 2004. While Istanbul was no longer the political capital of Turkey in the twentieth century, it remained the largest, the most economically and culturally vital, and the most demographically cosmopolitan of Turkey's cities.


The political demise of the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century was accompanied, ironically, by the urban flowering of Istanbul; not only did the city's population expand drastically with the influx of non-Muslim groups from the countryside, but also its wealth as a commercial and port city attracted world, or at least European, attention. Fin de siècle architecture and fashion in Istanbul rivaled (and was derived from) that in Paris and Vienna, as many a European artist and intellectual, such as the Frenchman Pierre Loti, called Istanbul home.

But as culture and commerce flourished in port cities such as Istanbul and Izmir (Smyrna), the secret society born among Ottoman military officers, known as the Committee of Union and Progress, led to the Young Turk revolution in Istanbul and diverse provinces in 1908. Istanbul in the second constitutional period (1908–1918) was subject to intense campaigns of economic modernization and political repression. Perhaps the most infamous event in the Young Turk period was the Armenian genocide, which occurred in 1915 at the terrible intersection between Ottoman imperial demise, civil unrest, and World War I.


The Ottoman Empire, under the rule of the Committee of Union and Progress (Young Turks), joined World War I on the side of Axis Germany and Austria (11 November 1914). After tremendously bloody battles that were won by Ottoman forces (such as the Battle of Gallipoli in spring 1915), Allied forces won the war and began negotiating an armistice. An armistice was reached on 30 October 1918 at Mudros on the island of Lemnos. Two weeks later an Allied fleet of sixty ships anchored in Istanbul's Bosphorus, and by 8 December an Allied military administration was set up in the Ottoman capital. As separate powers (France, Britain, Italy, Greece) occupied different Ottoman provinces, Istanbul became a truly international city, occupied as it was by several foreign powers at once. Istanbul, still nominally the Ottoman capital under Allied military administration, was not only the scene of many an international intrigue (one need only recall that the Orient Express left from Istanbul's Haydar Pasha train station to evoke such intrigues) but also the destination and refuge for Russian émigrés fleeing the Russian Revolution and civil war. Istanbul's days as political center were numbered, however; the last Ottoman parliament met there on 18 March 1920 and was dissolved by Sultan Mehmed VI on 11 April.

The occupation of the Ottoman capital by Allied forces and of the heartland of Anatolia (Asia Minor) by the Greek army sparked a nationalist insurgency led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha (1881–1938), later to be known as Atatürk (literally, "father of the Turks"). While Istanbul was the site of violent protests by the end of May 1919 (in Sultanahmet Square), at the same time Atatürk and his forces began to move westward from Samsun on the Black Sea, expelling the Greek occupying armies, lastly from Izmir in September 1922.

In the wake of the Turkish War of Independence (known as the "national catastrophe" in Greece), the Treaty of Lausanne, under the auspices of the League of Nations, was negotiated between Greece and Turkey, which featured two major changes: it established complete Turkish sovereignty and enacted the first internationally organized exchange of populations, which would forcibly remove about 800,000 Muslims from Greece and about 1.3 million Orthodox Christians from Turkey. With regard to Turkish sovereignty, Atatürk separated the Ottoman sultanate from the caliphate (or seat of the Muslim caliph), abolished first the sultanate and then the caliphate (an event of vast significance to Muslims as far away as Pakistan), and set up the National Assembly in Ankara, making that city the capital of the Turkish republic in October of 1923.


The imperial architecture of the turn of the twentieth century in Istanbul gave way to the mod ernism of Kemalist Turkey, typified by the new capi tal of Ankara and the Atatürk Cultural Center in Istanbul. In addition to these, by the second half of the twentieth century, modernist residential housing—apartment blocks—proliferated to house the populations arriving from the countryside. Finally, from the 1980s, illegal apartment blocks, often of dangerously low quality, known as gece kondu (meaning literally "built at night") have expanded Istanbul into a city of perhaps fifteen million people. While comparable to shantytowns for their dubious legal status, many gecekondu are now part of the electricity, water, and transpor tation systems of Istanbul proper, making it difficult to distinguish "illegal" from "legal" apartment developments. Earthquakes, such as the massive 1999 earthquake with its epicenter just to the east of Istanbul, are an ever present danger in Istanbul as in many other parts of Turkey and the Mediterranean, making the risk of living in gece kondu even greater.

Regarding the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, Istanbul was again exceptional among Turkish cities in that its Greek Orthodox population of approximately 100,000, along with the institution of the Orthodox patriarchate, was allowed to remain and was ensured the right to education and religious worship under the international agreement. Thus, while Istanbul was no longer the imperial capital, it retained its sizable Greek Orthodox population as well as its Jewish and Armenian populations, making it the cosmopolitan holdover in a Turkish nation-state attempting to homogenize its population. Once again, Istanbul as a city seemed on a different trajectory from the polity to which it belonged; first it had thrived in an Ottoman Empire in collapse, then remained cosmopolitan in the homogenizing Republic of Turkey.


In Turkey as a whole, Atatürk's sweeping reforms were focused on bringing Turkey, as a secular, Turkish-speaking nation-state, in line with the expectations and conventions of "the West." This meant dramatic language reform that changed the Turkish writing system from Arabic-based characters to a Latin-based alphabet, a new legal code (based on the Swiss code rather than Islamic sharia law), a new parliamentary and voting structure, changing dress codes and the legal status of women, and education reforms, particularly in the large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. To say that Atatürk played a crucial role in forming the Turkish republic would be an understatement; his mark on Istanbul and on the modern Turkish state is indelible. Aside from the countless images and statues of Atatürk, a common slogan inscribed in Turkish government buildings and private establishments in the twenty-first century is "We are in his [Atatürk's] shadow."

But what of the multiconfessional, multilingual Istanbul in a state whose motto was "How happy is he who calls himself a Turk"? The challenge for the next several decades of Istanbul's history was to modernize and "westernize" while minimizing the role of non-Turkish, non-Muslim groups in the city. This was a challenge because these very groups had spearheaded the modernization of the city from the turn of the twentieth century, working as bankers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, and merchants, and receiving their education in Greece and in Europe. Their personal networks and technical expertise could not easily be replaced.

A new Turkish professional elite was educated and trained in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, through measures such as state-backed industrialization programs. At the same time, non-Muslim groups, and particularly Greek Orthodox populations of Istanbul, were coerced or encouraged to leave the country through measures such as the Varlik Vergisi (capital tax) in 1942–1943, whereby property and wealth of non-Muslims were exorbitantly taxed (sometimes at a rate of several hundred percent). Those who could not pay the tax were interned in camps near Istanbul's Sirkeci train station or in eastern Anatolia and/or forced to leave the country. Another low point in Istanbul's modern history was on 6 September 1955, when, as a response to tensions between Greek and Turkish ambitions in recently decolonized Cyprus, there was a pogrom against mainly Greek shops, churches, and families in Istanbul, which sparked another wave of departures.


The one-party system established by Atatürk in 1923 lasted until 1946; from 1950 a multiparty system was in place, which itself was ended by a military coup and the new constitution of a second republic (1961–1980) in May 1960. Political and economic instability exacerbated each other in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to military coups every ten years (May 1960; March 1971; September 1980). Modernization was a process both guided and thwarted by the Turkish state in the post–World War II era.

That era was one of urban migration to Istanbul, and to a lesser extent to cities such as Ankara, Bursa, and Izmir. Thousands of Turks from the Black Sea coast and central Anatolia migrated to Istanbul and moved into the neighborhoods recently vacated by non-Muslim groups. Statistics show a doubling of the city's population, from 1,882,092 in 1960 to 3,904,588 in 1975. Since 1975 population growth has increased exponentially again; official statistics say around ten million reside in Istanbul, but other estimates put the population as high as sixteen million in 2004.

Social unrest was a hallmark of the 1970s, with leftist students and others engaging in violent conflict with police and paramilitary forces in the streets of the city. In 1978 Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit introduced martial law after scores had been killed over the preceding year and a half in sectarian violence. A combination of economic problems (International Monetary Fund austerity measures, reflationary economic policies, OPEC oil shock, sluggish exports), social tensions (urban students versus Muslim and nationalist groups), and geo-political issues (Turkey's membership in NATO, its pact with the European Economic Community in 1963) were leading to an incipient civil war.


On 12 September 1980 the Turkish army staged another coup and ushered in the period of Turgut Ö zal's ascendancy. Özal (1927–1993; prime minister 1983–1989; president 1989–1993), whose economic policies are sometimes seen as modernization shortcuts that provoked the cycle of inflation and unemployment still going on in the early twenty-first century, was a proponent of opening Turkey toward the West and of membership in the European Union. The most overwhelming changes in Istanbul during his tenure were demographic, as rural populations flooded into the city in search of jobs and housing. By the time of Özal's death in 1993, several new trends had developed in Istanbul and in Turkish politics more generally: on the one hand, civil war between the Turkish military and Kurdish groups in the southeast of Turkey (PKK, or Kurdish Workers' Party) brought terrorism to Istanbul's prominent neighborhoods; on the other, Islamist populations and political movements arrived in Istanbul from the countryside. While the Kurdish conflict subsided somewhat with the 1999 capture of Abdullah Öcalan, a leader of the Kurdish separatist movement, the Islamization of Istanbul and of Turkish politics has proved a more durable feature of life and government. This is exemplified by the landslide 2002 victory of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former mayor of Istanbul and chief of the Islamist-based AK Party, as prime minister.


The late 1990s saw some fascinating, and often contradictory, cultural and social developments among Istanbul's middle and upper classes. Many of the quarters in the center and historic district of Istanbul, which were populated by non-Muslims in the middle years of the twentieth century, had been abandoned by the upper classes and left to Kurdish, Roma, and rural Turkish migrants. Wealthier Istanbulites chose the "Asian side" of the city, across the Bosphorus from the historic districts, as well as the more distant Bosphorus villages up the European coast toward the Black Sea. A recent reawakening to Istanbul's cosmopolitan past, particularly on the part of the Westward-looking intelligentsia, has spurred rapid gentrification and urban renewal in central areas such as Beyoğlu (formerly Pera), the old French quarter of Istanbul.

Beyond the fray of Istanbul's intelligentsia, the vast majority of Istanbul's population was born in the countryside and migrated to the city in the last decades of the twentieth century. Interestingly, the religious and ethnic cosmopolitanism of the turn of the twentieth century has given way to a different blend of languages and cultures in the onetime Byzantine and Ottoman capital; Greek, Armenian, and Ladino have been replaced by Kurdish, Arabic, Laz, Russian, Bosnian, and Central Asian Turkic languages on the streets and in the markets of Istanbul.

Istanbul opened the twentieth century as the "Gate of Felicity," the cosmopolitan capital of an Ottoman Empire in severe crisis. The city persisted as an Ottoman holdover, with its ethnic and confessional mosaic, under increasing pressure from the Turkish republic, centered in Ankara, that favored homogenization and Turkification. Istanbul opened the twenty-first century at the threshold of Europe, with some of its residents hoping to revive the city's cosmopolitan legacy and affinity to Europe and with others bringing a different set of Islam-focused values and cultures from the Turkish countryside. In 2005 it remains to be seen if the city of Istanbul, the Republic of Turkey, and the European Union will all join together to make one history.

See alsoAtatürk, Mustafa Kemal; Turkey.


Alexandrēs, Alexēs. The Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, 1918–1974. Athens, Greece, 1983.

Bozdoğan, Sibel, and Reşat Kasaba, eds. Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey. Seattle, Wash., 1997.

Criss, Nur Bilge. Istanbul under Allied Occupation, 1918–1923. Leiden, Netherlands, 1999.

Frey, Frederick W. The Turkish Political Elite. Cambridge, Mass., 1965.

Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey. 3rd ed. New York, 2002.

Ökte, Faik. The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax. London, 1987.

Mansel, Philip. Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453–1924. London, 1995.

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

Christine Philliou


views updated May 14 2018


premodern istanbul: the segregated city
modernization: the challenge of urban integration
cosmopolitanism and bifurcation

Istanbul, also known as Constantinople/Kostantiniyye, was the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. In Ottoman usage, the name Istanbul refers to the traditional core of the city, a triangular peninsula on the European side of the Bosphorus surrounded by medieval Byzantine walls and bounded by the Marmara Sea to the south and the Golden Horn to the north. Occasionally, Istanbul was also used to denote the broader urban area including the townships of Eyüp and Galata on the European coast and Üsküdar (Scutari) in Asia.

premodern istanbul: the segregated city

Istanbul was the commercial, financial, and political hub of a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional empire whose center of gravity was western Anatolia and the Balkans. Prior to its drastic social and morphological transformation in the nineteenth century, the dense imperial capital functioned as the microcosm of the traditional Ottoman order. For centuries, the diverse populations inhabiting the city coexisted relatively peacefully due to a complex system of ethno-religious segregation whereby the major non-Muslim groups (namely, the Greeks, Armenians, and Jews) were recognized by the dominant Muslim polity as separate communities and enjoyed autonomy in their internal affairs. The rich social and cultural ferment of Istanbul that was to astound generations of foreign travelers should not, however, be taken anachronistically as a sign of cosmopolitan harmony and unity. The Ottoman modus vivendi that had nourished the city throughout the centuries depended upon a pre-modern and patriarchal system of controls and restrictions geared toward avoiding conflict between communities and reaping the maximum political and economic benefit for the state.

Istanbul's traditional urban configuration was mainly shaped along the prescribed ethno-religious criteria of segregation. The city was made up of largely self-sufficient neighborhoods called mahalles, usually formed around a mosque, a church, or a synagogue. Although not walled-in like ghettos, the neighborhoods constituted organically unified urban entities whose inhabitants were mostly (but seldom exclusively) members of the same community. Characterized by narrow winding streets and cul-de-sacs, each mahalle unit demarcated a semi-private domain that engendered a high level of solidarity among its inhabitants who had to share responsibility in their dealings with the state.

By the eighteenth century, most non-Muslims lived in the fringes of the walled city and beyond in order to diminish the restrictive sway of central authority and the additional weight of communal pressures. While the center of the peninsula contained predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, the Armenians chose to settle along the southern walls of the city, and the Jews along sections of the Golden Horn, while the Greeks inhabited the Golden Horn, Marmara, and Bosphorus shores. Once a Genoese trade colony, the walled suburb of Galata maintained its "Frankish" character throughout the Ottoman centuries, as it remained the primary locus of European diplomatic and commercial presence in Istanbul.

modernization: the challenge of urban integration

The Ottoman nineteenth century began with the reign of Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808–1839), the first "modernizer" who had the political clout to topple the traditional balances of power. Following the eighteenth century, when central power was at a low ebb in the Ottoman domain, Mahmud II laid out the foundations of a modern and centralized governmental system based on Western models. In order to obtain a clear slate upon which he could base his modern state apparatus, Mahmud eliminated all peripheral power groups—the Janissary corps, a major public agent in the urban arena, was brutally eradicated in 1826, and the significant influence of provincial notables was drastically curbed. Mahmud's judicial, military, administrative, and educational reforms were coupled by a conscious policy to Westernize the cultural image of the Ottoman state. Starting with the time of

Mahmud II, replanning Istanbul as a European capital, a well-structured and efficiently controlled city with modern public amenities and sanitary standards, was among the ultimate dreams of generations of Ottoman reformers. Mahmud not only launched a centralized administrative body to coordinate various disconnected municipal services, but also commissioned a German engineer, Helmuth von Moltke, to draw a detailed map of the city and propose a plan for the regularization of the urban fabric. Although unimplemented, the proposal delineated the essential tenets of a long-term urban reform agenda for modernizing the late Ottoman capital: the enlargement of the main arteries and the creation of public squares, the regularization of the organic street network and the quays, and the replacement of typical wooden construction (implying almost all residential units) with fireproof structures of stone or brick.

The late Ottoman plans to transform Istanbul on the model of prominent European capitals were consistently hampered by the grim social and economic realities of a feverishly reshaping "ramshackle empire." In most cases, the state's efforts for wide-scale urban intervention were to remain fragmentary or simply ineffectual. Nevertheless, as the primary site of the nineteenth-century Westernizing experiment, Istanbul was to undergo its most radical phase of morphological, demographic, social, and cultural transformation since its reconstruction after the initial Ottoman takeover.

A crucial turning point in this transformative phase was the declaration of the edict of Gülhane (rose chamber) in 1839, at the onset of the reign of Abdülmecid (r. 1839–1861), marking the emergence of a radically new vision of state and society in the Ottoman realm. The edict was a formal manifestation of the state's commitment to create a more secularized and egalitarian political entity based on European concepts of administration. As such, it initiated a period of intense modernizing reforms known in Turkish historiography as the Tanzimat (reordering) era (beginning in 1839 and ending in 1876, with the inauguration of the first Ottoman constitution). Coordinated by the potent bureaucratic elite, the extensive measures of the Tanzimat were destined to penetrate, regulate, and restructure many areas of social and political life hitherto untouched by the state.

In reinstalling central authority by means of a modern and secular administrative apparatus, the Ottoman state had to abandon its traditional role as the "magnanimous arbiter" between separate communities and extend its services uniformly to all citizens, regardless of ethnicity or faith. In terms of urban administration, this entailed the implementation of a series of reforms, starting with the Tanzimat, geared toward homogenizing the fragmented urban layout of Istanbul and integrating the entire city into a metropolitan whole. The decisive Building Regulation of 1848 was the first in a series of municipal laws and institutional rearrangements that abolished the restrictive, community-based categories of pre-Tanzimat administration and sought to overcome the rigidly compartmentalized network of the self-enclosed mahalles. Particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century, after two major fires that devastated entire neighborhoods in the residential heart of the city, the historical peninsula became the focus of a rigorous planning and rebuilding program. Among the most urgent items on the urban reform agenda was the standardization of the intricate street network, essential for the efficient access of goods, services, and police forces. The implementation of the new model remained piecemeal and incremental, however, since expropriation was largely limited to fragmentary areas cleared by fires.

Nevertheless, under the supervision of a new municipal organ, the Commission for Road Improvement (established in 1865), some major arteries were widened, such as the major Byzantine/Ottoman ceremonial route (Mese/Divanyolu) constituting the backbone of the old city. Inspired by Georges-Eugène Haussmann's Paris, the commission also introduced new standards of urban monumentality in the Ottoman realm. Major Ottoman and Byzantine landmarks were restored (such as the Hagia Sophia, Constantine's column) and their dense surroundings were cleared to make room for spacious urban squares along the central route. Until the first decades of the new century, the historical peninsula was embellished with imposing official buildings in the European classical or the newfangled "neo-Ottoman" style (such as the university, the Imperial Museum of Antiquities, and the Ministry of War complex) in order to project the image of a modernized imperial capital occupying the imaginary boundaries between the east and the west.

On a broader scale, Istanbul's traditional core was connected to its rapidly expanding hinterland through a complex transport network developed by private investors throughout the nineteenth century. A major step in delineating a broad and integrated metropolitan area in Istanbul was the building of two bridges on the Golden Horn (in 1836 and 1845) that linked the historical peninsula to the Galata area. Starting in 1851, rowboats were replaced by regular commuter ferry lines that provided fast access to settlements on the Bosphorus and Marmara coast. By the 1860s, a growing network of tram lines followed the street-widening program in Istanbul and Galata, while distant Marmara suburbs were linked to the center by a railroad that extended first to Sofia (1874), and later to Vienna (1888). These major interventions by the state were destined to alter the rigid urban configuration of the traditional city core and to control the rapid growth of new settlements. Yet, above anything else, and beyond the power of central authority, it was the overwhelming weight of economic and demographic forces that determined the actual course of change for the Ottoman capital.

cosmopolitanism and bifurcation

Istanbul's population more than doubled in the second half of the nineteenth century. Totaling 391,000 in 1844, the population of the metropolitan area exceeded 850,000 by 1886. A major reason for the sudden upsurge was the intensifying rate of the empire's territorial disintegration. In the wake of violent clashes and tremendous losses in the Balkans (as in the case of the 1878 Russo-Turkish War, or

the decisive Balkan Wars of 1912), the social topography of late Ottoman Istanbul was altered by a steady influx of Muslim refugees.

Beyond the human toll of the Balkan struggles, a major factor in the reshaping of nineteenth-century Istanbul was the radical increase in the number of its European dwellers. The rationalized administrative structure and the liberal trade policies prompted by the Tanzimat regime turned the empire into a lucrative center for foreign investment. While the Ottoman Empire was rapidly integrated into the capitalist world economy, the Galata area gained prominence as the commercial, financial, and diplomatic center of western presence. Crowded with multi-story office buildings, modern schools, hospitals, banks, and a bustling stock exchange, Galata emerged as the unrivalled locus of power in the Ottoman capital, briskly marginalizing the traditional core of the city.

The soaring Levantine population of Istanbul, alongside members of the predominantly non-Muslim bourgeoisie, formed a dense residential sprawl beyond the northern walls of Galata, along the main axis of the Grande Rue de Pera. Adorned with Parisian-style apartment buildings, public parks, cafes, bars, hotels, shops, and passages, Pera (now Beyoglu) developed as a peripheral European microcosm that drew into its orbit all Stambouliots of Westernized proclivities. The growing weight of western political, economic, and cultural presence made the Galata area the privileged showground of modern public amenities in Istanbul. In 1855, when the Istanbul peninsula still largely maintained its traditional character, the model Sixth District of Galata was the first to enjoy modern municipal services such as street lighting, garbage collection, and water and sewage systems. A systematic and comprehensive provision of such services to the entire Istanbul area was to be fully realized only during the Young Turk regime at the turn of the following century.

Nineteenth-century Istanbul was a bifurcated city, with a diminishing traditional center to the south of the Golden Horn and a thriving modern one to the north. The ascendancy of the latter was further enhanced by the definitive move of the imperial seat of residence in 1855 from the Topkapi Palace within the city walls to Dolmabahçe on the European shore of the Bosphorus. The new imperial complex at Dolmabahçe, comprising an extravagant Europeanized palace, a public square, a royal mosque, and an opera building, was closely linked to the Pera neighborhood up the hill, where the Tanzimat sultans frequented tea parties and theater performances. The relocation of the palace provided further impetus for members of the predominantly Muslim bureaucratic elite to move out of the old city and settle in modern districts in the vicinity of the new center. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, Stambouliots of diverse ethnic and religious origins intermingled in the developing neighborhoods north of Pera, such as Nişantaşi Teşvikiye, and Şişli, where they shared an urban cosmopolitan culture defined markedly along European values and lifestyle.

Still, the worldly cosmopolitanism of new Istanbul was a highly fragile construction, since the social networks and cultural allegiances that held it together were largely predicated upon western economic and political hegemony. When Istanbul was occupied by the Allied powers at the end of World War I, the Grande Rue de Pera was entirely adorned with the flags of the vanquishers. For members of the nationalist resistance movement based in Ankara, the cosmopolitan ambience of Istanbul was distinctly redolent of the corruption and duplicity of the old regime. That Istanbul was to be inscribed in Turkish nationalist mythology as the "Ottoman Gomorrah," whose bitter memory was to be maintained in order to cherish the purity of the new nation.

See alsoCities and Towns; Ottoman Empire.


Amicis, Edmondo de. Constantinople. 2 vols. Translated by Maria H. Lansdale. Philadelphia, 1896. Translation of Costantinopoli (1878).

çelik, Zeynep. The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman City in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley, Calif., 1986.

Eldem, Edhem, Daniel Goffman, and Bruce Masters, eds. The Ottoman City between East and West: Aleppo, Izmir and Istanbul. New York, 1999.

Kuban, Doğan. Istanbul, an Urban History: Byzantion, Constantinopolis, Istanbul. Istanbul, 1996.

Lewis, Bernard. Istanbul and the Civilization of the Ottoman Empire. Norman, Okla., 1963.

Mansel, Philip. Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453–1924. London, 1995.

Mardin, Şerif. "Super Westernization in Urban Life in the Ottoman Empire in the Last Quarter of the Nineteenth Century." In Turkey: Geographic and Social Perspectives, edited by P. Benedict, E. Tümertekin, and F. Mansur, 403–446. Leiden, 1974.

Zürcher, Erik, J. Turkey: A Modern History. London, 1993.

Ahmet Ersoy


views updated Jun 08 2018


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


views updated May 29 2018


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


views updated May 11 2018


CONSTANTINOPLE (Byzantium; Heb. קושטנטיני, קושטנטינא, קושטאנדינא, קושטא), former capital of the *Byzantine and *Ottoman empires; now *Istanbul, Turkey. Under the Byzantine empire Jews were settled in various areas of Constantinople. In the fourth and fifth centuries they lived in the Chalkoprateia (copper market), where there was a synagogue as early as 318 (converted into a church in 422). From the 10th century to about 1060 they lived on the south shore of the Golden Horn. In the late 11th century they were transferred by the authorities to the suburb of Galata-Pera, the affluence of which was noted by *Benjamin of Tudela in the mid-12th century. In 1203 the Jewish quarter burned down.

There were Jewish workers in copper, finishers of woven material, dyers, silk weavers, and makers of silk garments. In the 11th and 12th centuries Jews were compelled to serve as executioners. Jewish physicians served various emperors despite church opposition to consulting them. Benjamin of Tudela also reports on the presence of Jewish tanners in the city and the complaints of wealthy Jews about the animosity among gentiles caused by the tanners.

Throughout the Byzantine period the Jews in Constantinople had close contacts with Christians. In the sixth and early seventh centuries Jews were active in the political factions of the *circus parties. In 641 Jews took part in a riot, during which the church of Hagia Sophia was broken into. Under *Leoiii in 721–22, Jews were forced either to leave the city or to accept baptism. But this ruling apparently did not bring the community to an end. In about 874 *Shephatiah b. Amittai of Oria, Italy, according to a legendary report in the Aḥima'az Chronicle, went to Constantinople to plead with the emperor *Basil i to end the persecutions of Jews in Italy. Other prominent Jewish visitors to the city included a *Khazar in the 10th century, Benjamin of Tudela in the mid-12th century, and the poet Judah *Alḥarizi in the 13th century. Jews were among those banished from the city because they supported the princesses Zoe and Theodora against the emperor Michael v in 1042. Many were killed in a riot against Venetian and other Western merchants during the reign of Alexius ii (1180–83). In 1204 the Latin Crusaders captured Constantinople and established the capital of the Latin Empire (1204–61) in Galata. The conflict of the great Christian powers awoke messianic expectations among the Jews of the city during the First Crusade.

In the Byzantine period the Jewish community was administered by a council of elders and by *archipherecites (heads of the academies). Benjamin of Tudela reports that five wealthy rabbis led the community. There were also religious officials, didaskaloi (teachers). The council of elders dealt with administrative, fiscal, and cultural-religious matters, and relations with Christians.

A Karaite community existed in Pera from the 11th century on and Constantinople became an important center of Karaite learning which attracted members of the sect from elsewhere. Celebrated leading Karaite scholars of Constantinople included *Tobias b. Moses ha-Avel (11th century) and Judah b. Elijah *Hadassi (mid-12th century).

From 1275 to 1453 the Venetian and Genoese Jews lived in Constantinople under the legal jurisdiction of their respective governments. From 1280 to 1325 the Venetian Jews lived together with the Byzantine Jews, but from 1325 to 1453 they lived in the Venetian quarter on the Golden Horn. The Genoese Jews lived in the Genoese quarter of Galata from 1275 to 1453. The Jewish quarter of Constantinople existed from about 1280 to 1453 in Vlanga, on the southern coast of the Golden Horn on the Sea of Marmara. During this period (from 1280) the Jews were involved in the tanning trade. The quarter was burned by the Turks in 1453. The fall of Constantinople appeared to Jews to herald the Redemption: the Targum for Lamentations 4:21 was held to prophesy the downfall of the "guilty city"; some predicted that redemption would occur in the same year, 1453.

For later history, see *Istanbul.


J. Starr, Jews in the Byzantine Empire (1939); idem, Romania (1949); idem, in: jpos, 15 (1935), 280–93; A. Galanté, Les Juifs de Constantinople sous Byzance (1940); Baron, Social2, index; Baron, Community, index; Baer, Spain, index; A. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry (1970), index; D. Jacoby, in: Byzantion, 37 (1967), 167–227; M. Adler, Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela (1907), 7, 10, 11–14.

[Andrew Sharf]


views updated Jun 27 2018

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.


views updated Jun 08 2018

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.