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It was Byzantium, then it became Constantinople, now it is Istanbul. Confused? Well, it is all laid out for you right here, and now we will tackle it and retrieve its architecture.

Byzantium was founded in about 750 B.C. and became an ancient Greek colony in 450 B.C., commanding the entrance to the Black Sea. The city, divided by the Bosporous, literally spans the European and Asian continents. Because of the mixture of the two and its very rich and varied history, its sights and sounds let you know that you are definitely somewhere very different.


In 324 A.D., the Roman Emperor Constantine created an eastern capital. He built a new city on the site of the Grecian colony and named it after himself in 330. With Constantine came governmental officials, artists, architects, workers, guild (union) representatives, etc.

In 395 A.D., the Roman Empire was officially divided into two parts, the Western half ruled out of Rome, and the Eastern half centered here in Constantinople. When the Western half collapsed over a period of several centuries, this Eastern half endured, with influence stretching out, even back to Italy, particularly in Ravenna and Venice. A consistent architectural character developed, which combined both Oriental and Christian (or Western) elements: the Byzantine Style.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire assumed control of Constantinople in 1453, changing the name to Istanbul in 1457. The city is now the largest within the Turkish Republic.

This is Hagia Sophia.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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