From the book “I am Istanbul” by Buket UZUNER
“I am Istanbul, city of cities, mistress of metropolises, community of poets, seat of emperors, favorite of sultans, pearl of the world! My name is Istanbul and my subjects call themselves “Istanbullu”. And of all the world’s cities, I am without doubt the most magnificent, mysterious and terrible, a city upon whose shores Pagans, Christians, Jews, and unbelievers, friend and foe alike, have found safe harbor through the ages, a place where love and betrayal, pleasure and pain, live side by side.
I, daughter of Poseidon, miracle of Argonauts, Empress of Medieval Cities, the harbinger of a New Age, whose star shines anew in the 21st century, am the city of prosperity and ruin, of defeat and glad tidings. Istanbul is my name. It is I! Place of extremes, the full gamut of human emotions experienced at one and the same time, from the sublime to the basest, the loftiest to the lowest. I! My name is Istanbul, eternal archangel and goddess of cities. They come and go, leaving their mark on my soul. I have seen them rise and fall, be born and decline; I harbor their jumbled relics in my underground cisterns and vaults.
Blue as hope, green as poison, rosy as dawn, I am Istanbul; I am in the Judas tree, in acacia, in lavender; I am turquoise! I am the unfathomable; the muse of possibility, vitality, creativity.
My name is Istanbul. That’s what they call me, what they have been calling me for a century past; but I have been Constantinople, city of Constantine; I began as Byzantium, and have had many names since: The Gate of Heavenly Felicity, Dersaadet, Dar’üssadet, New Rome, Asitane, Daraliye, He Polis, Tsargrad, Stamboul, Konstantiniyye … Mortals are like that, forever changing names, laws and borders! I laugh at these mortals taking themselves so seriously in their fleeting mortal world of false illusion, fears and shadows. Had anyone thought to consult me, I would have chosen “Queen of All I Survey”, which is what I am, anyway. I am Queen of Queens, City of Cities; I have walked with emperors and sultans, shared the confidences of travelers and poets. Aspiring authors still line up to write about me. In fact, here comes one now!”
History of Istanbul
According to Strabo, the Greek geographer from Amasya in today’s Turkey who lived 64 B.C.-A.D. 24, the city was founded on the Acropolis (Sarayburnu) in the seventh century (Around 667-657) B.C. by colonists from Megara (A Dorian city in Greece), led by Byzas, though it is known that the area had been inhabited much earlier than that. In fact, 2004 excavations during the construction work of rail and subway network, revealed a port in which 8000-year old artifacts were unearthed.
According to the legend, before coming to Istanbul, Megarian leader Byzas went to oracle in Delphi to ask his advice as to where to make their settlement. The answer was a location in Istanbul “across the city of the blind”. They came and saw an earlier settlement in the Asian side, Chalcedon, today’s Kadıköy. They concluded that these people were indeed blind as they settled there instead of such a beatiful place where they settled now. They named their city as Byzantium after their leader’s name “Byzas”.
Like the other Greek cities on the edge of Asia Minor, the city experienced the Persian invasions and Peleponnesian Wars, was absorbed in the empire of Alexander the Great, and was involved in the struggles following the dismemberment of that empire and the subsequent eastward expansion of Rome. By the first century B.C. Byzantium had become a client state of Rome by enjoying some three centuries of prosperity.
After Constantine came to the power as the Emperor of the West in 324, the city underwent a comprehensive building program and became the capital of the Empire with its new name as Constantinople - the city of Constantine.
Following the overrun of the western part of the Empire by the barbarians in 476 the Emperor in Constantinople remained the sole ruler of what was left of the Empire.
Constantinople was tried to be conquered more than 20 times by the Latin armies and Turks by the time it was sieged by Sultan Mehmet II, the Ottoman Sultan. The city was taken by the Latin Crusaders in 1204 until it was retaken in 1261. Thereafter, the city was captured by the Ottomans on May 29, 1453, being the third capital of the Ottoman Empire and remained so until 1923 during which the capital was moved to Ankara.