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Hippodrome of Constantinople
The Ancient Roman Hippodrome in Istanbul was built in the 2nd century AD, the magnificent Hippodrome. The ruins of the Hippodrome are located in Sultanahmet Square (Horse Square) today and were reconstructed by Constantine the Great in the 4th century.
A Roman Building in Istanbul: Circus Maximus Hippodrome
Emperor Septimus Severus took Byzantion from the Megarians. Yet, it was not that easy. During the war, Severus destroyed Istanbul. While reconstructing Nova Roma, Italy built an arena similar to the Circus Maximus Hippodrome in Rome.
According to some, this date is 196 AD, according to others 203 AD… But if we consider that Severus already published the “Roman Declaration of Independence” in 196 (announcement of his annexation of Istanbul), probably 196 is the start date of construction, and 203 is the end date. When the construction times of the other structures belonging to that period are examined, 7 years is a reasonable period for the Hippodrome.
Gladiator games and battles of wild animals were a means of entertainment in Rome, which still believed in paganism. For this reason, deep and wide trenches were dug between the tribune and the arena so that the animals could not attack the audience.
Constantine the Great's Racecourse
Although the exact date of its opening is unknown, we know that it was founded between the end of the 2nd century and the beginning of the 3rd century. However, the person who made the hippodrome was Emperor Constantine the Great. By expanding the structure, he brings many great pieces of works from all over his empire.
Hippodrome means horse trail in Latin. the hippodrome was rebuilt by Constantine; It was shaped like a horseshoe, 480 meters long, 117 wide, and could hold 100,000 people.
Obelisk, Knitted Column, and Serpent Column
On the spine of the hippodrome, today there is the Obelisk, the Knitted Column, and the Serpent Column. From Egypt, Obelisk was brought, and from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Serpent Column was brought. There were much more artifacts here: artifacts for Pagan and Christian beliefs, statues of legendary racers, monuments to emperors, etc.
The hippodrome was decorated with bronze and copper statues brought from many places such as Rome, Greece, the Aegean Islands, and Egypt, but almost all of the works were destroyed during the 57-year Latin occupation. The artifacts were either sold, sent to other places, or melted down and used for other purposes (coins, shields, etc.).
Nika Uprising and Horse Square
Nika uprising is the rebellion that took place in the Hippodrome during the reign of Emperor Justinian I and ended with the murder of 30.000 - 40.000 people.
The Horse Square discourse, on the other hand, belongs to the Ottomans. When Istanbul was conquered, the hippodrome was no longer standing. It was an extremely disorderly place until Fatih Sultan Mehmet Han built the Topkapi Palace in this area. According to the rumors, homeless people were leaving in this area. The arena is not visible from the grass on it and only the ruins catch the eye...
What is known is that Horse Square was a center of rebellion just like it was in the Roman period. Janissaries used to camp here and turn their cauldrons upside down in case of revolt. In other words, we can say that there was not a little blood spilled here during the Ottoman Empire's time… Meanwhile, during the occupation of Istanbul, the people of Istanbul held the biggest rally in this square.
In short, this place has been a gathering and defiance square for crowds throughout history.