Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants

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Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks Read full Lyrics
As the song title explains so succinctly, the city located on the Bosphorus Strait of Turkey that we now know as Istanbul is fondly remembered as Constantinople (and as Byzantium previously, named after the city's King Byzas in 667 B.C.). Named after the Roman emperor Constantine I (Constantine The Great) in 330 A.D., it was not until 1930 that name was finally changed to Istanbul.

Exterior of the Hagia Sophia, TurkeyExterior of the Hagia Sophia, Turkey
Istanbul actually derives from a Greek phrase which literally means "in the city," "to the city," or "downtown," which is quite fitting because of its role as the cultural and financial hub of Turkey. In fact, Istanbul stands as the country's largest city and ranks fifth in the world in terms of population, estimated to be around 12.6 million. The predominant religion is Muslim, practiced by as much as 99% of the population. Even though it has served as the capital city to the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires, when the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, Ankara was installed as the capital city instead. There was a little bit of struggle initially to get all the people using the new names of the city, so the Turkish government devised a very straightforward way to ensure Istanbul and other cities were always addressed with their correct name – any other names used were simply not delivered and returned to the sender.

Istanbul has the unique claim to being the only city in the world that spans over two continents. This means it is both the closest Asian city to Europe and the closest European city to Asia, and for centuries Istanbul has served as a geographical and symbolic link between Eastern and Western civilizations.

The city shares an historic tie to the city of Rome, and this is revealed by Istanbul's nickname, "The City on Seven Hills." When Constantine The Great founded Constantinople, he wanted to recreate the grandeur and magnificence of Rome, which was also built on seven hills. Even though most people have the impression that Istanbul is an Asian city, the historic areas actually lie within the western part (or European side) of the city. Some of the must-see historical and cultural landmarks while visiting Istanbul include: Topkapi Place (built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire), the Rumeli Fortress (a strategic military building now used for concerts and performing arts), the Hagi Sophia (one of the most important architectural buildings in the world, now converted to a museum), and Sultanahmet Mosque (one of the most magnificent Ottoman classical architectural buildings), just to name a few.

In 1985, UNESCO sought to preserve the historical significance of Istanbul by adding it to the World Heritage List, and in 2010 it will also join Essen in Germany and Pecs in Hungary as the three cities chosen for the European Cities of Culture.

Cen Fox
May 28, 2010
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Comments: 1

  • Biswajit Sen from Delhi, Indiathere is no mention of any historical sites on asian side of istanbul. please mention in case there are plces of interest in asian istabul so that we gain as tourists
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