Home City Search Istanbul Roman Heritage of Istanbul: part I
Roman Heritage of Istanbul: part I, Istanbul
Roman Heritage of Istanbul: part I
Guide Location: Turkey » Istanbul
Guide Type: Self-guided city tour
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 km
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Colossus
Author: kane
This self-guided walking tour is included in the iOS app "City Maps and Walks (470+ Cities)" in iTunes and the Android app "Istanbul Map and Walks" in Google Play.
Constantinople, being an imperial capital for over a millennium, still contains many important buildings and sites that show the greatness of the Eastern Roman Empire. This tour will take you through the most famous of them, giving you a glimpse of the most developed and flourishing city of the middle ages in Europe - Constantinople (Present day Istanbul).
Tour Stops and Attractions
Boukoleon Palace
1) Boukoleon Palace
The Boukoleon Palace, also known as the Bucoleon was originally one of the Byzantine Palaces of Constantinople. The palace was most probably built by Theodosius II in the fifth century, but scholars still dispute its exact date of construction.

Lying on the shore of the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, the Palace was originally called Hormisdas. Justinian I named the Palace Bucoleon after the end of the 6th century. The name Bucoleon represents a Bull and a Lion, whose statues stood at the port in front of the palace. The palace was also called "House of Justinian" and "House of Hormisdas".

The palace was greatly expanded and renovated under Emperor Theophilos, and he added a large façade on top of the sea facing walls. Today, the palace lies is ruins, but it most probably had a balcony looking out towards the sea.

Boniface of Montferrat took the Boukoleon Palace during the Fourth Crusade in the 1204 sacking of Constantinople. The treasures that the palace housed at that time were beyond imagination. Also taking refuge at the palace from the invaders was Princess Margaret, the daughter of Bela III of Hungary. When Boniface captured her, he married the princess. The palace is a good place to visit to get a glimpse of Byzantine architecture, even though it mostly lies in ruins today.
Walled Obelisk
2) Walled Obelisk
The Walled Obelisk is also called the “Constantine Obelisk” and “The Walled Column”. It is situated at the south end of the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which is now called the Sultanahmet Square, near the Serpentine Column in Istanbul. The Sultanahmet square is also called “At Meydani” which means “Horse Square”. This is a popular tourist spot in Istanbul, and the famous Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are also located right next to the Sultanahmet Park. The Egyptian Obelisk and the German fountain lie close to the Walled Obelisk.

The obelisk is 32 meters high, and the year of its original construction is unknown. Constantine VII named it the “Constantine Obelisk” when he repaired it in the tenth century with roughly cut stones. Constantine had elaborately decorated the structure with gilded bronze plaques that portrayed the many victories and triumphs of his Grandfather Basil I. The obelisk also had a sphere constructed on its top by Constantine.

During the Fourth Crusade, all the bronze plaques were stolen, and in 1204, the crusaders melted the plates to be used for other purposes. The obelisk suffered further damage by young Janissaries, who liked to climb the structure to show off their prowess. Today, it is visited by tourists from far and wide.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Gryffindor
Serpentine Column
3) Serpentine Column
The Serpentine Column also called the “Serpent Column”, the “Delphi Tripod”, the “Plataean Tripod” and the Yılanlı Sütun in Turkish is an ancient column made of bronze located at the Sultanahmet square in Istanbul. The Sultanahmet square was once called the Hippodrome of Constantinople and was also known as the Atmeydanı (Horse Square) during the Ottoman period.

The Serpentine Column was a part of an ancient Greek sacrificial tripod that was originally located in Delphi. Constantine the Great relocated the column to Constantinople in 324 AD. The serpent heads, present on top of the column fell from it during the late 17th century, and one is on display in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

The column was built to celebrate the victory of the Greeks who defeated the Persians during the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC. The column along with its bowl and golden tripod, that have been lost to the ages, were part of an offering made to Apollo at Delphi in 478 BC. Today the column is located near the “Walled Obelisk” and the “Egyptian Column” in Sultanahmet square, which is a popular tourist spot in Istanbul. The famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are also present near the Sultanahmet Park.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Gryffindor
Obelisk of Theodosius
4) Obelisk of Theodosius
The Obelisk of Theodosius is the ancient Egyptian Obelisk of Pharaoh Tutmoses III. It is also called the Dikilitaş in Turkish. During the 4th century AD, the obelisk was re-erected by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, known today as Sultanahmet Meydanı or Sultanahmet square in Istanbul. The Sultanahmet square is a famous tourist spot in Istanbul.

Originally the obelisk was built for the great temple of Karnak in Egypt, but it was transported up the river Nile to Alexandria by the Roman Emperor Constantius II in 357, to commemorate his 20 years on the throne. It was transported to current day Istanbul by Theodosius I.

Made out of red granite, the structure was originally 30 meters tall, but its lower part was damaged most probably due to its relocations. Today it is 19.6 meters high and along with its base, it reaches a height of 25.6 meters. On all four sides of the structure, inscriptions describing the victory of Tutmoses III in 1450 BC, on the banks of the Euphrates River are depicted. The obelisk has suffered a lot of damage due to its several relocations and earthquakes, and the missing parts have been replaced by bronze and cubes of porphyry.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Gryffindor
Theodosius Cistern
5) Theodosius Cistern
The Theodosius Cistern was once part of the water-supply system of Constantinople. It was part of the 250 kilometers of aqueducts and its size speaks by itself for its importance - 32 nine-meters-high marble columns support the structure that provided fresh water to the Imperial Palace and to the Baths of Zeuxippus. Built in 5th century it still amazes visitors.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Roger W Haworth
Column of Constantine
6) Column of Constantine
The Column of Constantine is also known as the “Burnt Column” and Çemberlitaş sütunu in Turkish (çemberli means 'hooped' and taş means 'stone'). The column was constructed by Constantine the Great in 330 AD as a Roman monumental column. It is present in Yeniçeriler Caddesi between and Beyazıt and Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul.

The column was originally built of 9 cylindrical blocks of porphyry and had the statue of Constantine the Great resting on it, depicted as Apollo. The orb carried by the statue was said to house a fragment of the True Cross. The foot of the column consisted of a sanctuary that housed even more relics from the crosses of the 2 thieves who were crucified along with Jesus Christ.

It got damaged in 1106 AD by a strong gale and restored by the Byzantine emperor Manuel I. the emperor placed a cross on top of the column replacing the original statue. The Ottoman Turks removed the cross after taking over Constantinople in 1453. It is also called the 'Burnt Column' due to a fire in 1779, that scorched the column black. In 1985, the column and many other monuments in Istanbul were listed as World Heritage Sites.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and Gurlitt 1912
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