History of The World: Istanbul

History of The World IstanbulFormerly known as Constantinople, and before that as Byzantium, Istanbul was founded at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam.  The first inhabitants of modern day Istanbul date back to the first millennia BC. The city’s  original name comes from  Byzas, the king of Megara, who took his colonists here in the 7th century BC to establish a colony named Byzantium, the Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus. Byzas chose this spot after consulting an oracle of Delphi who told him to settle across from the “land of the blind”.  Indeed, this superb location at the entrance of the Bosphorus strait, with access to the Black Sea, turned out to be one of the most strategically important cities of the ancient world.

In the 6th century BC the Persians ruled the city until Alexander the Great took it over in 4th century BC, where it continued to flourish as a port city under Greek influence. In 193 AD Roman emperor Septimus Severus conquered the city in a bitter civil war and it remained under the Roman rule until 4th century AD, when emperor Constantine the Great remade the city into ‘Constantinople’, the new the capital of the Roman Empire.  After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th century AD, Constantinople became the capitol of the Byzantine Empire. Early Byzantine emperors filled their city with the treasures of the ancient world, especially between 4th and 6th centuries with a population exceeded half a million. In 532 during the reign of Justinian I, riots destroyed the city. But it was rebuilt and outstanding structures such as Hagia Sophia stand as monuments to the golden age of Byzantines.
Ottoman Turks lead by Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453. Renamed Islambol, the city became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Between 15th and 16th centuries, the powerful sultans built many mosques and public buildings, topping the population again around half million by the mid 1500’s. Istanbul became a major cultural, political, and commercial center under Turkish rule. The modern name “Istanbul” was derived from a combination of “Islambol” (“city of Islam” in Turkish) and “eis tin Polin” (“to the City” in Greek).  Ottoman rule lasted until World War I when Istanbul was occupied by the allied troops. After years of struggle led by Ataturk against the occupying forces, the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 and the capital was moved to Ankara province. But, Istanbul continued to expand dramatically with a population today its population of over 13 million and continues to be the commercial and cultural center of Turkey.


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