Saturday, April 13, 2024
HomeTravelWhat is Sultanahmet Square? Historical Fact for tourism

What is Sultanahmet Square? Historical Fact for tourism

The Legendary Site in Istanbul

When thinking about the great city of Istanbul, one cannot forget the importance of the Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome of Constantinople). As a visitor to this remarkable city, understanding historical sites like this are imperative. The Hippodrome was originally built in 203 AD by Emperor Septimius Severus but underwent several renovations and changes over time.

Although now it’s not used for chariot racing anymore, it remains an important tourist attraction that brings visitors back to ancient times. The Hippodrome is located in Sultanahmet Square (previously known as the Hippodrome Square) and served several purposes throughout history including chariot races, horse races, imperial ceremonies and even public executions.

The site stretches over 400 meters in length and was capable of seating thousands of spectators making it one of the largest public arenas ever constructed. One can easily imagine how exciting it must have been to watch athletes compete at breakneck speeds around this enormous racetrack.

But beyond its role as a sports venue, the site also served as an essential hub for social gatherings and celebrations. From coronations to religious festivals, the Hippodrome played host to numerous events that helped define Byzantine culture for centuries to come.

Why Visit This Historical Site

The significance of this historical site cannot be overstated when it comes to understanding Istanbul’s rich cultural heritage. Today, visitors from all around the world come here to witness its stunning architecture and learn more about its remarkable history. It’s a must-visit location on any tourist’s itinerary while visiting Istanbul due to its central location within walking distance from other top attractions such as Hagia Sophia Museum or Blue Mosque.

Aside from its impressive size and design elements, there are also several intriguing features that make it worth exploring further such as the Serpentine Column, the Obelisk of Theodosius and the German Fountain. All of these pieces were added to the Hippodrome over time and offer visitors a unique glimpse into different periods of Istanbul’s history.

A visit to the Hippodrome is an excellent opportunity not just for horse racing enthusiasts but for anyone interested in history and culture. From its origins as a simple racetrack to its current status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this legendary location offers something for everyone who wants to experience Istanbul’s rich cultural tapestry firsthand.

History of the Hippodrome

Origins and construction of the Hippodrome

The Hippodrome of Constantinople, also known as At Meydanı in Turkish, was built during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus in AD 203. The construction was ordered to be done by Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great and finished in AD 330. The site was originally a natural valley that was expanded and flattened by hundreds of laborers to create the massive structure we know today.

The Hippodrome’s original dimensions were approximately 700 meters long and 140 meters wide, with a seating capacity for more than 100,000 spectators. It was one of the largest structures ever built in ancient times and served as a gathering place for public events such as chariot races, athletic competitions, public executions, and political rallies.

Historical events that took place at the site

Over its long history, the Hippodrome played host to many significant historical events. One of its most famous uses was for chariot races during Byzantine times where it would become packed with fans eager to watch their favorite teams compete. During these races emotions ran high among supporters with fights often breaking out between them.

Another notable event took place in AD 532 when rival factions within Constantinople clashed over control of the city. This event is known as Nika riots which resulted in significant damage not only to the palace but also to many other important buildings including churches.

Changes made to the structure over time

Throughout its history, alterations were made to keep up with ever-changing demands on space or modernizing its infrastructure. In AD 390 new seats were added near where people could watch games being played while earlier on there might have been just standing room alone or benches placed randomly around it without any organized layout. As the centuries passed, the Hippodrome was gradually neglected and fell into disrepair.

Many of its stones were used for other buildings, and by the 16th century, only a small section remained. Today, visitors can still see some remains of this once-great monument including an Egyptian obelisk in its center that was re-erected by Emperor Theodosius I in AD 390.

Features and Layout of the Hippodrome

The Hippodrome of Constantinople or Sultanahmet Square was one of the largest chariot racing stadiums in the ancient world. The arena measured about 450 meters long by 130 meters wide and could seat over 100,000 people. It was located in the heart of Constantinople, which was once the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

One of the most notable features of the Hippodrome was its spina, a long central barrier that divided the racetrack in half. The spina was adorned with statues and monuments, including an obelisk from Egypt that is still on display today.

There were also two metae, or turning posts, located at each end of the spina where chariots would make their turns. The seating areas were divided into sections based on social class.

The lower classes sat in a general admission area known as the adorna or podium, while nobles and members of high society sat in special boxes called kathismata. These boxes were decorated with intricate mosaics and offered prime views of all the action on both sides of the spina.

Description of Seating Areas

The adorna or podium area consisted mostly of wooden benches that were arranged around three sides of the racetrack. Spectators would enter through archways located at either end to find their seats.

The lower classes had to arrive early to claim their spots because they weren’t assigned seats like those in higher social status. In contrast, kathismata boxes offered much more comfortable seating arrangements for those who could afford them.

They usually had padded benches for sitting and were covered with colorful tapestries and mosaics on walls adorned with gold leafs . In addition to having a better view than those sitting below them, these higher-class spectators also had access to private entrances and exits so they could avoid the crowds.

How Chariot Races Were Held at the Site

The chariot races were an integral part of life in Constantinople, and they were held regularly at the Hippodrome. The drivers would race around the track seven times, making sharp turns around each meta at either end. Each race involved four teams, distinguished by their colors: red, blue, green, and white.

The races could be quite dangerous for both drivers and spectators alike. The chariots had no brakes, so crashes were common.

Additionally, there was always a risk of violence breaking out between rival factions in the stands. Despite these dangers, people flocked to see the races because they were exciting and offered a chance to see their favorite drivers in action.

, it is clear that visiting the Hippodrome of Constantinople can offer visitors a glimpse into one of history’s most iconic sports stadiums . From its spina adorned with monuments to divided seating areas based on social class and colorful mosaics , there’s so much to take in while exploring this ancient structure.

Importance to Byzantine Culture

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was an integral part of the Byzantine capital’s social and cultural life. The chariot races held here were one of the most popular forms of entertainment, attracting huge crowds from all walks of life. The races were a way for people to show off their wealth and status, with each team sporting different colors, emblems, and fan bases.

In addition to the chariot races, the Hippodrome also hosted other events such as athletic competitions and theatrical performances. The site was a hub of activity year-round, with festivities held on religious holidays and special occasions such as coronations or victories in battle.

Role in Social and Cultural Life During Byzantine Times

Apart from being an entertainment venue, the Hippodrome also played an important role in shaping Byzantine culture. It was a place where people from all over the empire came together to celebrate their shared heritage and identity. The imperial box was located at one end of the stadium, allowing the emperor to watch over his people while they reveled in their shared pastimes.

To some extent, attendance at events held here became a measure of loyalty to the empire itself. Participation in chariot races or other contests could earn individuals reputation points for bravery or skill that could translate into social prestige elsewhere within society.

Significance to Religious Ceremonies and Imperial Processions

The Hippodrome was also an important site for religious ceremonies during Byzantine times. On Palm Sunday each year, a procession would make its way from Hagia Sophia (the largest cathedral in Constantinople) along a route that ended at the Hippodrome’s entrance.

Likewise, major imperial processions would culminate at this site too: after military triumphs or upon receiving foreign dignitaries (such as ambassadors), victorious leaders would parade through the Hippodrome to great acclaim, and the crowds would be treated to special spectacles and performances in celebration. All of these events helped to reinforce the imperial power structure, cementing the importance of the emperor and his court in Byzantine society.

Modern Day Tourism at the Hippodrome

Preservation and Restoration Efforts

Today, the Hippodrome of Constantinople is a popular tourist attraction and important historical site. As such, there have been efforts to preserve and restore the area for future generations.

The restoration work has been done on both the structures within the Hippodrome as well as the surrounding area. One of these efforts was to restore and enhance the original seating areas, including adding new walkways and benches for visitors to sit on while taking in all that history has to offer.

They also restored a number of sculptures that had been damaged over time due to exposure to weather or vandalism. Additionally, there have also been renovations made on other areas of the site that are not directly related to chariot races.

For instance, an ancient cistern located just outside of the Hippodrome was also restored in order to provide visitors with a glimpse into what life was like during ancient times. These preservation efforts ensure that future generations can continue to appreciate this historical gem.

Visitors who come to see Hippodrome of Constantinople will find themselves in one of Istanbul’s most vibrant neighborhoods – Sultanahmet. This district is not just home to the iconic Blue Mosque but also museums, bazaars, and various cultural monuments.

A few minutes’ walk from Hippodrome takes you straight into Topkapi Palace where you can explore the very heart of Ottoman Empire reigns. The palace museum showcases some impressive collections including weapons from all over Europe, Asia Minor pottery dating back 5000 years ago among many other artifacts.

If shopping is your thing then head only a couple blocks away from Sultanahmet square where you’ll find one of Istanbul’s oldest bazaars – Grand Bazaar! With over 3000 shops selling everything from handmade carpets, traditional Turkish delight, jewelry, and antiques, it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Those looking to explore more of the Ottoman empire history can head to the Hagia Sophia Museum, a former church and mosque which has been converted into a museum. The building is famous for its magnificent Byzantine architecture and breathtaking mosaics.

It’s a must-see destination that will leave you in awe. The area around Hippodrome of Constantinople is rich in history and culture, offering visitors an opportunity to learn about Istanbul’s past while enjoying modern amenities.


Visiting historical sites like the Hippodrome of Constantinople on Sultanahmet Square can be an enriching experience for tourists seeking to understand the culture and history of a place. The Hippodrome offers a glimpse into the grandeur and extravagance of Byzantine society, as well as the tumultuous events that took place there over centuries.

By understanding the significance of such sites and preserving them for future generations, we ensure that their legacy lives on. When visiting the Hippodrome, it is essential to approach it with an open mind and a desire to learn.

One must understand that historical sites may not always be visually stunning or in perfect condition, but they hold immense value in their stories and cultural significance. Taking time to read about the history, speaking with local guides, or listening to audio tours can greatly enhance one’s experience at such sites.

It is important to realize that visiting historical sites can be more than just learning about past events. It can also be an opportunity for personal reflection and growth.

When standing in a place where so much has happened before us, we may feel humbled by our own insignificance in time, or inspired by humanity’s ability to create and innovate. Learning about historical sites like the Hippodrome of Constantinople can offer us a deeper connection both to our past as humans and our present-day world.

It allows us to appreciate cultural differences while also acknowledging our shared human experiences across time. By preserving these treasures for future generations through tourism efforts alongside restoration work helps ensure its legacy is preserved so that millions more people get inspired by it long after we are gone!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -spot_img

Most Popular

Recent Comments