back to Byzantium

Once again in Istanbul: Asia to the left, Europe to the right, with the Sea of Marmara in the background and the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia on the hill:

2012-10-11 Istanbul view

By the Marmara shore, this is all that remains of the mighty palace of the Eastern Roman Emperors:

25.10.12 Istanbul-5 Bucoleon Palace

This was the seaward side; the site stretches all the way up the hill to where the Blue Mosque now stands on the hill. Just behind and between the mosque and Aya Sofia is a cool restaurant called Palatium, where you can relax on cushions at low tables after a hard day’s pounding the pavement; but in the basement are the ancient diplomats’ quarters:

26.10.12 Istanbul-84 Palatium basement

more fragments in the mosaic museum behind the Blue Mosque:

2012-10-2 Istanbul Byzantine Mosaic

For a thousand years all the splendour at which these broken jigsaw pieces hint was protected by the Theodosian land walls. This sad-looking ruin at their southern end was once the Golden Gate, the point of triumphal entry to Constantinople for returning emperors; the stone cannonballs at its feet were among those with which the Turks finally breached the fortifications in May 1453:

25.10.12 Istanbul-11 Golden Gate

The walls are now largely given over to market gardening (this photo was taken at Eid Al Adha, the feast of the sacrifice; we can only guess the fate of the cow):

25.10.12 Istanbul-15 Eid Al Adha

There cannot be a better place anywhere to consider the fate of empires. It was in this valley that, in May 1453, the walls were most badly damaged by those balls, and here, once the outcome was clear, that Constantine XI, the final emperor in the unbroken line that stretched back 1480 years to the elevation of Caesar Augustus, rode out to die in battle:

25.10.12 Istanbul-17 Lycus valley

and through this gate that the new ruler, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, entered the city, thus at last bringing to an end over 2200 years of the Roman polity which once so dominated Europe and the Mediterranean.

25.10.12 Istanbul-16 Topkapi

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