Istanbul, Turkey’s most populated and most significant city in cultural and economic terms, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Archaeological findings that have surfaced recently indicate that the first settlement in the city dates back to at least 8500 years. Historical artefacts that were discovered during the construction of the Marmaray tunnel and Yenikapı underground station turned the building works into the most extensive archaeological excavation project in the history of Istanbul. The findings were of the Harbour of Theodosius, the largest harbour of the early Byzantine period. Graves and remains of buildings dating back to the Neolithic period were also found under the harbour at 6.3 metres below sea level.
The history of the city, a settlement since the Stone Age, began to take shape at the time that Greek colonies named the city Byzantium. Between 67 and 79BC Emperor Vespasianus captured Byzantium and made the city a part of the Roman Empire. It became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire after a proclamation by Constantine the Great in 330BC, from when it came to be known as Constantinople or ‘New Rome’ and went onto become an extremely powerful city. During the reign of Theodosius II, from 408 to 450BC new city walls, a great part of which still stand, were erected around the city. During Emperor Justinian’s reign that lasted from 575 to 565AD the iconic church, Hagia Sophia, was built in Constantinople.
The city, reputed as being ‘difficult to conquer’ due to the city walls extending 20km, was conquered by Sultan Mehmet II – renamed Mehmet the Conqueror following his success. Constantinople began to be referred to as Istanbul alongside its one hundred other names. The city, which served as the Ottoman Empire’s capital for 450 years, was introduced to Islam and gained a new silhouette with the new buildings and monuments that were erected.
As host to many different cultures and civilisations as well as to people of various races, religions, cultures and languages throughout the ages, Istanbul has always preserved its cosmopolitan feel. Istanbul is as much a world capital now as it was in the past.
Istanbul, located between the Black Sea and Marmara Sea and with the Bosphorus Straight cutting through its center, has been the center of many civilizations throughout the ages as a result of its geographical location.
Istanbul, which formerly belonged to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, is now the Turkish Republic’s most important city from a cultural and economic perspective. Istanbul is the only city in the world standing upon 2 continents, Asia and Europe, with the perfect blend of cultures and heritage from both sides.
The Bosphorus, flowing through the middle of the city, serves as a natural point of separation. The Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges, as well as regular ferry service, connect the two sides of the city. The European side is also divided into two by the Golden Horn or Haliç, seperating the historcal Istanbul, the Sultanahmet area from the modern city.
Istanbul, at the same time, is the only route by maritime traffic originating from countries on the coast of the Black Sea – such as Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine – can access the Mediterranean and the waters beyond; with the exception of Russia, which has coastline on the Baltic and Arctic Ocean, the remaining countries have no alternative route.