THE HISTORICAL QUARTERS OF ISTANBUL
The 57m high Cemberlitas Column (the Column of Constantine) of the Emperor Constantine of Byzantium was removed from the Temple of Apollo in Rome to be brought to Istanbul. Having incurred damage due to fires and natural disasters throughout the history, the column was hooped during the period of Mustafa II in order to ensure reinforcement and, therefore, began to be called Cemberlitas (the Hooped Stone). Today, the Cemberlitas is surrounded by various historical monuments attracting tourist attention such as Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Corlulu Ali Pasa Madrasah and Cemberlitas Bath.
Situated in the Historical Peninsula, Eminonu is one of the most beautiful quarters to have fish in dinner. Harbouring the governmental units during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, the quarter is also the founding place of city of Byzantium which is one of the first settlements in Istanbul. The district derives its name from the customs directorate situated here during Ottoman period and is home to Gulhane Park, the New Mosque, the Spice Bazaar and the Hunkar Pavilion.
Dating back to the Bronze Age, Bakirkoy is situated at the western side of Istanbul and was used as a place of entertainment by Constantine in 384 AD. One of the significant centres of the region during the Ottoman Period, the district was called Makrohori and Makrikoy until the Republican Period.
Bebek was a small Greek fishermen’s village during the Byzantine Period and has become one of the most beautiful quarters of Istanbul with historical mansions and other monuments. During the construction of the Rumeli Hisar and the siege of Istanbul, Mehmed II assigns a company officer to this place whose name was Bebek Celebi. The quarter later derives its name from this officer.
Visited by thousands of people every day with the historical buildings and natural beauties as well as the central location, Besiktas was used as the summer house of the emperors during the Byzantine Period. The district acquired its identity as a place of residence during the Ottoman Period. The district was previously called Bestas (five stones) due to the five stone columns for mooring the ships governed by Hayreddin Barbarossa, the Chief Admiral. The name evolved into Besiktas in time.
Beyazit is one of the most important political and historical places of Istanbul. Beyazit was built by Theodosius in 393 as the greatest square of the city. As one of the main transportation centres of the city, the Beyazit Square witnessed many political events. Having acquired a political significance during the Ottoman Period, the square maintained it in the cultural field during the Republican Period. Accepted as one of the best and well-established universities of the world, Istanbul University is situated in this quarter as well as the Suleymaniye Mosque, Second-Hand Book Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
Today, Beyoglu is a cultural centre with the museums, the Taksim Square, the Istiklal Street and historical places. The Pera neighbourhood in Beyoglu was an important trade centre during the Byzantine Period where Venetians and Genoese lived. Unfortunately, Pera was also victim to the occupations and plunders during the Crusades of the 11th century. Following the conquest of Istanbul, the quarter revived as an art and trade centre. It is believed that the district derived its name from the address “Beyoglu” (son of Bey) by Suleiman I to the Venetian ambassador who lived here.
Eyup is one of the first Ottoman-Turkish areas founded after the conquest of Istanbul. The district is situated on the south the Golden Horn beyond the walls. The district derives its name from Abu Ayyub al-Ansari whose shrine was built here. According to the legend, the grave of al-Ansari was found with the dream of Akshamsaddin, the tutor and adviser of Mehmed II. During the Ottoman Period, one of the most interesting traditions was the girding of sword by sultans following their ascension to throne.
Karakoy is one of the oldest trade centres of Istanbul with the banks and commercial buildings. Distinguished throughout the history as a pier and trade centre, Karakoy is meets Bosporus with the Golden Horn. Karakoy is the modern name for the ancient Galata quarter. In the beginning of the 11th century, the Genoese traders dwelt in the area with the permit granted by the Byzantine Emperor. The Genoese later built firm walls and towers for their safety of life and property. The most outstanding of these monuments is the Galata Tower which is also one of the symbols of the city.
Thanks to the well-preserved historical texture, Samatya is a quarter in Fatih district attracting great attention from movie and serial producers. Covering a part of the Kocamustafapasa Neighbourhood, the quarter is followed by Yedikule in the west. It is believed that the quarter derives its name from “Psamatyon”, the Greek translation for “sandy”, due to the sandy soil of the quarter in the past. Settled also in the Byzantine Period, the quarter harbours Church of St. George of Samatya, Hagios Nikolaos Church and Kapiagasi Yakup Aga Bath.
The foundation of Uskudar dates back to 1000 BC when Phoenicians settled and established their mercantile ports and shipyards in today’s Salacak. The settlements were also maintained during the Roman and Byzantine periods while the region was called Skutari. Following the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans, Uskudar became a prominent centre of the Anatolian Side. Today, Uskudar is home to many mosques, masjids, baths, caravan inns, fountains, libraries and palaces, mansions and pavilions built for sultans, pashas and statesmen. The world’s first flight by Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi was taken from Galata Tower to land on Uskudar.
The Sidera gate of the Byzantine walls of the city cracked during the earthquake of 1532 and, therefore, both the quarter and the gate started to be called “Catladikapi” (the Cracked Gate).
Until the last century, Ferikoy was a small settlement called Hagios Demetritos and inhabited by the Greeks. The adjacent forest of the quarter attracted famous hunters to visit the place and hunt for animals. One of these hunters was Monsieur Ferry who was a French trader from the nobilities of Izmir and Istanbul. Living in Galata, Ferry grabbed his rifle on holidays and went to Hagios Demetritos where he frequently hunted and decided to build a mansion in this tiny and beautiful village in the end. The Ferry family visited and stayed in this mansion time to time. After this period, Hagios Demetritos started to be called “the Village of Monsieur Ferry” as published in some newspapers. Among the historical places in Ferikoy, there are Darusaade Agasi Behram Cavus Mosque (built in 1570 during the period of Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmet Pasa), Dekema Apostoli Church (built in 1868 as dedicated to the 12 apostles), Sirpots Vartanans Armenian Church (built in 1861) and Latin and Protestant graveyards.
Goztepe is a quarter in the Anatolian Side within the Kadikoy territory. The name Goztepe (the Observing Hill) derives from the area where Gozcu Baba, a sheik of the Merdivenkoy Sahkulu Convent, made observations. In the past, the hunting lodge of Andronikos, a Byzantine emperor, stood where the convent rises today. The peace treaty following the Orhan Ghazi’s conquest of Izmit was signed in this lodge. The treaty also included a term predicating the use of the lodge as an Ahi monastery. The lodge was used by the Bektashis for long years so as to maintain the Bektashi culture during the Turkish reign. During the period of Celebi Sultan Mehmed, the Ahi sheiks of the monastery were assigned to observe the Byzantines. From then on, the Ahi sheiks were also called the observers. Until recently, this stone building was home to the sheiks of the monastery. The last landowner was Hasan Tahsin Baba. Today, Sahkulu Sultan Convent is one of the centres where the Alevi congregation and culture are maintained.
There was a Greek village called Sut Menbat where Sutluce lies today. Erected in a corner of the village, a woman’s statue was giving water from its breasts. It was believed that the water increased the milk in women. Therefore, the quarter started to be called Sutluce (Milky).
Zincirlikuyu was founded and developed after the summer lodge built for Yusuf Izzettin Efendi, the son of Abdulaziz, in 1870. The suspected suicide of the crown sultan with his slit wrists gave a bad reputation to the quarter and did not develop as an area of settlement. Therefore, Zincirlikuyu have been mostly used as a graveyard which stands on the garden of the hunting lodge of Yusuf Izzettin Efendi. On the other hand, the hunting lodge is currently used as a vocational high school. The name of Zincirlikuyu (the Chained Well) comes from the well below the lodge which doesn’t survive today.
Okmeydani is a quarter in the territories of both Kagithane and Sisli districts of Istanbul. The name Okmeydani (the Archery Square) derives its name from the square and dervish lodge founded here by Mehmed II for arching competitions. The surrounding streets harbour mile stones that determine the ranges of long distance arrows.
Situated on the southeast of Kucukcamlica, Acibadem is known as the home of Battal Ghazi where he observed the Byzantium for a very long period during the 8th century. In the past, Acibadem was called as “Al-i Bahadir” or “Battal Ghazi Vineyards” in reference to his bravery. Located between the Rasimpasa and Kucukcamlica neighbourhoods, Acibadem was the property of Kizlaragasi Misirli Osman Aga in the beginning of the 17th century. The territory was expropriated in 1630 by Murad IV to be owned by Selim III in the 1800s. Today, Acibadem is home to many courtier, sultan, prince and pasha mansions among the wide meadows, gardens, vineyards and groves that extend towards Kucukcamlica.
There are various legends about the name of Kanlica. According to the most prevalent one, an Ottoman sultan one day orders his servants to find the quarter with the cleanest air in Istanbul. He also asks assistance from viziers about how to measure the cleanliness. One of the viziers says that posts should be erected in all the quarters with bloody meats on them. The last to go off would be in the cleanest quarter. The Sultan gives the word and Kanlica (Bloody) comes in the first place. The Ottoman sultan gives the name to the quarter.
Kuzguncuk, one of the quarters in Uskudar, draws attention with the historical houses and atmosphere as well as mini modern cafés and restaurants. The name is believed to derive from Kuzgun Baba, a saint who lived here during the reign of Mehmed II, and represents an area in the Anatolian Side with preserved neighbour relations. Houses with bay windows and giant plane trees are the first to come to mind about Kuzguncuk.
Known as Petrion in the Byzantine Period, Balat was a quarter where rich Greek traders dwelt. The residents of the quarter abandoned their homes right before the conquest of Istanbul only to return after Mehmed II gave the guarantee that they would not be disturbed in their living and religion. Similar to Haskoy facing the quarter on the opposite side, Balat also harboured a dense Jewish population and, therefore, is a home to many surviving mosques, churches and synagogues.
Kadirga derives the name from galley (in Turkish: kadirga) as it is an ancient coastal quarter where galleys or, in other words, big ships moored. You can both witness the neighbourhood life and see the Ottoman Istanbul in Kadirga.
Haydarpasa was known as a recreation area in the Ottoman Period. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the quarter is home to the starting point of the Anatolian railway network. Haydarpasa has many buildings remaining from the Ottoman Period after built in the 19th and 20th centuries.