The “Historic Areas of Istanbul” were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985

There are many legends about the foundation of İstanbul ;

”The legend of the foundation of Istanbul is derived from greek mythology ; Zeus fell in love with Io, the daughter of Inachus, King of the City of Argos and God of the River of Argos. The King of the Gods temporarily transformed the girl into a heifer in order to protect her from the wrath of his wife, Hera, Queen of the Gods. In her wanderings Io crossed the Bosphorus, giving the strait its name (”boos-foros”,”cow-ford”). After reassuming her original form, she gave birth to a girl, Keroessa. Later, Keroessa bore the son of Poseidon, sovereign deity of all waters from the Pillars of Hercules to the Hellespont. Keroessa’s son, Byzas the Magerian, in time became the founder of Byzantium and named the Golden Horn ( Chrysokeras ) after his mother.”

These lands have been continually inhabited since the Stone Age.Because Anatolia   ( Asian side of Turkey ) is located like a natural bridge between continents, no other country in the world has acquired so many historical treasures.

Istanbul Turkey‘s most populous city, and its cultural and financial center. Istanbul extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus (The strait seperating Europe from Asia ), and is thereby the only city in the world which is situated on two continents. Istanbul is also the only city in the world which served as the capital to three different Empires: The Roman Empire (330-395), Byzantine Empire (395-1453) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1923).

The history of the city begins with the founding of “ Byzantium “ . According to the customs of the age, before any such undertaking, an oracle had to be consulted. The oracle in the Apollo temple in the famous town of Delphi advised Byzas to settle opposite the “land of the blind”. The migrants searched for such a land for a long time. When they came to the headland of present-day Istanbul, they were delighted with the fertile lands and the advantages offered by the natural harbour, the Golden Horn. They also noticed the people living across the stretch of water. The migrants decided that those people must have been blind not to have seen the much greater advantages  of this ideal place and settled on the opposite shore, and they were convinced that they had found the land which the oracle had described. Eventually, in the 7th century BC, Greek colonists led by Byzas established the colony of Byzantium on the European side at the peninsula, today known as the Seraglio Point, where the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn meet and flow into the Marmara ( 667 B.C. ). Soon after it’s establishment the city became a famous center for trade and commerce acquiring wealth from the custom fees on shipping through the Bosphorus. The city always kept it’s strategic position because of it’s unique location at the intersection of sea and land routes.

The city has had many names through its history and according to the culture, language and religion of its rulers; such as  Byzantium, Constantinople and Stamboul …  It has also been nicknamed as “The City on Seven Hills” because the historic peninsula (the oldest part of the city) was built on seven hills, also represented with seven mosques, one at the top of each hill.

Because of it’s strategic location and wealth the city always suffered from invasions and changed hands frequently. . For the next several hundred years Persians,Spartians, Athenians, Macedonians ,Arabs, Nomadic raiders, and Crusaders (during the fourth crusade governed the city) attacked to the city.

 Finally in early 100’s BC, the city became a part of the Roman Empire. And the city was built once again ; new city walls, numerous temples, administrative buildings, palaces, baths and a hippodrome were constructed. 

In AD 324, Constantine defeated Licinius and set about changing the course of history. By the 4th century AD the Roman Empire had expanded considerably, and the capital Rome lost its central position in the empire. While looking for another city as his new capital, the Emperor Constantine the Great finally chose Istanbul, realizing the strategic position of the city. He promoted Christianity and shifted the capital from Rome to the İstanbul. Finally in 330 AD the city was officially declared as the new capital of the Roman Empire. Many ceremonies were organized for the occasion, which marked the beginning of a golden age.The city was first  called as the Second Rome or New Rome, but  these names were soon forgotten and  replaced by “Constantinopolis”. Constantinople was to become one of the great world capitals, a font of imperial and religious power, a city of vast wealth and beauty, and the chief city of the Western world ,until the mid-11th century, the strongest and most prestigious power in Europe.

Culturally, Constantinople fostered a fusion of Oriental and Occidental custom, art, and architecture. The religion was Christian, the organization was  Roman, and the language outlook Greek. There was, furthermore, a welcome for Christians, a tolerance of pagan beliefs, and benevolence toward Jews.

The Roman Empire was officially divided into two in 395 AD. Although the Western Empire collapsed in the 5th century, the Eastern Empire, which was administered from the capital, survived for over 1,000 years afterwards. During this period eastern part of the empire was called as Byzantine Empire, kept Constantinople as its capital. The city lived through another golden age during the reign of Emperor Justinian in 6 C AD.

The famous Hagia Sophia Church was built .

The throne frequently changed hands after bloody feuds between royal families. Between 726-842, all kinds of religious images were outlawed in the city during the iconoclastic period.This led to much destruction of  images ,paintings, mosaics and idols.

The Latin invasion was a dark page in the history of Istanbul. It started with the invasion of the city by the armies of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In 1203 the armies of the Fourth Crusade, deflected from their objective in the Holy Land, appeared before Constantinople – ostensibly to restore the legitimate Byzantine emperor  Isaac II,  and for many years all the churches, monasteries and monuments in the city were robbed of their treasures. Although the Byzantines regained control of the city in 1261, Istanbul never fully recovered its former wealth.

Finally, weakened by almost constant battle, the Ottoman Turks successfully conquered Constantinople in 1453. Renamed Istanbul, it became the third and last capital of the Ottoman Empire. By the mid 1500’s, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial center.
The entire battle took place between April 6 and May 29, . The Golden Horn  ( A body of water in the shape of animal horn seperating the European side of the city in two ,as the “new” and the “old” )was protected by a chain, but the sultan succeeded in hauling his fleet by land from the Bosporus into the Golden Horn

Istanbul, once the capital of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Turks. Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, was 21 years old and the city was 2120 years old ( 1453 A.D).

First of all, the oldest buildings and the formerly magnificent but dilapidated city walls were restored. On the ruins of the Byzantine foundations, the buildings of the basic institutions of the Ottomans were built. The great water system with its huge cisterns was repaired and returned to use. The city had developed its Ottoman identity, resembling its present character. When Constantinople was captured, it was almost deserted. Mehmed II began to repeople it by transferring to it populations from other conquered areas such as the Peloponnese, Salonika , and the Greek islands . The city had a multi-cultural population consisting of Ottoman Turks ,Jews ,Greeks and Armenians…

It was thanks to the rights granted by Mehmet that the Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox is even today located in Istanbul. Some of the dilapidated churches in the city, including Hagia Sophia, were renovated and converted into mosques. Istanbul was fully reconstructed within a short period after it was conquered by the Turks. A century later, Turkish art had left its mark on the city, and domes and minarets dominated the skyline.


In the 16th century, when the Ottoman Sultans assumed the office of Caliphate, (chief civil and religious authority of Islam) Istanbul became the center of the Islamic world as well. The city was totally reconstructed and acquired a magical ambiance under the sultans.

The most brilliant period of Turkish construction coincides with the reign of the Ottoman ruler Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-66). He enlarged the borders of the empire up to Vienna . During the period of the height of Ottoman imperial power, the city was covered all over with tulips,

in what is known as the’ Tulip Era’ .

In 1683 the Ottomans failed to take Vienna once again. This marked the beginning of a series of backward steps for the Ottomans. The Janissaries (once the sultan’s finest troops) were out of control, threatening the sultan and killing ministers, and plagues were recurrent.

This decline period of the empire continued until the beginning of World War 1 . Throughout World War I the city was under blockade. After the conclusion of the Armistice (1918) the city  was placed under British, French, and Italian occupation and that lasted until 1923. With the victory of the Nationalists under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the sultanate was abolished, and the last Ottoman sultan, Mehmed VI, fled from Istanbul (1922). After the signing of the Lausanne Treaty, Istanbul was evacuated by the Allies (October 2, 1923), and Ankara was chosen as the capital of Turkey (October 13, 1923). On October 29, the Turkish Republic was proclaimed. Because of Turkey’s neutrality during most of World War II, Istanbul suffered no damage.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk assumed the Presidency of this first republic in Asia, and changed the course of his country toward the principles of western civilization. The Sultan and his family were exiled, the Caliphate was abolished, the Latin alphabet was adopted, the fez and veil were outlawed,

and Turkish Women were granted voting rights.
By the time Ataturk died in 1938, the Republic of Turkey was already recognized as a member of the western world. The relocation of the capital to Ankara never reduced the importance of Istanbul, and this incomparable city continued to maintain its enchanting appearance and life style. Atatürk is as one of the most influential political figures of the 20th century and a military commander of unrivalled genius.

A true reformist, Atatürk changed the face of the country…

The people of the country are determined to continue their march in the direction of contemporary western civilization.

 As a secular and democratic  republic ; Turkey is the most liberal muslum country in the world and is an outstanding symbol of tolerance between different  religions and cultures in the modern world today.

The Turkish People  will always keep their word on following the footsteps of “Ataturk”  ( The Father of  Turks ) …