Hippodrome Square in Istanbul

The Hippodrome Square stretches for 450 meters in front of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. All tourists always come to this place where it is pleasant to have a walk or have a respite in the shadow of huge sycamores after visiting the mosque or the cathedral.

Chariot racing was very popular in the Roman Empire, so in the second most important city of the empire there was built a hippodrome, which was only a little smaller than the famous Circus Maximus. And in the Byzantine Empire it was the most grandiose structure. But, alas, there remained nothing of the hippodrome itself to our days.

They began to build the hippodrome in 203 under Emperor Septimius Severus when Constantinople (then Byzantium) was a remote provincial town. The length of the first hippodrome was only 120 meters. But when Emperor Constantine made Constantinople the capital of the so-called Eastern Roman Empire the hippodrome was significantly enlarged. It was then 450 meters long and 120 meters wide. The grand palace of the Byzantine emperors was close to spectator stands, so the emperors could watch races from their box, which was called kathisma.

The famous Quadriga of Lysippus was on the tower, which dominated the start room. The magnificent sculpture group of 4 horses was created by a famous Greek sculptor Lysippus (4 century B.C). It was taken from Constantinople during the fourth crusade. Now the quadriga is stored at the Cathedral of St. Marc in Venice.

There are several obelisks along a separating line in the center of the hippodrome. The obelisks survived to our days. They are the obelisk of Constantine, the Egyptian obelisk of Theodosius, the snake-like column and the German fountain.

The Egyptian obelisk is the oldest of them. It was made at the Karnak or Luxor Temple under Pharaoh Thutmose III in 1490 B.C., and was moved to Constantinople in 390.

The snake-like column was first installed in front of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi in 479 B.C. to commemorate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians. It was moved to Constantinople in 324 under Emperor Constantine.

Emperor Constantine had the obelisk of Constantine installed in the hippodrome in 944 in honor of his grandfather Emperor Basil I. The obelisk reaches the height of 32 meters. In the time of Emperor Constantine the obelisk was lined with metal plates, which were stripped off by crusaders in 1204. This damaged obelisk we can see today.

The German fountain is the gift to Sultan Abdul Hamid II from German Kaiser Wilhelm II who came to Istanbul in 1898. The fountain was made in Germany and was installed in the Hippodrome Square in 1900.