History of Istanbul
Byzantium was originally settled by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas.
After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus the city was besieged by Rome and suffered extensive damage in AD 196. Byzantium was rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and quickly regained its previous prosperity.
The location of Byzantium attracted Constantine the Great and in 330 he refounded it as Nova Roma, or Constantinoupolis after himself after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city. The name Nova Roma never came into common use. The Eastern Roman Empire which had its capital in Constantinople from then until the conquest of the empire in 1453, has often been called the Byzantine Empire or Byzantium by modern scholars.
The combination of imperialism and location would play an important role as the crossing point between two continents (Europe and Asia), and later a magnet for Africa and others as well, in terms of commerce, culture, diplomacy, and strategy. At a strategic position, Constantinoupolis was able to control the route between Asia and Europe, as well as the passage from the Mediterranean Sea to the Efxinos Pontos (Black Sea).
Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine times the Greeks called Constantinople i Poli ("The City"), since it was the centre of the Greek world and for most of the Byzantine period, the largest city in Europe. It was captured and sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 and then re-captured by Nicaean forces under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus in 1261.
With the fall of Rome and the Western Roman Empire, the name of the city was changed to Constantinople and became the sole capital of what historians now call the Byzantine Empire. This empire was distinctly Greek in culture, and became the centre of Greek Orthodox Christianity after an earlier split with Rome, and was adorned with many magnificent churches, including Hagia Sophia, once the world's largest cathedral. The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, remains.
On 29 May 1453 Sultan Mehmet II (1451 – 81), known as “the Conqueror”, entered Constantinople after a 53 – day siege during which his cannon had torn a huge hole in the Walls of Theodosius II. Istanbul became the third capital of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1922) in 1453. The Grand Bazaar and Topkapı Palace were erected in the years following the Turkish conquest. Religious foundations were endowed to fund the building of mosques such as the Fatih and their associated schools and baths. The city had to be repopulated by a mixture of force and encouragement. People from all over the empire moved to Istanbul, and Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in a cosmopolitan society.
Mehmet and his successors pushed the frontiers of the empire across the Middle East and into Europe. In the early 16th century, Selim I (1512 – 20) conquered Egypt and assumed the title of caliph, as well as establishing the Ottomans as a sea power. He is also notorious for killing all his male relatives bar one son, to ensure that there were no rivals for the succession.
Selim’s one surviving son was Süleyman I, “the Magnificent” (1520 – 66), under whose rule the Ottoman Empire reached its maximum extent. At the time of his death the empire stretched from Algiers to the Caspian Sea and from Hungary to the Persian Gulf. Much of western Europe only just escaped conquest when an Ottoman army was driven back from the gates of Vienna in 1529. Süleyman’s reign was a time of great artistic and architectural achievements. The architect Sinan designed many mosques and other great buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics and calligraphy also flourished.
Sufi orders which were so widespread in the Islamic world and who had many followers who had actively participated in the conquest of the city came to settle in the capital. During Ottoman times over 100 Tekkes were active in the city alone.
Many of these Tekkes survive to this day some in the form of mosques while others as museums such as the Jerrahi Tekke in Fatih, the Sunbul Effendi and Ramazan Effendi Mosque and Turbes also in Fatih, the Galata Mevlevihane in Beyoğlu, the Yahya Effendi Tekke in Besiktas, and the Bektashi Tekke in Kadıköy, which now serves Alevi Muslims as a Cem Evi.
Republic of Turkey
When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara. Despite the fact that the city was captured by the Turks in 1453, most of the non-Muslim world knew it as Constantinople until about 1930, when it was officially changed to Istanbul.
In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favour of the new capital Ankara but, during the 1950s and 1960s, Istanbul underwent great structural change. The city's once numerous and prosperous Greek community, remnants of the city's Greek origins, dwindled in the aftermath of the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom with most Greeks in Turkey leaving their homes for Greece.
In the 1950s the government of Adnan Menderes sought to develop the country as a whole and new roads and factories were constructed throughout the country. Wide modern roads were built in Istanbul but some, unfortunately, were at the expense of historical buildings within the city.
During the 1970s the population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase as people from Anatolia migrated to the city to find employment in the many new factories that were constructed on the outskirts of the city. This sudden sharp increase in the population caused a rapid rise in housing development (some of poor quality resulting in great death and injury during the frequent earthquakes that hit the city) and many previously outlying villages became engulfed into the greater metropolis of Istanbul. Many Turks who have lived in Istanbul for over 30 or more years can still recollect how areas such as large parts of Maltepe, Kartal, Pendik, and others were green fields when they were young. Other areas such as Tuzla were nothing more than sleepy villages.