It takes a bit of imagination to appreciate the Hippodrome—once a Byzantine stadium for chariot racing with seating for 100,000—since there isn't much here anymore, though the hawkers selling guidebooks, snacks, and boat tours create a hint of the atmosphere that must have prevailed during chariot races and circuses. Notably absent are the rows and rows of seats that once surrounded the track and the life-size bronze sculpture of four horses that once adorned the stadium—the Venetians looted the statue during the Fourth Crusade, and it now stands above the entrance to St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. You can, however, see several other monuments that once decorated the central podium. The Dikilitaş (Egyptian Obelisk), from the 15th century BC, probably marked the finish line. Theodosius I had it shipped over from Egypt in the 4th century AD and commissioned the reliefs on the base, which show the Emperor in his royal box, which stood opposite, under what is now the Blue Mosque.
The very partial Yılanlı Sütun (Serpentine Column) was taken from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece, where it was dedicated after the Greek victory over the invading Persians in the 5th century BC. The Örme Sütun (Column of Constantine Porphyrogenitus) was once entirely covered with gilt bronze, which was stripped off by vandals during the Fourth Crusade. Down the hill to the southeast, along Nakılbent Sokak, you can see the giant southern foundations of the Hippodrome. Closer to the tram stop is a much more recent addition: a neo-Byzantine fountain that was a gift from the German government in 1901, commemorating Kaiser Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul three years earlier.
Atmeydanı, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Mar 22, 2007
The Hippodrome is located just near the Blue Mosque and is very convienent. But there is not much left to see. However, it is definitely worth a walk over to it.