Istanbul People, Streets, Shops and Bazars. Turkey 2011© Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.com
Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul), historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the largest city of Turkey.
Istanbul metropolitan province (municipality) had 14.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe (if its Asian half is counted) after London and Moscow. Istanbul is a megacity, as well as the cultural, economic, and financial centre of Turkey. It is located on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses the natural harbour known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) sides of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents. Istanbul is a designated alpha world city.
During its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). When the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed on 29 October 1923, Ankara, which had previously served as the headquarters of the Turkish national movement during the Turkish War of Independence, was chosen as the new Turkish State's capital. Istanbul was chosen as a joint European Capital of Culture for 2010 and the European Capital of Sports for 2012. Istanbul is currently bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The historic areas of the city were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. The city covers 39 districts of the Istanbul province.
However, the history of Istanbul generally begins around 660 BCE, when the settlers from Megara, under the command of King Byzas, established Byzantion (Latinised as Byzantium) on the European side of the Bosphorus. By the end of the century, an acropolis was established at the former locations of Lygos and Semistra, on the Seraglio Point. The city experienced a brief period of Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century BC, but the Greeks recaptured it during the Greco-Persian Wars. Byzantium then continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, the Second Athenian Empire, before ultimately gaining independence in 355 BCE. Long protected by the Roman Republic, Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in AD 73.
When Constantine I defeated Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis in September 324, he effectively became the emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire. Just two months later, Constantine laid out the plans for a new, Christian city to replace Byzantium and called it it Constantinople ("the city of Constantine"), a name that persisted into the 20th century. Six years later, on 11 May 330, Constantinople was proclaimed the capital of an empire that eventually became known as the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire.
Constantinople began to decline after the Fourth Crusade.
On the 29th May 1453, after an eight-week siege (during which the last Roman Emperor, Constantine XI, was killed), Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured Constantinople and declared it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hours later, the sultan rode to the Hagia Sofia and summoned an imam to proclaim the Islamic creed, converting the grand cathedral into an imperial mosque. First he deported all the Christian population of the City, leaving only the Jewish inhabitants of Balat then he invited and forcibly resettled many Muslims, Jews, and Christians from other parts of Anatolia and Rumelia into the city, creating a cosmopolitan society that persisted through much of the Ottoman period.
Meanwhile, Mehmed II repaired the city's damaged infrastructure and began to build the Grand Bazaar. Also constructed during this period was Topkapı Palace, which served as the official residence of the sultan for four hundred years
The Ottomans quickly transformed Constantinople from a bastion of Christianity to a symbol of Islamic culture. Religious foundations were established to fund the construction of grand imperial mosques, often adjoined by schools, hospitals, and public baths. Suleiman the Magnificent's reign from 1520 to 1566 was a period of especially great artistic and architectural achievements; chief architect Mimar Sinan designed the Süleymaniye Mosque and other grand buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics, calligraphy and miniature flourished.
In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favor of the country's new capital, Ankara. However, starting from the late 1940s and early 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new public squares (such as Taksim Square), boulevards, and avenues were constructed throughout the city, sometimes at the expense of historical buildings
Religious minorities include: Orthodox Christians, Armenian Christians, Catholic Levantines, and Sephardic Jews. According to the 2000 census, there were 2,691 active mosques, 123 active churches and 26 active synagogues in Istanbul.