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Hippodrome (Sultanahmet Square)

 

 

The Hippodrome was built by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus in 203 AD and Constantine the Great enlarged and adorned it with beautiful works which were brought from different places of the Roman Empire when he chose Byzantium as his new capital.

Although there is not much left from the original building except the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine and Constantine Columns, according to the excavations carried out, the hippodrome was 117 m / 384 ft wide and 480 m / 1575 ft long with a capacity of 100,000 spectators.

Hippodrome was not only used for races but also for public meetings.

Chariots drawn by either 2 or 4 horses raced here representing one of the four political groups. Each group was represented by a color. Later on these four colors were united in two colors; the Blues and the Greens. The Blues were the upper and middle classes, orthodox in religion and conservative in politics. The Greens were the lower class and radical both in religion and politics. One of these political divisions ended with a revolt which caused the death of 30,000 people. This revolt was named after people's cries of "Nika" which meant "win" and this Nika Revolt took place in 531 AD.

The hippodrome was destroyed and plundered in 1204 by the Crusaders. After the Turks it lost its popularity and especially with the construction of the Blue Mosque, the ancient hippodrome changed its name and became Horse Square a place where Ottomans trained their horses. The only three remaining monuments from the original construction. These are the Egyptian Obelisk which the Roman governor of Alexandria sent to Theodosius I in 390 AD, the Serpentine Column which was erected in front of the Apollo Temple in Delpi, was brought  by Constantine I in 4C AD and the Constantine Column from the 4C or 5C AD.

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