Life in the legendary city of Istanbul dates since 3000 before Christ although it wasn’t really a city until it was colonized by the Greeks in the 7th Century before Christ. It was named Byzantium after the colonialist King Byzas.

As it became part of the Roman Empire in the 300s, the Emperor at that time Constantine the Great made it his mission to rebuild and fortify the city; the project was designed to give Istanbul a similar appearance to Rome. In, 330 the city was claimed to be the new capital of the Roman Empire and the king had its name changed into Constantinople.

Along the Roman Empire the city prospered and developed to become a center of commerce, culture and diplomacy, especially because of its geographic position in between two continents.

As the city grew to become a major Byzantine force, it was becoming more and more of a target to troops all over the Middle-East.  As competition persisted between the Catholic Latin Empire and the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was caught in the middle and began to significantly decay.

Years passing by on such outrageous and hostile conditions made the city weak and highly accessible by the outter force which led to Constantinople being conquered by the Ottoman Empire, led by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453. The first thing they did is change the name of the city to Istanbul.

After laying his hands on the city, Sultan Mehmet started rebuilding Istanbul into a city of dreams.  He started with the Grand Bazaar (one of the largest covered marketplaces in the world) and also brought back fleeing Catholic and Greek Orthodox residents, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish families in order for his city to become a cosmopolitan entity. His project also involved building architectural monuments, schools, hospitals, public baths, and grand imperial mosques.

Istanbul got in its cultural peak during the regime of Suleiman the Magnificent after several artistic and architectural achievements draw the world attention. By the mid-1500s, the city’s population also grew to almost 1 million inhabitants. The ottomans controlled the city until it was occupied during the World War I to become later part of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

However, even nowadays, Istanbul is still not the capital of Turkey yet the most beautiful city in the country, nevertheless. Just as its population rapidly increased, the city engorged within its periphery engulfing villages and forests and what was considered a necessity back then is admired by the tourists nowadays.

Istanbul’s many historical areas were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1985. In line with all the trophies, Istanbul has been designated the European Capital of Culture for 2010 by the European Union.


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