Hippodrome of Constantinople
Hippodrome of Constantinople was a circus and an arena for chariot racing during the Byzantine Empire. It was constructed in 203 AD, during the reign of the emperor Septimius Severus. The stadium was approximately 130 meters wide and 450 meters long. It is believed that is could accommodate up to 50,000 spectators. In addition to being a sporting center, the structure was an important social and political gathering place. Today, the once magnificent stadium is a plaza named Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square). Originally, the oval arena was surrounded by two gallery levels for viewing the field level. The interior of the track (called the spina) was lavishly decorated with columns and obelisks including the Obelisk of Theodosius, the Obelisk of Constantine Porphyrogenitus and the Serpents Column. The remnants of of these objects remain in the plaza today.
At the center of the plaza stands what remains of the Serpents Column (also Delphi Tripod). Originally topped by three serpent heads, it was cast to commemorate Hellenic victory over the Persians in the Battle of Plataea. Erected at Temple of Apollo at Delphi in 478 BC, Constantine the Great brought the column to Constantinople around 330 AD. The Obelisk of Constantine Porphyrogenitus (also called the Bronze Obelisk) is located to the south of the Serpents Column at very center of what was once the arena. It is believed that this is the oldest of the three remaining monuments and may have been part of the original hippodrome construction in 203 AD. It was once decorated with plates of gilded bronze and topped with a gilded globe. To the north of the Serpents Column stands the Obelisk of Theodosius (also called the Thebean or Egyptian Obelisk). Carved in Egypt during the reign of Thutmose III (reign 1549–1503 BC), it was originally erected at the Amon-Re temple at Karnak. Theodosius the Great (reign 379–95 AD) brought the obelisk from Egypt to Constantinople in 390 AD. The German Fountain is located at the northern end of Sultan Ahmet Square. Following German Emperor Kaiser Wilhem’s state visit to Sultan Abdül Hamit II in 1898, the fountain was presented to the sultan as a token of friendship.
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