Saturday, January 3, 2009

Turkey Travelogue: Hippodrome

Back to Turkey. I'm going to pick things up with the Hippodrome, which at one time was the social and sporting center of Constantinople. It was also the scene of the tragic Nika Riots, where tens of thousands of people were killed in the aftermath of an explosion of gang violence. Not too much of the Hippodrome is left anymore, but we were able to walk around the now-paved path where the horses and chariots used to race. The rest of the area is a garden, with the surviving adornments situated at either end and in the center.

The middle of the Hippodrome (the spina) was adorned with columns and obelisks. This first one (above and below) is the Egyptian Obelisk and dates back to 1500 BC. The base, made in the 4th century, depicts a chariot race on its four sides and features Theodosius I and his family. The obelisk is the top section of a monument that was probably two or three times the height of the surviving piece.

Next is the Serpentine Column, which came from Delphi. There used to be heads on the serpents, until the 18th century, when a drunken Polish nobleman knocked them off.

And lastly there's the column known both for Porphyrogenitus Constantine, who restored it in the 10th century, and as the Brazen Column, because it was once covered in bronze. Members of the Janissary corp were known for scaling it as part of same sort of silly pissing contests that still entertain men to this day.


June said...

Great shots...isn't it weird walking around places like this? I feel the ghosts of people and the shadows of events all around me...

Keera said...

I like the contrast in colors - the obelisks vs. their surroundings. And I like that you used the diagonal to fit the serpent column into the frame. I used to take a lot of diagonal pictures. LOL at the drunk Pole and the pissing contest.