Behind the Exhibition

Prospect of Constantinople Melchior Lorck (Lorichs) 1561 Brown and black ink, watercolors c. 42,5 x 1127,5 cm (in 21 sheets) Leiden University Library, BPL 1758 Leiden, the Netherlands


Istanbul is located on a strait that was ripped open by an earthquake in prehistoric times, dividing two continents and creating a passage linking two seas. The 8000 year past of the city reflects all the stages in human history. Beginning with the Greek colony of Byzantion, the settlement grew into a city of the Roman Empire, and later, as per the Roman Emperor Constantine's decision to move the capital to Byzantion, it went through an ambitious building program that is generally agreed to have commenced in 324. From then on, the city became known as Nea Roma or New Rome, as well as Constantinople after its new founder Constantine. It was modeled after the former Roman capital, with splendid colonnaded streets, forums, and baths. In addition to its unique natural qualities, such as the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, the largest natural harbor in the Mediterranean region, the city was a place which many have envied due to its imposing monuments and strategic position on profitable trade routes. Surrounded by strong walls, the city resisted many attacks until it was invaded and sacked in the Fourth Crusade in 1204, to be retaken later by the Byzantine government in exile in 1261. Then in 1453, it was conquered by the young Ottoman ruler Sultan Mehmed II, who brought the Byzantine Empire to an end. Having had become one of the most splendid capital cities of the modern age, Istanbul reflected the ethnic and religious diversity of the Ottoman Empire through its rich demographic mosaic of the city, where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities lived together.

Byzantion, Nea Roma, Constantinople, and Istanbul—the series of cities which have occupied the same site by turn—and their histories constitute a treasury of symbolic phenomena. Inarguably continuous with its past, Istanbul is a universal space that reflects historical encounters.

Joan Miró’nun Hayatı ve Yaşamı >>

Legendary Istanbul: From Byzantion to Istanbul - 8000 Years of a Capital - Periods, Works

“Benim işlerim bir ressamın bestelediği bir şiire benzemeli.”
Joan Miró

Legendary Istanbul: From Byzantion to Istanbul - 8000 Years of a Capital

The exhibition Legendary Istanbul: From Byzantion to Istanbul - 8000 Years of a Capital took place among the most extensive events of the year 2010, where the European Commission selected Istanbul as the European Capital of Culture. In collaboration with the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency and with the sponsorship of Sabancı Holding, the exhibition (5 June - 4 September 2010) presented a historical account upholding the cosmopolitan structure of the city, which had assumed the names Byzantion, Nea Roma, Constantinople, Konstantiniyye and Istanbul throughout its past. With a selection of objects that had opened with prehistoric findings, the exhibition covered the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods of the city through a lens focusing on these civilizations’ influences upon each other. Accordingly, it aimed attention at the multicultural qualities of the colorful population that has characterized Istanbul throughout its history, the energy emanated from this dynamic crowd, its ability to adapt to innovations, and the spirit of youth it had continued to reflect despite its long past. The content of the exhibition represented all the aspects of the city, from its daily life to the wars it witnessed, and the economic activities it accommodated to its sacred spaces. The selection included objects and works from a total of 58 museums, archives, libraries, and churches, 39 abroad and 19 in Turkey, as well as private collections. Having brought together treasures scattered among various countries through trade, gifts, and historical events such as the looting of the 4th Crusade, for the first time in centuries, the exhibition Legendary Istanbul: From Byzantion to Istanbul - 8000 Years of a Capital shed light on the city’s long past.


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