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Istanbul, being Islamic with a secular government, offers an opportunity to explore the role of politics in art through the lens of centuries of shifting religions and cultures.
During this last leg of my journey, I hope to see the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque and come to understand this country’s rich architectural heritage as well as its thriving contemporary arts scene which can offer a unique perspective on censorship.
With the current civil unrest in Istanbul and the protest art being created in response, this stop will offer a rare opportunity to witness the role artists play in shaping society and government.
- 7th Century BCE - Byzantium - Greek colonists led by King Byzas settled here because of the strategic location along the Bosporus Strait. King Byzas named the city Byzantium after himself.
- 330-395 CE - The Roman Empire -Following its development by the Greeks, Byzantium became a part of the Roman Empire in the 300s. During this time, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great undertook a construction project to rebuild the entire city. In 330, Constantine declared the city as the capital of the entire Roman Empire and renamed it Constantinople.
- 395-1204 and 1261-1453 CE - The Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire - After Constantinople was named the capital of the Roman Empire the city grew and prospered. After the death of the emperor Theodosius I in 395, however, enormous upheaval took place in the empire as his sons permanently divided the empire. Following the division, Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire in the 400s. Because Constantinople was at the center of two continents, it became a center of commerce, culture, diplomacy, and grew considerably.
- 532 - Anti-government Nika Revolt broke out among the city’s population and destroyed the city. Constantinople was rebuilt and many of its most outstanding monuments were constructed- one of which was the Haghia Sophia as Constantinople became the center of the Greek Orthodox Church.
- 1204-1261 - The Latin Empire - Although Constantinople significantly prospered during decades following its becoming a part of the Byzantine Empire, the factors leading to its success also made it a target for conquering. For hundreds of years, troops from all over the Middle-East attacked the city. Subsequently, Constantinople became the center of the Catholic Latin Empire. 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. It went financially bankrupt, the population declined, and it became vulnerable to further attacks as defense posts around the city crumbled.
- 1261- The Empire of Nicaea recaptured Constantinople and it was returned to the Byzantine Empire. Around the same time, the Ottoman Turks began conquering the cities surrounding Constantinople, effectively cutting it off from many of its neighboring cities.
- 1453-1922 - The Ottoman Empire - Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans, led by Sultan Mehmed II on May 29, 1453 after a 53-day siege. Constantinople was named as the capital of the Ottoman Empire and its name was changed to Istanbul.
- 1520 - 1566 -Suleiman the Magnificent controlled the Ottoman Empire and there were many artistic and architectural achievements that made it a major cultural, political, and commercial center.
- 1923-today - The Republic of Turkey -Following its occupation by the allies in World War I, the Turkish War of Independence took place and Istanbul became a part of the Republic of Turkey.
- 1985 - Istanbul's many historical areas were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list
- 2010 - Istanbul was designated the European Capital of Culture by the European Union.
Points of interest and timeline information excerpted from Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and LonelyPlanet.