Architecture the Stone Historians

Tanner Ormsby
COR – Istanbul
April 120 2017
Buildings Tellers of History
In the first half of this core class we discussed the Byzantine Empire and the city of Istanbul when it was called Constantinople. To narrow down our focus for discussing this topic we mainly took a look at two different eras during the reign of the Byzantines in Constantinople. The fist era we looked at was during the reign of Constantine, the founder of Constantinople. Constantine ruled from 306 AD and 337 AD during that time he made many great reforms to services such as financial, social and military. The next era that we looked in to during the class was the rule of Justinian who ruled form 527 AD to 565 AD. He was called Justinian the Great by his people and was praised for his rewriting the Roman law and sometimes called the last Roman.
To have our class dig deeper into a certain aspect of this vast culture, our professor had us group up and preform some research. The aspect of Byzantine culture that I looked into was the connection that architecture has to the people of a city and the soul of a city. There are many great buildings and structure that show off the amazing ability that the Byzantines had for creating monuments. Some of the most inspiring pieces are the massive Hippodrome at Constantinople and its many monuments, and the beautiful Haigh Sophia Church. The Hippodrome, which when broken into its roots means Horse Path or way, I believe really shows the connection that architecture can have with the people of the city. The hippodrome was a place where people of all race, status and power could come together and be almost equal while the races were going on. People were all cheering for teams that raced at the track and during this time differences in status were forgotten along with woes of daily life for those that did not have the same luxury’s as those with more power and wealth. Along with bringing the divvied people together it also brought revenue back into the pockets of the empire.
“Throughout the Byzantine period, the Hippodrome was the center of the city’s social life. Huge amounts were bet on chariot races, and initially four teams took part in these races, each one financially sponsored and supported by a different political party (Deme) within the Roman/Byzantine Senate: The Blues (Venetoi), the Greens (Prasinoi), the Reds (Rousioi) and the Whites (Leukoi). The Reds (Rousioi) and the Whites (Leukoi) gradually weakened and were absorbed by the other two major factions (the Blues and Greens).”

This massive place dedicated to the gathering of an entire city influenced gave a certain kind of peace to the city, doing many different things for the whole of the city all at one time. It gave those less fortunate a place to go and feel equal to those with more than themselves, it gave a way to for the empire to make money back by allowing people to make bets on the chariote races. Along with the two-preceding idea it also allowed for political issues to be disputed through sport instead of violence. And this worked for the most part, one exception being during the Nika Revolts. Other than the occasional revolt the Hippodrome did a great job at bringing the people of the great city together. And not only did it just bring people together it was great at bring culture together as well. In the hippodrome, the had monuments form around the world. Monuments such as the Serpents column from Delphi or the Obelisk of Theodosius that came from Egypt, and statue of the Roman hero Hercules. This to me showed that the City understood the importance of unifying different ideas and people together to create some place that welcomes diversity.

After learning about this city that is still alive and well in Turkey today, though now it is called Istanbul, sparked one persistent question that I have not been able to get out of my head after I had researched the Hippodrome was how much money did people spend at the races. Did the city take advantage of the masses by letting them bet or did the betters win just as much as they lost? I know that this is a strange question but with so many people betting and so much money going into this place I have to wonder if the State was taking advantage of the people at any point.

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