Europe and Asia
Having been the capital of four different empires, the city is an eclectic mix of many cultures. It has been home to the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
Roman Empire (330 BC - 395 BC): Constantine the Great conquered the city and set out to rebuild it entirely to make it stand out much like Rome. In 330 BC he declared the city as the capital of the entire Roman Empire and renamed it Constantinople (ahh, can you see a name trend here? The conqueror renames it after himself...talk about egos...hehe) It remained under Roman control until 395 BC.
Byzantine Empire (395 BC - 1204 AD): After the death of Emperor Theodosius I, there was a great amount of upheaval within the Roman empire and the empire was permanently divided by his sons into the Roman and Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empires. Constantinople became the center of the Byzantine Empire which was predominantly Greek. This period is when the Hagia Sophia was built (532 AD) and was a Greek Orthodox church.
Ottoman Turk Empire (1261 - 1922 AD): About this time, the Ottoman Turks began to cut off the city by conquering all the neighboring towns. Officially conquered in May 1453 by the Ottoman Turks, the city was renamed Istanbul and came under the rule of Sultan Mehmed II. He wanted to rejuvenate the city so he brought back the refugee Catholics and Greek Orthodox as well as Jewish, Muslim and Christian families to add diversity to the city. He built the Grand Bazaar which was and still is one of the largest covered marketplaces in the world.
Republic of Turkey (1923 - present): During WWI, the allies took over the Ottoman Empire and Istanbul became part of the Republic of Turkey.
A bit of Trivia
My daughter signed us up for an all-day cooking class that was taught by Selin of www.TurkishFlavours.com in her home. We met the other 7 "students" and our guide at the spice market and talked to one of the shops about how to choose quality spices, their origin and how to use them in various dishes. We enjoyed Turkish tea which is really strong! And apple tea which was yummy! After we all shopped for spices to bring home, we headed out for the ferry. The spice market was on the European side of the city and Selin lives on the Asian side.
We enjoyed a short 20 minute ride across the waters and got to see the city from the water. Once we docked, a small bus was there to pick us up and off we went to Selin's house! Arriving there, we were greeted by her Jack Russell terrier, YoYo...who bounced around like one!
More wine was poured, the dishes were all placed on the table and we enjoyed the fruits of our hard labor in the kitchen.
Selin was such a great hostess as we all got to know each other a bit more. She offered ways of serving the various dishes and some options that we could try when we got home.
By the time 4pm rolled around, we were all stuffed and happy!
There were 10 of us all together, but I managed to catch 6 of us in the picture below with Selin in the center.
If you ever have the occasion to go to Istanbul, please take the time to look up Selin and join her in her home...it was well worth the day. Great learning experience and ability to have a home-cooked Turkish meal! You can find her at www.TurkishFlavours.com.