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Istanbul History
Istanbul Great History For Great City History Neolithic artifacts, uncovered by archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century, indicate that Istanbul's...
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Istanbul Great History For Great City


Neolithic artifacts, uncovered by archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century, indicate that Istanbul's historic peninsula was settled as far back as the 7th millennium BCE That early settlement, important in the spread of the Neolithic Revolution from the Near East to Europe, lasted for almost a millennium before being inundated by rising water levels. The first human settlement on the Asian side, the Fikirtepe mound, is from the Copper Age period, with artifacts dating from 5500 to 3500 BCE On the European side, near the point of the peninsula (Sarayburnu), there was a Thracian settlement during the early 1st millennium BCE. Modern authors have linked it to the Thracian toponym Lygos, mentioned by Pliny the Elder as an earlier name for the site of Byzantium.

The history of the city proper begins around 660 BCE when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosphorus. The settlers built an acropolis adjacent to the Golden Horn on the site of the early Thracian settlements, fueling the nascent city's economy. The city experienced a brief period of Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century BCE, but the Greeks recaptured it during the Greco-Persian Wars Byzantium then continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, the Second Athenian Empire, before gaining independence in 355 BCE. Long allied with the Romans, Byzantium officially became a part of theRoman Empire in 73 CE. Byzantium's decision to side with the Roman usurper Pescennius Niger against Emperor Septimius Severuscost it dearly; by the time it surrendered at the end of 195 CE, two years of siege had left the city devastated. Five years later, Severus began to rebuild Byzantium, and the city regained—and, by some accounts, surpassed—its previous prosperity.

Rise and fall of Constantinople

Constantine the Great effectively became the emperor of the whole of the Roman Empire in September 324. Two months later, he laid out the plans for a new, Christian city to replace Byzantium. As the eastern capital of the empire, the city was named Nea Roma; most called it Constantinople, a name that persisted into the 20th century On 11 May 330, Constantinople was proclaimed the capital of an empire that became known as the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire.

The establishment of Constantinople served as one of Constantine's most lasting accomplishments, shifting Roman power eastward as the city became a center of Greek culture and Christianity Numerous churches were built across the city, including the Hagia Sophia which was built during the reign of Justinian the Great and remained the world's largest cathedral for a thousand years. Constantine also undertook a major renovation and expansion of the Hippodrome of Constantinople; accommodating tens of thousands of spectators, the hippodrome became central to civic life and, in the 5th and 6th centuries, the epicenter of episodes of unrest, including the Nika riots. Constantinople's location also ensured its existence would stand the test of time; for many centuries, its walls and seafront protected Europe against invaders from the east and the advance of Islam. During most of the Middle Ages, the latter part of the Byzantine era, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city on the European continent and at times the largest in the world.

Constantinople began to decline continuously after the end of the reign of Basil II in 1025. The final blow was given by the conquest of Villardouin and Enrico Dandolo in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, where the City was sacked and pillaged. The city subsequently became the center of the Latin Empire, created by Catholic crusaders to replace the Orthodox Byzantine Empire. Aghia Sophia was converted to a catholic church in 1204. Byzantine Empire was restored, albeit weakened, in 1261. Constantinople's churches, defenses, and basic services were in disrepair, and its population had dwindled to a hundred thousand from half a million during the 8th century  After the reconquest of 1261, however some of the City's monuments were restored, like the 2 Deisis mosaics in Aghia Sofia and Kariye were created.

Various economic and military policies instituted by Andronikos II, such as the reduction of military forces, weakened the empire and left it vulnerable to attack. In the mid-14th-century, the Ottoman Turks began a strategy of gradually taking smaller towns and cities, cutting off Constantinople's supply routes and strangling it slowly. On 29 May 1453, after an eight-week siege (during which the last Roman emperor, Constantine XI, was killed), Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" captured Constantinople and declared it the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. Hours later, the sultan rode to the Hagia Sophia and summoned an imam to proclaim the Islamic creed, converting the grand cathedral into an imperial mosque due to the city's refusal to surrender peacefully. Mehmed declared himself as the new "Kaysar-i Rûm" (the Ottoman Turkish equivalent of Caesar of Rome) and the Ottoman state was reorganized into an empire.

Ottoman and Turkish era

Following the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II immediately set out to revitalize the city, by then also known as Istanbul. He urged the return of those who had fled the city during the siege, and resettled Muslims, Jews, and Christians from other parts of Anatolia. He demanded that five thousand households needed to be transferred to Constantinople by September. From all over the Islamic empire, prisoners of war and deported people were sent to the city: these people were called "Sürgün" in Turkish However, many people escaped again from the city, and there were several outbreaks of plague, so that in 1459 Mehmet allowed the deported Greeks to come back to the city He also invited people from all over Europe to his capital, creating a cosmopolitan society that persisted through much of the Ottoman period. Plague continued, however, to be essentially endemic in Istanbul for the rest of the century, as it had been from 1520, with a few years of respite between 1529 and 1533, 1549 and 1552, and from 1567 to 1570; epidemics originating in the West and in the Hejaz and southern Russia. Population growth in Anatolia, however, allowed Istanbul to replace its losses and maintain its population of around 500,000 inhabitants down to 1800. Mehmed II also repaired the city's damaged infrastructure, including the whole water system, began to build the Grand Bazaar, and constructed Topkapı Palace, the sultan's official residence. With the transfer of the capital from Edirne (formerly Adrianople) to Constantinople, the new state was declared as the successor and continuation of the Roman Empire

The Ottomans quickly transformed the city from a bastion of Christianity to a symbol of Islamic culture. Religious foundations were established to fund the construction of ornate imperial mosques, often adjoined by schools, hospitals, and public baths. The Ottoman Dynasty claimed the status ofcaliphate in 1517, with Istanbul remaining the capital of this last caliphate for four centuries. Suleiman the Magnificent's reign from 1520 to 1566 was a period of especially great artistic and architectural achievement; chief architect Mimar Sinan designed several iconic buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics, stained glass, calligraphy, and miniature flourished. The population of Istanbul was 570,000 by the end of the 18th century.

A period of rebellion at the start of the 19th century led to the rise of the progressive Sultan Mahmud II and eventually to the Tanzimatperiod, which produced political reforms and allowed new technology to be introduced to the city. Bridges across the Golden Horn were constructed during this period, and Istanbul was connected to the rest of the European railway network in the 1880s. Modern facilities, such as a water supply network, electricity, telephones, and trams, were gradually introduced to Istanbul over the following decades, although later than to other European cities. The modernization efforts were not enough to forestall the decline of the Ottoman Empire.

In the early 20th century, the Young Turk Revolution deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid II and a series of wars plagued the ailing empire's capital. The last of these, World War I, resulted in the British, French, and Italian occupation of Constantinople. The Armenian population of the city was also affected by the deportation of Armenian intellectuals on 24 April 1915, in which leaders of the Armenian community were arrested and mostly killed as part of the Armenian Genocide. To commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide, 24 April has now become the day of remembrance. The final Ottoman sultan, Mehmed VI, was exiled in November 1922; the following year, the occupation of Constantinople ended with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne and the recognition of the Republic of Turkey, declared by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favor of Ankara, selected as Turkey's capital to distance the new, secular country from its Ottoman history. From the late 1940s and early 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new public squares, boulevards, and avenues were constructed throughout the city, sometimes at the expense of historical buildings. The population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase in the 1970s, as people from Anatolia migrated to the city to find employment in the many new factories that were built on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis. This sudden, sharp rise in the city's population caused a large demand for housing, and many previously outlying villages and forests became engulfed into the metropolitan area of Istanbul.

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