Istanbul (historically Byzantium and later Constantinople) is Turkey's

Istanbul (historically Byzantium and later Constantinople) is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial center. The city covers 25 districts of the Istanbul province. It is located at 41┬░ N 29┬░ E, on the Bosphorus strait, and encompasses the natural harbor known as the Golden Horn, in the northwest of the country. It extends both on the European (Thrace) and on the Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is situated on two continents. In its long history, Istanbul (Constantinople) served as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). The city was chosen as joint European Capital of Culture for 2010. The "Historic Areas of Istanbul" were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.

History

The first human settlement in Istanbul, the Fikirtepe mound on the Anatolian side, is from the Chalcolithic period, with artifacts dating from 5500ÔÇô3500 BC. A port settlement dating back to the Phoenicians has been discovered in nearby Kad├Żk├Ây (Chalcedon). Cape Moda in Chalcedon was the first location which the Greek settlers of Megara chose to colonize in 685 BC, prior to colonising Byzantion on the European side of the Bosphorus under the command of King Byzas in 667 BC. Byzantion was established on the site of an ancient port settlement named Lygos, founded by Thracian tribes between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, along with the neighbouring Semistra, of which Plinius had mentioned in his historical accounts. Only a few walls and substructures belonging to Lygos have survived to date, near the Seraglio Point (Turkish: Sarayburnu), where the famous Topkap├Ż Palace now stands. During the period of Byzantion, the Acropolis used to stand where the Topkap├Ż Palace stands today.

After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus the city was besieged by Rome and suffered extensive damage in AD 196. Byzantium was rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and quickly regained its previous prosperity, being temporarily renamed as Augusta Antonina by the emperor, in honor of his son.

The location of Byzantium attracted Constantine the Great in 324 after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city; but the true reason behind this prophecy was probably Constantine's final victory over Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis (├ťsk├╝dar) on the Bosphorus, on September 18, 324, which ended the civil war between the Roman Co-Emperors, and brought an end to the final vestiges of the Tetrarchy system, during which Nicomedia (present-day ├Łzmit, 100 km east of Istanbul) was the most senior Roman capital city. Byzantium (now renamed as Nova Roma which eventually became Constantinopolis, i.e. The City of Constantine) was officially proclaimed the new capital of the Roman Empire six years later, in 330. Following the death of Theodosius I in 395 and the permanent partition of the Roman Empire between his two sons, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. As well as being the centre of an imperial dynasty, the unique position of Constantinople at the centre of two continents made the city a magnet for international commerce, culture and diplomacy. The Byzantine Empire was distinctly Greek in culture and became the centre of Greek Orthodox Christianity, while its capital was adorned with many magnificent churches, including the Hagia Sophia, once the world's largest cathedral. The seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, still remains in the Fener (Phanar) district of Istanbul. In 1204, the Fourth Crusade was launched to capture Jerusalem, but had instead turned on Constantinople, which was sacked and desecrated.[6] The city subsequently became the centre of the Catholic Latin Empire, created by the crusaders to replace the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which was divided into a number of splinter states, of which the Empire of Nicaea was to recapture Constantinople in 1261 under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus.

Panoramic view of the city in the 1870s as seen from Galata Tower (full image) Following centuries of decline, Constantinople became surrounded by more youthful and powerful empires, most notably that of the Ottoman Turks. On 29 May 1453, Sultan Mehmed II "the Conqueror" entered Constantinople after a 53ÔÇôday siege and the city was promptly made the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. In the last decades of the Byzantine Empire, the city had decayed as the Byzantine state became increasingly isolated and financially bankrupt, its population had dwindled to some thirty or forty thousand people whilst large sections remained uninhabited.[7] Thus, Sultan Mehmed's first duty was to rejuvenate the city economically, creating the Grand Bazaar and inviting the fleeing Orthodox and Catholic inhabitants to return back. Captured prisoners were freed to settle in the city whilst provincial governors in Rumelia and Anatolia were ordered to send four thousand families to settle in the city, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, to form a unique cosmopolitan society.[8] The Sultan also endowed the city with various architectural monuments, including the Topkap├Ż Palace and the Ey├╝p Sultan Mosque. Religious foundations were established to fund the construction of grand imperial mosques (such as the Fatih Mosque which was built on the spot where the Church of the Holy Apostles once stood), adjoined by their associated schools, hospitals and public baths.

View of the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu) on the Golden Horn as seen from Galata Tower, with the Sea of Marmara and the Princes' Islands in the background, and Kad├Żk├Ây (ancient Chalcedon) at left, on the Asian sideSuleiman the MagnificentÔÇÖs reign was a period of great artistic and architectural achievements. The famous architect Sinan designed many mosques and other grand buildings in the city, while Ottoman arts of ceramics and calligraphy also flourished. Many of these Tekkes survive to this day; some in the form of mosques while others have become museums such as the Cerrahi Tekke and the S├╝nb├╝l Efendi and Ramazan Efendi Mosques and T├╝rbes in Fatih, the Galata Mevlevihanesi in Beyo├░lu, the Yahya Efendi Tekke in Be├żikta├ż, and the Bekta├żi Tekke in Kad├Żk├Ây, which now serves Alevi Muslims as a Cemevi.

The city was modernized from the 1870s onwards with the construction of bridges, the creation of a proper water system, the use of electric lights, and the introduction of streetcars and telephones.

When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the capital was moved from Istanbul to Ankara. In the early years of the republic, Istanbul was overlooked in favour of the new capital. However, in the 1950s, Istanbul underwent great structural change, as new roads and factories were constructed throughout the city. Wide modern boulevards, avenues and public squares were built in Istanbul, sometimes at the expense of the demolition of many historical buildings. The city's once numerous and prosperous Greek community, remnants of the city's Greek origins, dwindled in the aftermath of the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom, with most Greeks in Turkey leaving their homes for Greece.

During the 1970s, the population of Istanbul began to rapidly increase as people from Anatolia migrated to the city in order to find employment in the many new factories that were constructed at the outskirts of the city. This sudden sharp increase in the population caused a rapid rise in housing development (some of poor quality, resulting in deaths and injuries during frequent earthquakes that hit the city) and many previously outlying villages became engulfed into the greater metropolis of Istanbul.

Today, as well as being the country's largest city, Istanbul is the financial, cultural, and economic centre of modern Turkey.

Climate

Satellite photo over Istanbul and the BosphorusThe city has a temperate-continental climate, with hot and humid summers; and cold, rainy and often snowy winters. Humidity is generally rather high which can make temperatures feel much warmer or colder than they actually are. Yearly precipitation for Istanbul averages 870 mm. Snowfall is quite common, snowing for a week or two during the winter season, but it can be heavy once it snows. It is most likely to occur between the months of December and March. The summer months between June and September bring average daytime temperatures of 28 ┬░C (82 ┬░F). The warmest month is July with an average temperature of 23.2 ┬░C (74 ┬░F), the coldest is January with 5.4 ┬░C (42 ┬░F). The weather becomes slightly cooler as one moves toward eastern Istanbul. Summer is by far the driest season, although there is no real summer drought such as that occurs further west. The city is quite windy, having an average wind speed of 17 km/h (11 mph).

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