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28 July 2015  |  0 comment  |  Erk Acarer

Constantine’s boots and the symbol of Istanbul

Every city has a symbol… If you look at Istanbul carefully, you will see that it carries many symbols in unison and proudly.  

Constantine’s boots and the symbol of Istanbul

The sea, gulls, Maiden Tower, Süleymaniye and Galata Tower, from which Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi took wing…

They are the symbols of Istanbul. Among these, one has been treated unfairly, and not been considered much, whatever the reason. 

Sarayburnu, the first hill of the city. 

When you turn the map of Istanbul by 180 degrees and look at it, you see that the region now known as Sarayburnu resembles the head of an eagle. This may be the very reason that the Byzantine used an “eagle figure” in their emblems. Mehmed II dreamt of completing the work left unfinished by his grandfather, Bayezid I. His first order of business was to have another fortress built across Güzelce Fortress built by order of Bayezid in the Anatolian side of Istanbul. By this means, he aimed to prevent a potential support to come to Byzantine from a European fleet. 

The location where the fortress would be built was out of the Byzantine walls, but it was still considered in empire territory and known as “heathen province” For this reason, Mehmet Han put a shrewd plan into practice. After obtaining permission of Emperor Constantine, he went hunting in the vicinity of Terkos Fortress. He would send his hunted game to the Byzantine Emperor, “supposedly” demonstrating his friendship with him, and soon afterwards make a request from him.

He told Constantine that he intended to have a hunting lodge built at the European side of Bosporus, at the place of the current fortress. The Byzantine Emperor was not a statesman that would not understand that this was trickery. However, he did not dare to damage relations with the Ottoman Empire. He sent his response to Mehmed II in a short while:

“You can have a hunting lodge built wherever you desire, but the structure must fit into the area covered by a cowhide!” 

Thinking that he wanted the impossible, Constantine relaxed.

Along with his envoys, he would not fail to send a cowhide to Mehmet Han.

The cowhide received by the Ottomans was cut like a rope in slim strips. This rope would enclose the place the castle would be built. A foundation was laid within the area establishing the boundaries. Right after Rumeli Hisarı (Rumeli Fortress) was built in an unfathomable time like four months, preparations for the conquest would be complete.

Emperor Constantine was not able to stop construction of the fortress, and he would not be able to prevent the city from falling, either. But give Constantine his due! He was a king who fought in the forefront for his country!

His body that had become unrecognizable from sword wounds was identified thanks to the “eagle figure” embellished on his boots as the emblem of Byzantine. The Conqueror ordered that Constantine, who fought to defend Constantinople, be put to eternal rest with a ceremony suitable for his religion.

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