Essay

Why is Istanbul Called the City on Seven Hills? (Plus 5 Other Names the City Could Go By)

From Ancient Times

Greek settlers from Megara settled Byzantium, also known as Byzantion, around 685 BC. The King of Byzas of Magara is the source of the name. Situated at the sole entrance to the Black Sea, this significant trading hub held great importance. After the city was besieged by Rome in 196 AD, Septimius Severus, the Roman Emperor, temporarily restored it and gave it the name Augusta Antonina in honour of his son. A later name for the city was Nova Roma. It was renamed Constantinopolis, often known as Constantinople, and became the new Roman Empire capital in 330 AD.

Greek culture dominated the Byzantine Empire, and as a result, its people became Greek Orthodox Christians. For almost a millennium, the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was the biggest church in the world throughout its construction. Sultan Mehmed II, also known as “the Conqueror,” arrived in the city in 1453, following centuries of decadence. It was besieged for 53 days before becoming the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. This progressive statesman encouraged Christians, Jews, and Muslims to live together and build a multicultural society. From 1520 until his death in 1566, Suleiman the Magnificent’s reign was the longest in the history of the Ottoman Empire. Many of his outstanding works of art and architecture are still standing today. When the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, Istanbul was replaced by Ankara as the nation’s capital.

Architecture

The city has had remarkable architecture throughout its history. One illustration of this is the 55 gates that made up the city walls; the biggest of these is called Porta Aurea, which means Golden Gate in Latin. The ceremonial gate nearest the Sea of Marmara was utilised by emperors. Indeed, this unique gate distinguished itself from the others constructed of brick and limestone with its blocks of white marble. It was capped by an elephant-statue-adorned quadriga. It also featured gold doors.

Five Other Names the City Could Go By

Depending on the reference date and the person’s nation of origin, the city has had numerous names throughout history. Over the many years that people have lived in this region of the world, Istanbul has gone by over thirty distinct names; these five are the most widely used:

The first name “Byzantion” may have come from the Greek ruler Byzas or Megara’s Byzantas.

Byzantion was Latinized and renamed Byzantium by the Roman conquerors in the first century AD.

Augusta Antonina: named in honour of Septimius Severus, the son of the Roman emperor, for a short time.

Nova Roma, often known as New Rome, was founded by Constantine the Great.

Translating to “city of Constantine,” Constantinople was the name given to Constantine the Great and remained that way until 1930.

What is the Significance of the Number Seven?

Some people interpret the number seven as representing spiritual epiphanies, developing self-awareness, knowledge, and intuition. Furthermore, for some, it acts as a link between the spiritual and the material worlds. It represents completion or perfection in the Bible. This could be the reason why Istanbul was positioned atop the seven hills in antiquity.

Why is Istanbul Called the City on Seven Hills?

Why is the City of Seven Hills called Istanbul? since it really is constructed on seven hills. Seven hills are the foundation of many towns worldwide. For instance, Rome, often known as The City of Seven Hills, is the location of the present-day Italian capital. Discover Istanbul’s seven hills by reading on!

Sarayburnu Hill

The ancient city of Byzantium, also known as Topkapi Hill, is located on the first of the seven hills and is currently known as Sultanahmet Square. Sarayburnu, which translates to “Palace Point,” encompasses the Ottoman Topkapi Palace, constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Istanbul’s conqueror Sultan Mehmed II, as well as the Roman site of the Hagia Sophia. Up until the middle of the 19th century, it housed Ottoman sultans and functioned as the state’s administrative and educational hub.

The zero-kilometer marker for roads heading to Roman cities was located here, and it was called the Stone of Milion. Furthermore, Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is located there. It is one of the few mosques in the world with six minarets, having been constructed in the 17th century by Sultan Ahmed I. The Hippodrome of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, and Ibrahim Pasa Palace (now a Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum) are also located here.

Suleymaniye (Beyazit) Hill

Climbing from the Golden Horn’s coastlines, the peninsula’s second most notable hill rises 196 feet (60 metres) above sea level. The Romans constructed the Great Nymphaeum in Byzantium as a public temple dedicated to the Pagan Spirits known as Nymphs. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent constructed the Suleymaniye Mosque between 1550 and 1557. Moreover, Istanbul University and the Beyazit Mosque are located here.

Cemberlitas Hill

The third hill is called Cemberlitas, and it is located 32 feet (10 metres) higher than Sarayburnu Hill. Emperor Constantine erected the Column of Constantine, also known as the Burnt Column, on this place during the Byzantine era. In 330, he built the Cemberlitas column, with a statue dedicated to him at the top. There is a tradition that says there are Christian relics hidden beneath a room. It also houses the Corlulu Ali Pasa Madrasah and the Nuru Osmaniye Mosque.

Fatih Hill

After conquering Istanbul in 1463, Sultan Mehmet II, also known as Fatih the Conqueror, started building the Fatih Mosque atop the fourth hill, known as Fatih Hill. The ancient city walls are visible from this elevation. The Church of the Holy Apostles stood here during the Byzantine era; it was eventually replaced by the Fatih Mosque. Legend has it that Emperor Constantine wanted to be buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles, although this hasn’t been confirmed. Furthermore, the Fatih Mosque’s garden is the final resting place of Sultan Mehmet II.

Yavuz Selim Hill

The fifth hill is where conqueror Yavuz Sultan Selim of Egypt lays in the garden of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque. The hill rises from the Golden Horn, the northern frontier of ancient Byzantine culture. The closest hill to the Golden Horn is the mosque, which slopes upward from it. Its building was started by Yavuz Sultan Selim and finished by his son Suleiman the Magnificent. The Church of St. George, the Cistern of Aspar, also known as Sultan Selim’s Sunken Garden, and Fethiye Mosque, also known as Pammakaristos Church, a Byzantine church turned mosque, are some other architectural landmarks.

Edirnekapi Hill

The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, named for the sun and moon, is located atop Istanbul’s sixth and tallest hill. The remnants of the Blakhernai Palace, known as Tekfur Palace, and the Kariye Camii (Chora Mosque) are situated atop this hill as well. The Chora Church was constructed in the eleventh century by the Byzantines, and its name means “the widest sphere that includes the spiritual universe.”

Kocamustafapasa Hill

The seventh hill rises to a height of around 196 feet (60 metres) above sea level, making it the hill closest to the Sea of Marmara. The Cerrahpasa Mosque was constructed in this location by Grand Vizier Cerrah Mehmed Pasa. Still, the Haseki Mosque is the main draw. Constructed for Hurrem Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent’s wife and the first woman to enter politics in a court. Furthermore, up until the 19th century, this location was well-known for its slave bazaar during the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.

Overview of why is Istanbul Called the City on Seven Hills?

Name of Hill Historical Structures
Sarayburnu Hill Topkapi Palace, Milion Stone, Sultanahmet Mosque, Ibrahim Pasa Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Hippodrome of Constantinople
Suleymaniye (Beyazit) Hill Beyazit Mosque, Istanbul University, and the Suleymaniye Mosque
Cemberlitas Hill Column of Constantine, Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque and Corlulu Ali Pasa Madrasah
Fatih Hill Fatih Mosque and Church of the Holy Apostles
Yavuz Selim Hill Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque, Church of St. George, Fethiye Mosque or Pammakaristos Church, and the Cistern of Aspar
Edirnekapi Hill Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, Kariye Camii, and Tekfur Palace
Kocamustafapasa Hill Cerrahpasa Mosque and the Haseki Mosque