If the obelisks in Sultanahmet Square could talk, they’d have plenty to say about the area’s history over the centuries.
During the Byzantine period, the Hippodrome was the center of Constantinople’s largest social gatherings. This was the arena where their passion for horse and chariot racing took place. It was the only place where the emperor and the masses came together in one venue. And at times, it was also a place for political debates.
The Hippodrome, now known as the Sultanahmet Square, is still a major social scene. It’s like New York City’s Times Square, but without all the lights, especially during Ramadan. Families of three generations gather together, plop their behinds on the grassy courtyard to mark their spot for the next few hours before the sun sets. They sit and chat as they await for the first meal of the day.
Today, the seats and columns of the stadium no longer exist and the race track is paved over with cement. The Hippodrome has been replaced by one large courtyard area that sits between the Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. Only a few remnants remain of what use to be the Hippodrome.
At one end of the Sultanahmet Square is the Obelisk of Thutmose III, which was brought over from Egypt. It’s almost 3,500 year old and made with pink granite. At other end of the square is the Walled Obelisk. It was originally donned with gilded bronze plaques, which represented Constantinople many victorious battles, and topped with a sphere.
Unfortunately, the Fourth Crusaders stripped it bare. The Serpent Column is about 2,486 year old and is a bronze statute with three decapitated serpent heads. It’s been said that he was made from the shields of Persian soldiers. It resided in the Hagia Sophia before relocating to the Sultanahmet Square.