The Historical Topography of Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that has served as the capital for three important empires; it is a unique place that deserves to be analyzed, both physically and socially. The physical and the social topographies have been the most effective factors in shaping the historical topography throughout the existence of the city. The dynamic structure offered by the unique topography is reflected in the urbanization that has occurred in various forms and dimensions; to a large extent this has been the determining factor in the process. The first subject that should be taken into consideration when analyzing the structure of this unique city, which has been formed with the unification of the social and physical strata, are the rich geographical features that form the basis of the structure and the foundations of this city. The locations that have been shaped by human beings and the human interference in the physical structure of the city, when added to the natural development, create the physical structure of the city. In other words, the traces of social life that take place in the physical plane and the social identity are included in the physical structure of the city. The social topography of the city was created by and improved upon by the different civilizations that selected Istanbul as their physical setting. Civilizations made up of members of different religions have formed the physical space in keeping with their life styles and living customs. When we examine the matter in this context, it can be said that the historical topography is the product of a synthesis of the physical and social topographies. Researchers who belong to different occupational groups have produced studies on the urban history and historical topography of Istanbul. Such studies are very important for understanding the city, identifying the development of the city, recalling once again what is in the city’s memory, examining the rationality of any undertakings carried out in the city in the future, and, most importantly, in examining the development of a sense of the urban. This study has been produced by benefiting from the many sources which have been written about the urban history, the developmental process, the architecture, the historical neighborhoods, the important eras and the historical turning points in Istanbul. In this context, this study has been formed and fed by the historical layers and the structural constituents of the city in a parallel manner, nurtured by what has been produced and gained from different sources of literature and has taken on its final shape by referring to urban history and the social structure which has been effective in the formation of the physical space.


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