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•History  • Location  •Europen City of Culture 2010   •Istanbul Overview   •Istanbul Safe City


•Before Conquest Istanbul   •Conquest and Istanbul   •The Ottoman Era   •Dersaadet and Three Istanbul   •Historical Documents Before Conquest

Dersaadet and Three ISTANBUL

Istanbul also known as Dersaadet was divided until the mid l9th century into four sectors for administrative and judicial purposes. The first sector encompassing the city center was named Suriçi (meaning 'within city the walls') and was under the authority of the Istanbul Judicary Council. The three towns (ßilad-ı Selase) Galata, Üsküdar and Eyüp are the three boroughs or towns making up the city of Istanbul. Bilad-ı Selase (meaning three townships) were administered by different judges, but the seperation of the towns was not confined to , administrative and judicial seperation but also represented the social and cultural differences within the city represending four different ways of life, melding into one harmonious society, those differences are the reasons that enriched Istanbul's social and cultural entity and made it one of the most interesting place to live in.

This is the oldest and the most historical section of Istanbul. The Golden Horn marks the north of the Surici, the Bosphorus in the east and Marmara Sea in the south. Its only land connection is on the west. Since it is covered by the walls constructed during the Byzantine period, it is called Suriçi. The Suriçi holds the original Istanbul which was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine, and conquered by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.
It became the capital of the Ottoman Empire after the conquest and remained as the capital until the beginning of the 20th century. The Babiali buildings and Topkapı Palace, among others, have remained intact from that period. The legend says that the Ottoman sultans were successful while they lived in Suriçi. The Topkapı Palace was not a classical palace, but a kind of Imperial tent which served as headquarters to an eveready army. Topkapı Palace has witnessed many things. First of all, it was the center for the imperial entertainments.

It saw one day an extravaganza like the circumsision ceremony of the child prince of Sultans. The other day the rebel Jannisaries asked the Sultans that some pashas be beheaded before the palace for their hatred. Babıali, where the imperial bureaucracy resided, is also in Suriçi. In addition, some attacks, chaos, and important political events ocurred in this area. It has been the center of press since the l9th century and many Ottoman scholars were educated there.

There were many famous and lively discussions that took place at the Meserret Coffee House at Babıali. Ottoman Sultans moved their palaces from Suriçi to the Bosphorus, but Babiali remained in Suriçi and continued as a political center. Only Iran, a muslim country opened an embassy in Suriçi during that time. The western Christian people were not allowed to live in Suriçi. Only muslim and imperial Christian people resided in here along with the Jews of Balat. The Population of Suriçi dropped to 50,000 and it lost its former glory during the siege, but the Ottomans revıved this area and its population reached over 500,000 in the l6th century. On the other hand, Sultans, imperial people, and government officials decorated Suriçi with architectural monuments. And, this area earned its very famous mosque-dominated silhouette. Many mosques, hotels, baths, and charity and educational institutions were built in this area. The oldest and most famous educational institution is Sahn-i-Seman Medrese which is located at the Fatih Mosque Complex. In addition, Meşihat (abode of the Shaykh al-islam), which is located at the Suleymaniye Complex, completes the religious center character of the Suriçi. Let us turn our attention to places where ordinary people live. The streets are narrow but quiet and beautiful. The wooden houses with balconies and bow-windows line on both sides of the streets. These are the typical neighborhood scenes of the Suriçi. But there is a potential danger for these neighborhoods.

Fire is the biggest disaster that Suriçi frequently faces. Fires spread fast and easily, sweeping the large neighborhoods with flames. Fires were generally started at the Cibali where many flammable materials were unloaded in its harbor, and advance towards the Unkapanı, Fatih, or Aksaray or towards the Grand Bazaar and Sultanahmet depending on the direction of the wind. The only measure against fire was the Tulumbacılar (old, man- powered fire brigade) for a long time.

The Tulumbacılar created an interesting folklore in Suriçi by carrying their water tanks and pumps on their shoulders and running to the fire. The songs sung by the fire fighters and stories of the girls who fell in love with them were part of this folklore. Another folklore feature of Suriçi was its swashbucklers. They came out especially when there was no order in the city during the declining years of the Ottoman Empire. Their task was to protect the honor of the neighborhood. It is told that, sometimes they were advised and directed by the scholars. Suriçi is an active business center today. Business is beíng done in big buildings which houses many offices and bazaars. The most famous bazaar is the Grand Bazaar.

This shopping complex, which is located between Beyazit and Nuruosmaniye, was the greatest business center during the golden years of the Empire, but Galata took that advantage during the declining years of the Empire. Rich muslim merchants who had businesses in the Grand Bazaar were called a "Bazargan." This wás not an easy title to earn.

The merchant had to do overseas trade to pay his debts on time, become reliable, and give some of his money to charities for earning such an honorable title. Suriçi was quintessentially Ottoman with its monuments, palaces, Babiali, neighborhoods with narrow streets, and Grand Bazaar. It grew with the Ottoman Empire and gained importance, but lost its importance with the decline of the Empire. It is a historical tourist site today.


Initially convened each Wednesday, these were sessions held by the Grand Vizier with the judges of the three muncipalites of Istanbul, Eyüp Galata and Üsküdar. Local problems on a religous affair were discussed and solved, covering all areas of the city management. Before the meetings the Sultan could give instructions to the Grand Vizier. This council also functioned as an Appeals Court for the inhabitants of the Istanbul.
At the conclusion of the Wednesday meeting the Grand Vizier, the first judge, members of council and representatives of goverment departments would together conduct a tour of the city to appraise the situation and needs in various areas.


Galata is located at the north side of the Golden Horn. It was surrounded by walls, constructed by the Genoese, until the l9th century. These walls started at Azapkapı near the Golden Horm. The Galata Tower was the northernmost observation tower and the walls go down to Tophane from this point. Its name was "Sykai" (Fig field) during the Byzantine period. It also was called "Peran en Sykais" in Greek, which means fig field of the other side.

Its name "Pera" which was used by the Levantines came from this origin. The origin of Galata was either "galaktos" (milk) in Greek or "ealata" (stairway) in Italian. Galata is on the European side of Istanbul both geographically and culturally. It was established as a western, Latin and Catholic colony right next to Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire. Its governments changed hands between Venetians and Genoese, but it always remained Latin and Catholic.

This situation did not change much after the conquest of Istanbul. However, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror made this a residential area for Greeks and Jews. Even though this made Galata a non-Latin place, it was still a non-Muslim area next to the capital of Islam. Therefore, "the other side" does not only mean the other side of Golden Horn, but it also means other side culturally. Sometimes the people of Galata sided with the enemies of Istanbul. The first time Galata betrayed the locals was when the Latins occupied Istanbul in 1204. Galata helped the Latins during this occupation, and Istanbul was pillaged by Latins. That incident was one of the reasons of the decline of the Byzantine Empire.
Galata was not faithful to the Ottoman Empire either. Galata was an important center to govern the "capitulations" which raised the "decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Empire had a large debt with Galata's bankers since the beginning of the l9th century, and that economically pillaged the Empire. Also, Greek bankers of Galata supported Greece in its independence from the Empire. Galata has been a very active business center since its establishment. It also was a night-life center with its taverns which attracted the Muslim population, too.

But Galata lived its golden years during the second half of the l9th century. Foreigners and minorities gained some new rights with Sultan Abdulmecid’s political reforms of 1839 in addition to the capitulations. This quickly created wealth and enhancement for Galata. In 1860 the area inside the Genoese walls was not large enough for Galata. So, the walls were destroyed and Galata was enlarged and Istiklal Street (of today) and "Grand Rue de Pera", called by Levantines, became a luxury district. First, there were foreign embassies and churches. Then, big houses, luxury apartmenıs• shopping centers, and entertainment and art centers were built on Istiklal Street. Residential houses followed this. The people called this area "Beyoglu" which was an enlarged Galata called "Pera" by Levantines. In a short period the infrastructure problems of the new district were solved. Streets were covered by rocks, sewage systems were enlarged, electricity, water, and natural gas networks were laid down, and trams pulled by horses were put into service for public transportation. Most important of all, the third oldest metro of the world was opened in Galata. Galata was a finance center with its bankers and stock exchange. Its harbor was one of the busiest harbors of Europe. The Grand Rue de Pera or Cadde-i Kebir became a shopping center second only to the Grand Bazaar. The imported European goods were bought not only by Levantines but also by western sympathisers. It was also an entertainnıent center with its cafes, theaters, bars, opera houses, restaurants, and pastry shops.

Ottomans liked the way of living in Pera so much. So, Galata became a kind of school for Ottoman politicians who sympathized with the western way of life. Because the Ottoman people were learning how to eat, drink, dress, entertain, and talk like westerners from the Levantines and Europeans in Beyoglu.Galata was a cosmopolis. Mainly French, but also almost all other European languages were spoken there. Italians, Germans, French, British, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Hungarians, Poles, and Russians had their own communities. Each community had its own places of worship, not only based on its religion but also based on its different sects.

Therefore, many churches and synagogues of different groups were located close to each other. Despite the fact that the existence of many Muslim people and places in Galata like Galata Mevlevi Convent, Arab Mosque, Asmali Mosque and Aga Mosque, these were hardly enough to change the Galata's Western characteristics.There were also many foreign education centers in Galata; French, British, Italians, Germans, and Austrians opened high schools in Galata. The rich and noble muslim families, along with the Levantines and minorities, sent their children to those schools. Most of the Ottoman and Turkish scholars were educated in those schools.

Galata was always different. It did not even share the same faith with other districts of Istanbul. While Istanbul was in poverty and political chaos during the Balkan War, Galata was experiencing its golden age. The spoils of World War I flowed to Galata. Beyoglu was revived by the arrival of White Russians who escaped from the October Revolution of Russia. Its entertainment life was always good.

This place was the primary entertainment center for the foreign forces while Istanbul was under occupation. But after the war, during the first years of the republic, the gorgeous Pera of Levantines slowly declined.


The history to the Galata Bankers of Galata goes back as far as the Byzantine Empire. Even then Galata was known for its bankers who provided necessary credit to local traders. These bankers were recognized internationally, only with the advent of the Ottoman rule. By providing facilities to Greek. Venetian and Genoese traders and bankers the authorities encouraged the return of those who had fled the city on the Ottoman Conquest. Later in the l6th century, the jewish emigres from Portugal and Spain were encouraged to join these bankers and Galata's old importance in the financial sector was renewed and strengthened.

These bankers as well as providing finance for the government and private sector also acted as tax collectors, thereby playing an ímportant role in the economic life of the Empire. With the growth of trade in Europe the Greek bankers were dominant in the Istanbul wholesale businesses. The Armenian bankers became prominent during the reign of Sultan Mahmut II to the extent that an Armenian money danger named Kazan Artin became head of the Imperial Mint. In the second half of the l9th century these bankers of Galata were so powerful economically politically and socially that they held the empire in their grasp. At this time they almost dictated their whims to the Supreme Court. Their ostentatious display of wealth in Pera (Beyoğlu) presented a disturbing threat to Istanbul's traditional culture. Due to the dependency of the Palace and high placed bureaucrats on these bankers' loan facilities the 'Galata Bankers' became politically very powerful. With the decree of 1881 all government income came under the control of the Public Debt Department and the power of Galata Bankers gradually declined.


Üsküdar is located on the Anatolian side at the entrance to the Bosphorus. Historically Üskudar was located between Salacak and Paşalimanı, But it grew everday like other districts of Istanbul. Today, it streches to Umraniye on the east, to Kadikoy in the south to Beykoz in the north.Uskudar was the third Muslim judgeship belonging to Istanbul, besides Galata and Eyup. It represents Anatolian Turco-Islam tradition. First of all, Uskudar is geographically Anatolian.

It is located on the borders of Anatolia which is drawn by waters of of the Bosphorus. It was also Anatolian demographically. The muslim people who came from Anatolia, resided in Uskudar after it was conquered by Orhan Gazi in 1352. Sultan Mehmed The Conqueror speeded the immigration from Anatolia to Uskudar. The famous Turkish traveller Evliya Celebi, who lived in 17th century, wrote that there were 70 muslim neighborhoods in Uskudar and most of people had immigrated from Anatolia. He also stated that there were 11 Greek and Armenian, one Jewish and no French neighborhoods in uskudar. This gave ethnic and culturally homogeneous structrue to Uskudar. Üsküdar is the section of Istanbul which has the strongest connection with Anatolia. It was the center of trade with Anatolia until the railway was installed in the 19th century.

It was also the starting point to trade with Iran and Armenia. All Iranian and Iranian merchants arrived in Uskudar with their trade caravans. Therefore, Uskudar became a trade town in the 16th and 17th centuries. In spite of this fact, Üsküdar was always quiet and modest. Its streets and houses were nice and well maintained.

Karacaahmet cemetery, the oldest and largest muslim cemetery in Istanbul, is located in Üsküdar. There are many cypress trees in the cemetery and it is more like a park than a cemetery Üsküdar is not only a point of separation where people leave this life. Every year the people going to Mecca for pilgrimage are sent from Üsküdar. The Sürre Alayı which brought the presents of the Ottoman Sultans to Mecca and Medina governors were sent from Üsküdar as well. Therefore, Üsküdar is used to separations, it sends both the dead and Hajj candidates with ceremony Üsküdar is the first part of Istanbul to be conquered by Ottomans. It was the messenger of the big conquest. It was separated from lstanbul for one century and one year, but in 1453 Üsküdar was once again united with Istanbul. The Marmara Sea was not the cause of separation, but means of the transportation. When you travel from this sea to Üsküdar, Kızkulesi welcomes you first.

This beautiful tower is one of the beauties and symbols of Üsküdar. When you reach the shore, another beauty welcomes you. This one is the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, built by architectural genius Architect Sinan. The Sultan Ahmed III fountaın, which beautıfıes the Üsküdar square, catches your attention, too. The beauties of Üsküdar captívates you even before reaching the shore, and they surround you afterwards. Üsküdar has changed today, like the rest of Istanbul. Most notable is that nothing remains today of the shore-side palaces which were built in the l8th century Its green hills have become cement blocks. Just a few of the street wíth wooden houses with balconies and bow-windows are still alive. But regardless of everything, Üsküdar has kept its quiet Anatolian atmosphere.


It was established at time of the conquest. Eyup was Istanbuls first Ottoman Turkish settlement. The district is located beyond the city walls on the south bank of the Golden Horn and takes name from the tomb of Eyyub al Ensari, a companion of the prophet Muhammed who is believed to have died during the Muslim siege of Istanbul in the 7th century.

Eyup began to develop shortly after the conquest. The first tangible sing of this were the tomb that Sultan Mehmed, the Conquerror had built over the grave of Eyub El-Ensari after his mentor. Aksemseddin saw the place in a dream and beside it mosque. The first settlers were from the Bursa and the first eigth neighbourhoods given the names Cami-i Kebir, Kasim Cavus, Uluca Baba, Abdulvedud, Sofular, Otagcibasi, Fethi Celebi and Mehmed Bey. The most intense period of development occured during the Kanuni Sultan Suleyman (Suleiman The Law Maker) in the 16th century. As well as the mosques, schools, fountains, tombs, hamams and alms kitchen that suddenly appeared, a succession of mansions and pavilions began to lime the shores.

The tomb of Eyup El-Ensari, commonly known as Eyup Sultan Turbesi, has changed little over the years and occupies a central place in community life today, just as did in the past.

Besides the ceremonies of the sultans, one of the most striking features of Ottoman times was girding of swords at Eyup Sultan (taklid-i seyf). The ceremony, which was performed to prayers, had a religious spiritual quality and served to recall the significance of the new padisah’s standing. However, the tradition probably dates from before the conquest. The power of the head preiest at the Leon Makelos monastery which was sited here in the Byzantine period, included girding the emperor, military commander and nobles as they left for ward and consecrating the swords.

Another peculiarity that Eyup Sultan Turbesi brought the settlement was that many Ottomans wished to be buried there in order to bo close to the saint who lay entombed. The result was that a number of large cemeteries sprang up, which give the district its mystic quality. Eyup craftsmanship of the tombstones and the catalogue of inscriptions of they bear. At the same time, the cypress trees looming from amonth the graves seem to highlight th co-existence of life and death.

As well as the average man on the street, a large number of prominent public figures have chosen Eyup as their final resting place during both Ottoman period and days of the Republic. Eyup Sultan Tomb, which is perhaps one of the most celebrated sites of Eyup, draws vast crowds on religious feast days and public holidays. It is also place of pilgrimage fro newly-weds and circumcision parties. But Eyup was also famed for a host of other things; The fishermen who sell their bountiful catch from the Golden Horn, its florists and dairies, shoreline cafes,toy tabourines,drums and whistles, the toy makers of Eyup would have been kept busy under the spiritual leadership of Eyup Sultan, who is believed to have adored children.

However, the advent of the industrial age at the end of the 19th century and rapid spread of shanty towns after the 1960’s has more or less destroyed the traditional character of the district.


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