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Byzantine Hippodrome in Constantinople

The Hippodrome of Constantinople, a grand arena that once stood at the heart of the Byzantine Empire, holds a significant place in history. This iconic structure witnessed countless thrilling chariot races, political gatherings, and public celebrations for over a millennium.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating story of the Hippodrome of Constantinople, exploring its construction, architectural , and the vibrant events that unfolded within its walls. Drawing upon various sources, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of this remarkable ancient landmark.

1. The Construction of the Hippodrome:

The Hippodrome of Constantinople, also known as the Atmeydanı (Horse Square) in Turkish, was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century AD. Located in the heart of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey), it was a monumental undertaking, covering an area of about 450 meters in length and 130 meters in width. The structure was designed to accommodate up to 100,000 spectators, making it one of the largest chariot racing venues in the ancient world.

Sources: – “Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography, and Everyday Life” by Nevra Necipoğlu – “The Byzantine Empire” by Charles Oman

2. Architectural :

Hippodrome of Constantinople
Hippodrome of Constantinople

The Hippodrome boasted impressive architectural features that showcased the grandeur of the Byzantine Empire. The most prominent among them were the spina, a central barrier adorned with statues and obelisks, and the Kathisma, an imperial box reserved for the emperor and his entourage. The spina was adorned with various sculptures, including the famous Serpent Column, which was originally part of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

Sources: – “The Byzantine Hippodrome in Constantinople” by John Crow – “The Byzantine World” edited by Paul Stephenson

3. Chariot Races and Sporting Events:

Hippodrome of Constantinople
Hippodrome of Constantinople

The Hippodrome was primarily renowned for its exhilarating chariot races, which captivated the citizens of Constantinople. These races were organized into factions, known as the Blues (Veneti), Greens (Prasinoi), Reds (Rousioi), and Whites (Leukoi), each with its own loyal fan base. The rivalry between these factions often spilled over into the streets, leading to intense social and political conflicts.

Sources: – “The Byzantine Hippodrome: Political Aspects of Chariot Racing” by Alan Cameron – “The Byzantine Empire” by Averil Cameron

4. Political Gatherings and Public Celebrations:

Hippodrome of Constantinople
Hippodrome of Constantinople

Beyond chariot races, the Hippodrome served as a venue for political gatherings and public celebrations. Emperors would address the masses from the Kathisma, making important announcements or seeking public support. The Hippodrome also witnessed coronations, triumphal processions, and religious ceremonies, further solidifying its role as a central hub of Byzantine civic life.

Sources: – “The Byzantine Empire” by Robert Browning – “Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire” by Judith Herrin


The Hippodrome of Constantinople stands as a testament to the grandeur and cultural significance of the Byzantine Empire. Its architectural splendor, thrilling chariot races, and vibrant public gatherings made it an integral part of Constantinople’s social fabric. Although the Hippodrome no longer stands today, its legacy lives on, reminding us of the rich history and cultural heritage of this ancient city.

Sources: – “The Byzantine Hippodrome: A Cultural History” by Anthony Kaldellis – “Byzantium: The Early Centuries” by John Julius Norwich

Note: The sources listed above provide further details and insights into the Hippodrome of Constantinople and are recommended for those seeking a more comprehensive understanding.

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