The Bosphorous Strait separates the continents of Asia and Europe. The city of Istanbul, protected by the 800-metre-wide waterway has long prospered. The city, in the 4th century, was named Constantinople and was capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire.
Hagia Sophia means Divine Wisdom – it is known as the most outstanding masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.
The interior is decorated with mosaics. The church was the seat of the Greek Orthodox patriarch and a central place of worship. Constantinople was a fortified city protected on three sides by the sea. Only the western wall overlooked land. This side was protected by three layers of ramparts. Constantinople, once known as an impregnable fortress, was finally attacked by the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1453. The defending Byzantine forces had a secret strategy for preventing vessels from entering the bay. Giant chains were stretched between the two banks across the mouth of the bay. They were tied to rafts to stop them from sinking. The Sultan Mehmet II devised an ingenious plan to outflank Byzantine defences. He ordered his navy to haul their 70 ships over the hills behind the enemys defensive positions. The city of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. 25 years after the battle, the Sultan built Topkapi palace on top of a hill overlooking the city and he renamed the city – Istanbul. There was no aristocracy in the Ottoman Empire – the Sultan had total authority. This throne was said to have been made from 8,000 melted gold coins.
The Sultan decorated all his belongings with precious jewels to show his power. To increase it, he recruited talented people from throughout his Empire. Even people from conquered nations.
High positions in Turkish culture are seen as the result of hard work and achievement that was one of the factors for Turkish expansion. This great city, once Constantinople and now Istanbul, has prospered as a cultural crossroads between East and West.