A fragment of the Milion has been re-erected as a pillar.
ISTANBUL THE CITY BELOW AND ABOVE THE GROUND
“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”, the famous quote of Alphonse de Lamartine, the 19th century French writer, poet, and politician is a very true statement indeed. There is “godlike” beauty in the manmade eternal city. The creators, artisans may be long gone, but what remains is for all mankind to inherit. A three thousand year old history adds to the splendor of Istanbul. When I say “history” I mean all of the civilizations, empires and their people who have given this city the diversified and multicultural character that it has today. We become present in the cultures of the Byzantines, the Genoise, the Romans, the Ottomans, and finally the Turks through all that they have built and left behind. We see the palaces, roads, monuments, sculptures, churches, aqueducts, cisterns, mosques, medreses, squares, markets, fountains, cemeteries, kervansarays, baths, bridges, yalis,and countless artworks that depict past empires and states. Miraculously,a few complete objects have survived, but most are in the form of smaller artifacts. Following earthquakes and fires some of the structures were restored and rebuilt over time, while others were lost forever in the rubble.
New civilizations often destroyed older ones. Rocks and bricks from the ruins of the past civilization were used to rebuild, hence some of the new buildings carried traces from older civilizations. Often times the buildings’ remains were lost forever, like a priceless treasure that lie buried, later to be discovered while digging a foundation for a metro subway or a grand hotel. Even though people found traces of past civilizations accidently, they soon realized the metropolis of Istanbul was as rich below the surface as it was above. And maybe inside this locked treasure box there are palaces, harbors, temples and civilizations which are more splendid and grand in size compared to the new ones above the earth's surface. My desire is to open this locked box.
Istanbul “above the ground” is surrounded by continuous stone walls, seven sprawling hills, and three azure blue waters- the Bosphorus, Marmara Sea, and the Golden Horn inlet. Two bridges span the Bosphorus to connect two continents and form one majestic city. To the West is the European Pera district, to the East is the Asian Anatolian peninsula with Kadikoy (Calcedon) and Uskudar districts. The minarets framing the mosques of Sultan Ahmet,Suleymaniye, and the Hagia Sophia create the skyline seen from both continents.
The Center or Middle Point Pillar at Sehzadebasi
There is also a “middle point” within the center of the old city-Şehzadebaşı district referred to as the Mese “Middle Street”, built during the Roman times and later renamed Divanyolu Avenue. During the Ottoman era, the Mese started at the milion monument. The marble milion, protected now with walls below the road surface, once stood as an arched gateway. It is believed to be the middle of the earth the middle of the Eastern Roman empire, and the middle of the city of Constantinople. It was also the Byzantine zero mile marker, the measuring point of the starting place for the measurement of distances for all the roads leading to the cities of the Byzantium.
Lastly, the grand city of Istanbul has an “underground” which seems to be full of mystery and holds the key to the stories of hidden civilizations. She sits furtively above the unknown stories that are under the Sea of the Marmara or the Golden Horn. The concealed stories of the infrastructure of early civilizations, of lost temples, and of buried harbors are all waiting to be revealed. There are also underground cisterns, tunnels,and mosques still in use today. My aim is to bring these underground treasures to the light of day. I began writing about these subjects in March of 2007; and it will take me maybe a year maybe several years to unearth them all. Or as the new discoveries are found, new chapters will be added and perhaps the writings will continue. Now to answer the question about the topics I will cover within the next few writings, the first few that come to mind are: The ancient harbors discovered during the Marmaray undersea tunnel project, Yerebatan Cistern, Binbirdirek Cistern, Underground Mosque of Karakoy, the iron chains under the Marmara Sea between the Maiden Tower and Salacak shores in Uskudar, and the “Tunel”- Europe's second oldest metro subway. But my first one will be about something that even most of Istanbulites have never heard of: the Sunken Island of Vordonisi at the shores of Kucukyali on the Anatolian Peninsula of Istanbul.