Hippodrome of Constantinople

Greek: Ιπποδρομος της Κωνσταντινουποληs
What: Stadium for Chariot Racing
Where: Constantinople (modern day Istanbul)
Built: Fourth Century AD

Ottoman minature of the Hippodrome (1582).

Ottoman minature of the Hippodrome (1582).

The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a stadium that was built in the fourth century AD for chariot racing. The Hippodrome, meaning “horse path” in Greek, was the centre of sporting and social life in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, that would have fit up to 100,000 people. It was in the shape of a long “U” with the emperor’s loge located at the eastern end of the track over looking the stadium. The emperor’s loge was accessible via an underground passage which only the emperor and other imperial family members could use.

The top of the entrance to the Hippodrome was decorated with four large horse statues made of copper. These horses were looted during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 by the Venetians and taken back to Venice to St. Mark’s Basilica where they still remain to this day. Many statues of gods, emperors and heroes decorated the stadium. In the middle of the Hippodrome (known as the Spina) stood three tall and important monuments: The Bronze Obeliskthe Serpent Column and the Egyptian Obelisk.

The Hippodrome was home to four teams that took part in chariot races. Each one was financially supported by a different political party: The Blues (Venetoi), the Greens (Prasinoi), the Reds (Rousioi) and the Whites (Leukoi). Up to eight chariots (two chariots per team), with four horses each competed in the races. The rivalry between the Blues and Greens was one of the greatest at the Hippodrome. So fierce was this rivalry that it culminated with the Nika riots of 532, in which 30,000 people were killed.Today nothing is left of the Hippodrome except for the three monuments located in the Spina. The area is known as Sultan Ahmet Square and there is a paved road over top where the original racetrack was.

Byzantine Empire Hippodrome of Constantinople – Sultanahmet:

Byzantium Hippodrome:

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