When did Istanbul Get Its Name?

Istanbul is a settlement that does the honors to various civilizations with its location and historical beauty whereas currently located within the borders of Turkey. It is one of the favorite places with its important history that the only settlement place that being capital for three sovereignty.

Istanbul was not always remembered by its current known name in the history scene. Constantinople was the old known name of Istanbul, it was changed and Istanbul took its current name in 1930. According to  Ahmet Haluk Dursun who is a professor in Turkish history, the word “Istanbul” derives its origin from the word “stinpolis” in the Romance language, which means towards the city.

Istanbul is a settlement that has witnessed history in the strictest sense of the word. In the continuation of this article, answers will be given to the questions such as which civilizations Istanbul has hosted throughout history, with which names it has been called and what are the meanings of these names.

Previous Names of Istanbul and Their Meanings

As a cultural heritage, Istanbul was first called Byzantion and then Constantinople. This situation did not change with the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the Ottoman Empire was not interested in what the name of Istanbul would be.

Istanbul was named in various ways during the Ottoman Empire period:

  • Konstantiniyye
  • Stanpolis
  • Dersaadet
  • Asitane
  • Darülhilafe
  • Makarrı Saltanat

“Konstantiniyye” is synonymous with Constantinople. Also, it is mentioned that the word “Stanpolis” means towards the city in the Romantic language. However, the word “Dersaadet” which means “felicity door” is derived from Arabic and Persian languages. The “der” word in Persian means door, and “saadet” word in Arabic means felicity. In the same way, the word “Asitane” in Persian means capital. It is used because Istanbul was the capital during the Ottoman Empire period. The word “Darülhilafe” means central to the caliphate. Finally, the word “Makarrı Saltanat” used for Istanbul means the sultanate center and the capital city where the government is ruled.

History of Istanbul

Let’s explore the history of Istanbul from the Prehistoric period to the Ottoman Empire period.

Prehistoric Period

Istanbul is a favourite settlement place due to its strategic location, and its history dates back to the prehistoric period. Istanbul, which has always received immigration from distant geographies, has played a decisive role in the transfer of information and goods due to its location. Since Istanbul did not have a bosphorus in the Paleolithic age, it was an effective road for the primitive man, which is known as homo erectus, to achieve and spread to Europe. The oldest residuals of this period have been unearthed in Yarimburgaz Cave. At the same time, the findings of the Paleolithic Age were found with the excavations carried out in the Dudullu and Ümraniye regions with its current name. Information on the prehistoric period is limited, but excavations carried out over time yielded various findings. For example, Neolithic residuals were found in Marmaray excavations, Chalcolithic residuals were found in Fikirtepe excavations, and Phoenician residuals were found in Kadıköy excavations. Unfortunately, there is no known information about the prehistoric name of Istanbul, only assumptions can be made by considering its history.

Byzantion Period

There is an impressive story about the foundation of Istanbul. Once, there was a man known as Byzas. Byzas wanted to establish a city and take a road from Megara. He asked for a piece of advice from Pythia who is an abbess at Apollon Temple in Delphi. She told Byzas that he is going to establish a city across the Country of the Blind. Byzas was confused, but then, while he was looking at Khalkedon or today is known as Kadıköy, from today’s Sarayburnu, “Why did these blind people set up their city on that barren place while this beautiful land stood?” he thinks. At that time, the words of the abbess came to his mind and he figured out where to build his city. Thus, Byzantion, that is Istanbul, which took its name from King Byzas was founded. Later, when the Roman Empire dominated the city, its name changed to Augusta Antonina for a while. Istanbul, which was declared the capital during the reign of Constantine I, was that time known as Nova Roma. Later, with the death of Constantine, the name of the city was changed to Constantinople.

Byzantine / Eastern Roman Empire Period

Constantinople as capital was the control center of the east of Rome. As the center of Christianity and Greek culture, Constantinople developed and expanded with a new understanding of architecture. Also, the city is rigged with lots of artistic and architectural works of art. In addition to these, many ports and water facilities were established and Hagia Sophia, the world’s largest cathedral, was founded by Constantine. During Constantine’s rule, the city underwent major changes and developed a lot. So much so that towards the end of the Byzantine period, Constantinople became the richest city in Europe. However, with the decrease of population caused by the plague epidemic, the repeated invasion of Constantinople, the destruction made by the 4th Crusade, and the Latin invasion, the Byzantine Empire loses its former glorious power and its territory shrinks to Constantinople.

Ottoman Empire Period

The Byzantine Empire, which gradually loses its former power, is surrounded by the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople is included in the Ottoman territory that conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmet on May 29, 1453. The conquest date of Istanbul also corresponds to the end of the Middle Ages. Istanbul had become the life center of various civilizations and with its Christian heritage from the West has met with Islamic traditions under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman sultans did not see any objection in using the old name of the city, Constantinople, and the city continued to be known by this name.

Republic of Turkey Period

The period during which Istanbul was the capital city for 2500 years ended with the proclamation of the Republic on 29 October 1923. It is now one of the most populous and culturally diverse cities in the world. Through sure steps of young population density in Istanbul makes Istanbul become a modern city. Also with the qualified labor force, entertainment, and service industry Istanbul is one of the leading provinces in Turkey. With nearly 15 and a half million inhabitants, it is Turkey’s most populous metropolis.

In addition to the process of Istanbul being the capital of three empires that lasted for 2500 years, it is one of the rare cities that has always been an economic center. Although Istanbul is not the capital of the New Republic, it has never lost its economically important place. With its population density and economic importance, it has not lost its feature of being a fateful city over the country. Having an important place in both domestic and foreign trade, Istanbul has also developed in industries such as tourism, finance, and banking. It is the central place for aerial transportation in Turkey with 3 airports named Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul, and Hezarfen.

Today, Istanbul continues its urban beauty by carrying the melodies of the old with its mosques and museums containing various architectural effects. The innovations of the modern world are blended with the fine craftsmanship of East-West civilizations, making Istanbul a must-see city.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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