Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the country’s economic, cultural and historic center. The city straddles the Bosphorus strait, and lies in both Europe and Asia, with a population of over 15 million residents, comprising 19% of the population of Turkey.Istanbul is the most populous city in Europe,and the world’s fifteenth-largest city.Founded as Byzantion by Megarian colonists in 657 BCE,and renamed by Constantine the Great first as New Rome (Nova Roma) during the official dedication of the city as the new Roman capital in 330 CE,which he soon afterwards changed as Constantinople (Constantinopolis),the city grew in size and influence, becoming a beacon of the Silk Road and one of the most important cities in history. It served as an imperial capital for almost sixteen centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), Byzantine (1261–1453), and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires.It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before its transformation to an Islamic stronghold following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.In 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence, Ankara replaced the city as the capital of the newly formed Republic of Turkey. In 1930 the city’s name was officially changed to Istanbul, an appellation Greek speakers used since the eleventh century to colloquially refer to the city.
The first known name of the city is Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion), the name given to it at its foundation by Megarian colonists around 657 BCE.Megaran colonists claimed a direct line back to the founders of the city, Byzas, the son of the god Poseidon and the nymph Ceroëssa.Modern excavations has raised the possibility that the name Byzantium might reflect the sites of native Thracian settlements that preceded the fully fledged town.Constantinople comes from the Latin name Constantinus, after Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who refounded the city in 324 CE.Constantinople remained the most common name for the city in the West until the 1930s, when Turkish authorities began to press for the use of “Istanbul” in foreign languages. Kostantiniyye, Be Makam-e Qonstantiniyyah al-Mahmiyyah (meaning “the Protected Location of Constantinople”) and İstanbul were the names used alternatively by the Ottomans during their rule.The name İstanbul is commonly held to derive from the Medieval Greek phrase “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” (pronounced [is tim ˈbolin]), which means “to the city” and is how Constantinople was referred to by the local Greeks. This reflected its status as the only major city in the vicinity. The importance of Constantinople in the Ottoman world was also reflected by its Ottoman nickname Der Saadet meaning the “Gate to Prosperity” in Ottoman Turkish.An alternative view is that the name evolved directly from the name Constantinople, with the first and third syllables dropped.Some Ottoman sources of the 17th century, such as Evliya Çelebi, describe it as the common Turkish name of the time; between the late 17th and late 18th centuries, it was also in official use. The first use of the word Islambol on coinage was in 1730 during the reign of Sultan Mahmud I.In modern Turkish, the name is written as İstanbul, with a dotted İ, as the Turkish alphabet distinguishes between a dotted and dotless I. In English the stress is on the first or last syllable, but in Turkish it is on the second syllable (tan).A person from the city is an İstanbullu (plural: İstanbullular); Istanbulite is used in English.
Neolithic artifacts, uncovered by archeologists at the beginning of the 21st century, indicate that Istanbul’s historic peninsula was settled as far back as the 6th millennium BCE.That early settlement, important in the spread of the Neolithic Revolution from the Near East to Europe, lasted for almost a millennium before being inundated by rising water levels.The first human settlement on the Asian side, the Fikirtepe mound, is from the Copper Age period, with artifacts dating from 5500 to 3500 BCE, On the European side, near the point of the peninsula (Sarayburnu), there was a Thracian settlement during the early 1st millennium BCE. Modern authors have linked it to the Thracian toponym Lygos,mentioned by Pliny the Elder as an earlier name for the site of Byzantium.The history of the city proper begins around 660 BCE,when Greek settlers from Megara established Byzantium on the European side of the Bosphorus. The settlers built an acropolis adjacent to the Golden Horn on the site of the early Thracian settlements, fueling the nascent city’s economy.The city experienced a brief period of Persian rule at the turn of the 5th century BCE, but the Greeks recaptured it during the Greco-Persian Wars.Byzantium then continued as part of the Athenian League and its successor, the Second Athenian League, before gaining independence in 355 BCE.Long allied with the Romans, Byzantium officially became a part of the Roman Empire in 73 CE.Byzantium’s decision to side with the Roman usurper Pescennius Niger against Emperor Septimius Severus cost it dearly; by the time it surrendered at the end of 195 CE, two years of siege had left the city devastated.Five years later, Severus began to rebuild Byzantium, and the city regained—and, by some accounts, surpassed—its previous prosperity.