The Hippodrome of Constantinople (Istanbul)

Constantine the Great rebuilt and expanded the Byzantium hippodrome that was originally built by emperor Septimus Severus in 203. The hippodrome was the sporting and social center of Constantinople and held around one hundred thousand people.

Spectacular monuments lined the center (spina) of the hippodrome. Its race-track was U-shaped, and the emperor sat on the track’s eastern end, which was accessed directly from the imperial palace.

In 1204, during the Roman Catholic conquest of Constantinople, much of the hippodrome was destroyed and many of its monuments were stolen. The hippodrome was never rebuilt and fell into ruin. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, the hippodrome was gradually abandoned. Today the hippodrome area is within a large park called Sultan Ahmet Square.