Basilica Cistern

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View of the Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern [1] is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns under the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey. The cistern, is close to the Hagia Sophia.

History[change | change source]

Emperor Justinian I commissioned his city prefect Longinus to build it.[2] It was completed in 532, after the Nika riots.[2] As many as 7,000 slaves worked to build the cistern.[3]

The large cistern provided a water source for the emperor's palace.[4] Sometime before the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 the cistern was closed.[4] It was discovered in 1545 by Petrus Gyllius. After that Ottoman city officials used it for dumping waste including corpses.[5] It has been restored at least three times.[5] In 1985 it was closed for cleaning again.[4] In 1987 it was opened to the public as a tourist attraction.[4] 2 million tourist visited the Cistern in 2013.

Size[change | change source]

The cistern is a huge underground room that measures about 138 metres (453 ft) by 64.6 metres (212 ft)[6] It is about 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres) in area.[7] The cistern can hold 80,000 cubic metres (21,000,000 US gal) of water.[7] The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns.[8] Each one is 40.75 metres (133.7 ft) high.[8]

Modern Culture[change | change source]

The cistern was used for a James Bond movie From Russia with Love.[9] Also the 2009 movie The International was shot here.[9] The 2011 video game, Assassin's Creed: Revelations includes scenes from the Basilica Cistern.[9]

References[change | change source]

  1. Turkish: Yerebatan Sarayı – "Sunken Palace", or Yerebatan Sarnıcı – "Sunken Cistern"
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, ed. Michael Maas (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 68
  3. Aigerim Korzhumbayeva (20 July 2012). "Istanbul's (Constantinople) 6th Century Basilica Cistern". ELECTRUM MAGAZINE. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Basilica Cistern". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Verity Campbell, Turkey (Footscray (VIC); Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications, 2007), p. 108
  6. "The Basilica Cistern". ibb.gov.tr. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Basilica Cistern, Istanbul". Travel Info Exchange, Inc. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Pierre Gilles; Kimberly May Byrd, Pierre Gilles' Constantinople: A Modern English Translation with Commentary (New York, NY: Italica Press, 2008), p. 101
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "walking in a 6th century cistern underneath the City of Istanbul, Turkey". Kos Media, LLC. 16 February 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 

Other websites[change | change source]