The Hippodrome Square was constructed by Septimius Severus in 196 AD to entertain the public. It was later rebuilt by Konstantin I and is located in the Square of Blue Mosque. The square has witnessed many historical events such as gladiator fights, chariot races, and riots. In the past, the Byzantines kept horses, elephants, and camels under the Hippodrome, while the Romans kept wild animals in cages. Deep hollows were also dug to protect people from attacks by these wild animals in front of the seating areas. The name “Hippodrome” is derived from the Greek words “hippos” and “dromos,” meaning “running.”
Hippodrome Square in Istanbul obelisks at the hippodrome square istanbul hippodrome square located in istanbul

Those interested in the architecture of the Hippodrome can find more detailed information in the pictures of the priest O. Panvinion. The Hippodrome is 370 meters long and 120 meters wide. It is originally surrounded by seating areas on three sides, which were composed of 30 to 40 steps and were said to have a capacity of 100,000 people.


The Thedosius I Obelisk is a particularly attractive feature of the Hippodrome. This obelisk was brought from Egypt and stands at 20 meters high. It was originally erected in honor of Tutmosis III in 1500 BC and is covered in hieroglyphs. The Byzantine people were unable to decipher these hieroglyphs and saw the obelisk as a talisman. The meaning of the hieroglyphs was not discovered until 1823.

Thedosius obelisk in istanbul turkey


A small palace called the Kathisma was located at the north part of the Hippodrome, at the location of today’s German Fountain. It was built on 24 columns and included a public room, a dining hall, and a special compartment for guards. Emperors would use a private tunnel to escape to the main palace if they were facing public strikes or stone-throwing from the crowd.

istanbul kathisma palace

Throughout history, many emperors contributed to the adornment of the Hippodrome with marble, bronze, and copper statues brought from Rome, Greece, and the Aegean Islands. Alongside these magnificent statues, portraits of historical figures such as Pericles, Augustus, and Lysimachus were also found at the Hippodrome. However, many of these monuments were destroyed during the 1204 Latin Invasion and the Crusades. Only a few bronze horse statues and a few other statues remained after these events.


The Serpent / Spiral Column, as its name suggests, was once a snake-shaped column composed of three serpent heads. These heads were once used to hold a fume caldron, an ancient artifact. The column was brought to Istanbul from Delphi, Greece. The spiral column was made from melted weapons taken from the Persians after a war the Greeks had won. The Greeks then gifted it to the Delphi Apollo Temple as a way to show their gratitude. However, the three-legged cauldron held by the serpents has disappeared and its whereabouts are unknown. Today, only one of the serpent heads is kept in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.

spiral serpent column at hippodrome square istanbul


After the conquest of Istanbul, little remained of the Hippodrome except for a few monuments and relics, including the Kathisma. These relics were used in the reconstruction of the historical site. The Hippodrome was once used for chariot and car races, but later became a place for the public to play the national Turkish game of javelin, thus also being called Horse Square. In the

Ottoman period, the Horse Square or Hippodrome was surrounded by new buildings such as the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, the famous Blue Mosque built by Ahmet I, the fascinating Hagia Sophia Bath, and the Fıruz Aga Mosque. The Hippodrome also witnessed many important events such as feasts, marriage ceremonies, and circumcision feasts of sultan’s son. Today, it is a popular destination for tourists and various programs are held there.

obelisk of constantin II in istanbul
The Konstantin Obelisk was initially attempted to be erected by Konstantin II, but he failed due to his death. 30 years later, Thedosius I also failed to complete the task due to his death. Finally, Arkadyus (395-408) was able to successfully erect the obelisk. This fascinating obelisk, erected by him, provides valuable information about Byzantine Plastic Art. The obelisk has inscriptions in Greek and Latin written on it.In addition to the famous obelisk, there is another monument called the “Kathisma.” The Kathisma, also known as the Emperor’s Lodge, portrays Thedosius I, his wife, and his sons Arcadyus and Honarius, as well as statesmen, guards, and an audience. The stone also depicts nations defeated by the Byzantines, the event of the erection of the obelisk, chariot and car races, belly dancers, and musicians.
obelisk of constantin II in istanbul
Located near the northern end of the Hippodrome is a small, gazebo-style fountain known as the German Fountain or Kaiser Wilhelm’s Fountain. It was gifted to the Ottoman Sultan Abdül Hamit II by German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II during a state visit in 1901 as a symbol of friendship. The fountain was originally built in Germany and then transported and assembled in its current location in 1900.The octagonal dome of the German fountain has eight marble columns, and the interior of the dome is covered in golden mosaics. The monograms in the stonework represent the political union between Abdul Hamit II and Wilhelm II.
german fountain in istanbul