Mapping the Old Theodosian Walls

The only way home is along the Golden Horn and sometimes when the weather is nice, I walk it instead of taking the bus. One day as I was walking I spotted pieces of the old ruined walls along the edge of the major road and I became curious. I found out that they were remnants of the old Byzantine sea walls that extended along the Golden Horn and Marmara, joining up with the old land walls on either end.

Built by Theodosius II in the fifth century, the sea walls were originally ten meters high and two kilometres long. They were studded with defence towers and a number of gates – one of which is still standing called Cibali Gate. A plaque hangs next to it commemorating its breach on the 29th of May 1453 – the day Constantinople fell to the Turks.

I wanted to reconstruct the old walls in my mind and so I told Anas I wanted to map them by walking, hoping he would join me.

From my books on Istanbul I was able to sketch out a rough map to follow and the rest we would discover on our own. The map would take us through three neighbourhoods – Fener, Balat and Lonca. We were somewhat familiar with Fener and Balat but Lonca was unknown.

It wasn’t until after our walk that I found out that the residents of Lonca were known for being talented musicians and fortune tellers – some of whom descended from the Roma families that settled in these neighbourhoods long ago.

Our first stop was at the end of Kürkçü Çeşmesi Sokak where we had coffee at the Coffee Department. (A great place to have Turkish coffee, by the way.) We then made our way down Ayan Caddesi and we then allowed the streets to guide us. We felt sure that we were going in the right direction as long as the Golden Horn stayed on our left side. When the streets started to curve upward, we could see beautiful views across Istanbul and we could see more and more of the old city walls.

When the walls stopped providing a protective function, the local people appropriated pieces of it for their own use. At certain points, the old walls formed the back wall of existing houses.

We walked all the way up to Edirnekapi, ending our walk at Kariye Müzesi before walking back home. Next, we plan to explore the walls from the outer side along Ayvansaray.

Always with Love,



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