Originally named Byzantium (meaning “the city on the Bosphorus”) what is now named Istanbul was peacefully ruled by Alexander the Great from the 6th to the 4th centuries B.C. A Roman city from the 2nd to the 4th centuries B.C.E, Byzantium was then named Constantinople by (guess who?) the emperor Constantine, who made it the capital of his Empire and the center of Christianity. Constantinople was destroyed by riots in the 6th century of our era under the emperor Justinian but then rebuilt.
The Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in the mid-15th century, built mosques all over the city, and re-named it Istanbul (meaning “the city of Islam.”) Perhaps the best known mosque besides the Hagia Sophia, and certainly a favorite of tourists, is the so-called Blue Mosque constructed, as you can see in the last photo here, by Sulatan Ahmet I from 1609 to 1616. More photos of our tour of the Blue Mosque to follow. Note: The word “Omphalion” in the second last photo means “navel.” It suggests the “navel” or center of the earth, which was thought to be in the Hagia Sophia mosque, about which more later.