Skip Navigation LinksIstanbul - 2010 English Exploring The City History The Ottoman Era


Istanbul was troubled with chaos and anarchy during the first three days after the conquest. After the third day, the city calmed down and dazzling celebrations of the conquest took place. After the celebrations, Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror issued an order keeping the soldiers off the streets of the city. The city was -immediately taken under control.

A public announcement was made regarding the freedom of religion Romans were free to practice their religion and live accordıng to their tradition. Fatih requested Roman Orthodox population to elect someone to fill the empty position of their Patriarchy. The Jewish community retained the possession of their synagogues because of their good behavior during the conquest and the chief Rabbi received compliments from Ottoman statesmen. A place of worship was dedicated to Turkish-Jewish Karayim Community around the Arpacılar Mosque. Later, a new Patriarch was appointed for the Armenian Community so an inter-faith balance and impartial justice was observed. Soon after establishing order and authority in the city, the Conqueror started a massive reconstruction project. Priority was given to restoration of the fortresses around the city Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror bought Haghia Sophia Church which was impoverished and neglected. After restoration, the church was converted to a mosque. Dunng this restoration era many new buildings were erected by the Ottoman government officials and were devoted to pious foundations for social and religious use. Some of those buildings are: Sheikh Ebu'1-Vefa Mosque in Vefa neighborhood, the tomb of Ebu Eyyub el-Ensari and surrounding annexes, Yedikule (The Seven Towers) used as state treasuıy Fatih Mosque and annexes which were built on one of the seven hills of the city, and Topkapı Palace.
Among the prominent monuments of the era are Mahmud Pasha Mosque, Gedik Ahmed Mosque, Karamani Mehmed Nişanca Mosque, Rum Mehmed Pasha Mosque, Has Murad Pasha Mosque, Ibrahim Pasha Mosque and their annexes. Also, the water system which links the springs of Belgrade Woods to the city, numerous hospitals, kitchens for feeding the poor, inns, caravanserais and today's famous Kapalıçarşı (the Grand Bazaar) were built during the reign of Fatih Sultan. To develop the city, new resi ential zones were created.

Empty lands were given away for free to veterans and to almost everyone who wanted them. The Muslim population of Anatolia and Rumeli was encouraged to immigrate to Istanbul. When the immigration was below the anticipated number, a fennan (Sultan's decree) was issued to counties to exile some of their residents to lstanbul according to a quota that reflected a diverse population of different classes, religions and ethnicity The neighborhoods that were created through the enforced iınmigration became the administrative foundation of lstanbul.

In 1459 lstanbul was divided to four administrative units each carrying different demographic characteristics. One of those administrative districts was Suriçi (inside the fortresses), the one that was outside the fortresses was called "Bilad-i Selase" (today's Eyüp district, including Çekmeceler, Çatalca and Silivri), the third district was Galata and the forth was Üsküdar. After the devastating fire in the old capital, Edirne, tstanbul became jubilant with the Elood oE new immigrants. While the abandoned religious buildings of Byzantine, as well as the ones still in use were converted to mosques, the newly created Muslim neighborhoods centered around the newly constructed mosques. The Ottoman statesmen followed a tradition of constructing or restoring buildings and granting them Eor public use. Wealthy peııple joined this traditicın oE constructing buildings for social and religicıus purposes.
By l6th century now a growing and developing big city, lstanbul received a great damage from the earthquake of 14 September 1509 which was called "the Small End of The World". Thousands of buildings were damaged by the 45-day long earthquake. Not one single minaret survived the earthquake and its aftermath. Istanbul was almost completely reconstructed in 1510 by 80,000 workers employed by Sultan Bayezid II. Therefore, most of the historical monuments we have today belong to this era.


Süleyman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire for 46 years between 1520 -1566. This was a rising period for buildings were constructed during this period. Some of them remained intact today with little damage. The city which was largely destroyed in 1509, was restored with a better plan.

New dams, aqueducts and fountains brought excessive water to lstanbul. It became a metropolitan with the construction of theological schools (medrese), caravanserais, Turkish baths, botanical gardens and bridges. The port of the Golden Horn-Galata became one of the busiest ports. The monuments of this period, especially the ones designed and built by Mimar Sinan, gave a new face to the city.

Some of the important monuments and mosques built during this period are: Süleymaniye Mosque and annexes, Şehzadebaşı Mosque and lishments, Sultan Selim Mosque and establishments, Cihangir Mosque, Mosques in Edırnekapı and Uskudar buılt on behalf of the Mihrimah Sultan, and Haseki establishments and baths built on behalf of the' Hürrem Sultan. Also the Sahn-i Süleymaniye higher education establishments (medrese) made lstanbul and education and science center. Istanbul bad a detailed city plan for reconstruction during this time.
Migration was prohibited. Building houses around the city wall was prohibited. It was mandatory- to install shutters on the windows of houses and to use stone on the buildings at Galata square. Many constructions to carry. water into the city were completed by the  funds from the treasurv. The city was decorated by, Sarayburnu, Tersane, Iskender Gelebi, Dolmabahçe, Tokat, Çubuklu, Sultaniye, Üsküdar, Haydarpaşa and Kandilli botanical gardens and Büyükdere cappice. The Empire provided all the supplies and requirements needed by the city This added some more financial burden to the Rumeli and Black Sea eities, and Egypt. Coffee houses were introduced to lstanbul during this period.

Many varieties of the tulip which is native to Turkiye were cultivated during the “Tulip Period” in İstanbul. A gardener named Tabak Ata managed to cultivate 80 varieties. The first tulip to Europe was a white flower named “Tülbent” or “Muslin” in English. The name tulip comes from the Frech ‘tulle’.

Numerous other varietes of flowers were cultivated in İstanbul. in the 17th century violet and multicolored hyacinths were developed by Katip Çelebi. Horse chestnut trees admired for their flower and large shady leavers, were taken by Bachelier to France in 1615 and still adorn the streets of Paris.

The love of flower has an important place in Ottoman art and culture. The story the founding of the Galata Saray Collage is a good example of this. According to historians Sultan Bayezid II while hunting in the forest of Beyoğlu, sheltered from a sudden storm in the hermit’s cabin. The Sultan was impressed by the profusion of flowers around the hut and before his departure, he asked the Dervish-hermit Gül Baba if he had any requests, Gül Baba replied that he would like a school to be built in the area. The school was built and Gül Baba was one of the first teachers. Now known as Galatasaray College it still plays an important role in Turkish Education.


The Tulip Age (Lale Devri) refers to the period between 1718-1730 and includes the reigns of Sultan Ahmed III and his grand vizier, Nevşehirli Damat Ibrahim Paşa. The age takes its name from the great interest shown in raising tulips by the wealthy and court of the time. Istanbul experienced a great deal of innovation and changes in the period. Grand Vizier Nevşehirli Damat Ibrahim Paşa affected the architecture and public works of Istanbul through projects he had brought from Vienna.

The Golden Horn was improved and the Kağıthane River and Shores of the Golden Horn were transformed into promenadr areas, the Sadabad Summer mansion, surrounded by tulip gardens, was built for the padişah in Kağıthane. These gardens inspired the rush to raise tulips by the wealthy A great number of villas were built in Üsküdar, Beylerbeyi, Bebek, Fındıklı, Alibeykõyü, Ortaköy and Topkapı in this period. Neighborhoods which had been destroyed in fires were re-built. The Tulip Period extended beyond simple architeetural innovation. The first fire brigade was founded; the first printing press was operated by Ibrahim Müteferrika and a tile factory textile factory and the Yalova paper factory were all opened in this period. The arts and literature experienced a renaissance in these years. The palace placed great importance on poetry and artists in particular. The final masterpieces of the Turkish Classical period were completed, principally the Emetullah Gülnus Valide mosque, the Ahmed III fountain, the Üsküdar fountain, the Ahmed III library and the Damat Ibrahim Paşa Complex (Külliye). The Tulip Period ended with the Patrona Halil uprisings. A majority  of the villas and tulip gardens which had symbolised the penod were destroyed ın the revolts.


The political reforms which were promulgated on November 3, 1839 at the Topkapı Palace’s Gülhane Garden hastened the westernisation of Istanbul. There were many new improvements from architecture to lifestyles. And from educational to industrial ınstıtutıons. Removal of old laws enhanced the city. Suriçi expanded towards the direction of Bakırkoy, Galata towards Tesşvikiye. More places were inhabited towards Sarıyer on the Bosphorus.

The Anatolian side was enhanced between Bostancı and Beykoz. This enhancement brought with it growing construction activities. Sultans, government officials, the non-muslim rich and ambassadors built palaces, Ihlamur and Küçüksu Imperial summer houses, and Ayazağa, Alemdağ, Icadiye and Mecidiye Pavilions were all uilt during this era. In addition, many official buildings, called "mebain-i Emriy`y•e" .•ere built during the same period. Among them were: Post Efices in different districts, Tophane and Maçka weapon storage buildings, and Pangaltı and Harbiye Buildings. Istanbul's rapid westernisation affected the architecture as well. The classical Ottoman architectural style was replaced with Baroque, Rococo and neogothic styles. This even affected the architecture of the mosques. There were also some infrastructure and service improvements in the city A bridge was built on the Golden Horn and an underground and the Thrace railway were put into service. Şirket-i Hayriye, a sea public transportation company was established. Many municipalities were reconstructed. The first telegram line was laid down. City police were established and some police stations were opened. Vakıf Guraba Hospital was opened and a tram run by horses was put into service in Istanbul. Also ınany nıodern educational institutions were opened. Some of the schc.ols founded in this era were: Darülfünun Faculty of Sciences, predecessor of today's Istanbul University), Male and Female High Schools, School of Agriculture, Telegram School, Darülmaarif, (Teacher Training School) Fortress School, Galatasaray High School, Industrial School and Medicine Academy All these changes also affected the social life of the city Especially the lifestyles of British, French and Italian soldiers and officers who came to Istanbul during the Crimea War and the lifestyles of the Levantines living in Galata affected lstanbul.s people. Bevoğlu became an entertainment center. ıv'ith its bars. cafes, tobacco stores, taverns and theaters. Greek, r1ı-menian and Jew-ish sang in some of the theaters. Plays were becoming popıılar all aı-ound lstanbul.

The middle class, along with the imperial and rich people, staned to consume western luxuıy goods. The interior decorations of the houses changed. People started to buy tables, chairs etc. .llso, people began to buy• separate houses for summer and ..,inter seasons. Suriçi, Galata and Bey•oğlu had ıvinter houses. Bosphorus. Kadıkoy and the Princess Islands were places for summer homes. This drastically raised real estate prices. The amount which in the past w•oııld have bought a house ac the Bosphoı-ııs as later paid for the seasonal rent of those homes. The ecoııomical structure of tstanbul also changed. The traditional trade guilds w'ere closed and the government started to give credit to merchants to become corporations. Industrial establishments w,ere built around the golden horn and Tophane. Strikes were introduced tstanbııl for the first time during these years. Galata became financially very powerful. The Palace was borrowing from Galata Bankers who started to direct the Ottornans exchange activities. Also a stock exchange was actívated in Galata which attracted not only bankers but also regular citizens. Political life was also very active during this time. Westernism, Islamism and pan-Turkism became powerful. The Political reforms created e new scholarly group who revived the arts and literature. Takim-i Vakayi (Calendar of Events), Ceride-i Havadis (News Paper), Basiret (Foresight), Vakit (time), Istikbal (Future), Sadakat (Loyalty), Sabah (Morning), Hayat (Life) and Cihan (World) were among the newspapers published during this time. Some other important e.•ents of the period w,ere: the first census in 1844, the Beyfoglu fire in 1870, the application of the first chicken pox vaccine in 1845 and the establishment of a real estate tax.


In 1844 Babıali (Sublime Porte) the Seat Of Ottoman Goverment, introduced monetary reforms, In 1845 it gave to Galata bankers a one year contact for all money exchange operations. Renewed at the and of the contact this enterprise was named Bank-ı Dersaadet. Taken over by a Frenchman j. Alleon who had escaped from the French revolution and an Italian jewish banker named T.Baltazzi, this bank founded in 1874 was the first establishment to be called a bank in Istanbul still remembered as the Istanbul Bank.


A new era began in Istanbul when Sultan Abdulaziz lost the throne and Sultan Abdülhamid II. .s•ho promised constitutional changes, was cro.ı•ned as the head of the Ottoman Empire on r1ugust 31, 1876. Sultan Abdülhamid II promulgated the eonstitutional changes on December 23, 1876. How•ever, the Turco-Russian War which started ıın April 27, 1877 caused panic in Istanbul. Istanbul witnessed many sad consequences of tlıe .ı•ar since it ıvas clııse to the Thracian front.

Soldiers were sent from Istanbul to the west. The wounded soldiers, people coming from the battlefront, and war refugees ereated some difficulties in the cityf. Especially. difficult was the struggle among the refııgees to live in mosques and schools and in wooden or thin sheds in very bad conditions. This as called the "Waı- ııf 93 disasters." Sultan Abdülhamid II dissolved the parliament on Febrıtary• 13, 1878. On March 3, 1878 Russian troops advanced to Yeşilkoy• (Aya Stefanos) and a peace treaty was signed at Ay Stefanos,5, which started a long period of peace. The Düyun-u Umumiye was rstablished in 1881 for ılıe ıınpaid dehts of the Ottoman Eınpire. There were some important attempts to reconstruct Istanbul during this period, Despite the fact that most of the income of the Empire was confiscated by the Düyun-u Umıımiye.

To reconstruct the burned fields and convert them to residential areas, the Terkos water network, the Hamidiye water system, and the enhancement of the natural gas system were introduced. Istanbul also had a big earthquake during this period. The people of Istanbul called it the "31Ò Earthqualce." It occurred in 1894 and badly damaged the city walls, but renovations were started immediately Sultan Abdülhamid II did not like his Qwn picture to be taken, but a photograph album of Istanbul and the Empire was prepared during his reign.

Some social unrest in 1895 and 1896 and two assassination attempts in 1905 and 1906 were some important events in Istanbul during this period. The first unsuccessful assassination attempt was aimed at the Sultan. Şehremini Ridvan Pasha (mayor of the city) lost his life in the second assassination. Some formal visits could be counted among other important events of the time. The Shah of Iran , Nasireddin and his son, the former President of the United States of America, General Grant, and Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany visited Istanbul. Wilhelm II ordered the construction of the famous German Fountain as a remembrance of his visic.

Sultan Abdülhamid II was interested in educational matters and ordered the opening of many schools. Among them were: Cıvıl Service, Law, Fine Arts, Medicine, Education, Finance, Pharmacy, Business, Agriculture, Veterinary, Fortress and Metallurgy, Commercial Navy Disability, and Industrial schools. These scliools ranged from university to high; .kıool level Thıs also ınfluenced the number of private schools which reached 30 by 1900. Some private schools were Darülfeyz, Burhan-i Terakki, Numune-i Irfan; and Şems-i Irfan. Along with these schools, the Archaeological Museum, Beyazıt Public Library Yıldız Archive and Library and the Government's Archive were established during these years. Haydarpaşa Medicine School, Şişli Etfal Hospital, and Darülaceze were also established during this period and remain intact today On July 24, 1908 second constitution was promulgated and around 8 months later Sultan Abdülhamid II was dethroned. Sultan Mehmed Reşad V was crowned instead on April 27,1909. From that date until the formation of the Republic, Istanbul had many wars and troubles The people of Istanbul frequently witnessed people being hanged on the gallows in the public squares after the March 31 event which caused the crowning of Sultan Mehmed V The Çıragan Palace was burned down on January 19, 1910. It was the first of many bad events. The journalist Ahmed Samim Bey was assassinated on )une 9,1910. Babıali was set alight on February 6,191 l. The Balkan War started on October 18,1912. Istanbul was facing the same kind of disaster which happened during the 93 War. There was an attack against Babıali on January 23,1913. The Kamil Pasha Government was forced to resign. Bribery immorality and theft were very common and were threatening the government. Sultan Mehmed Reşad V could only watch all of this. The real power in his reign could be found in the Party of Union and Progress. The Grand Vizier Mahmud Şevket Pasha was assassinated on June 1 l, 1913. World War I started on November 14,1914. The war brought famine and poverty In spite of all its efforts, the administration could not stop the black market. The war brought wealth to some people who spent enormous amounts of money at the entertainment centers of the Beyoğlu. The hungry the poor, and the disabled war veterans of lstanbul could only watch the extravagance of these displays of decadence.


The Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I with her Allies. The occupation of Istanbul formally began when 55 enemy ships moored in front of the Haydarpaşa on November 13,1918 after the Armistice of Mondros was signed. But the city was physically not occupied of soldiers until a decision was made at the Londun Conference.

The Parliament (Meclis-i Mebusan), which was dissolved by• the Sultan in 1918, reconvened on January• 12, 1920 and and on Janııary 28, 1920 consented to the ı.tisak-i Milli (Naticınal t act). The decision to occupv Istanbul was taken at the London Conference on March 4,1920. The Telegram House was occupied on March 14. And total occııpation began on the night of March 15. The most critical places .vere taken and controlled by soldiers. Early in the morning, some British troops attacked the headquarters building at Şehzadebaşı and opened fire on Ottoman soldiers. The city was completely occupied by noon. British troops attacked the Parliament House in the afternoon. But the Parliament survived until the Sultan dissolved it on April 11, then approximately 150 politicians were exiled to Malta. Istanbul witnessed some enormous demonstrations during the occupation and armistice years. A rally was held in Fatih square on May 19, 1919 where women addressed the public for the first time. There were more than 50 thousand people at the meeting. There was another rally of more than 150 thousand people in Sultanahmet square after the Parliament House was reopened. Students and staff of the Darülfünun (Faculty of Sciences) boycotted the school between April 10 and July 29, 1922. In addition to numerous demonstrations, another important development during this period was the establishment of some secret organisations working for independenee. Karakol Assocíation, Mim Group, and the National Defence (Müdafa-i Milliye) Organisation were the most important of these.

Among their aetivities they organised demons.rations, smuggled weapons, ammunitions and soldiers for the independence movement of Anatolia, and carried out intellígenct work. Istanbul's population was in constant movement in those years. On the one hand, some people were leaving the occupied city and migrating to the other cities of Anatolia which were not under occupation. On the other hand, so many people were migrating to lstanbul.

The Russian immigrants who were escaping from the Bolshevik Revolution had the most impact on tstanbul and its people. There were approximately 200,000 Russian immigrants. The Russian ladies' outfits were very welcomed by tstanbul's women and became the latest fashion. Istanbul's population, led by the Russians, went to the beach to swim for the first time during this period. In spite of the occupation, the night life of Istanbul was revitalised during this period. Concerts in cafes, theater companies and movie theaters became very attractive. Bars and pastry shops were introduced to lstanbul as an alternative to the taverns and desert houses. They brought a moral collapse too. Prostitution among the Russian women who worked at such entertainment places began to affect the city Workers' demonstrations and socialist activities were also revitalised. Many socialist and labor organisations were established. Strikes and other labor activities increased. May lst was celebrated as Labor Day in Istanbul for the first time during this period Turkish soldiers entered Izmir on October 9,1922. This began the liberation of Istanbul. Mudany,a Armistice, signed on October Il, itemised the gradual departııre of the occupation forces from Thrace. In Ankara, the Turkish Grand National Assembly decided to abolish the Sultanate on November l, 1922. Thus, Istanbul, for practical purposes, was no longer the capital, even though it legally remained so till October 1923. The last Ottoman Sultan, Vahideddin, left Istanbul on November 16, 1922. For the second time in its history -after the destructive Latin occupation of the l3th century- Western occupation forces completely withdrew from lstanbul. The last soldier left on November 4, 1923.


Osman Gazi 1299-1326
Sultan Orhan Gazi 1326-1359
Sultan Murad Hüdavendigar 1359-1389
Sultan Yıldırım Bayezid 1389-1403
Sultan Çelebi Mehmed 1413-1421
Sultan Murad II 1421-1451
Fatih Sultan Mehmed 1451-1481
Sultan Bayezid II 1481-1512
Yavuz Sultan Selim 1512-1520
Kanuni Sultan Süleyman 1520-1566
Sultan Selim II 1566-1574
Sultan Murad III 1574-1595
Sultan Mehmed III 1595-1603
Sultan Ahmed I 1603-1617
Sultan Mustafa I 1617-1623
Sultan Osman II 1617-1622
Sultan Murad IV 1623-1640
Sultan İbrahim I 1640-1648
Sultan Mehmed IV 1648-1687
Sultan Süleyman II 1687-1691
Sultan Ahmed II 1691-1695
Sultan Mustafa II 1695-1703
Sultan Ahmed 1703-1730
Sultan Mahmud I 1730-1754
Sultan Osman III 1754-1757
Sultan Mustafa III 1757-1774
Sultan Abdülhamid 1774-1789
Sultan Selim III 1789-1807
Sultan Mustafa IV 1807-1808
Sultan Mahmud II 1808-1839
Sultan Abdülmecid 1839-1861
Sultan Abdülaziz 1861-1876
Sultan Murad V 1876-1876
Sultan Abdülhamid II 1876-1909
Sultan Mehmed Reşad 1909-1918
Sultan Mehmed Vahideddin 1918-1922

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