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Forum of Theodosius

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Subject: Philadelphion, Mese (Constantinople), Forum of Constantine, List of Roman victory columns, Valens Aqueduct
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Forum of Theodosius

Remains of the Forum near today's Beyazıt Square
Marble fragment of monumental column to emperor Theodosius I

The Forum of Theodosius (Greek: φόρος Θεοδοσίου, today Beyazıt Square) was an area in Constantinople. It was originally built by Constantine I and named the Forum Tauri ("Forum of the Bull"). In 393, however, it was renamed after Emperor Theodosius I, who rebuilt it after the model of Trajan's Forum in Rome, surrounded by civic buildings such as churches and baths and decorated with porticoes as well as a triumphal column at its center.

Column of Theodosius

In the middle of the forum was a Roman triumphal column erected in honour of emperor Theodosius I. Its shaft was carved with reliefs depicting this emperor's victory over the barbarians and a statue of him stood on top. An internal spiral staircase allowed visitors to reach the top of the column, where a stylite lived towards the end of the mid-Byzantine period. The statue of Theodosius collapsed during the earthquake of 478 although the column remained standing. It had no statue until 506 when a new statue of Anastasius I Dicorus was erected instead. Emperor Alexios V was sentenced to death in 1204 and thrown from the column. The column remained standing until the end of the 15th century, and some pieces of it were re-used in the construction of the Bath of Patrona Halil.


Excavations for the foundation trenches of the Faculty of Letters and Sciences of Istanbul University uncovered the remains of three basilicas. Their identities and names are unknown, and so they are called Basilicas "A", "B", and "C".

Basilica A is the only Justinianian-era (527-565) basilica whose plan is known. It has several distinct characteristics. Its central space was nearly a square, with two side courtyards. The narthex on the west side connects with the courtyards. The intervals between the columns separating the basilica's naves are closed off by balustrade slabs. The capitals resemble those at Hagia Sophia, also built by Justinian. The large pulpit (ambo) found in Basilica A is the only surviving ambo from the early Byzantine period and is kept in the garden of the Hagia Sophia.

Triumphal arch

Reconstruction of the Triumphal Arch at the Forum, after Rudolf Naumann
Remains of one of the 'lopped branch' style columns of the triumphal arch

A marble triumphal arch was erected on the west side of the Forum, out of marble from Marmara Island. The triumphal arch had a vaulted roof with three passageways. The central archway of the three was wider and higher than the others and flanked by four-column piers carved in the form of Herculean clubs grasped by a fist. Built to mimic triumphal arches in Rome itself, on top was a central statue of Theodosius flanked by statues of his sons Arcadius and Honorius.

Today the main street beginning in Hagia Sophia Square runs to the west along basically the same route as the ancient Mese road, which formed the main artery of the old city. The Mese, passing through Theodosius's triumphal arch, continued on to Thrace and as far as the Balkan peninsula. The triumphal arch and the ancient buildings around it (to which surviving ruins in the area possibly belong) were destroyed as a result of invasions, earthquakes (the central arch and the statue of Arcadius collapsed already in 558; the rest of the arch was destroyed by another earthquake in 740) and other natural disasters from the 5th century onwards, and so were completely destroyed long before the Ottoman Turks took the city in 1453.

See also

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • Byzantium 1200 | Forum Tauri
  • Byzantium 1200 | Basilicas A, B and C
  • Byzantium 1200 | Arch of Theodosios

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