The Hippodrome, which encompassed the area now overshadowed by Sultanahmet Mosque, was the scene of horse races during the Byzantine Period. First built by Septimus Severus and enlarged by Constantine I, the Hippodrome was flanked on three sides by tiers of seating.
Originally, the Hippodrome was an arena for wild beasts, with a moat built around it to protect the spectators from these animals. Later, when such games were abandoned, a long terrace once known as the 'Spina' was built in the center. The Dikilitaş (Obelisk), Burmali Siitun (Spiral Column) were erected along the spina as well as various statues depicting a man in combat with a lion, a dying bull, Hercules (by the sculptor Lisippos of Chios), a wild horse, and an eagle grasping a snake.
Measuring 118 m. by 370 m., the Hippodrome had high walls, a seating capacity for 100,000 spectators, as well as entrances through both of the long walls and the Antiochus Portal, which was located below the Emperor's Lodge. Forty rows of seats supported by arcades lined the arena. The stairs to the tiers and the circular promenade above them were decorated with
statues. The Kaiser Wilhelm II Fountain (Alman ,eßmesi) now occupies the site of what was once the Emperor's Lodge (Catizma), from which the Emperor and his court would watch the games. There he rested, dined, and received visitors. The gallery in front of this lodge resembled a tower, and was decorated with four bronze statues by Lisippos of Chios.
The colored silk banners which adorned
Sultanahmet Mosque as seen from Hagia Sophia. The mosque was built for Sultan Ahmet I by Architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga between 1609-17. The mosque is flanked by many other buildings, including a tomb, a medrese, baths, a soup kitchen and a hospital.
the Imperial Lodge as protection against the sun at times seemed to be the auger of the games. After preparations were completed, spectators would gather in the Hippodrome at an early hour to watch the combat between the Greens and the Blues, taking sides in each combat, and fiercely supporting their champions, even to the extent of