The Megarians were the first historical people to settle in the area of present-day Istanbul. In the 680s BCE, they migrated from Greece, passed by the Marmara Sea and founded the city of Chalcedon at the site of the current neighborhood of Kadıköy, on the Asian side. The first inhabitants of Chalcedon were agriculturists, and bear the dubious honour of being known as “The Nation of the Blind”.
In the 660s B.C.E., another group of Megarians founded a city at the present-day location of Sarayburnu. According to legend, these Megarians visited the oracle at the Temple of Delphi before setting out by sea to establish a city. The oracle advised them to settle “directly opposite the Nation of the Blind”.
When they reached the present-day site of Sarayburnu, the Megarian colonists were impressed by its height and by the fact that it was naturally protected on three sides by the sea. After they noticed Chalcedon, directly across the Bosphorus from Sarayburnu, they thought to themselves, “Anyone who could establish a city in view of such a perfect site must indeed be blind!”
The Byzantion period
The Megarians decided that the oracle’s vague advice must have referred to Istanbul – Sarayburnu, and established the first settlement of their city here. They gave the name “Byzantium” to the city, after one of their captains, Byzas.
In this way, the roots of Istanbul were set during the Seventh Century B.C.E. -known as the beginning of the Byzantine Period -by Megarian colonists from Greece.
In 278 B.C.E., Byzantium was besieged by Teutonic tribes who had come from the west. After triumphing in the Macedonian Wars in 146 B.C.E., the Romans took control of the Balkans and Asia Minor; of course, Byzantium, too, became part of the Roman Empire. In 330 C.E., the Roman Emperor Constantine the First proclaimed Byzantium the new capital of the Empire, and began to renovate the city. The city was rechristened as “Constantinople”, and, from that day forward, became one of the most important locations in the Christian World.
The Roman Empire was officially split into two parts, the East and the West in 395 C.E. In 476 C.E. the Ostrogoths removed the Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus from the throne and thereby returned the entire Empire to Zeno, the Eastern Roman Emperor. This transfer of power marked the downfall of the Western Roman Empire and Constantinople’s establishment as the single imperial capital. Thereafter, the Eastern Roman Empire became known as the Byzantine Empire, and Constantinople became a uniquely eastern Orthodox city.
The Latin Occupation
The Crusaders first reached Istanbul is 1096 C.E. After learning of the controversy over the Byzantine throne, the Crusaders decided to take the opportunity to enter the city.
With the help of the Venetians, they were able to enter the Golden Horn, and took the city on 13 April 1204 C.E. Immediately following their arrival, they began to exploit and impoverish the city; Constantinople’s nobles and wealthy classes had fled to the city of Nicaea to the east.
Return to Byzantine
The Second Byzantine Period began in 1261 with the retaking of Istanbul from the Latins by the Palailogos Dynasty. However, the city was never to return to its former importance and glory. Throughout the Second Byzantine Period, the city began to be surrounded slowly by the Ottomans, and, eventually, the inevitability of its fall became clear. From 1393 onward, the city was forced to pay a tribute to the Ottomans. Although it was surrounded in 1393 by Sultan Yıldırım Bayezid and in 1422 by Sultan Murat the Second, neither of them was able to take the city completely.
In the year 330 C.E., the Roman Emperor Constantine the First declared Byzantium the new capital of the Empire. He had the city renovated, and, the city was rechristened “Constantine” in his honour.