Discover Istanbul & Turkey with Serif Yenen & Team
“All travelers are tourists; not all tourists are travelers.” Be a traveler! Go beyond the ordinary. Mix with locals. Immerse yourself in the local culture. Go through the back streets and eat at local restaurants.
To discover Istanbul or Cappadocia or Ephesus; we have a variety of choices for all kinds of budgets, depending upon your preferred time and personal interests. You can either join one of our small group tours and enjoy the benefit of being in a small-size group with very reasonable prices or allow us to tailor a private tour for you. Daily rates start at $100 USD per person.
Apart from private tours, Serif Yenen Signature Tours are high-end tailor-made private tours by Serif or expert guides with almost everything planned and included.
We are eager to share our knowledge and experience with you in your selection of choices.
On our tours, in addition to showing you the highlights of the city, we are prepared to take you to places not on the tourist’s typical itinerary, where we can have local experiences and meet local people. If you wish, we can use public transportation, try various kinds of street food, and take any opportunity for a spontaneous detour.
As a tour guide, I have almost 30 years of field experience. I served in the Tour Guide Organization for 13 years, and was elected as President for four terms. I have authored many guidebooks and lectured on Turkish travel.
VIPs who have used my services include: Pope Benedict XVI, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. George Friedman, Matt Lauer, Lester Holt and many others…
We are a team of very competent guides with good command of English and a lot of knowledge to share with you. When I am unavailable on a particular travel date, I will handpick someone from our team specifically for you and your interests.
We look forward to hearing from you. Ask for a Quote!
My first name, Serif, has a tail at the bottom of the “S” (Şerif), that gives it a “sh” sound, so my name is pronounced “Sheriff”. I am married and have three children.
I was born into a middle-class family in Ödemis near Izmir in 1963. After completing middle school, I became a military student at the Kuleli Military High School in Istanbul, where instruction was mainly in English.
After earning degrees in Linguistics, English and American Literature, I taught English in the armed forces for four years. After reaching the rank of lieutenant, I left the army, and was selected from a large field of candidates to become a tour guide. I loved it, and have been working ever since with the same enthusiasm I had my first year, in 1989.
I’ve traveled extensively, to more than 35 countries, but Turkey is my home, the place I’ve studied and explored in depth.
Tour guide: 1989 to the present. Past president of Tour Guide Organization of Turkey.
Author: Turkish Odyssey, the first guidebook of Turkey to be written by a Turk; published in four languages; 4th edition currently sold out; several other books used as textbooks or on suggested reading lists at various universities; articles and columns published in international magazines and national newspapers.
Producer, director and writer: Istanbul Unveiled (www.istanbulunveiled.com), a travel documentary featuring interviews with people in occupations unique to Istanbul, as well as a tour of the city’s main attractions. The documentary has won nine international awards.
Lecturer: In the U. S. and Turkey, to academic communities, at museums, universities, travel clubs, and libraries, and for tour and cruise companies. Lecture sites in the U.S. have included The Smithsonian, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Advocate: Introduced legislation to recognize tour guiding as a regulated profession.
Personal Touch and Controversial Topics
I pride myself on adding personal touches to every tour. I want my guests to have memorable experiences, and return home with a great deal more than just having visited one more country. This is extremely important to me as a person and as a professional.
By the way, I have no trouble discussing controversial issues, which travelers love to bring up—whether it’s Turkey’s relationship with the European Union, or political or ethnic issues. Also, from years of doing tours, I know how my guests love to experience spontaneity. On every trip I lead, I try to introduce something new, or even, perhaps, a surprise!
Why Serif Yenen?
- * Experienced, yet still enthusiastic about what he does – giving you, the traveler, a personalized tour of the country he knows so well.
- * Private Tours with the author of one of the best cultural guidebooks of Turkey: Turkish Odyssey.
- * Orientation, with map overview.
- * Complimentary copies of some of Serif’s publications.
- * No crowds, no queues! Priority ticket booths for professional tour guides.
- * Open to all questions and discussions. Effective and entertaining communicator.
- * Individually designed itineraries, from a few hours in Istanbul to days or weeks around Turkey.
- * Families with children are welcome. This father of three children has ideas on how to engage them.
- * Senior citizens accommodated with pleasure.
- * A Serif Yenen Tour qualifies you for a 25% discount on any C.I.P. event or cultural activity in Istanbul
- * Because individual travel is our specialty, we do get to know our guests and see if they have special requests, off-the-beaten track quests, interests beyond the mainstream. We are uniquely qualified to make sure all expectations are met, and usually exceeded.
- * One of Serif’s greatest passions is shopping and gathering information about where to buy what. Therefore, if there is interest, he provides personal shopper services ensuring hassle-free purchasing and fair prices.
- * Local restaurant recommendations. (Turkish cuisine is among the best in the world.)
Depending on the location of your hotel or the place you are staying, we may need transportation. For transportation, we have three options:
a) Private air-conditioned van with a driver, which I can arrange separately
b) Taxi cab (they hold 4 passengers maximum, you need to count me in)
c) Public transportation, which may be fun depending on the location of your hotel.
Concierge ServicesWe have experience in planning highly personalized tours and providing VIP services. Do you want to celebrate a special occasion? Do you want a luxurious spa experience, a personalized adventure, a particular private tour? Just let us know. We can also arrange special luxury accommodations at hotels or resorts. We have the resources to customize your travel.
Visa Information for TurkeyFor visitors from many countries, a visa is required for entry into Turkey. I strongly suggest that you get an electronic visa before your arrival. This will make things much easier. You can get the visa and more information about the visa procedures at https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ When you get the electronic visa, I remind you that you must keep the visa together with your passport.
Ask Serif Yenen
Renata: “Dear Serif Yenen, I have for some time wanted to bring a group of about 16 – 20 people to Istanbul to explore the Byzantine and Ottoman legacies of the city such as Santa Sophia (Hagia Sophia), St. Saviour in Chora, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and all the other wonderful sights. I have been running art tours in Europe for a number of years and have a very nice clientele who likes good centrally located hotels, good but not necessarily very expensive food, classical music and if possible the odd private palace to visit over and above the sights that one just cannot miss.
My tours usually last no longer than about 5 nights. We all like travelling as much as possible out of season say from October to March early April. Do you think you could help me arrange such a trip with you as the guide? I need roughly one year to get these trips off the ground so am thinking of autumn next year.
I look forward to hearing from you,
With kind regards.”
Serif Yenen: “Hello Renata. Thank you so much for your interest in our travel services. We would be glad to tailor a tour just as you describe. We can arrange many art and music activities in Istanbul.”
Clement: “Hi Serif, I am planning a trip to Turkey with my family of 6 pax (2 baby boomers, 4 gen Y’s) for about 8-10 days sometime around March-April and would like to know more about an itinerary you can customize for us along with its rates. Many Thanks.”
Ryan: “Hello Serif, hope all is well. Just a reminder that I will be arriving in Istanbul on August 19. Will you still be available during this time for a photography tour? In case you have forgotten to tell you, I am a photographer from America and will be in Istanbul August 19-22. Please let me know your availability. Thank you.”
Serif Yenen: “Hi Ryan, one of my greatest hobbies is also photography. I will be delighted to take you on a photography tour. Thanks.”
Tony and Fiona: “Hi Serif, we are first time visitors to Turkey and do not know where to begin!
We will be arriving in Instanbul on 19th July and departing on 26th July.
Can you offer some advice? I would like to see more than just Istanbul if we have time, we are interested in history and culture as well as scenery – and beach time if at all possible.
We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.”
Şerif Yenen: “Dear Tony and Fiona, first of all I would like to thank you for contacting me with your travel inquiries.
It looks like you have 6 full days and another one or two depending on your arrival and departure times.
I would suggest that you visit İstanbul at least 2 full days. The other most interesting places to see in Turkey are Cappadocia and Ephesus. It can be possible to combine Ephesus with a coastal town as you would like to have some beach time. please kindly note that the domestic flights between Cappadocia (Kayseri) and Ephesus (İzmir) are not daily, therefore it’s better to define your international flight times preliminarily in order to advise you a more accurate travel plan.
At this stage, I am looking forward to getting your flight schedule. Kind regards.”
Craig H: “Dear Mr. Yenen, my wife and I will arrive in Istanbul on May 11, in anticipation of a cruise beginning on May 17.
We are interested in taking a tour of western Turkey tour during the week prior to the cruise, depending upon price, certain conditions, and availability.
First, we would want this to be a private tour for only the two of us, not part of a group of any size. This will be our first visit to Turkey.
We believe that the best itinerary for us would be as follows:
Day 1: Arrive Istanbul; transfer to hotel; remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 2: Full day touring Istanbul.
Days 3, 4 ,5, & 6: Depart Istanbul. Tour western Turkey on an itinerary to be devised by you.
Day 7: Return to Istanbul. Additional half-day of sightseeing, if possible, depending upon time of arrival.
There is no rush to board the ship on the 17th, as it remains berthed in Istanbul overnight as a floating hotel for its passengers. Departure is not until the following evening, the 18th.
Presumably, you would want to book our hotels. We do not want to stay in big, modern, touristy hotels. Are you locked into agreements with certain hotels, or can we choose? Are you able to arrange this?
All hotel rooms should be in a Superior or Deluxe category, never Standard, unless all rooms in a hotel are in the same category. If a particularly inviting hotel does not have television, air-conditioning, computer access or other modern features, that is okay. We don’t need TV; we won’t have our computers; and the weather in May should be pleasant.
Whenever possible, hotel rooms should be non-smoking.
If any meals are included in the tour price, please note the following: Hotel breakfasts are fine, but lunches should be in local restaurants noted for their cuisine, not in westernised places favoured by tourists. Additionally, we do not want standard hotel dinners unless the hotel in which we are staying has a reputation for its exceptional cuisine. Instead, we will want information from our guide as to the best places to eat in each of our destinations, as well as transportation to them. Perhaps the cost of transportation could be substituted for the cost of the “included” dinners.
If the above dates are available for this tour, and if the terms I outlined are acceptable and feasible, then will you please send an estimated tour cost — in US Dollars — via return e-mail? This estimate should specify exactly which services are included and which are not. Please provide the names of your proposed hotels so that I can research whether they will be acceptable. We understand that cost adjustments may be required as the tour date draws closer due to changes in hotel rates, fuel prices, etc., but we would like the estimate to be as accurate and complete as possible based on current information.
Also, please send information regarding any deposit required, as well as acceptable forms of payment.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your reply and to the possibility of touring with you during our first visit to your beautiful country.”
Serif Yenen: “Dear Craig, thanks for your very descriptive request. All what you say is fine and I will be happy to put them together. Please allow me some time and I will get back to you with a wonderful itinerary and quotation.”
Heidi H: “My parents and another couple will be in Istanbul Oct. 6-8 of this year, and would like a guide for at least one day. My parents have traveled through Turkey extensively, but their friends (also well-traveled) will be making their first visit. All are very interesting people (professor, interior designer, accountant–all business owners) with insatiable appetites for knowledge and experience.
I’m not sure whether this will be necessary, but I saw that you do airport transfers and wondered about the rates. Is it best to combine that with a tour, and have the tour begin/end at the airport, or do you have separate rates whereby you get them to their hotel and meet later/next day for a full-day tour? How much would that cost?
I’m not sure of their arrival time, nor where they will stay, but I’d like to check your availability for those dates (Oct. 6-8). If you have a suggestion for an amazing place and/or amazing rate, please advise–they appreciate great values and usually book through Priceline in the US. I looked via your website and found lots of nice boutique hotels in Sultanahmet.
I look forward to hearing back from you, and thanks in advance.
Michelle J: “My name is Michelle and I live in Cape Town, South Africa.
I am planning a tour to Turkey, in August but need some advise.
We are 2 women (aged 30 and 36) that would like to spend 7 nights in
Turkey. We are looking at tour itineraries from tour agencies, but we are completely lost and it is just too much information and different views from people where to go
to. Please assist.
Can you perhaps advise us on where to go. We know that we would like
to spend 2 / 3 nights in Istanbul but have no idea where to go after
that. We are also not sure whether 2 / 3 nights there might be too
We realise that 7 nights are not a lot and we would be looking at doing
2 regions? Please advise. We have received some advise to go to the
coast after Istanbul?
We are two adventurous people that want to experience true Turkey and
not just stick to the “tourist” stuff. Obviously we will want to do the
standard highlights but also be exposed to true culture and not the
very westernised side of it.
We are not looking at a typical tour operator which takes over your
entire holiday and forces you to be at specific times and places every
single day, we would like to retain some form of freedom. Having said
that we also realise that we would need some form of structure and
guidance. Day tours?
As you can see we are lost and need some advise on where to go in such
a limited time without exhausting yourself by getting from point A to
Your help would be much appreciated.
Serif Yenen: “Hello Michelle, thanks for your interest in our travel services. I will be glad to suggest you ideas and organise them for you. Before I make an itinerary for you, I will suggest that you visit Cappadocia for sure.
Cappadocia is such a beautiful and unusual place on earth. Think about a volcanic area, covered with tuff (volcanic ash) all around, underground cities just like ant houses, hundreds of rock-cut churches with beautiful frescoes made with natural dyes, hundreds of valleys some of which are great places for hiking, people living in caves, cave hotels, hot-air balloon flights, etc.
Istanbul was one of the most often besieged cities in the world and has always needed permanent water supplies. And as a result many underground cisterns were built during the Byzantine Empire. Water was brought to these big reservoirs from far away sources through aqueducts. It is still possible to see remains of a large aqueduct in Unkapani. This is called Bozdogan Kemeri (Aqueduct of Valens) and was built in 375 AD by the Emperor Valens. Because Turks have always preferred running water, after capturing the city from the Byzantines, they did not use cisterns properly. Most of them were usually converted into either small bazaars or storehouses. The largest and most ornate of these cisterns is Yerebatan Sarayi. In its construction, columns and capitals of earlier temples were used and this provides a very decorative appearance. This is why it is called saray which means “palace” in Turkish.
Yerebatan Sarayi was dug and built probably after 542 by Emperor Justinian I. There are 336 columns most of which are topped with Byzantine Corinthian capitals. The cistern is 70 m / 230 ft wide and 140 m / 460 ft long.
Between 1985-1988, the Municipality of Istanbul cleaned and restored it thoroughly and built a wooden walkway between the columns. In addition to that there are special effects presented by a light and sound show. By looking at the water level marks on the plaster walls which reach the height of the capitals, it is possible to understand that the cistern was very full in times gone by.
Two Medusa heads were used to form bases for two columns in a far corner of the cistern. The position in which they were placed suggests that the people who put them there were Christians and did not want to revere a god of a pagan period. The water inside the underground cistern is collected rain water. The carp in the water are decorative and an incidental protection against pollution. Some people even think that the Byzantines originally also raised fish in the cistern.Read more
The Hagia Sophia was probably the largest building on the world’s surface, barring the Egyptian Pyramids, or the Great Wall of China. For many centuries it was the largest church and today is the fourth largest in the world after St. Paul’s in London, St. Peter’s in Rome and the Duomo in Milan. The great Ottoman architect Sinan, in his autobiography, says that he devoted his lifetime in the attempt to surpass its technical achievements.
It was dedicated to the Hagia Sophia which means the Divine Wisdom, an attribute of Christ.
Today’s Hagia Sophia is the third building built at the same place. The first one was a basilica with a wooden roof and was built in 390 AD. This original church Megale Ecclesia (Great Church) was burned down in a rumpus in 404. Theodosius replaced it with a massive basilica which was burned down in the Nika Revolt against Justinian in 532. Justinian began rebuilding the Hagia Sophia in the same year. The architects were two Anatolian geniuses, Anthemius of Tralles, an engineer and a mathematician and Isidorus of Miletus, an architect. They started collecting materials from all over the empire. In the construction ten thousand workers worked under the supervision of one hundred master builders.
Justinian reopened it in 537 entering the Hagia Sophia with the words “Solomon, I have surpassed you!”.
Throughout Byzantine history, the Hagia Sophia played an important role as emperors were crowned and various victories were celebrated in this remarkable building. The Hagia Sophia even gave refuge to criminals.
Another major event during the Byzantine period was the removal of all religious images from the church in the iconoclastic period. During the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the church was pillaged and some disgusting events took place in the Hagia Sophia. After conquering Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmet immediately went to the Hagia Sophia and ordered that it be converted into a mosque. This was done by adding the Islamic elements such as minarets, the mihrab and the minber all of which were appropriately positioned to face toward Mecca, 10 degrees south of the main axis of the building. The architect Sinan was also assigned to make some restorations and add Islamic elements to the building. Buttresses were added in the Ottoman period. Two huge marble jars were brought from Pergamum in the 16C and probably used to keep oil for candles. The eight round wooden plaques at gallery level are fine examples for Islamic calligraphy. The names painted on these plaques are Allah, Prophet Mohammed, the first four Caliphs Ebubekir, Omer, Osman and Ali, and the two grandsons of Mohammed, Hasan and Huseyin.
In time Ayasofya became a complex consisting of tombs, a fountain, libraries, etc. It has been thought that when Turks converted the church into a mosque, all the pictures were covered which is not correct. According to the narration of travelers, pictures were still standing but figures’ faces were covered.
Ayasofya was used as a church for 916 years and as a mosque for 481 years. In 1934, by the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it was made a museum and has since been open to visitors.
The Hagia Sophia has a classical basilica plan and the main ground plan of the building is a rectangle, 70 m / 230 ft in width and 75 m / 246 ft in length. The central space of the Hagia Sophia is divided on both sides from the side aisles by four big piers and 107 columns (40 downstairs, 67 upstairs) between them. The space is covered with a huge dome which is 55.60 m / 182 ft high. The dome, due to earthquakes and restorations, is slightly elliptical with a diameter of 31.20 m / 102 ft on one axis and 32.80 m / 107.60 ft on the other.
Most of the mosaics are from periods after the iconoclastic period. Whitewash or plasters either of the iconoclastic or the Islamic period helped to protect the mosaics. Mosaics of major importance are as follows:
In the inner narthex above the main entrance, also called the Imperial Gate, there is a 10C mosaic depicting Jesus as pantocrator seated upon a jeweled throne, dressed like an empire, and making a gesture of blessing with his right hand. In his left hand he is holding a book with an inscription of these words: “Peace with you, I am the light of the world.” On both sides of Jesus Christ are two medallions. The Virgin Mary on the left and an angel with a staff on the right. Emperor Leo VI is depicted kneeling in front of Jesus.
On the pendentives are depicted winged angels with covered faces. The ones in west pendentives are imitations in paint from Fossati’s restoration.
Above the main apse is the mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus. She is sitting on a bench with her feet resting on a stool. Her right hand is on her son’s shoulder and her left upon his knee. Jesus is raising his right hand in blessing and holding a scroll in his left hand.
The galleries; the 13C mosaic of the Deesis scene, Jesus as the pantocrator flanked by the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist who are shown interceding with him on behalf of mankind.
At the far end of the last bay in the south gallery is a mosaic showing Christ enthroned with his right hand in the gesture of benediction and the book of Gospels in his left hand. On the left is the figure of the 11C Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus offering a money bag and Empress Zoë holding a scroll on the right. The emperor’s face in the mosaic was changed each time Zoë changed her husband. Constantine IX was Zoë’s third husband.
To the right of the mosaic of Zoë there is a 12C mosaic showing the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus flanked by Emperor John II Comnenus offering a bag of gold and red-haired Empress Eirene holding a scroll. At the extension of the mosaic on the side wall is the figure of Prince Alexius.
At the end of the inner narthex, before going out to the courtyard (today’s exit) stands the 10C beautiful mosaic: The Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus in her lap, on one side Emperor Constantine offering a small model of the city as he is accepted as the founder, on the other side Emperor Justinian offering the model of the Hagia Sophia as the emperor who had it built.
Iconoclasm (726-843 AD)
Iconoclasm, an ancient Greek word that means “image-breaking,” refers to the religious doctrine that forbade the veneration of images (icons) of Christ and the saints in Christian churches.
In 726 AD, Emperor Leo III ordered the image of Christ at the Chalke Palace in Constantinople to be destroyed. In the following years, other measures were taken to suppress the veneration of images.
Empress Theodora, however, presided over the restoration of icon veneration in 843 AD, an event still celebrated by the Orthodox Church as the Triumph of Orthodoxy.
The iconoclastic movement was motivated by a variety of factors that possibly included Moslem influences, as well as the concern that the cult of icons was a form of idolatry. The Council of Nicaea also specified that images should be venerated but not worshipped, since worship belongs to God alone and the worship of icons would mean idolatry.Read more
Built by Sultan Ahmet I as a part of a large complex, among the Turkish people it is called Sultan Ahmet Mosque. However, tourists fascinated with the beautiful blue tiles always remember it as the Blue Mosque. The complex consisted of a mosque, tombs, medreses, fountains, a health center, kitchens, shops, a bath, rooms, houses and storehouses.
A 19-year-old Sultan started digging ceremoniously in the presence of high officials until he was tired. Thus began the construction in 1609 which continued until it was finished in 1616. An interesting fact about Sultan Ahmet is that he ascended to the throne at the age of 14 as the 14th ruler and died only 14 years later. Being close to the Topkapi Palace, Sultan Ahmet Mosque was regarded as the Supreme Imperial Mosque in Istanbul. Even though the palace was left and the sultan moved to the Dolmabahce Palace, Sultan Ahmet Mosque shared this pride with the Suleymaniye Mosque.
The architect was one of the apprentices of Sinan, Sedefkar Mehmet Aga. He designed one of the last examples of the classical period’s architectural style.
The mosque is situated in a wide courtyard which has five gates. There is an inner courtyard next to the mosque with three entrances. The inner courtyard is surrounded by porticos consisting of 26 columns and 30 domes. The sadirvan in the middle is symbolic, because the actual ones are outside on the walls of the inner courtyard. There are three entrances to the main building, one from the inner courtyard and two from both sides of the building. There are four minarets at the corners of the mosque having three serefes each. The two minarets at the far corners of the courtyard have two serefes each. There are six minarets in all, each of which is fluted.
The interior of the mosque is a square with a width of 51.65 m / 170 ft and a length of 53.40 m / 175 ft covered by a dome. The main dome rests on four semi-arches and four pendentives. The diameter of the dome is 22.40 m / 73.5 ft and the height is 43 m / 141 ft. The four piers carrying the dome are called elephant legs as each has a diameter of 5 m / 16.4 ft.
There are 260 windows which do not have original stained glasses any longer. The walls all along the galleries are covered with 21 thousand 17C Iznik tiles having many flower motifs in a dominant blue color.
On summer evenings, generally beginning at 8:00 p.m., a sound-and-light show, which is worth seeing, is presented between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. The languages of the show Turkish, English, French and German rotate daily with one each night.Read more
The original building of the Hippodrome was built by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus in 203 AD when he rebuilt Byzantium. Constantine the Great reconstructed, enlarged and adorned it with beautiful works which were brought from different places of the Roman Empire when he chose Byzantium as his new capital.
Although there is not much left from the original building except the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine and Constantine Columns, according to the excavations carried out, the hippodrome was 117 m / 384 ft wide and 480 m / 1575 ft long with a capacity of 100,000 spectators. It is said that one quarter of the population could fit into the hippodrome at one time.
During the Byzantine period, the Hagia Sophia was the religious center, a place which belonged to God; the palace belonged to the emperor; and the hippodrome was the civil center for the people.
Chariots drawn by either 2 or 4 horses raced here representing one of the four factions divided among the people. Each faction was represented by a color. Later on these four colors were united in two colors; the Blues and the Greens. The Blues were the upper and middle classes, orthodox in religion and conservative in politics. The Greens were the lower class and radical both in religion and politics. One of these political divisions ended with a revolt which caused the death of 30,000 people. This revolt was named after people’s cries of “nika” which meant “win” and this Nika Revolt took place in 531 AD.
The central axis of the hippodrome was called spina and the races took place around the spina. The races used to start by the order of the emperor and the contestants had to complete seven laps around the spina. The winner was awarded a wreath and some gold by the emperor.
The hippodrome was destroyed and plundered in 1204 by the Crusaders. After the Turks it lost its popularity and especially with the construction of the Blue Mosque, the ancient hippodrome changed its name and became At Meydani (Horse Square) a place where Ottomans trained their horses. The only three remaining monuments from the original building are the Egyptian Obelisk, the Serpentine Column and the Constantine Column.
Dikilitas (The Egyptian Obelisk)
It was originally one of the two obelisks which were erected in the name of Thutmose III in front of Amon-Ra Temple in Karnak in the 15C BC. It is a monolith made of granite and the words on it are in Egyptian hieroglyphs which praise Thutmose III. The original piece was longer than today’s measurement of 19.60 m / 64.30 ft which is thought to be two thirds of the original. It was broken either during shipment or intentionally to make it lighter to transport.
The Roman governor of Alexandria, sent it to Theodosius I in 390 AD.
The obelisk is situated on a Byzantine marble base with bas-reliefs. These reliefs give some details about the emperor from the Kathisma and races of the time. The Emperor Theodosius I, on four sides of the obelisk, is watching the erection of it, or a chariot race, receiving homage from slaves or preparing a wreath for the winner of the race.
Burma Sutun (The Serpentine Column)
After defeating the Persians at the battles of Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), the 31 Greek cities, by melting all the spoils that they obtained, made a huge bronze incense burner with three entwined serpents to be erected in front of the Apollo Temple in Delphi. Originally it was 8 m / 26.3 ft high, but today it is only 5.30 m / 17.4 ft.
This column was brought here from Delphi by Constantine I in 4C AD. By looking at the records, it is possible to understand that it was standing at its place until the 16C. However it is not known what happened to the serpent heads after the 16C.
Orme Sutun (The Constantine Column)
Unlike the Egyptian Obelisk, this is not a monolith but a column built of stones. Who erected it and when it was built are not known. According to the inscriptions, it was renovated and restored to have a more beautiful appearance by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and his son Romanus II in the 10C AD. The original column should have been from the 4C or 5C AD.
It is 32 m / 105 ft high and after three steps comes the marble base at the bottom. It is also thought that all the surfaces of the column were covered with bronze relief pieces which probably were plundered during the 4th Crusade in 1204, and today it is possible to find some of these pieces used in the decoration of St. Mark Square in Venice.Read more