Excavations at Sarachane in Istanbul, Volume 1

Excavations at Sarachane in Istanbul, Volume 1

by R. Martin Harrison, L. B. Hill (Editor)


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This work is the first volume of two that will be the full report of major excavations carried out by Dumbarton Oaks and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum at Sarachane in the heart of ancient Constantinople. This volume includes discussion of excavation and stratigraphy; catalogs of sculpture, revetment, mosaic, small finds and other materials: and general treatment of architecture, sculpture, and history of the site.

Originally published in 1986.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691610542
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/14/2014
Series: Princeton Legacy Library , #442
Pages: 550
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 1.30(d)

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Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul Volume 1

The Excavations, Structures, Architectural Decoration, Small Finds, Coins, Bones, and Molluscs

By R. Martin Harrison


Copyright © 1986 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-03582-6




Discovery of the Church and Circumstances of Excavation

In April and May 1960 grading operations at Saraçhane uncovered a large number of richly carved architectural blocks. Two carried parts of an inscription, and these few words were recognized by I. Sevcenko as belonging to the seventy-six-line epigram on the church of the martyr Polyeuktos, which is preserved as Anthologia Palatina 1, 10. The church was built by Anicia Juliana, probably in the years 524-7, and was evidently, to judge from the architectural carving, the epigram, and the few historical references to it, an ambitious affair. The evidence was collected and discussed in 1961 in an important article by C. Mango and 1. Sevcenko. It was clear from the sources that the church had lain somewhere between the Forum Tauri (Beyazit) and the church of the Holy Apostles (Fatih), and Saraçhane exactly fitted this requirement (fig. A); there was little doubt that the site of Anicia Juliana's church had been discovered. In 1963 the sculpture, remarkable both for its technical quality and for the extraordinary range of its motifs, was discussed by A. Grabar.

Although the likely importance of an investigation of a major Constantinopolitan monument securely dated to the critical decade before Justinian's great building programme was appreciated, the area concerned, in the south-west angle of the Schzadebasi Caddesi-Atatürk Bulvari intersection and immediately west of the new City Hall (fig. A, chapter 2, and pls. 14, 15), was meanwhile laid out as public gardens. The opportunity for investigation only came in 1964, when the conversion of the intersection into an underpass meant that the eastern part of the site would be dug mechanically for construction of the tunnel approach and that the gardens would be disfigured by a temporary road laid across them to carry diverted traffic. An agreement was reached with the Turkish Department of Antiquities for excavations to be carried out jointly by Dumbarton Oaks and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, under the direction of R. M. Harrison and N. Firath, and excavation began on 3 August 1964.

The underpass was scheduled for completion in 1966, and the permit was for three seasons in the first instance. The extent, depth, and complexity of the site, however, and the fragmentary nature of much of the evidence, meant that much longer was required. The underpass was indeed completed in 1966, but excavation was permitted for three more seasons, being brought formally to a close on 23 July 1969. Excavation had been carried out for a total of fifty-six weeks in six campaigns; the supervisory staff, including Turkish assistants, ranged from five to twelve, the labour force from fifteen in 1964 to a maximum of sixty-seven in 1967. The excavation's progress and development can be followed in the series of published annual reports.

Under rescue conditions we worked fast (often far too fast for comfort), and it was decided at the outset that our duty was to deal as scrupulously with the supervening Ottoman levels as with the Byzantine. The sheer quantity of material was prodigious, and processing and storage were perennial problems. One hut was constructed in 1964 and a second in 1965. In 1967-8 a subterranean depot was constructed within the substructures of the church's north aisle, which now houses the mosaics, painted plaster, glass, stamped bricks, and the bulk of the pottery and carved marble; coins, small finds, and selected items of pottery and marble were transferred to the Archaeological Museum.

There are plans to devote a room in the new wing of the Archaeological Museum to the display of a selection of material from Saraçhane, and plans too to lay out the site as an archaeological park; for the latter project, detailed landscape-drawings were prepared by Mr. R. Griswold and accepted by the municipal authorities in 1968.

Historical Considerations

For a brief account of Anicia Juliana, it would be hard to improve upon a paragraph in the article by Mango and Sevcenko:

The life of Anicia Juliana, who is now remembered chiefly for the Vienna manuscript of Dioscorides which she commissioned, is known to us in some detail. She was born ca. A.D. 463 to Flavius Anicius Olybrius (cos. 464, Emperor of the West in 472) and Placidia the younger, daughter of Valentinian III. In 479 she was offered in marriage to Theodoric the Amal, but this match did not take place. Soon thereafter she was married to Flavius Areobindus Dagalaifus (cos. 506) by whom she had only one son, Flavius Anicius Olybrius Junior who was consul in the East as a very young boy in 491. The latter had at least two daughters and presumably no son. Areobindus was still alive in 512 when the crown was pressed upon him in the course of a popular riot against the Emperor Anastasius, an honour which he avoided by flight. Juliana died in ca. 527/8.

The epigram mentions her son and granddaughters, but not her husband Areobindus, who was thus presumably already dead and who is last attested in 512. The church was therefore constructed after 512 and before her death in ca. 527/8. A scholion on the epigram says that the church was built in three years, and Mango and Sevcenko proposed the triennium 524-7, a suggestion that the excavation has tended to confirm. The epigram states that it replaced an earlier, small church dedicated to St. Polyeuktos by Empress Eudocia, wife of Theodosius II (408-50); Gregory of Tours remarks that it was adjacent to her palace, and a recently discovered description of Constantinople, apparently of the eleventh century, mentions that it housed the relic of St. Polyeuktos' head. By the fourteenth century the relic had been transferred to a chapel in the church of the Holy Apostles, where it was observed by Russian pilgrims.

Polyeuktos, a Roman soldier in the garrison-town of Melitene (modern Malatya) on the river Euphrates, suffered martyrdom there probably on 9 January 250. Churches dedicated to him are recorded in Melitene, Jerusalem, and Ravenna, in addition to at least two in Constantinople, for there was also a church of St. Polyeuktos en tois Biglentiou,a district somewhat to the east of Saraçhane. When his relics were transferred from Melitene to Constantinople is not known.

After Anicia Juliana's death, it is recorded that her son Olybrius was somehow implicated in the Nika riots of 532 and was exiled by Justinian, who confiscated his property (presumably including the palace and church); some years later he was allowed to return, and his property was restored to him. Nothing further is heard of this ancient and illustrious family, which must be supposed to have died out. Although there are references to the church in the tenth and eleventh centuries, nothing is known of its upkeep, administration, and status. That it was occasionally accessible in this period is implied by the Book of the Ceremonies, the scholiast of Palatinus, and the eleventh-century "description"; the fact that excavations uncovered no appreciable modifications or additions to its fabric or decoration but did uncover deep deposits of dumped seventh- to tenth-century material in the undercroft does suggest that the church was kept on a "care and maintenance" basis only.

Topographical Considerations

Saraçhane lies approximately at the centre of the Byzantine city, roughly half-way between the promontory (Saray Burnu) and the Land Walls, and half-way between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara (fig. A). The name, meaning "Saddlery Market," denotes a district that is now mainly open ground, extending west and south-west of the Schzade Camii and south of the Aqueduct of Valens. Since 1940 when the Atatürk Bulvari was constructed, there has been a major crossing here with the Sehzadebasi Caddesi, which runs east-west along the ridge.

In terms of the city's growth, Saraçhane lay a long way outside the walls both of the Greek colony and of the enlarged Roman city. In the Roman period there was an extensive cemetery north-west of Beyazit, presumably following a road on the high ground, and it was no surprise therefore to find Roman gravestones and a sarcophagus at Saraçhane. When Constantine's city incorporated Saraçhane in 330, the area was fairly quickly settled. The Aqueduct of Valens was constructed in 368, the Column of Marcian in 450-2, and the extensive foundations plotted in 1965 in the underpass excavation are almost certainly of this general period. Anicia Juliana's church is on a rather different alignment from that of the Aqueduct and the underpass foundations, but, as will be seen from foundations in the area of the church's atrium, it was not the first building on this site with this alignment.

The Schzadebasi Caddesi follows the present ridge, the ground falling away northwards to the Aqueduct of Valens and southwards towards Aksaray. The site of the church is on the southern slope, and that the ground sloped similarly in antiquity is shown by the fact that the church's principal drains ran from north to south. The church was evidently an addition to Anicia Juliana's palace, which may have occupied the higher ground immediately north (or north-west) of the church.

A major topographical problem is that of the exact line of the northern branch of the Mesê, the arterial street which ran from the Forum Tauri (Beyazit), past St. Polyeuktos, to the church of the Holy Apostles (Fatih), and beyond. This is discussed below (chapter 15) in the light of the excavations; it is probable that the Mesê ran close to St. Polyeuktos, on the church's south side.


It will be convenient to present here the documentary sources referring to the church, of which the epigram in the Anthologia Palatina takes pride of place.

(a) Anthologia Palatina 1, 10 (ed. H. Stadtmüller, Anthologia Graeca 1, 1894).

This poem was originally carved in the church itself, lines 1-41 in the entablature of the nave, lines 42-76 outside the narthex. Seven substantial pieces of the entablature were found at Saraçhane, and the parts of the epigram which have thus survived in their editio princeps are indicated in the following text by capital letters.


The empress Eudocia, in her eagerness to honour God, was the first to build here a temple to the divinely inspired Polyeuktos; but she did not make it as fine or as large as this, not from any restraint or lack of resources — for what can a Queen lack? — (5) but because she had a divine premonition that she would leave a family which would know well how to provide a better embellishment. From this stock Juliana, bright light of blessed parents, sharing their royal blood in the fourth generation, did not disappoint the hopes of that Queen, who was mother of the finest children, (10) but raised this building from its small original to its present size and form, increasing the glory of her many-sceptred ancestors. All that she built she made more excellent than her forebears, having the true faith of a Christ-loving purpose. For who has not heard of Juliana, that, heeding piety, she glorified even her parents by her finely laboured works? She alone by her righteous sweat has built a house worthy of the immortal Polyeuktos. For she had always learnt to provide blameless gifts to all athletes of the heavenly King. (20) The whole earth, every city, cries out that she has made her parents more glorious by these better works of hers. For where is it not possible to see that Juliana has raised up a fine temple to the saints? Where is it not possible to see the signs of the pious hands of you alone? (25) What place is there which has not learnt that your mind is full of piety? The inhabitants of the whole world sing your works, which are always remembered. For the works of piety are not hidden; oblivion does not wipe out the labours of industrious virtue. (30) Even you do not know how many houses dedicated to God your hand has made; for you alone, I think, have built innumerable temples throughout the world, always revering the servants of the heavenly God. Following on all the well-founded footsteps of her parents, (35) she gave birth to a family which is immortal, always treading the full path of piety. Wherefore may the servants of the heavenly King, to whomsoever she gave gifts and to whomsoever she built temples, protect her readily with her son and his daughters. (40) And may the unutterable glory of the most industrious family survive as long as the Sun drives his fiery chariot.

(42) What choir is sufficient to sing the work of Juliana, who, after Constantine, embellisher of his Rome, after the holy golden light of Theodosius, (45) and after the royal descent from so many forebears, accomplished in a few years a work worthy of her family, and more than worthy? She alone has conquered time and surpassed the wisdom of celebrated Solomon, raising a temple to receive God, the richly wrought and graceful splendour of which the ages cannot celebrate. (51) How it rises from deep-rooted foundations, springing up from below and pursuing the stars of heaven, and how too it is extended from east to west, glittering beyond description with the brightness of the sun (55) on both its sides! On either side of the central nave, columns standing upon sturdy columns support the rays of a golden roof. On both sides recesses hollowed out in arches have given birth to the ever-revolving light of the moon. (60) The walls, opposite each other, have recalled to life in measureless paths marvellous meadows of precious materials, whose brightness nature, flowering in the deep depths of the rock, has concealed and guarded for the house of God, to be the gift of Juliana, so that she might accomplish divine works, (65) labouring at these things in the immaculate promptings of her heart. What singer of wisdom, moving swiftly on the breath of the zephyr and armed with a hundred eyes, will be able to take in on each side the highly elaborate productions of art, seeing the shining encircling house, one storey set upon the other? (70) There, it is possible to sec over the arch of the court a great marvel of sacred depiction, the wise Constantine, how escaping the idols he overcame the god-fighting fury and found the light of the Trinity, by purifying his limbs in water. Such is the labour that Juliana, after a countless swarm of labours, accomplished for the souls of her parents, and for her own life, and for the lives of those who are to come and those that already are.

As regards the scholia, it will be convenient to quote here a passage from the article on the church by Mango and Sevcenko:

The position of the inscription in the church is indicated by marginal scholia in the best edition of the Anthology, Palatinus. Opposite verses 30-32 is written: "These things are inscribed all round, inside the naos" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). At the end of verse 41 is an asterisk, next to which is written: "At the entrance of the same church, outside the narthex, in the direction of the arch ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Further asterisks are placed between verses 46-47, 50-51, 56-57, and 6162. Opposite lines 59-61 is written: "There are four slabs on which these things are inscribed, five or six verses on each" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [sic] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Finally, opposite verses 63-66 is written: "This is the last slab, on the right-hand side of the entrance, on which these things are inscribed" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). It follows that the entire epigram was carved in the church. Lines 1-41 appear to have been within the nave; lines 42-61 outside the narthex, on four slabs distributed as follows: 42-46, 47-50, 51-56, 57-61; lines 62-76 on another slab to the right of the entrance.


Excerpted from Excavations at Saraçhane in Istanbul Volume 1 by R. Martin Harrison. Copyright © 1986 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

  • FrontMatter, pg. i
  • Contents, pg. vii
  • Preface, pg. ix
  • Summary, pg. xi
  • List Of Drawings, pg. xiii
  • List Of Photographs, pg. xv
  • List Of Tables, pg. xxi
  • List Of Abbreviations, pg. xxiii
  • Chapter One. Discovery And Background, pg. 3
  • Chapter Two. The Structures, pg. 11
  • Chapter Three. The Stratigraphy, pg. 34
  • Chapter Four. Interpretation, pg. 111
  • Chapter Five. The Marble Carving, pg. 117
  • Chapter Six. The Inlays And Revetment, pg. 168
  • Chapter Seven. The Mosaics, pg. 182
  • Chapter Eight. Painted Plaster, pg. 197
  • Chapter Nine. The Window Glass, pg. 204
  • Chapter Ten. The Brickstamps, pg. 207
  • Chapter Eleven. The Small Finds, pg. 226
  • Chapter Twelve. The Coins, pg. 278
  • Chapter Thirteen. The Human Bones, pg. 374
  • Chapter Fourteen. The Animal Bones and Molluscs, pg. 399
  • Chapter Fifteen. The Church Of St. Polyeuktos, pg. 405
  • Notes, pg. 421
  • Index, pg. 429
  • Photographs. 1–23, pg. 433
  • Photographs. 24–51, pg. 444
  • Photographs. 52–73., pg. 454
  • Photographs. 74–105, pg. 465
  • Photographs. 106–140, pg. 476
  • Photographs. 141–182, pg. 487
  • Photographs. 183–233, pg. 498
  • Photographs. 234–475, pg. 511

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