I love when a little piece of ancient Rome pops up unexpectedly in modern Istanbul reminding everyone of the city’s prior and longest tenured residents – the Romans!
The skeletons were found beneath the “Casa Garibaldi”, also known as “Societa Operaia Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso in Costantinopoli,” built in 1863 and located close to Taksim Square in a part of Istanbul closely associated with the city’s Ottoman past. Taksim Square lies across the Golden Horn from Sultanahmet – the historical center of the Roman and Greek city.
What were the Romans doing in this fashionable Ottoman district?Beyoglu, the neighborhood where the Casa Garibaldi is located was once in fact a Roman suburb of Constantinople. It’s not known precisely when these Romans were buried, or why, or what precisely had been located on this spot in Justinian’s day and perhaps we will never know. But I am heartened by the fact that more attention is being given to these types of discoveries in Istanbul despite the clear opposition of the Turkish state to archaeological studies of the city’s Roman past. A recently founded department of Byzantine (Roman) Studies at Istanbul’s Bosporus (Bogazici) University is a reflection of this movement.
Orthodox Christian monks from the monastery at Mount Athos were invited to bless the skeletons before they were moved to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
For more on this discovery, see the article in Hurriyet.