History of Beşiktaş, Barbarossa’s lair

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The history of Beşiktaş, one of the most famous districts of Istanbul, the historical site of some of its most beautiful palaces and of Khayr ad-Din Barbarossa

From Diplokionion to Beşiktaş

The first settlements in this area date back to the Byzantine era and it seems it was Constantine the Great who gave life to the first buildings on this territory, whose Greek name is linked to the concept of “border”. “Diplokionion” in fact means “Double pillar” and indicated the two pillars that marked the beginning of the city waters. In that period, sumptuous and rich palaces were erected but, being outside the walls, the area was extremely vulnerable to attacks by pirates from the Black Sea and, consequently, few remains from that era remain.

Beşiktaş within Istanbul

The name of Beşiktaş is due to the subsequent Ottoman arrival and there are different traditions based on how the word is read: dividing the word in beşik-taş you get “stone cradle”, as, according to tradition, up to the Fourth Crusade was preserved as a relic a stone belonging to the stable of Jesus or with which the latter was baptized; however, if you read it as a corruption of beş-taş, then you get “five stones” and could instead refer to the pirate’s landing place Khayr al-Din Barbarossa.

Ottoman and Turkish Beşiktaş

Once they had conquered Constantinople, the Ottomans soon gained firm control of both the shores of the Bosphorus and the coasts of the Black Sea, allowing the city to develop steadily in this area, which soon became one of the centers of the Ottoman navy. As anticipated, in fact, the corsair Khayr ad-Din Barbarossa fell madly in love with this area, electing it as his home and thus having his own palace and a mosque built; over time the area was also enriched by the Silk Road, which passed through here.

The Dolmabahçe Sarayı

Over time Beşiktaş became one of the favorite places of sultans and great politicians for the construction of their palaces, among which the Dolmabahçe Sarayı and the Yıldız Sarayı stand out, the first was the home of many sultans, while the second was mostly used as a hunting reserve. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the area, being strongly linked to the court and the nobility, underwent a great depopulation, however quickly resolved by the arrival of new inhabitants. It is known that Zübeyde Hanım, mother of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, lived in this neighborhood for some time, really close to the current headquarters of Beşiktaş J.K., the famous Juventus sports club.

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