Calamos Supports Greece
GreekReporter.comGreek NewsOn This Day in 1930, Constantinople Was Renamed Istanbul, Both Greek Words

On This Day in 1930, Constantinople Was Renamed Istanbul, Both Greek Words

Constantinople or Istanbul
Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (or Istanbul). Credit: Greek Reporter

Built as Byzantium around 657 BC and then renamed Constantinople in the 4th century CE after Constantine the Great made the city his capital, the city of Istanbul officially received its present name on this day in 1930.

Surprisingly, the capital of the Byzantine Empire was not renamed after the Ottomans captured it in 1453. Variations of “Constantinople” continued to be used by the Turkish-speaking conquerors long after they took control of the city.

“It’s a fact that the Ottomans called Istanbul ‘Kostantiniyye,’ among other names, in thousands of their official documents,” said Christoph Herzog, chair of Turkish studies at the University of Bamberg in Germany speaking to Live Science.

Istanbul and Constantinople are both Greek words

People elsewhere in the empire began to use the word “Istanpolin,” which means “to the city” in Turkish (adapted from the Greek phrase “to The City” or “eis tan polin”) to colloquially describe the new seat of Ottoman imperial power. Progressively, Istanpolin became used more, but the official name remained Constantinople.

Throughout the many centuries of its existence, Greeks had referred to Constantinople as simply “Polis” (City). When one was going to the Polis, they would say “Is tin Poli”—a phrase which morphed into the modern term Istanbul.

Following its defeat in World War I, the sultanate of the Ottoman Empire was abolished in 1922, and the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923. Shortly thereafter, in 1930, the Turkish postal service decided some clarification was in order, and it opted to make Istanbul the city’s official name.

Other institutions soon followed suit. That same year, the U.S. State Department and other governments around the world began using Istanbul in their official communications.

Turkish anger at use of Constantinople instead of Istanbul

In 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that still “there are people who want to see Istanbul as Constantinople…this is Istanbul, also known as Islam-bul, this is not Constantinople!”

Turkish footballer Kenan Özer had caused a widespread outcry in Turkey earlier after calling Istanbul Constantinople.

Özer, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet daily, wrote on his personal Instagram account that “The conquest of Constantinople has been completed. Thank God,” referring to a football match in the city.

After receiving hundreds of negative comments from Turkish users of the social media platform, Özer turned his account private, hiding the posting.

For Greeks, Istanbul will always be Constantinople

Greeks never called Constantinople “Istanbul.” This is partly due to the horror they felt knowing that when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans on May 29, 1453, it meant the end of Byzantium, and subsequently, Hellenism in the East. The fall of Constantinople marked the beginning of nearly 400 years of Ottoman occupation.

It is also partly because Greeks naturally feel nostalgic for the splendor that was the Byzantine Empire, which also helped further the spread of Orthodoxy all the way through Russia and today’s Balkan lands.

Another big part of the Greeks’ refusal to accept the name “Istanbul” for their beloved Polis is that since the 1920s, the contemporary Turkish state has been hostile to Hellenism and Greece itself on numerous occasions.

Greeks can never forget the destruction of Smyrna in 1922, the burning of Constantinople’s Greek neighborhoods, the further persecution of Greeks in 1955, or the Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974.

Related: Istanbul vs. Constantinople: Why Both Words are Greek

See all the latest news from Greece and the world at Contact our newsroom to report an update or send your story, photos and videos. Follow GR on Google News and subscribe here to our daily email!

Related Posts