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Galata Tower was built in 1348 at the apex of the Genoese citadel
File:Genoese houses in Galata Istanbul.jpg
Genoese houses from the early 14th century in the back streets of Galata

Galata (Greek: Γαλατά) or Galatae is a neighbourhood in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey, on the European side. Galata is located at the northern shore of the Golden Horn, the inlet which separates it from the historic peninsula of old Constantinople. The Golden Horn is crossed by several bridges, most notably the Galata Bridge. Galata (also known as Pera (Greek: Πέραν) back then) was a colony of the Republic of Genoa between 1273 and 1453. The famous Galata Tower was built by the Genoese in 1348 at the northernmost and highest point of the citadel.

There are several theories concerning the origin of the name Galata. According to the Italians, the name comes from Calata (meaning downward slope) as the neighbourhood is sloped and goes downwards to the sea from a hilltop. The Greeks believe that the name comes either from Galaktos (meaning milk, as the area was used by shepherds in the early medieval period) or from the word Galat (meaning Celtic in Greek) as the Celtic tribe of Galatians were thought to have camped here during the Hellenistic period before settling into Galatia in central Anatolia. The inhabitants of Galatia are famous for the Epistle to the Galatians and the Dying Galatian statue.


File:Arap Camii San Paolo 1.jpg
Arap Mosque, originally built as the Dominican Church of St. Paul in 1233

In history, Galata is often called Pera, which comes from the old Greek name for the place, Peran en Sykais, literally 'the Fig Field on the Other Side'.

The quarter first appears in Late Antiquity as Sykai or Sycae. By the time the Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae was compiled in ca. 425, it had become an integral part of the city as its 13th region. According to the Notitia, it featured public paths and a forum built by Emperor Honorius (r. 395–423), a theatre, a porticoed street and 435 mansions. It is also probable that the settlement was enclosed by walls in the 5th century.[1] Sykai received full city rights under Justinian I (r. 527–565), who renamed it Iustinianopolis, but declined and was probably abandoned in the 7th century. Only the large tower (the kastellion tou Galatou) housing the northern end of the chain that guarded the entrance to the Golden Horn remained.[1]

In the 11th century, the quarter housed the city's Jewish community, which came to number some 2,500 people.[1] In 1171, a new Geonese settlement in the area was attacked and nearly destroyed.[2] Despite Genoese averments that Venice had nothing to do with the attack, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143–1180) used the attack on the settlement as a pretext to imprison all Venetian citizens and confiscate all Venetian property within the Byzantine Empire.[2] The kastellion and the Jewish quarter were seized and destroyed in 1203 by the Fourth Crusade.[1]

In 1261, the quarter was retaken by the Byzantines, but Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1259–1282) granted it to the Genoese in 1267 in accordance to the Treaty of Nymphaeum. The precise limits of the Genoese colony were stipulated in 1303, and they were prohibited from fortifying it. The Genoese however disregarded this, and through subsequent expansions of the walls, enlarged the area of their settlement.[1] These walls, including the mid-14th century Galata Tower (originally Christea Turris, "Tower of Christ") survived largely intact until the 19th century, when most were dismantled in order to allow further urban expansion towards the northern neighbourhoods of Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, and beyond.[3] At present, only a small portion of the Genoese walls are still standing, in the vicinity of the Galata Tower. The Palace of the Genoese podestà Montano de Marinis, known as the Palazzo del Comune (Palace of the Municipality) in the Genoese period and built in 1316,[4] still stands in ruins on Banker Sokağı (the historic Rue Camondo);[5] a narrow side street that's parallel to the neighbouring Bankalar Caddesi (Banks Street) which was the financial center of the Ottoman Empire and has rows of Ottoman-era bank buildings, including the headquarters of the Ottoman Central Bank, which is today the Ottoman Bank Museum. Several ornaments that were originally on the façade of the Genoese Palace were used to embellish these 19th century bank buildings in the late Ottoman period. The Camondo Steps, a famous pedestrian stairway designed with a unique mix of the Neo-Baroque and early Art Nouveau styles, and built in 1860 by the renowned Ottoman-Venetian Jewish banker Abraham Salomon Camondo, is also located on Bankalar Caddesi;[5] while the seaside mansion of the Camondo family is located on the shore of the Golden Horn. Another famous building in Galata is the Church of St. Paul (1233) which was built by the Dominican priests of the Catholic Church during the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204–1261). The building is known today as the Arap Camii (Arab Mosque) because it was given by Sultan Bayezid II to the Arabs of Spain who fled the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 and came to Istanbul.

At present, Galata is a quarter within the borough of Beyoğlu in Istanbul, and is known as Karaköy.

Galatasaray S.K., one of the most famous football clubs of Turkey, gets its name from this quarter and was established in 1905 in the nearby Galatasaray Square in Pera (Beyoğlu), where Galatasaray Lisesi (Galatasaray High School), formerly known as the Mekteb-i Sultani also stands. Galatasaray literally means Galata Palace.[6]

Notable natives and residents of Galata

Images from Galata

References and notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 815, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
  2. ^ a b John Julius Norwich, A History of Venice, First Vintage Books Edition May 1986, p. 104
  3. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, pp. 815–816, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
  4. ^ Ottoman Bank Museum: Bereket Han on Bankalar Caddesi
  5. ^ a b Camondo Steps on the Bankalar Caddesi
  6. ^ Galatasaray Sports Club 2288 Website

Coordinates: 41°01′22″N 28°58′25″E / 41.02278°N 28.97361°E / 41.02278; 28.97361