Saturday, January 14, 2017


Osmaniye, Bakırköy - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 40°59'33.9"N 28°53'09.9"E / 40.992750, 28.886083

Hebdomon Fildami Cistern / Osmaniye - Bakirkoy photo hebdomon_cistern102.jpg


The Cistern of the Hebdomon, known in Turkish as Fildamı Sarnıcı (recover of the Elephants), is a Byzantine open sky water reservoir built in the quarter of the Hebdomon (today's Bakırköy), an outskirt of Constantinople.

The cistern is located in Istanbul, in the district of Bakirköy, in the mahalle of Osmaniye, between Fildamı Arkası and Çoban Çeşme Sokak, to the northwest of the Veli Efendi horse race track. Topographically, it lies about 2 km west of the Golden Gate of the Walls of Constantinople, in the western part of a small valley - now completely built up - which runs southwards to the Marmara sea.

The date of construction of this cistern, which lay in the outskirts of the Hebdomon, "the Seventh", so called because of its location seven Roman miles from the Milion, the mile-marker monument of Constantinople), is uncertain, but can be placed from the fifth-sixth centuries to the eighth century. The size of the bricks suggests as a post quem date for its edification the end of Justinian I's reign (ruled 527-65), while the absence of brick stamps is typical of constructions erected after the end of the sixth century.

Its function was certainly to supply water to the quarter's two imperial palaces bearing the name of Magnaura, erected by Emperor Valens (r. 364-78), and of Jucundianae, (also named Secundianae) built by Justinian I. Both palaces lay near the Marmara seashore, where nowadays the Ataköy Marina lies. The cistern was also used to supply water to the troops of the Thracian army using the nearby Field of Mars, named Kampos tou Tribounaliou, in Latin Campus Tribunalis. The Campus, where several Emperors were elected through acclamation by the army, lay in the valley of Veli Efendi, where now Istanbul's horse race track is placed.

After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the empty reservoir was used by the Ottomans as a stable for the Sultan's elephants, whence its Turkish names Filhane or Fildamı, meaning house or repair of the elephants. Afterwards, it was used as vegetable garden, becoming one of Istanbul's four Çukurbostan (hollow garden) still extant, a use that ceased in 1996, when the cistern was acquired by the state and transformed into a concert arena for pop music with a capacity of 12,000 spectators.

By 2003, it had become clear that the vibrations of the music were damaging the walls and disturbing the horses in the nearby race track, and the concerts ceased. Since then, the structure - administered by the belediye of Bakırköy - has been sporadically used to host meetings.

The cistern has a rectangular plan with sides 127 metres (417 ft) long and 76 metres (249 ft) wide, and covers an area of about 9,600 square metres (103,000 sq ft). It is slightly larger than the Basilica Cistern, and is the smallest among the four open-air cistern of Constantinople. Its average depth is about 11 metres (36 ft) on the inner side, but much less on the outer side, since the cistern, built above ground like all the open-air reservoirs of Constantinople, "sank" in the earth with time, as the level of the soil rose.

The reservoir could contain about 0.105 million cubic metres (28 million US gallons) of water. Its walls, 4.10 metres (13.5 ft) thick in the northern and southern sides and 7 metres (22.97 ft) thick in the eastern and western sides, are still in place. They were built using the Roman construction technique opus listatum, by alternating courses of bricks and of stone in a ratio of five to two, except near the top, where it is five to four (or five). The same pattern was also used to build the cisterns of Aetius, of Aspar and of Mocius inside the walled city of Costantinople.

The outer western wall is buried in the hill, while the inner western wall and the outer eastern wall are reinforced with a series of nineteen semicircular projecting niches which create two buttresses, necessary to withstand the weight of the hill. Two stairways, today partially destroyed, and used to enter the mains, are built by the north and south side. Another interesting feature of the cistern is its water tower (Latin: Castellum aquae), built on the outer side of the south-western corner.

This is a water tank used to stabilize the hydraulic pressure of an aqueduct by releasing water when its level drops beyond a specific value. The tower has a double shell structure, with a spiral staircase in the centre, separated from the outside by a casing containing the water flowing from an inflow placed at the bottom of the tower. Several outflow channels distributed the reservoir water in different directions.

It is unknown whether the cistern, which lies at a low altitude, was supplied with water coming from the nearby springs, and whether this was sufficient to fill it, or whether the water came from an artificial channel from the Thracian hinterland. In the same small valley where the cistern lies, and to its west, there are three smaller elliptic open cisterns, aligned from north to south. The central one is destroyed, while the other two, still extant, are named Domuzdamı "Repair of the pigs", since they were used as stables for animals.

During the Byzantine times Bakırköy was a separate community outside Constantinople, a well-watered pleasant seaside retreat from the city, and was called Hebdomon, "the Seventh", i.e. seven Roman miles from the Milion, the mile-marker monument of Constntinople.  Here - where nowadays the Ataköy Marina lies - Emperor Valens built one of the two imperial Palaces bearing the name of Magnaura, while Justinian erected another Palace named Jucundianae, also placed near the seaside.

Two churches, dedicated respectively to St. John Baptist the Evangelist and to St. John Baptist the Forerunner, the latter hosting the head of the Saint and burial place of the Emperor Basil II, were also erected here. Hebdomon was a place of exercise and concentration of the Thracian army. It had a large Field of Mars, the Kampos tou Tribounaliou in Latin Campus Tribunalis, where several Emperors were elected through acclamation by the army.

Among them were Valens, Arcadius, Honorius, Theodosius II, Phocas, Nikephoros II Phokas. The Campus lay in the valley of Veli Efendi, where now the horse race track is placed. The imperial court came often to the Hebdomon to attend military parades, to welcome the emperor coming back from campaign, and to pray in the large church of St. John Baptist the Forerunner.

Fildamı Cistern is one of the four biggest reservoirs of late antiquity in Byzantium, Constantinople. Different than most of the other cisterns and other open-air reservoirs in Constantinople, Fildamı Cistern is not situated in the historical peninsula which is covered by Land Walls constructed by Theodosius and at this concept Fildamı is an extraordinary monument, compared with other cisterns inside of city walls, which can survive until now.

Fildamı is an open-air reservoir which is situated in the west side of a valley running north wards from the Sea of Marmara. It is constructed next to the Magnaura and Jucundianae palaces and nowadays Veliefendi Hippodromme, in Bakırköy (the ancient Hebdomon), Osmaniye. Bakırköy called as Hebdomon in Greek or Septimus in Latin, being seventh roman miles of the Via Egnetia’s road which is started from the zero point of Constantinople, the Million, in antiquity.

It was a separate community outside Constantinople, a well watered pleasant seaside retreat from the city distorted to Hepdoman. It was also called as Makro Hori (long town) at the end of Roman Empire. The suburb served as an important parade and assembly ground for the army, and was the scene of imperial coronations in the 5th century. Emperor Valens built the imperial Palace of Magnaura and the church of St. John in Hebdomon was also built here. Fildamı Cistern is one of the most important monument in Hebdomon which can survive as mostly protected monument until present

The Roman city of Byzantium on the natural boundary between Europe and Asia was refounded as Constantinopolis in AD 330 by the emperor Constantine. The city became a focus for imperial patronage and display, quickly acquiring the grand urban structures expected of any classical metropolis; the fora, baths, colonnaded streets and hippodrome. The walls of the old city were expanded and within two decades the urban population began to grow exponentially and new living spaces, suburbs are started to be created outside the city walls, as Hebdomon.

At a time when many western cities stagnated or shrunk in size, late antique Constantinople expanded and flourished in both cultural and physical wealth, to provide a secure urban setting for the eastern empire into the later middle ages. To provide this expansion, city was needed new water supplies to distrubute into to the expanding city borders in healty way and it is builded lots of aquaducts, channels, cisterns and open air reservoirs to provide that amount of water to the city especially at end of the IV th, V th and VI th centuries as Fildamı Cistern Aquaduct of Vallens and etc. However based on historical sources the system maintained continuity until the end of the VII th century.

Fildamı as being one of the massive open-air reservoirs from the late antique city, build in Hebdomon, played a fundemental role in the provisioning of extanding metropolis. Three of these reservoirs, Aetius, Aspar and Mocius constructed in the 5th century lay on high ground within the Theodosian Land Walls. The Fildamı is unusual in that it laid outside the walls, to the north-east of the Hebdomon, its role perhaps then tied to the development of this palatial suburb, serving the troops and the animals that musterd before and after campaigns on the kampos.

Some of its water may have been piped to the nearby imperial palace at the Hebdomon. (the water supply of Constantinople After the late 12th century the long term system had been abandoned as a result of cumulative seismic damage and after the fall of the city to the Ottomans at 15th century (1453), a new system was constructed in the 16th century based entirely on the closer sources at Halkalı and in the Forest of Belgrade but Fildamı Cistern  is one of the most permanent monument build to supply the water to the city, most of other water supplier channels, water bridges, cisterns and aquaducts which were disrupted by earthquakes or by Ottoman Empire.

Besides we do not know the exact date of the cistern; we guess that Fildamı cistern is constructed in V-VI centuries. This guess is made by Dr. Tulay Ergil based on the size of the bricks because the size of bricks is 330 mm square which help us to suggest a post Justinianic date and apparent absence of brick stamps in the structure suggests a date after the end of six century. However the scalloped form of external and internal buttressing was an established form of Roman construction and was recommended by Vitruvius and is thus unlikely to be a significant chronological guide. The walls are bonded from the bottom to the top with seven stones and seven bricks in a row.

It stands on the west side of a valley running north wards from the Sea of Marmara. Its west walla is buried within the valley side, and it was necessary to buttress the wall internally agains the weight of the hillside.  This butressing was achieved, as is not uncommon in Roman and Byzantine cisterns and retaining walls, by buildind it on a scalloped with nineteen niches, creating a series of projecting butresses, bringing the thickness of the wall to 7 m.

Fildamı is an open-air reservoir of the early Byzantine Empire, 1500 m far away from the coast of Marmara Sea and the west side of Çırpıcı stream. The measure of the cistern is 127 x 76 m and the walls are visible to a height of about ten meter and its depth is measured as 11 m. Therefore it is estimating that its first shape is deeper than nowadays form. In total area it is somewhat smaller than the other open reservoirs within the Land Walls. It is only 1.000 m2 larger in area than the

We do not know how the Fildamı was supplied. It is situated at a relatively low elevation and a number of springs further up the valley which provide sufficient discharge. Alternatively, a channel might have been built, branching from the long distance supply line coming from Thrace.

One of the most interesting things of the reservoir is the piezometric tower on the exterior of the south-west corner. The piezometric tower is a giant water tank and is used to restabilish the nominal value of hydraulic pressure in an aqueduct by releasing water when the value of the pressure drop below a certain limit. The tower was a double-shell structure, with the outer casing of the tower separated from an internal spiral staircase by a space within which the water from the reservoir could flow.

From within the tower it was possible to see outflow channels leading away from the reservoir in different directions. The tower served to regulate the water level and control distribution from the multiple outflow channels, presumable each with a different destination. There was a single inflow channel from the reservoir into the tower, situated at a low level.

There is not a common knowledge where the name of “Fildamı” came as the name of the open air reservoir or cistern. However historicians think that elephants of the army and the palace of Ottoman Empire are kept in this field and that’s why the name of the cistern is putted as Fildamı. Therefore Fildamı Cistern is also known as Hebdomon Cistern in some sources as well.

Fildamı is not used for anything for long years until the 1998. Between the years 1998 to 2003, Fildamı was used as exhibition center in which lots of domestic and international famous groups like The Blue Brothers, Roger Glover, Dream Theater, and singers like Haluk Levent, Teoman and Ibrahim Tatlises display their perfomance. However in 2003 the concert programmes were cancelled because of the damage of high volume to the walls of the cistern and because of the disturbence to the horses in Veliefendi Hippodrrome.

Nowadays, Fildamı Cistern is used as recreational area for the native people of Bakirkoy under the control of Bakırköy Municapilaty. Lots of people without considering any age differences, realize their morning gym, running on to the tartan runway which builded in to the cistern even in some of my visit of Fildamı Cistern I saw Turkish Youth Athletics Team working in Fildamı Cistern. The green area inside of the cistern is used as football pitch.

Like other historical places Fildamı is also facing with some problemes like garbages and damages from some of the people who don’t have a historical consciousness, because of the indifference of the government and the other people. However there is no a desperate situation of Fildamı cistern comparing with other historical areas, because eventhough Fildamı is facing with some problemes, the community is conscious about the cistern. We can see this consciousness obviously from the effect of the cistern to its environment, most of the name coffees, buffets, and buildings are carrying the same name with the cistern.


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