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The Hippodrome


Once one of the most important institutions of the city, today only a few vestiges of the Byzantine chariot racecourse are visible--the monuments of the spina (the middle barrier of the racecourse)now sit in holes in a landscaped garden, as the ground level has risen at least six feet. A portion of the substructures of the sphendone (the curved end) is now more visible with the clearing of houses in the area to the south. Except for a limited excavation earlier this century, there has been no organized examination of the Hippodrome. However, in 1993 an area in fromt of Sultanahment Camii (the Blue Mosque) was bulldozed in order to install a new toilet. By the time the operation was completed, they had removed two meters of dirt, as well as several rows of seats and a few columnsfrom the Byzantine Hippodrome. Investigation did not continue further, althought the line of the seating, their opus caementicium substructure, and some clay pipes were left visible for some time. The columns and marble seats are now dispersed around the gardens of Sultanahmet. Curiously, a few columns are emblazoned with a pi-lambda, perhaps the monogram ofthe Paliologus family.