The Two Faces of Istanbul
As mythology records it, 7,000 years ago, the waters of Keras turned gold with sun reflecting off one of the hills on the peninsula, and the sea god Poseidon became the father of a son who was named Byzas. The son grew up and founded a city in the place that would become Byantion, the city we know as Istanbul today.
Little did the gods (or anyone else) know what they were creating. The mythological city became a real one in 7B.C. with the arrival of settlers from Greece, and the Aegean city of Miletos. It was a pretty good location, with a natural harbor at the Golden Horn, right smack in the middle of the trade route along the Bosphorus Strait. The land was fairly rich too, and even their agricultural efforts flourished.
But many lands were experiencing growing pains about that time. The Roman Empire had grown to such a sprawling concern, that they were now on the look out for a new place to set up a centralized government. They chose Byantion, which promptly became known as Nea Roma, and rose anew from itself, with improved waterways. In 330A.D. when Constantine ascended the throne, it was renamed again, as Constantinople.
The city flourished and grew, encompassing both sides of the strait, which was treated like a canal that ran down the main street. For control of both sides of the waterway was essential, even though it meant that the city spanned two continents.
When the Roman Empire foundered, the more "local" Byantium Empire burst into full bloom. Buildings were refurbished in the classical Greek styles, and the wondrous Hagia Sophia cathedral rose in the city center. But eventually, repeated Latin invasions would take their toll on the historic architecture and the people, reducing the city population to one-tenth of what it had been. By 1261, it was a city poised to die and rise from the ashes.
That re-birth came in 1453, when the city was conquered by the Ottaman Sultan Mehmet II. Walls were rebuilt, buildings refurbished, and the water and cistern system restored. It became a new center, that had retained its old character, despite trying times.
In fact, Istanbul is the only city to in the world to have a foot on two continents while serving as the hub of three different Empires.