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This is an ancient city of many names. To the Greeks it was Byzantium (its original name). To the Romans it was Constantinople. To the Northmen who served as Hired Axes it was Miklagard. And to the Turks who now possess it, it is Istanbul. It was built on the isthmus between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean; legend has it that its first settlers saw a previous settlement nearby and were amazed at how greatly they missed the boat. Istanbul does indeed have an ideal site being at the crossroads of several travel routes; indeed in some ways it is too ideal: every prince and his cousin wanted this city and it has endured seventeen sieges in it's history. Fortunately it's fortifications were a wonder of Medieval military architecture being something of a man-made cliff of insanity, so the city has endured only two sacks; the Fourth Crusade, and the Ottoman Conquest in 1453. This city is also proverbial for its Gambit Pileups and is the only city in the world to actually be an adjective for such things, as it is after all, very "byzantine" . This tradition continued into modern times and as late as World War II (and no doubt later) it was an important espionage battleground. It is nevertheless the home of some 13.6 million people, being the third-largest majority-Muslim metropolitan area in the world (after Cairo).
After some years in obscurity Byzantium became the secondary capital of The Roman Empire because of the growing importance of the eastern parts. Constantine the Great made it his main capital and named it after himself with the typical humility of Emperors. When Rome fell, Constantinople survived as a sort of Government in Exile of The Roman Empire known today as the Byzantine Empire. By virtue of the professionalism of its soldiers and the cunning of its rulers it was able to survive in this capacity for about 800 years after the fall of Rome being finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. This remained the capital of the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in World War I when the City was temporarily occupied by Allied forces. It was reclaimed by Turkey afterwards, which holds it to this day. Another interesting issue is that Istanbul acts as the cork in the bottle of the Black Sea; no shipping can get in or out without Turkey's permission. This automatically prevents Russia from becoming a threat to major sea powers and in doing so has historically ensured the protection of same. This was part of the reason for British and French intervention in the Crimean War.
Istanbul is a multi-ethnic city with groups from all over the area having residence there. It's one of the few places in Turkey that still have an Armenian population, and Kurds and Greeks also maintain a presence as well. It is a noted tourist attraction with such architectural wonders as the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and so on. "Stamboli" cooking is well noted and was once considered on a par with French. Much of the more high end dishes in Istanbul descended from the traditions of palace chefs of the days of the Sultans.
Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon by Claudia Roden