Hebdomon

The Hebdomon (Ἕβδομον, “seventh”) was a coastal suburb of Constantinople located on the Via Egnatia seven miles west of the Milion. As the site of a military camp and an imperial palace, many emperors were proclaimed or began their triumphal processions here. Now known as Bakirköy, the surviving monuments of the district include a large open-air cistern and the remains of a circular mausoleum.

The Hebdomon first played a role in imperial ceremony during the reign of Valens (364-378) who was proclaimed emperor here. Others were also proclaimed emperor at Hebdomon, including Arcadius in 383, Theodosius II in 402, Marcian in 450, Leo I in 457, Zeno in 474, Basiliscus in 475, Maurice in 582, Phocas in 602, Leo III in 717, Leo V in 813, and Nikephoros Phocas in 963. An army camp and a tribunal were located on a plain at the Hebdomon that was known as the Kampos, making it Constantinople’s version of the Campus Martius in Rome. Triumphal processions began at the Hebdomon and continued along the Mese towards the Hippodrome and the Great Palace of Constantinople. The monumental column of Theodosius II at the Hebdomon can be seen as the first of a series of imperial columns and monuments of this triumphal route.

The Hebdomon was also an important imperial residence in Late Antiquity. Literary sources mention the Iucundianae (Ioukoundianai) Palace, where the members of Theodosian dynasty frequently resided, and the Magnaura Palace, which seems to have been an audience hall for the Senate. It had also at least one harbor and its own water supply that included a large open-air cistern in the hills to the north. In 391, the Church of St. John Prodomos was built by Theodosius I to house the relic of the head of St. John the Baptist, while the Church of the Prophet Samuel was built during the reign of Theodosius II to house the prophet’s relics. The Hebdomon continued to be a popular imperial residence during the reign of Justinian, who rebuilt both the Iucundianae Palace and the Church of St. John Prodomos. Other church located here included St. Theodote, Ss. Menas and Menaius, and the Holy Innnocents.

The Hebdomon was probably devastated during the Arab sieges of Constantinople, when their fleets anchored there. It was probably again devastated when the Bulgar Khan Krum led his forces to the city walls in 813. Basil I, who began an imperial triumph at the Hebdomon, restored or rebuilt the churches of St. John the Evangelist and St. John Promodos, which had fallen into ruin. Basil II, who also started his triumph celebrating his victory of the Bulgars at the Hebdomon, would later be buried at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, instead of the Church of the Holy Apostles as was customary since the reign of Constantine I. The decision to be buried near here reveals his self-identification as a military figure, as the Hebdomon continued to hold this connotation. While his sarcophagus now longer survives, its inscription has survived in four Late Byzantine manuscripts.

Archaeological remains the modern district of Bakirköy include a large open-air cistern (Fildamı Cistern) as well as remains of an inscribed statue base of Theodosius II and a circular mausoleum. The cistern, which perhaps dates to the 6th or 7th century, is around 127 x 76 meters, with a maximum capacity of roughly 125,000 cubic meters. The Kampos of the Hebdomon is now the location of the Veliefendi Hippodrome. The remains of a church and palace (probably the Church of St. John Prodomos and possible the Iucundianae Palace) that were recorded around a century ago no longer exist.  It is possible that the relics of St. John the Baptist (known by Muslims as Yahya the Prophet) at Topkapı Palace came from this church. Several archaeological finds from this region are now on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.

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Fragments of an inscription from a monumental column of Theodosius II

Now in the gardens of Hagia Sophia

Cistern of Hebdomon.jpg

The Cistern of Hebdomon (or Fildamı Cistern), dating perhaps to the 6th or 7th century, is around 127 x 76 meters, with a maximum capacity of roughly 125,000 cubic meters. It has brick and ashlar masonry, similar to the Theodosian Walls and other open-air cisterns.

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The remains of an octagonal church, generally identified as St. John Prodomos, were uncovered at Bakirköy by French excavations in 1921-1923. While the last traces of the church disappeared in 1965, several finds are on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.

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A circular hypogeum and several sarcophagi were discovered at Bakirköy in 1914 and excavated in 1921-1923. While it was initially claimed to be the tomb of Basil II, later research demonstrated that the hypogeum probably dated to the 5th century.

Plan of Hebdomon by Taddei (based on Demangel)

Lost sarcophagus supposedly belonging to Basil II

Photo from Macridy & Ebersolt

Epitaph of Basil II on his sarcophagus at the Church of St John the Evangelist at the Hebdomon

As recorded in Late Byzantine manuscripts

Other past emperors

previously designated for themselves other burial places.

But I Basil, born in the purple chamber,

place my tomb on the site of the Hebdomon

and take sabbath's rest from the endless toils

which I fulfilled in wars and which I endured.

For nobody saw my spear at rest,

from when the Emperor of Heaven called me

to the rulership of this great empire on earth,

but I kept vigilant through the whole span of my life

guarding the children of New Rome

marching bravely to the West,

and as far as the very frontiers of the East.

The Persians and Scythians bear witness to this

and along with them Abasgos, Ismael, Araps, Iber.

And now, good man, looking upon this tomb

reward it with prayers in return for my campaigns.

Ἄλλοι μὲν ἄλλῃ τῶν πάλαι βασιλέων
αὑτοῖς προαφώρισαν εἰς ταφὴν τόπους,
ἐγὼ δὲ Βασίλειος, πορφύρας γόνος,
ἵστημι τύμβον ἐν τόπῳ γῆς Ἑβδόμου
καὶ σαββατίζω τῶν ἀμετρήτων πόνων
οὓς ἐν μάχαις ἔστεργον, οὓς ἐκαρτέρουν·
οὐ γάρ τις εἶδεν ἠρεμοῦν ἐμὸν δόρυ,
ἀφ’ οὗ βασιλεὺς οὐρανῶν κέκληκέ με
αὐτοκράτορα γῆς, μέγαν βασιλέα·
ἀλλ’ ἀγρυπνῶν ἅπαντα τὸν ζωῆς χρόνον
Ῥώμης τὰ τέκνα τῆς Νέας ἐρυόμην
ὁτὲ στρατεύων ἀνδρικῶς πρὸς ἑσπέραν,
ὁτὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς τοὺς ὅρους τοὺς τῆς ἕω,
ἱστῶν τρόπαια πανταχοῦ γῆς μυρία·
καὶ μαρτυροῦσι τοῦτο Πέρσαι καὶ Σκύθαι,
σὺν οἷς Ἀβασγός, Ἰσμαήλ, Ἄραψ, Ἴβηρ·
καὶ νῦν ὁρῶν, ἄνθρωπε, τόνδε τὸν τάφον
εὐχαῖς ἀμείβου τὰς ἐμὰς στρατηγίας.

Architectural fragments (now lost)

Possibly from the Iucundianae Palace by Glück

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Marble Basket Capital with Monograms of Justinian and Theodora
Hebdomon, 6th century (Inv. 1239 T)

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Marble Composite Capital
Hebdomon, 6th century

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Marble Baluster, First half of 6th c.

Hebdomon, Inv. 5141 T

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Fragment of a Marble Frieze, First half of 6th c.
St. John Prodromos at Hebdomon, Inv. 3967 T

Marble Inlaid Column, First half of 6th c.
St. John Prodromos at Hebdomon
Inv. 3968 T

Marble Sarcophagus, 4th-6th century

Hypogeum at the Hebdomon

Inv. no 2805

Artifacts at the Bakirköy Psychiatric Hospital 
Hebdomon Artifacts (Bakirköy Psychiatric
Hebdomon Artifacts (Bakirköy Psychiatric
Hebdomon Artifacts (Bakirköy Psychiatric

Sources

Contribution à la topographie de l'Hebdomon by R. Demangel

Constantinople byzantine: développement urbain et répertoire topographique by R. Janin

Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity by Kenneth G. Holum

The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-Slayer by Paul Stephenson

Byzantine Constantinople: The Walls of the City and Adjoining Historical Sites by Alexander van Millingen

Das Hebdomon und seine Reste in Makriköi. Untersuchungen zur Baukunst und Plastik von Konstantinopel by H. Glück

“Notes on the So-Called “Palace of Ioukoundianai” at Hebdomon (Constantinople)” by Alessandro Taddei

Byzantium in the Year 1000 by Paul Magdalino

The Early Churches of Constantinople: Architecture and Liturgy by T. Mathews

“The Water Supply of Constantinople” by Cyril Mango

“Monuments Funeraires de Constantinople II” by Th. Macridy and J. Ebersolt

"Το βυζαντινό Έβδομον και αι παρ’ αυτω μοναί Αγίου Παντελεήμονος και Μάμαντος. Κοιμητήρια και τάφοι" Θ. Μακρίδης

Column base of Theodosius II (Oxford Last Statues of Antiquity)

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander Kazhdan

Resources

Hebdomon Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Istanbul Archaeological Museums Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Byzantine Churches of Istanbul (NYU)

Epitaph of Basil II (Paul Stephenson)

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Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016