Hypogeum at the Hebdomon
Hypogeum at the Hebdomon.jpg

The remains of a Late Antique hypogeum are located in the garden of the Bakirköy Psychiatric Hospital. Bakirköy, once a Constantinopolitan suburb known as the Hebdomon, was important as the site where many emperors were proclaimed or began their triumphal processions. The mausoleum of Basil II was also located at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in the Hebdomon, rather than the customary Church of the Holy Apostles. The remains of a circular mausoleum along with six sarcophagi were discovered at Bakirköy in 1914. While initially identified as the mausoleum of Basil II in the Constantinopolitan suburb known as the Hebdomon, it likely dates to the 5th century. Another sarcophagus in the area of the Hebdomon was also associated with Basil II, though this is far from certain.

A circular hypogeum was discovered at Bakirköy in 1914 during the construction of barracks, but was not excavated until after World War I was over. Excavations, under the guidance of Makrides, began when the barracks were taken over by French occupation forces. While the excavations were incomplete when the French forces withdrew, it was initially claimed that this was the tomb of Basil II. Later research, though, demonstrated that the hypogeum was an earlier structure, probably contemporary with the fifth-century sarcophagi it housed. Instead he argued that his resting place was a white marble sarcophagus found near the ruins of St. John Prodomos in Bakirköy. The sarcophagus, which had been converted into a water fountain in the Ottoman era, disappeared sometime after 1939.

The circular hypogeum has a diameter of around 15 meters and had a cupola resting on four barrel vaults and four pendentives. It was divided into four sections in the form of a cross and had a circular corridor. Each of these sections took the form of a massive triangular brick pillar connected to the inner wall of the hypogeum. All four walls of these sections had an arched niche that to house a sarcophagus. Six sarcophagi, which were discovered in the eight niches, were number in Greek. One of these sarcophagi, which disappeared by 1922, contained three skeletons and had an inscription declaring “Here lies the blessed Epiphanios”. An additional sarcophagus was buried under the western section. It was carved from a single large block of white Proconnesian marble and had two large marble lids, one atop the other, and contained a single skeleton as well as an earthenware phial and several small lead objects. The sarcophagus had a sculpted decoration of a medallion and ivy leaf on all four sides. On the long sides there are crosses after the ivy leaves, as was typical in the 5th century.

Hypogeum at the Hebdomon.jpg
Hypogeum at the Hebdomon.jpg
Hypogeum at the Hebdomon.jpg

Photo from Macridy & Ebersolt

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.

Plan by Macridy & Ebersolt

Plan by Thibaut

Istanbul Archaeological Museums.png

Marble Sarcophagus, 4th-6th century

Hypogeum at the Hebdomon

Inv. no 2805

Image by Macridy & Ebersolt

Photo from Macridy & Ebersolt

Sarcophagus and hypogeum plan by Macridy & Ebersolt

Artifacts at the Bakirköy Psychiatric Hospital 
Hebdomon Artifacts (Bakirköy Psychiatric
Hebdomon Artifacts (Bakirköy Psychiatric
Hebdomon Artifacts (Bakirköy Psychiatric
Map.jpg

Sources

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

Byzantium in the Year 1000 by Paul Magdalino

“The Tomb of Basil II” by Paul Stephenson

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

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander Kazhdan

Resources

Hebdomon Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Istanbul Archaeological Museums Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Epitaph of Basil II (Paul Stephenson)

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