Cistern of Mocius

The Cistern of St. Mocius (Κινστέρνα του Αγίου Μωκίου) was a huge open-air water reservoir located on Constantinople’s Seventh Hill, which was also known as Xerolophos (“Dry Hill”). Its Byzantine name probably derives from its proximity to the Church of St. Mocius, a great fourth-century basilica dedicated to a local martyr named Mocius (Mokios) who died in the early 4th century. It has been attributed to the reign of Anastasius (491–518), which brickstamps from the cistern seem to confirm. It is 170 x 147 meters and at least 12 meters deep, while its ashlar walls are around 6 meters thick. It had a capacity of around 300,000 cubic meters. Its water source is unclear. A branch of the water supply line that fed the Aqueduct of Valens perhaps also fed this cistern. Alternatively, the Halkalı springs, which were later used by the Ottomans, might have been its water source. By the Ottoman era, it was used as a garden, which can be seen in its Turkish name Altımermer Çukurbostanı (“sunken garden”). The name Altımermer (Turkish“six marbles”) derives from six columns once located near the cistern, which were included in Evliya Çelebi’s list of talismans of Byzantine origin in Istanbul. In 2012, it was transformed into a public park.

Altımermer Talismans

The now lost “Six Marbles” (Altımermer) are among the talismans of Istanbul as listed Evliya Çelebi’s travelogue Seyahatnâmesi. Three of these columns supposedly rid Istanbul of flies, gnats and storks. One column had a figure of a cock, which was supposed to cause cocks to crow earlier than other places, which warned “the sleepy and forgetful of the approach of dawn and the hour of prayer”. Yet another had a figure of a wolf, which protected flocks of sheep, so that they could even walk side by side with wild wolves. Finally there was one with a figure of embracing lovers. According to Evliya Çelebi, “whenever there was any coolness or quarrelling between man and wife, if either of them went and embraced this column, they were sure that very night to have their afflicted hearts restored by the joys of love”. The final two columns he lists had a positive or a negative effect on romantic relationships. One had a figures of a couple: “whenever there was any coolness or quarrelling between man and wife, if either of them went and embraced this column, they were sure that very night to have their afflicted hearts restored by the joys of love, through the power of this talisman.” Another had an elderly man and woman, which would ensure the separation of unhappy couples.

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Sources

İstanbul'da Bizans Dönemi Sarnıçlarının Mimari Özellikleri ve Kentin Tarihsel Topografyasındaki Dağılımı by Kerim Altuğ

Die Byzantinischen Wasserbehalter von Konstantinopel by Forchheimer & Strzygowski

Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity edited by Lucy Grig and Gavin Kelly

The Longest Roman Water Supply Line by Kâzım Çeçen

“The Water Supply of Constantinople” by Cyril Mango

“The water supply of Constantinople: Archaeology and Hydrogeology of an Early Medieval City” by P. Bono, J. Crow, and R. Bayliss

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander Kazhdan

Seyahatnâmesi by Evliya Çelebi (translated by Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall)

Resources

Byzantine Cisterns of Constantinople Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

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Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016