Friday, March 28, 2008

Istanbul? Constantinople?

For most people outside the eastern Mediterranean region, referring to Istanbul or Constantinople, conjures foot tapping to the famous "They Might Be Giants" song. Others of us take offense to the lyrics that say only Turks should care what the city is called. Particularly those whose families once lived and thrived in the city only to be forced out in the 1950s and 60s.

Today, March 28th, marks 78 years since the city formerly known as Constantinople to most, officially changed its name to Istanbul. This action was prompted by the newly-established Turkish republic to establish the city as its own entity, effectively aiming to limit connections to the city's historically Greek/Byzantine role.

The irony of it all?

The name Istanbul derives from the Greek "eis tin Poli" or "to the City". Similar to how many Americans refer to New York City as "the City", the same applies to Greeks past and present.

Just like the Pantokratora of the Agia Sophia, the lesson here is you can try to cover up history, but it cannot be erased.

Happy Birthday Istanbul... may we all get to go "eis tin Poli"!


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