So, our friend Justin liked to build.
A couple of days ago, we had a little history lesson about our friend Justinian I. Seems like he was a good guy. Wanted to continue along the lines of the Emperor Constantine and make Constantine’s city one that was great and would be remembered as a shining example of the Roman Empire. So Justin built himself a little Church. And a grand palace (which was looted, pillaged and eventually left in ruins to be reused by the Ottomans). But Justin also built himself a cistern.
Not just any old water storage facility mind you.
One that conjures intrigue enough to be featured in a James Bond Film. From Russia with Love [Blu-ray]
One that has freaky looking Medusa heads supporting columns that hold up the structure.
One that provided drinking water to a city and its people, where now there is just a foot or so of water and a few fish, it used to hold 2.8 million cubic feet of water.
But the kids weren’t really interested in much of that.
Our friend Justinian also did plenty of other things, and again, after the fact there is so much more I could have shared with the kids. I could have told them about the fact his wife Theodora was formerly a stripper and then after she married Justinian, she became a patron to the strippers and tried to convert them all to Christianity. She also was prominent in expanding rights for women during her husband’s reign as Emperor (thanks to Theodora my friend for some of the background on her namesake.) But I knew little of these facts then and with my solid “advance planning”, I wouldn’t have had the information with me even if I did know it. As mentioned, I am a self professed history novice and if I was better at this type of thing I would have again pulled out my well prepared audiovisual aids for our summer “learning” and told the kids all of this. But they wouldn’t have listened much anyway.
Because, it was hot, really hot outside. We did sort of purposely plan on hitting the cisterns during mid day, but we forgot we had to walk to get there. We wandered through Sultanahmet and walked over to the entry and walked down the stairs. The first comments from the kids and Jeff were, of course, about the temperature. On a hot Istanbul afternoon where temperatures reached upwards of 37 degrees (that’s 95 to you Americans in the group) and humidity of 85% it was cool, it was shelter from the heat. It felt good. It wasn’t scorching anymore. History could wait.
It was a bit creepy and a bit spooky and frankly just what we needed to recharge a bit before setting out again for dinner and the next day of Ottoman sites. I am not sure Justinian ever intended that its current use be that of a tourist attraction, but hey, it works just fine for us!