Cengiz Özdemir wrote: A symbol of power on the Istanbul-Venice-Paris line – Four horses

Anyone who visits Venice can admire the majestic four horse statues at the entrance to St. Mark’s Church. “These were smuggled out of Istanbul” they say he whispered. However, the sculptures they look at are replicas of the originals. The main sculptures are from the 20th century. After being originally copied, they were kept inside, in the museum section. Indeed, one of these copies greets passers-by at the entrance to the Sabancilar mansion in Emirgan. Haci Sabanci did not offend the broker who convinced him on a trip to Italy and had a copy brought to Istanbul. The reason the mansion is called “equestrian” is because one of these four horses at the main entrance waves to passers-by. In the mansion, which is now the Sabancı Museum, a second horse sculpture made by a French sculptor is exhibited at the entrance of the museum.

These four horse statues are actually pulling a chariot. However, the car did not reach today. There is also a jumper on the car. This type of chariot drawn by four horses was called “QUADRIGA” in Antiquity. These sculptures were brought to Istanbul from Chios. The Roman kaisers, especially Constantine the Great, who wanted to decorate Istanbul as the capital of Rome, began to display at the hippodrome the monumental sculptures they had collected from the Roman provinces. These four horse sculptures BC. It is believed that Lysippus, the great sculptor who lived in the 4th century, designed and applied it. These statues are about 2400 years old. This carriage statue placed at the entrance to the racecourse has been dragged from place to place for thousands of years as a kind of symbol of power.

horse kidnapping

Everyone knows how horribly Crusader armies plundered Istanbul in 1204. The two alliance partners, Venetians and Franks, do the most looting. The lion’s share goes to the Venetians. It is known that dozens of statues at the hippodrome were melted down and coins were cut. However, these four horse statues remain intact, and although they are very dangerous, they do not fit on ships, so their heads are cut off and sent to Venice. It was erected as a war trophy at the entrance to the Church of San Markos in Venice, where the Byzantine influence was very evident.

But here, it would be more appropriate to ask the following question: are these horses simply spoils of war, or have they been preserved since antiquity because they are symbols of power?

In ancient times, states were divided into two. land states and sea states. A good kaiser was designed either as a rider on horseback with a whip in hand, or as a captain—again, a rider—who yielded and steered the helm ship. The kaisers of the land states were considered wise people who punished their horses from time to time and rewarded them from time to time, and made their chariots (states) achieve the goal. So here the horses were not horses and the car was not a car. The cavalry there was not just a groom or a coachman.

One of the poems that best describes the relationship between the Roman Kaisers and the state was written on the porphyry marble plinth of the sterling silver statue of Theodosius erected on the sides of Istanbul’s Beyazıt Square in the 4th century. century:

You rise bright like the sun rising from the east

Theodosius! You seem very nice to people.

The endless sea and land are at your feet

Covered in shining guns, as head of state

You govern with benevolence, you hold the reins easily

For this reason, the Emperor of the Franks, Napoleon Bonaparte, stole these four horse statues from Venice, his former partner, with whom he organized an expedition 600 years later, and smuggled them into France. A few years later, when he was defeated by the Russians and lost everything and his power, the Italians recovered their horses and replanted them in front of Saint Mark’s Church. Although Napoleon not only looted the equestrian statues in Venice, he also smuggled the four equestrian statues over the Brandenburg Gate in Paris when he entered Berlin. He must have had the “honor” of completing the work his ancestors left unfinished in Istanbul 600 years ago. Everyone already knew that he had completely warped his mind with Imperial and Roman dreams. Therefore, his abduction also had an ideological significance.

The constant smuggling of equestrian statues is symbolic, but we must not forget that equestrian statues are also political symbols. Today, similar equestrian statues tower over squares in Moscow, Brussels and London. These are all states with imperial pretensions, believing that they carry on the tradition of the Roman-Germanic Empire. As I mentioned above, it symbolizes an ancient Roman tradition. The lords and sailors represent the universal power of the Roman Empire, at the pinnacle of empires, and the symbolic position of the Roman kaisers.

At the hippodrome in Rome’s capital, Istanbul, the emperor watched horse racing from a balcony called “kathisma”. The representatives of the blue teams (sailors) were seated to the left of this office, which coincided with the current Blue Mosque, and the representatives of the green teams (blacksmiths) to the right. It was believed that Ares and Aphrodite protected the greens, and Poseidon and Zeus protected the blues. In the very center sat the Roman Kaiser, ruler of land and sea. Every time the Kaiser looked over the front door to the right from his seat, he no doubt saw himself as the driver whipping the horses. This sensual desire for these horses has such symbolic meanings.

For those wondering more, Joseph Von Hammer’s “Istanbul and the Bosphorus” I recommend the book. The book was published by Turkish Historical Society Publications with Senail Özkan’s translation.

Good weekend to all !

Previous articles by Cengiz Özdemir:

An answer in the Bosphorus- Writings from the Bosphorus-1

A blue fish lettering

Who is from Istanbul?

The lost Istanbul

The Istanbul test with stray dogs

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