This text is a fragment of a guidebook to Istanbul: "Byzantine Secrets of Istanbul".
Perhaps the oldest surviving Roman monument in Istanbul is the Column of the Goths, located in the northern part of Gülhane Park. This monument, 18.5 meters high, consists of a rectangular base and a column made of Proconnesian marble, topped with a capital in the Corinthian order.
The name of the column derives from the Latin inscription carved on its base, which is now hardly visible. It says: "FORTUNAE REDUCI OB DEVICTUS GOTHOS" or "Goddess of Fortune of Many Returns on the occasion of the victory over the Goths". According to modern researchers such as Cyril Mango, this inscription replaced an earlier one with unknown content. Moreover, apparently on the opposite side of the base there was once a second inscription: "IC XC NIKA" - "Jesus Christ conquers", but no trace of this Christogram has been preserved.
There used to be a statue standing on top of the Column of the Goths, but there is a lot of ambiguity concerning its identity. John the Lydian, administrator and writer on antiquarian subjects active in the 6th century, mentioned that the column carried the statue of Tyche, the Greek goddess of prosperity, luck, and blind fate. Such a solution would correspond to the content of the inscription that mentions Fortuna, the Roman equivalent of Tyche. Perhaps the Tyche statue was removed from the column after Christianity became the official religion of the empire.
On the other hand, Nicephorus Gregoras, a Byzantine historian, theologian, philologist, and astronomer, wrote in the 14th century that a statue of Byzas of Megara once stood on the column. Byzas was the legendary founder of the city of Byzantium, which in time became the capital of the Roman Empire as Constantinople. Placing his statue on the column would be symbolic, as it stood near the place where, according to legends, the city's founders disembarked from their ships. According to these stories, in 667 BCE the Greek settlers from Megara commanded by King Byzas established a colony on Cape Sarayburnu, where the waters of the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and the Golden Horn meet.
However, it was not the Greeks who were the first to choose to live in this convenient place. The oldest known traces of settlement in Sarayburnu date back to the Neolithic age, or more precisely - 6600 BCE. Over time, this settlement, which had survived for a thousand years, was submerged due to rising sea levels. It is also known that between the 13th and 11th centuries BCE, on Sarayburnu there was a settlement called Lygos founded by a Thracian tribe as recorded by Pliny the Elder.
At the time when the city in this location was called Byzantium, the Sarayburnu area was its acropolis. There were numerous pagan temples overlooking the waters of the Bosphorus. For this reason, when the city - as Constantinople - became the capital of the Roman Empire and its rulers adopted Christianity as their official religion, the area of Sarayburnu was abandoned and no new buildings were built on it for a long time.
The advantageous location of Sarayburnu cape was appreciated by the Turks, who, after conquering the city, decided to build there the residence of sultans - Topkapı Palace. It is even possible that Sultan Mehmed II looked at the Column of the Goths standing by his newly built palace and recalled the ancient splendour of the city he had captured.
The inscription regarding the victory over the Goths is the only clue regarding the possible dating of the column. The problem is that many such victories were celebrated in Constantinople. Cyril Mango speculated that it might be Emperor Constantine the Great himself who celebrated a triumph in his new capital after the victory over the Goths in 332. He could then order the erection of an appropriate monument or the adaptation of an already existing column to suit the occasion.
However, it can also be assumed that the column commemorates much earlier events. In 269, Emperor Claudius II Gothicus defeated the coalition of the Goths, Heruli, Peukini, and Gepids in the Battle of Naissus (Niš). Unfortunately, only one historical source mentions this event - "Historia Nova" by Zosimus, so many researchers question whether this event actually took place. Emperor Claudius II died shortly afterwards, during the preparation for the war campaign against the Vandals, as one of the many victims of the Plague of Cyprian (smallpox or measles), probably brought by the Goths. For this reason, a legend was created that this ruler, following the indication from the Sibylline Books, offered his life to the gods in exchange for the victory at Naissus. Thanks to this, he gained great fame after his death and was included among the deified emperors.
The Goths were also dealt with by Theodosius I, who became emperor after Emperor Valens' death in the Battle of Adrianople in 378, during the war with the rebellious Goths in Thrace. However, a peaceful solution to the conflict was achieved by Theodosius through diplomacy - he took advantage of the barbarians' quarrels, dragged weaker groups to his side, and in 382 concluded peace treaties with all factions. From that moment on, the Goths became the allies of Rome, as the so-called foederati, settled on the lower Danube, received autonomy, and provided the empire with auxiliary troops.
Which of the above-mentioned victories was commemorated by the Column of the Goths? Constantine the Great is most strongly associated with the expansion of Constantinople, as he gave the city his name and made it the capital of the empire. However, this ruler was also the first emperor to convert to Christianity. For this reason, it is unlikely that he would order a commemorative column to be placed on the city's ancient acropolis, known for its many pagan temples. Also, the inscription on the column, recalling the goddess Fortuna, points to an emperor who worshipped the ancient gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon.
For the same reason, the column is unlikely to commemorate the diplomatic triumph of Theodosius I, the author of the decrees that in practice made Christianity the state religion of the empire. Thus, it can be assumed that the Column of the Goths was built for Claudius II, which makes it the oldest surviving Roman monument in Istanbul, erected at a time when the city was still called Byzantium.
Right next to the Column of the Goths, on its north-west side, are the ruins the Orphanage of St. Paul. It was an institution founded by the emperor Justin II and his wife Sophia in the second half of the 6th century. The emperor allocated an annual stipend of 443 solidi for its maintenance. Contrary to its name, this charitable institution helped not only orphans, but also the elderly, the blind, and war invalids. The name of the orphanage came from its location near the Church of St. Paul, which stood at the Eugene's Gate in the Sea Walls of Constantinople.