It is known that Galata coast was called as “Sykai”, which means fig grove, in the early periods of Byzantine Empire; however what Galata exactly means stil remains to be mystery... Basically, the word “Sykai” is uttered as “Peran en Sykais”. As Peran means Galata for the Genoese and Beyoğlu for the foreigners and Levantines, it turned out to be common as Pera for while. Besides the fact that where the term “Galata” derived is doubtful, since the Genoese called the stair path descending down to sea as “galata” inItalian language, it is considered the term “Galata” derived from this use.
Galata, within the walls of which it is known there exist a church, forum, bath, theatre, a port and 431 big houses, has been used as a residential area since Constantinus I era. The walls were extended to 2800 metre in time, and to these walls, Tiberios II the Emperor (578-582) included a fort, to where the chains blocking the Golden Horn during the conquest were tied to Galata. The fort, still standing currently, has been used as Yer altı Camii (Underground Mosque) since 18th century. On saving Constantinople from the Latin in the year 1261, the Byzantine Emperor let the Genoese settle in Galata. However, he made the walls removed and did not let them erect once again. In order to be secure against the external attacks, the Genoese, not allowed to erect walls, dug huge ditches around Galata. Houses were built around this region where the ditch started in 1303. Merging the whole houses after awhile, the walls were erected again. These walls were fortified during the course of period, and Galata Tower was included herein in 1349. The Genoese, living on trade, took under guarantee not only themselves but also their goods. Galata, previously built in a region between the current Karaköy Square and Galata Tower, its area was enlarged as the Byzantine authority turned weaker and the Genoese stronger. The enlarged Galata was great enough to include the current Azapkapı-Şişhane-Kule -Tophane
Agreement with the
Mohamed the Conqueror
These walls were completed by working at nights without any permission from Byzantines like the current shanty settlements. When the Byzantine learnt that the houses were walls indeed, it was rather late for taking an action. Since the erection of walls to the fall of Constantinople, Galata was an autonomous state. Despite the fact that the Genoese state was located at the core of Byzantine capital, Byzantine emperors could not do anything to the Genoese. During the fall of Constantinople, the Genoese, Galata colonist, preferred to be neutral like an independent state. Following the fall of the city, the administrators concluded agreement with the Mohamed the Conqueror. In order to regulate entrance and exit of the walls, certain doors were opened and to pass over the ditches, they constructed mobile wooden bridges like those in European chateaus, yet tip was almost obligatory while entering. These bridges used to be closed at nights. An interesting particular of these walls is that they are constructed of stones collected in Ancient Byzantine buildings in Galata. These walls were collapsed in 1864 and the ditches were filled. Even though this site became extinct, its memories have been able to survive till today. Büyük and Küçük Hendek Neighbourhoods (Neighbourhoods of Grand and Small Ditches) are the best evidence of this fact. The walls and doors were destroyed though; the name Azapkapı still remains alive.
As for Galata Tower, as a result of the conflicts started in 1348 between the Byzantines and the Genoese, it was constructed day and night, men and women by the Genoese, yet they began to get in crisis. So as to overcome this case, they got through to Murad II (Father of Mohamed the Conqueror) and asked him to lend them money to erect Galata tower. In return, they contracted to give the name of Murad II to an important part of the tower. Following the fall of the city, the tower went under Ottoman control. In the earthquake chains of 1509 which is called as Minor Dome, the tower was affected badly, and it collapsed till the third storey. The tower, repaired by the Turkish architects, bears Genoese style till the third floor and Turkish one for the rest. In 16th century, Galata Tower was used as the shelter for war prisoners, employed in Kasımpaşa Navy Yard. It is expected that the tower hosted approximately 1500 prisoners during this period.
Stories of Galata Tower
Before constructing his famous observation house, Astronomer Takıyyeddin (1520 - 1585) had studies in Galata Tower. Moreover, it is widely known that Hazerfan Ahmet Çelebi flied to Üsküdar Doğancılar from Galata Tower. Armenian author Incicyan wrote that pauke was rung to inform the midnight at Galata Tower since 1717. Pauke was also rung in case of fire. Of 17 century writers, Eremya Çelebi wrote there lied a tunnel beneath the tower and it reached out to Sarıyer. During the recent repairs in 1964 and 1967, removing the earth at the bottom, a tunnel with 1, 50 metre high and 0, 72 metre wide was found. It is now known that this tunnel reaches out to Sarıyer as Eremya Çelebi mentioned, but Galata keeps most of its mystery in itself.
As a result of the conflicts started in 1348 between the Byzantines and the Genoese, Galata Tower was constructed day and night, men and women by the Genoese, yet they began to get in crisis Galata, within the walls of which it is known there exist a church, forum, bath, theatre, a port and 431 big houses, has been used as a residential area since Constantinus I era.