BASILICA CISTERN

Istanbul has numerious cisterns which were built by the Romans. The Basilica Cistern was built by the Emperor Justinian after the Nika Revolt in 532. Throughout the Roman period the Basilica Cistern was used to provide water for the palace and the other buildings. After the Conquest, its water was used to water the garden of Topkapi Palace. The existence of the cistern was unknown but it was rediscovered in 1546.

The Basilica Cistern is three hundred and thirty-six feet long, a hundred and eighty two feet broad, and two hundred and twenty-four Roman paces in circumference. The roof, arches and sides are all brick work covered with terra-cotta, which is not the least impaired by time. The roof is supported by three hundred and thirty six pillars.

In the far left corner of the cistern, at a slightly lower level, one o the columns mounted on ancient classical bases supported by the heads od Gorgons, one of them upside down and the other right side down. The Gorgons in Greek mythology were three sisters, one of whom, Medusa was slain by Perseus.

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