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"Intertwined Serpents column" Serpentine Column - Twisted Column Tip by Durfun

  Seems plain, strange & broken?
by Durfun
  • Seems plain, strange & broken? - Istanbul
      Seems plain, strange & broken?
    by Durfun
  • One of the heads in the museum, less the underjaw! - Istanbul
      One of the heads in the museum, less the underjaw!
    by Durfun
  • Easier to visualise now? Picture from 1542! - Istanbul
      Easier to visualise now? Picture from 1542!
    by Durfun

This brass column (devoid of the snakes heads!), along the Hippodrome, certainly has provenance! It was originally at the Temple of Apollo, in Delphi, Central Greece!

What was it doing there? Well, it was built using the bronze from the melted-down Persian weapons, following their defeat by the allied Greek city-states at the Battle of Plataea, in 479 BC. It constituted a trophy, or offering, dedicated to Apollo. The 13th coil carries the Laconic inscription: “Those who fought the war”, followed on coils 12 to 3 by the names of 31 city states.

A golden tripod was also built using the Persian weapons, and the whole monument was dedicated to the god Apollo and was placed next to the altar of Apollo at Delphi. It was placed on top of a stone base, an inverted Byzantine capital. The triple heads of the serpents (none present now!) had once supported the golden tripod.

Emperor Constantine subsequently had the column removed to his new capital, Constantinople!

So, what happened to the snakes' heads?

Well, it is said that upon Mehmet II the conqueror’s triumphal entry into Constantinople on 29th of May 1453, his eye was attracted by the twisted column of the three serpents. As a trial of his strength, he shattered with his iron mace or battleaxe the under-jaw of one of these monsters, which in the eyes of the Turks were the idols or talismans of the city.

One of the serpent heads survives in the Museum of Antiquities, Istanbul. This head has its under-jaw missing...

Address: Hippodrome, Sultanahmet Square

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Feb 26, 2010
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