Istanbul: Empire & Religion

Turkey Seminar 2013, Morgan E Porter

Photograph: two men finished cleaning the fallen flower petals at the Topkapi Palace. Minor editing applied to photo.

Date: 5/3/2013
Place: Istanbul, Turkey

Today we saw the Topkapi Palace (topkapi meaning “castle with cannons”), Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the hippodrome just outside them all. Oh my goodness – so much to see: the history, the religion, the meaning behind each place. Now that I think about it, religion is a huge component to empires, whether it’s Islam, Judaism, Hindu, or Christianity. Empires typically claim some for of higher power that they believe or is behind them.

When they do that, they build the largest, most opulent buildings: St. Peter’s Basilica, Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Seplecur, the Blue Mosque, the mosque in Hebron containing Abraham’s family’s tomb. And with these huge buildings come with large outputs of faith: the call to prayer or church bells that resound throughout the nearby streets.

What does it mean for an empire to claim a religion? To say that everyone must abide by those laws?

If I have the “biggest” God or gods, does that make me more powerful?