Last Updated on 10 September 2009

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish Delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you’ve a date in Constantinople
She’ll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can’t say
People just liked it better that way

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks

Those are the lyrics to the song It’s Istanbul (Not Constantinople) [click to listen] by They Might Be Giants. Unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind (for many of us) when we hear the word “Istanbul” is this bouncy melody.

So, to fill in some of the gaps They Might Be Giants leaves out I’ve assembled some fact for you… (However I don’t begin to capture the true history of this country).

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey is located in the eastern part of Europe and the western part of Asia, spanning both continents. (in red below)
Istanbul is located in the western part of Turkey.

Why It Is Istanbul, Not Constantinople

Istanbul has been inhabited for at least 5000 years. In 330, Roman emperor Constantine moved the eastern capital of the Roman Empire to the Greek colony then known as Byzantine.

A first it was called “New Rome” but then changed to Constantinople meaning “City of Constantine.” In 1453 the Ottomans (now known as Turks) captured the city and renamed it ─░slambol (“the city of Islam). The name ─░stanbul was in use from the 10th century onwards. It derives its name from the Greek “eis ten polin” which means “in the city.”

In the 1930’s the Turkish Postal Service created a law officially declaring the sole name be Istanbul.

Finally, since They Might Be Giants mention “Turkish Delight” (on a moonlit night), here’s some history about that sweet…

Turkish Delight was invented in 1777 by a confectioner to the imperial court. The chewy sweet candy is flavored with rose water and coated in icing sugar. In Turkish it is called rahat lokum meaning ‘morsel of contentment.’

Amazing Turkish Facts

Did you also know Turkey…

  • …introduced tulips to the Dutch.
  • …was once known as Asia Minor.
  • …provides 70% of the world’s hazelnuts.
  • …was where the cherry was first found by the Romans, who planted it throughout the world.
  • …has a 650-year old covered shopping mall called the Grand Bazaar consisting of 64 streets, 3,500 shops, 22 entrances, and 25,000 workers.
  • …was producing wine as early as 4000 BC.
  • …was the first to produce and use coins 2,700 years ago.

“Top 10 Istanbul” by DK Eyewitness Travel
“The Best Kept Secret” by Christopher Lawrence