The Basilica Cistern
(), is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns
that lie beneath the city of Istanbul
. The cistern, located southwest of the Hagia Sophia
on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu
, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine
Emperor Justinian I
The name of this subterranean structure derives from a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople
, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. Before being converted to a cistern, a great Basilica
stood in its place, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman Age as a commercial, legal and artistic centre. The basilica was reconstructed by Ilius after a fire in 476.
Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing the Church of Hagia Sophia
According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine
built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots
of 532, which devastated the city.
Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.
The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of......