The 563rd anniversary of the conquest of then-Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453 was marked with a grandiose event Sunday on the Yenikapı shores of present-day Istanbul.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım were among the high-profile guests at the event, and the conquest was re-enacted with the aid of audio-visual technology and hundreds of actors dressed as Ottoman troops.
Adressing the crowd at the event, Erdoğan said even though the conquest of Istanbul took place 563 years ago, the implications of this event still lingered.
Touching upon the Syrian crisis as well, he said: "The Syrian regime, Daesh and PYD terror groups have become a trio which support each other in Syria; one cannot survive without the others. Unfortunately, the countries we call allies are turning a blind eye to the situation, and even supporting it."
A huge crowd flocked to the event venue located near the city's ancient walls, which once served as a safeguard for the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire against attacks from the sea. This year's ceremony, held under the supervision of the Turkish Presidency, is expected to attract more than a million people. Along with other means of mass transport located near the square, Istanbulites arrived in the square via ferries from designated locations on the Marmara Sea and the Bosporus coastline. Roads leading to Yenikapı Square, which is located on Istanbul's historic peninsula on the European side, were closed to traffic on early Sunday.
Before the ceremony, the military band of the Presidential Guard Regiment, and a 563-strong Ottoman military band "Mehteran" made performances.
İstanbul'un Fethi'nin 563.Yıldönüm Yenikapı'da kutlanıyor..İnanılmaz bir Katlımla..Muhakhak Görmelisniz pic.twitter.com/DKXs6mBSkF— Murat Çetinmühürdar (@MCMuhurdar) May 29, 2016
The battles during the conquest will also be performed by 500 actors on the world's largest three dimensional stage erected for the ceremony, using cannons and replicas of galleys.
A large platform against the backdrop of a mock-up of the city walls at the time of the Ottoman conquest was set up at the venue, along with what organizers dubbed "the largest 3D mapping stage" for re-enactment, where life-size ship models were pulled by Ottoman troops in a scene depicting an ingenious Ottoman plot to transfer the ships overland to the Golden Horn inlet to break the Byzantine barricades.
The Turkish Stars, the aerial stunt team of the Turkish Air Forces, flew over Yenikapı for the event. A mehter band, playing traditional Ottoman military music, was at the center of the event. The 563-men band played military anthems that were used to rally troops going into battle during the Ottoman era.
To ensure the audience would not miss the spectacular event, the Istanbul municipality, which organized the program, set up giant screens at the far corners of the venue, filled with thousands of people.
Istanbul, previously the capital of the Byzantine Empire and then known as Constantinople, was conquered by the Ottoman Empire under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II – dubbed as Fatih or the Conqueror after the conquest – on May 29, 1453. The conquest was not regarded as an ordinary fall of a city, but rather as a turning point both in the Turkish history and the history of the world. It cemented the rule of the Ottomans in present-day Turkey, and the city would remain the capital of the Ottoman Empire as it expanded into other continents until the empire collapsed in the early 20th century. Though it lost its status as capital to Ankara in the Anatolian heartland after the collapse of the Ottomans, the city of more than 17 million people is still a vibrant hub of commerce, finance and tourism.
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