Image Source: Farzin Photo.
These waterworks photographs come from one of Istanbul's most famous tourist attractions, the Basilica Cistern, built on the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 532 CE. Constructed at the height of the Eastern Roman Empire, the cistern stored drinking water beneath the palace and lay largely undisturbed for over a thousand years. Known as Yerebatan Sarayi, or the 'Sunken Palace' in Turkish, it is also located on the same site as an ancient basilica. Slate:
In the 1980s, authorities added lights, renovated and cleaned the cistern, and added fish to keep the waters clear.The two giant Gorgon-head pillar bases at the far end of the cistern are an intriguing mystery. It is suspected that they may have been pulled out of an older pagan temple, where motifs of the famous Gorgon Medusa were used as a protective emblem. It is possible that the placement of these two faces—upside-down and sideways, at the base of pillars—may have been a deliberate display of the power of the new Christian Empire. Or it’s possible that the stones were just the right size.
The upside down head of Medusa. Image Source: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian.