Serpent Column
Serpent Column
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The area
Neighbourhood: Sultanahmet
With so many unmissable attractions within a mere stroll of each other – and all set around the site of an ancient Byzantine hippodrome – Sultanahmet is an overwhelmingly popular tourist destination, and a prime location for visitors to be wowed on a truly epic scale. Beyond the wonders of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and more, this relatively small area of Istanbul somehow manages to retain an air of peace and calm. It offers visitors a significantly less celebrated but nonetheless pleasant network of quaint lanes and side streets, majestic panoramas of the Bosphorus, and an impressive assortment of accommodation options for all budgets and tastes.
See what travellers are saying
  • TravelerCentralFLA
    Clermont, Florida1,719 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    An Amazing Piece of Ancient History
    The Serpent Column is in the ancient Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul. It is very nearby to the Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). The Serpent Column was placed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by Constantine in the 4th Century. It is made out of bronze and was originally made by the Greeks and placed at Delphi during the Greek War with the Persians. It is almost 2,500 years old and has a remarkable history. It is not perfectly intact because of damage over the years, but it is still in great shape for its age. It was amazing to see such a famous piece of ancient history. I recommend a visit to the Hippodrome to see the Serpent Column.
    Visited November 2023
    Travelled solo
    Written 2 December 2023
  • OZS_ATW
    Budapest, Hungary3,534 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    Pieces of history
    The Sepent Column can be found in the Sultanahmet Square (ancient Hippodrome). We visited and checked out the Serpent Column on our was to the Blue Mosque. The Serpent Column was placed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by Constantine in the 4th Century made of bronze. It is over 2,500 years old and brought from Delphi.
    Visited October 2023
    Travelled with family
    Written 11 December 2023
  • sleeping S
    1 contribution
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Serpent collumn
    The Serpent Column also known as the Plataean Tripod built around 479 bc few months after the platean victory of the Greek city states vs the Medes , is an ancient bronze column that once stood at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was later moved to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) . Over the centuries, the column has faced damage, with its original bronze serpent heads now missing.
    Visited November 2023
    Travelled as a couple
    Written 15 January 2024
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TravelerCentralFLA
Clermont, FL1,719 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Solo
The Serpent Column is in the ancient Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul. It is very nearby to the Hagia Sophia and the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). The Serpent Column was placed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by Constantine in the 4th Century. It is made out of bronze and was originally made by the Greeks and placed at Delphi during the Greek War with the Persians.
It is almost 2,500 years old and has a remarkable history. It is not perfectly intact because of damage over the years, but it is still in great shape for its age.
It was amazing to see such a famous piece of ancient history. I recommend a visit to the Hippodrome to see the Serpent Column.
Written 2 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

sleeping S
1 contribution
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023 • Couples
The Serpent Column also known as the Plataean Tripod built around 479 bc few months after the platean victory of the Greek city states vs the Medes , is an ancient bronze column that once stood at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It was later moved to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) . Over the centuries, the column has faced damage, with its original bronze serpent heads now missing.
Written 15 January 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

OZS_ATW
Budapest, Hungary3,534 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2023 • Family
The Sepent Column can be found in the Sultanahmet Square (ancient Hippodrome). We visited and checked out the Serpent Column on our was to the Blue Mosque. The Serpent Column was placed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by Constantine in the 4th Century made of bronze. It is over 2,500 years old and brought from Delphi.
Written 11 December 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

veciaf53
Reggio Emilia, Italy1,914 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2019
With the basemente under the ground level, in a hole 3 meters deep, it represents one of the few elements that decorated the Hippodrome come up to our times.

It dates back to 2500 years ago, built by the Greeks as a celebratory element by fusing the metals of the Persian weapons, defeated in the battle of Platea in 479 BC.

It was over 8 meters high and, originally, had been erected near the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: it represented three snakes with intertwined coils, which supported a tripod and a jar made of gold.

Constantine, in 324 AD transported and placed it in Constantinople, in the hippodrome. At that time the vase and the tripod were already missing.

The three snake heads were still present until 1700, after which, in later periods they disappeared. A fragment of one of the heads was found in 1837 and today is preserved inside the Archaeological Museum.

Probably the column, for a certain period, was used as a fountain.
Written 30 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Vincent M
New Orleans, LA2,257 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Friends
Observing tourists in the Hippodrome glancing briefly at the Serpent Column, perhaps taking a selfie, and then hurrying on to the historical wonders of Istanbul, I can’t help comparing their short shrift here, to Europeans driving for hours to Bayeux to see the tapestry commemorating the Battle of Hastings. As commemorations of decisive battles go, the Serpent Column is the Bayeux Tapestry on steroids. It’s not as pretty as the tapestry, and doesn’t show pictures of its battle, but the victory it commemorates is arguably the most important in human history, and how the victors commemorated it is rather slick. In this review I’ll try to explain why this obscure column might be of interest to you.

For better or worse, Western civilization has dominated the planet over the last 500 years. William losing the battle of Hastings probably would not have affected that very much. The Crusades still would have occurred, with British participation. I suspect the Portuguese would still have rounded Africa to Asia, to be followed by the Dutch and others. European explorers would still have crossed the Atlantic sooner or later, to the grief of the Aztecs, Incas and Caribs.

But if Xerxes had overrun Greece, human history would be radically different, particularly since the Persians had already conquered Egypt. There would have been no “Glory that was Greece,” no Plato or Aristotle, no Alexander the Great, and no “Grandeur that was Rome.” If no Rome, no Crucifixion. If no Crucifixion, no Christianity. If no Nestorian Christianity, no Islam. To this day, folks in Europe and the Middle East, and their descendants around the world, might be worshipping Ahura Mazda and putting their dead out in Towers of Silence to be devoured by vultures, crows, condors, bald eagles or whatever your local carrion birds happen to be.

Xerxes had assembled a grand army and fleet to rid himself of the troublesome Greeks. He had ten times the men and ships that all Greek city-states combined did. Despite his fleet being hit twice by “divine winds” the Persians steam-rolled forward, annihilating the Spartans and their allies at Thermopylae, overrunning most of Greece, putting Athens to the torch, and driving the surviving Greek forces down into a last stand in the Peloponnese. Then, against all odds, the Greeks scored a significant naval victory at Salamis. Concerned about his weakened supply lines, Xerxes returned with most of his troops and ships to Anatolia, leaving his best general with an army deemed sufficient to mop up the remaining Greeks: a bad decision. The combined forces of the 31 tiny city-states advanced back north and annihilated the remaining Persians at Plataea. Personally, I doubt brilliant strategy by the victors had anything to do with it: the Greek grunts just outfought the Persian poilus. Their commander, the king of Sparta, was actually secretly trying to negotiate a deal with Xerxes.

Throughout history, the first thing winners normally say after a stunning victory is “thanks be to god.” The Greeks decided that the specific god to thank was Apollo, a one-god-fits-all, whose many attributes included being a sun god. The specific place the victors wanted to thank him at, was the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, because the Pythia had specifically mentioned “blessed Salamis” in her oracle. Actually, that reference could have foretold either victory or defeat, rather like the ambiguity built into daily horoscopes nowadays. But since the Greeks won Salamis, which triggered Xerxes retreating with most of his forces, Apollo at Delphi was clearly the god to thank.

The 31 city-states decided to all contribute the bronze Persian spear-heads, helmets and shields that they’d collected at Plataea, melt them down, and create an 8-meter tall bronze column of three serpents wrapped around each other, with their necks and heads curving out at the top to create a tripod base upon which a huge gold sacrificial dish could be placed. It was a real beauty, though the unveiling was marred somewhat when the conniving king of Sparta put an inscription on the column, taking full credit for the victory. His inscription was replaced permanently with inscriptions listing every city who’d fought at Plataea and how many soldiers they’d contributed. He himself was replaced permanently when Sparta got a copy of his correspondence with Xerxes.

Plataea was fought and won in 479 BC; the Serpent Column was erected at Delphi the following spring. Less than three years from now—around February 2022—the Serpent Column will be exactly 2500 years old! The Bayeux Tapestry is a spring chicken by comparison: not even a millennium old, since it was woven sometime after 1066.

Unlike the bronze column, its hefty solid-gold sacrificial dish didn’t survive long. During the dismal Suicide of the Hellenes, Thieves demanded an outrageous fine from some Poltroons who had been farming on Oracle of Delphi sacred land. Since the hefty fee was designed to be a casus belli anyway, the Poltroons, with no alternative to waging war against the Thieves, marched on Delphi, stole the golden dish, and melted it down to pay for a war that they promptly lost. Sorry, did I say Thieves and Poltroons? I meant to say Thebes and Phocians, though there wasn’t much difference. Bottom line: Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and every other Greek city-state committed hari-kari and lost their independence. As of this morning, none of ‘em has ever gotten theirs back again.

The bronze Serpent Column itself, however, was still unscratched, and remained on its base directly across from the giant bronze statue of Apollo at Delphi. Well, until the Christians got their hands on it, which didn’t take long. The ink wasn’t even dry on Constantine’s Edict of Milan legalizing Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, when he told the boys to rip the Serpent Column off its base in Delphi, and transport it to his brand-new city of Constantinople, as a decoration in the center of the chariot racetrack at the Hippodrome. Where you can still see it today. Since he founded Constantinople in 324, this would have been just over 800 years after the Column was created. (Many Christians lament the conversion of Hagia Sophia and other Istanbul churches into Mosques. It’s only fair to note what the Christians did to pagan sacred places as soon as they were running the show: Santa Maria sopra Minerva is one example; the Serpent Column is another. Ever wonder where Constantinople’s Public Works Department got all those ancient columns for the Basilica Cistern?)

Two obvious issues when you look at the Serpent Column today are that it’s not 8 meters tall, and it doesn’t have three snake heads on top. Part of the diminished height is due to the fact that the ground level has risen over the centuries (as it has in Rome). The rest is due to the top third of the column, including the snake heads, being smashed off about 300 years ago. No one has a clue exactly why and how that occurred, though you’d think smashing a bronze column apart would make a lot of noise. Hard to believe that the authorities didn’t hear the commotion. But who knows: it could have been vandals, thieves trying to get some free bronze, collectors trying to get the snake heads, or just a couple of visiting Persian college kids, still sore about their losing that battle. Gibbon in his Decline and Fall, claims that Mehmed the Conqueror personally whacked it off as he entered his newly-won city in 1453, but that’s total nonsense. Anyway, two of the serpent heads have gone walkabout necks and all; one battered snake-head is now in the Archaeology Museum; and having the pristine-condition Obelisk of Theodosius towering over it can’t be doing much for the truncated Serpent Column’s self-esteem. Don’t sneer at it too much; it may look like a busted drain-pipe, but it really is one of the most historic objects on Earth.

Next year France is going to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to the UK: the British Museum will proudly display it and then return it to France. If I were in charge of the Greek government, I’d ask the Turkish government to briefly lend Greece the Serpent Column, so we could proudly display it at Delphi during February 2022, and then return it to Turkey. But if I were in charge of the Turkish government, I’d beware of that request, particularly if the Greeks were bearing gifts.
Written 14 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Me_n_my_rucksack
Yorkshire, UK6,226 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2012 • Couples
As a piece of history this is a fascinating item - anything from 500bc (ish !) carries such vast history and significance that it deserves better than being used as a rubbish bin. It appears to be three intertwined snakes rising vertically - but the heads are long lost. It sits in a sunken circular hollow that attracts rubbish and there is no signage to explain it's history. A cynic may suspect if one cannot charge to visit ti it doesnt rank highly on the list of sites taken care of ! Anywhere else this would be looked after and have info attached to it in some way. Its a crying shame.
Written 15 August 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Susan C
Melbourne, Australia1,489 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2024 • Couples
Another important artifact relocated by Byzantine emperors, this bronze column originally belonged in Delphi, Greece. It was relocated in 324 by Emperor Constantine to his hippodrome (now Sultanahmet Square) and remained intact until the 17th century when the three serpents head on top of the column fell off so all that remains is a spiral column with some inscriptions. Rising ground levels means that the base of the column is in a sunken circle so it isn't very high. With the breakage I didn't find it very impressive. However, Sultanahmet Square is between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia so it is very easy to have a look.
Written 3 May 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Peter J
Chichester, UK453 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2020
It's amazing that this relic of the past is still located here in the Hippodrome, although it is somewhat damaged now. Still worth going to look at.
Written 5 April 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Nesligül D
Istanbul, Türkiye6,528 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2019 • Friends
This column in the Hippodrome was one of the many statues brought to Constantinople by Constantine to decorate the city. This column was brought from Delphi, Greece. it shows three intertwined snakes looking in three directions but unfortunately the heads are missing today.
You can easily see this when you are in Sultanahmet.
Written 8 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Carol A S
Marietta, GA4,157 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2019 • Solo
The Serpent Column (a.k.a. Serpentine Column, Plataean Tripod or Delphi Tripod) is in Sultanahmet Square. It is a 2,500 year-old twisted bronze column 8-metre (26 ft) high. It was relocated from Delphi by Constantine the Great in 324 and erected in the Hippodrome. The original brass column depicted the bodies of three serpents twisted into a single pillar; their triple heads supported a golden tripod and sacrificial cauldron (both long missing). The Delphic column commemorated the Greeks who defeated the Persian Empire at the Battle of Plataea (479 BC). Among the writers mentioning the column in the ancient literature are Herodotus, Thucydides, pseudo-Demosthenes, Diodorus Siculus, Pausanias the traveller, Cornelius Nepos and Plutarch. The removal of the column by the Emperor Constantine to his new capital, Constantinople, is described by Byzantine historians Zosimus, Eusebius, Socrates Scholasticus, and Sozomenus. Serpent heads topped the column until the end of the 17th century (one is on display at the nearby Istanbul Archaeology Museum). The column appears sunk about 1.5m below ground level, as this was the original surface of the Hipodrome. It may be viewed at any time and is lit at night, which helps make an evening stroll around Sultanahmet Square seem like a scene from "1001 Arabian Nights". There is no entry fee.
Written 8 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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