Roman Gardens in Istanbul, Under Siege

Amateur gardeners (myself included), eat your heart out…

On the fringes of Istanbul’s Theodosian walls, in the neighborhood of Yedikule, the residents of Byzantium / Constantinople / Istanbul have been cultivating gardens on the same plots of lands for nearly 2000 years, since before the city walls were built by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II (408-450CE) – a restored section of the Wall near in Yedikule is pictured below.



The first gardeners were likely the Greek Byzantines, then the Romans, then the Ottomans / Turks and most recently, migrants from Turkey’s Black Sea region and most recently, Syrian and Afghan refugees. Throughout the gardens’ 2000 years history many of the same crops have been grown as the gardeners themselves have changed including cabbage, beets, carrots, onions, turnips among other crops.

Sadly, these ancient gardens, or ‘bostan’ as they are known in Turkish are under threat from the swelling population of the city (now topping 16 million from the 9 million residents when I lived here in the late 90’s). Underutilized land across the city is being consumed by sprawl, and many of these ancient gardens / ‘bostan’ have already succumbed.  Below is a picture of one patch of Yedikule’s bostan.


Yet a growinYedikule Gardensg movement in Istanbul recognizes the cultural and environmental value of these remarkable gardens and are fighting to preserve them.

See this article in Yale University’s “Environment 360” newsletter for more on this fascinating issue.


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