Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, was the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The Bosphorus straits divides the city into a part that sits on the European continent, and a larger part on the continent of Asia. The militarily and economically strategic position of the city, on the western portion of the Silk Road, and on the shipping route between the Aegean and Black Seas, has kept it cosmopolitan and prosperous since its foundation 660 BCE, when it was called Byzantium. In 330 it became Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, named for Emperor Constantine the Great. The Ottomans conquered the city in 1453/857 AH and renamed the city Istanbul. It served as their capital until Ankara became the capital of the modern nation of Turkey.
Duvarcı, Ayşe. '"English abstract of 'Istanbul Folklore'". Translated by Ertürk Barlas. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 58. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Bayrı, Mehmet Halit. İstanbul Folkloru. İstanbul: A. Eser Yayınları, 1972, 256pp.
Turkish researcher on folklore Mehmet Halit Bayrı lived in Istanbul between the years 1896 to 1958. The first edition of the book covers thousands of folkloric materials and was released in 1947. The book aims at portraying Istanbul’s identity and richness with respect to popular culture. It examines through a sweeping panorama the establishment of the city, the invasions it suffered, the Roman and Byzantine periods, Sultan Mehmet II’s conquest of the city, and the efforts expended during the Ottoman era towards the city’s development.
Cities are presented not just as spaces in which economic activities are organised, and the physical environment regulated, but as soulful places permeated with the sentiments, beliefs and practices of the inhabitants.
The material culture of primary neighbourhoods, regions, and related quarters such as Beşiktaş, Beykoz, Beyoğlu, Eminönü, Eyüp, Fatih, Kadıköy, Üsküdar are described alongside details of the severest winters, earthquakes and fires experienced in the region.
Thereafter, the book depicts the folkloric elements for which no authorship can be traced such as proverbs, prayers, maledictions, rhymes, riddles, lullabies, counting rhymes, fairy tales and various examples of poems written by bards sung in poets’ cafes.
Folk remedies are presented with the names of illnesses and suitable prescriptions. The names used for illnesses reflected the public’s perception of the disease: e.g. pamukçuk (aphthae, literally little cotton), and kurbağacık (ranula, literally little frog). The concepts of death and fate are explained through the usage of proverbs and locutions. Beside the folkloric ceremonies, the beliefs in ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, fairies and sorcery along with the sacred places, days and feasts are depicted. There is a short chapter dedicated to the practices of the youth and children.
İstanbul Folkloru is an important source of information on folk culture inherited by the residents of Istanbul, and on the changes of traditions in Istanbul throughout the centuries.