The Serpent Column

Serpent Column

The Serpent Column was located opposite the Kathisma at the Hippodrome. The column was brought from Delphi where it was placed next to the altar of Apollo. In the coils of the column, the names of 31 Greek city states are inscripted. It was made on the honour of winning the Platea war (BC 479) against the Persians whose shields were melted to make the column.

The Serpent Cloumn was with three snake heads jaws open and streched to support a golden tripod on which there was a golden bowl. The golden tripod is thought to have been  stolen by the Phocians in 355 BC.

The column is broken both on the lower and upper parts. There are several rumors about it. While some states that Mehmed II protects it by ordering a mulberry tree growing near it, some says that the lower jaw was broken by him after the Conquest. A single upper jaw is on display now in Istanbul Archeological Museum. It was discovered by Fossatis during the restoration of Hagia Sophia.

Head of a Serpent

Head of a Serpent – Belongs to the Serpent Column at the Hippodrome.

In the 18th century, the heads of the snakes were lost. In 1855, a water conduit and a lead pipe was discovered in the base of the column which proves that it was used as a fountain for a while. For that reason, it must have survived the loot of the Crusaders.  It was also used as a talisman against snakes.

There is a miniature of the column in Hunername (the Book of Skills) which is on display in Topkapi Palace.


About the author


Hagia Sophia Research Team (HSRT) consists of a group of people who likes to research Byzantine Heritage in Turkey by visiting and taking photos of the historical places.

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