History of Üsküdar

Üsküdar was originally called "Skoutarion" (Byzantine Greek Σκουτάριον) during the Byzantine Empire. This word may have been used to describe the scutum shields that guards used that were made of leather. This is believed because the word scutari means "raw tanned leather." Others who visited the area called it Eksüdar or Escutaire.



Üsküdar was founded in the 7th century BC by ancient Greek colonists from Megara as "Chrysopolis" (Greek: Χρυσόπολις), meaning ("golden city"), a few decades before Byzantium was founded on the opposite shore. According to an ancient Greek geographer, the city received the name Chrysopolis because the Persian empire had a gold depository there or because it was associated with Agamemnon and Chryseis' son Chryses., while according to an 18th-century writer it received the name because of the excellence of its harbor. The city was used as a harbor and shipyard and was an important staging post in the wars between the Greeks and Persians. In 410 BC Chrysopolis was taken by the Athenian general Alcibiades, and the Athenians used it thenceforth to charge a toll on ships coming from and going to the Black Sea. Long overshadowed by its neighbor Chalcedon during the Hellenistic and Roman period, it maintained its identity and increased its prosperity until it surpassed Chalcedon. Due to its less favorable location with respect to the currents of the Bosporus, however, it never surpassed Byzantium.

In AD 324, the final battle between Constantine I, Emperor of the West, and Licinius, Emperor of the East, in which Constantine defeated Licinius, took place at Chrysopolis. When Constantine made Byzantium his capital, Chrysopolis, together with Chalcedon, became suburbs. Chrysopolis remained important throughout the Byzantine period because all trade routes to Asia started there, and all Byzantine army units headed to Asia mustered there. During the brief usurpation of the Armenian general Artabasdos, his eldest son, Niketas, was defeated with his forces at Chrysopolis by the army of Constantine V, before Artabasdos was finally deposed by the legitimate emperor Constantine and blinded. For this reason and its location across from Constantinople, it was a natural target for anyone aiming at the capital. Also, in the 8th century AD it was taken by a small band of Arabs who caused considerable destruction, and panic in Constantinople, before withdrawing. In 988, a rebellion that nearly toppled Basil II began in Chrysopolis, before he was able to crush with the aid of Russian mercenaries.

Skoutarion, Scutari

In the 12th century, the city changed its name to Skoutarion (Greek: Σκουτάριον), the name deriving from the Emperor's Skoutarion Palace nearby. In 1338 the Ottoman leader Orhan Gazi took Skoutarion, giving the Ottomans a base within sight of Constantinople for the first time.

“large suburb of Constantinople... its fine old mosques, its crooked streets, and its small timber houses give it a more Oriental characteristic than Stambul. Until a century ago Scutari was the terminus of the caravan-routes from Asia Minor, by which the treasures of the East were brought to Constantinople. It is still the starting point of the sacred annual Mecca caravan."

In the Ottoman period Üsküdar was one of the three communities outside the city walls of Constantinople (along with Eyüp and Galata). The area was a major burial ground, and today many large cemeteries remain, including Karacaahmet Mezarlığı, Bülbülderesi Mezarlığı, and a number of Jewish and Christian cemeteries. Karacaahmet Mezarlığı is one of Istanbul's largest cemeteries. The Bülbülderesi cemetery is next to Fevziye Hatun mosque.