Built on 7 hills and on the sides of the Marmara Sea, the largest city in Europe, Istanbul is one of the most historically important and beautiful cities in the world. Before the Ottoman Empire conquered the city in 1453, it was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire for more than a millennium. As the Romans occupied the city for that long they left an archeological gold mine that has not been fully discovered yet. Even today various statues, mosaics, documents, and remains of buildings appear out of nowhere in Istanbul. A 1,500-year-old secret Roman tunnel that was found this year is the latest proof of the city’s deep history.
The tunnel was found during the excavations of another Roman site, the Church of St. Polyeuctus. Before Hagia Sophia, the Church of St.Polyeuctucs was the biggest church in Roman Istanbul.
The secret underground passage was found under the ruins of the Church of St. Polyeuctus during an excavation of the site. The tunnel is 20 meters long with impressive marble blocks and mosaics covering its entrance. Although the church is in ruins, its infrastructure is fully intact showing the wonders of Roman architecture. The ingredient of the tunnel known as Horasan mortar, has impressed the researchers who have taken the mortar into analysis to reveal its secrets.
Istanbul is a red-alert earthquake zone with some of the world’s biggest faultlines laying under it. Therefore, a lot of earthquakes in Istanbul and around the Marmara region have happened and are expected to happen in the future as well. What makes the tunnel all the more impressive is that it has stood against maybe dozens of earthquakes that happened in Istanbul. The tunnel is quite literally an architectural powerhouse defying natural disasters all this time.
Moreover, both inside the excavation and in the tunnel a lot of artifacts have been found. In the secret tunnel, the officials found bronze coins, carved marble pieces, oil lamps, and ceramics. Meanwhile, under the ruins, they have found a broken statue most probably depicting a Roman official of the time. All in all, it is hard to fully comprehend what was the true purpose of the tunnel. The church above the tunnel was destroyed during the Latin invasion. Therefore, the tunnel may have served some Romans as a hiding place. Hopefully, the tunnel’s secrets may reveal themselves upon further examination.