Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city, known in antiquity as Byzantium and from the fourth century until the Turkish conquest in 1453 as Constantinople. The city was first settled around 6500 b.c.e., and it was through the surrounding region that agriculture spread from the Near East into Europe the following millennium. Istanbul owes its importance to a strategic location between Europe and Asia on a major shipping route through the Bosphorus Strait, which links the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. For nearly 2,000 years it was the capital of three successive empires: first the Roman (330–395 c.e.), then the Byzantine (395–1453 c.e.), and finally the Ottoman (1453–1922 c.e.), and so it has long been a cosmopolitan city inhabited by people of different faiths and diverse origins, as well as a center of international trade. Consequently, Istanbul has been the hub of three imperial cuisines that made use of both local and imported foodstuffs, ranging from caviar from the north coast of the Black Sea to spices from India.