Right on target in Okmeydanı, the field of archery

The circumcision festival at Okmeydanı from the Surnama-i Vehbi, 1720.

Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood has recently become synonymous for battles between police and leftists in contemporary Turkey, but it was once the favorite place for the Ottomans to practice their target skills Once upon a time many centuries ago, the hills and slopes of the area known today as Okmeydanı were covered in trees, bushes and meadows. Over time, as Byzantium expanded, wood cutters’ huts would spring up and later hunting lodges for game would have been plentiful. But Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453 changed that when he designated Okmeydanı his field of archery (ok, arrow; meydanı, open space).

Throughout the centuries, Turks have been identified with their love of horses and their ability to conduct warfare on horseback using bow and arrows. As they migrated from Central Asia and took their place in the armies of Selahatin Eyyubi against the Crusaders and among the Mamlukes of Egypt from the 12th century onwards, they maintained their identity and fighting abilities. And as the nomadic Turkish tribes entered Anatolia, they brought their brand of successful warfare with them.

As the Ottoman Turks rose in power in the 13th century and after they established their capital at Bursa, Sultan Orhan is known to have established an archery field there, while Sultan Bayezid I later set up a similar target area at Gallipoli.

The Turkish bow was one of the most feared weapons in use until the age of gunpowder. In spite of its slender appearance, it was extraordinarily capable of sending arrows distances of over 400 meters. Generally it was made of maple with the addition of other materials.

The first building at Okmeydanı

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