COLUMN OF TEARS At the top of the column you can see where a section has split off. There’s another column just like this, in chunks up at the Forum of Theodosius, up the hill next to the tramline in Laleli, discounting a fatuous theory that the “tears” represent the 7000 suffering slaves who built the Cistern.
Slaves, my eye. Workers. And those “tears” could be an abstraction of wood, or… peacock feathers, or fish. The Tears column in the Cistern was probably used because it was damaged. It’s warped, with an upper side sheared off. The entire Cistern was built of material scavenged from Pagan temples. None of it was meant to be seen. Many columns are pieced together, and none of them match. Capitals are Corinthian or Ionic or plain Doric; there’s one column carved with flowers. The granite columns are smooth, but the softer marble ones are bubbled like liquid: in 1500 years they’ve taken on the look of the water around them. The Cistern was not built for beauty, but the Byzantines can’t have been insensitive to how beautiful it is.
In museums all over Turkey are fabulous carved pediments from the tops of ancient temples. But no columns. All over Istanbul are cisterns built of Pagan columns by the Byzantines, to provide water to a thirsty or besieged populace. Other columns were sliced up by the Sultans, like carrots for a casserole, and used to pave bakeshops and mosques, or left entire, to strengthen the city walls. Here’s a double row of them in the City Wall down below Cankuturan. Look to the left of the black space and you can just barely see the column stretching into the darkness.
Sunken Palace: The Basilica Cistern: Next: WET DRAWING COLD MARBLE