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The Golden Horn (Turkish: Haliç), or Altın Boynuz (literally, "Golden Horn"); is a major inlet of the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, Turkey. It is a horn-shaped estuary (hence, the name) that joins Bosphorus Strait at the immediate point where said strait meets the Sea of Marmara, thus forming an isolated peninsula, the tip of which is "Old Istanbul" (ancient Byzantion and Constantinople), and the promontory of Sarayburnu, or Seraglio Point. The Golden Horn geographically separates the historic center of Istanbul from the rest of the city, and forms a natural, sheltered harbor that has historically protected Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and other maritime trade ships for thousands of years.
While the reference to a "horn" is understood to refer to the inlet's general shape, the significance of the designation "golden" is more obscure, with historians believing it to refer to either the riches brought into the city through the bustling historic harbor located at the Golden Horn, or to romantic historic interpretations of the rich yellow light blazing upon the estuary's waters as the sun sets over the city. Its Greek and English names mean the same, while its Turkish name Haliç, simply means "estuary", and is derived from the Arabic word khaleej, meaning "gulf".
Throughout its storied past, the Golden Horn has witnessed many tumultuous historical incidents, and its dramatic vistas have been the subject of countless works of art.
The Golden Horn is the estuary of the Alibeyköy and Kağıthane Rivers. It is 7.5 kilometers long and is 750 meters across at its widest. Its maximum depth, where it flows into the Bosphorus, is about 35 meters. It is today spanned by four bridges. Moving downstream, the first is the Haliç Bridge, literally Estuary Bridge. The former Galata Bridge was damaged by a fire in 1992; it was moved to the second position in pieces, re-assembled, and restored as the Eski Galata Bridge, literally Old Galata Bridge. The third one is the Atatürk (Unkapanı) Bridge. The current Galata Bridge was completed in 1994. A fifth bridge is currently under construction to connect the subway lines of the Istanbul Metro to the north and south of the Golden Horn.
The Golden Horn (Keras) forms a deep natural harbor for the peninsula it encloses together with the Sea of Marmara. The Byzantine Empire had its naval headquarters there, and walls were built along the shoreline to protect the city of Constantinople from naval attacks. At the entrance to the Horn on the northern side, a large chain was pulled across from Constantinople to the old Tower of Galata to prevent unwanted ships from entering. Known among the Byzantines as the Megàlos Pyrgos (meaning "Great Tower" in Greek), this tower was largely destroyed by the Latin Crusaders during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In 1348 the Genoese built a new tower nearby which they called Christea Turris (Tower of Christ), now called Galata Tower.
There were three notable times when the chain across the Horn was either broken or circumvented. In the 10th century the Kievan Rus' dragged their longships out of the Bosporus, around Galata, and relaunched them in the Horn; the Byzantines defeated them with Greek fire. In 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, Venetian ships were able to break the chain with a ram. In 1453, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, having failed in his attempt to break the chain with brute force, instead used the same tactic as the Rus', towing his ships across Galata over greased logs and into the estuary.
After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Mehmed II resettled ethnic Greeks along the Horn in the Phanar (today's Fener). Balat continued to be inhabited by Jews, as during the Byzantine age, though many Jews decided to leave following the takeover of the city. This area was repopulated when Bayezid II invited the Jews who were expelled from Spain to resettle in Balat. Today the Golden Horn is settled on both sides, and there are parks along each shore. The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce is also located along the shore, as are Muslim, Jewish and Christian cemeteries. The Galata Bridge connects the neighborhoods of Karaköy (the ancient Galata) and Eminönü.
Until the 1980s the Horn was polluted with industrial waste, but it has since been cleaned. Today its history and beauty make it a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.
In 1502 Leonardo da Vinci produced a drawing of a single-span 240-metre (790 ft) bridge over the Golden Horn as part of a civil engineering project for Sultan Bayezid II. Leonardo's drawings and notes regarding this bridge are currently displayed at the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia in Milan, Italy.
The Golden Horn is featured in many works of literature dealing with classical themes. For example, G. K. Chesterton's poem Lepanto contains the memorable couplet "From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun, / And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun."
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