June 5

This Day in History

Disaster

Jun 5, 1870:

Constantinople burns

A huge section of the city of Constantinople, Turkey, is set ablaze on this day in 1870. When the smoke finally cleared, 3,000 homes were destroyed and 900 people were dead.

The fire began at a home in the Armenian section of the Valide Tchesme district. A young girl was carrying a hot piece of charcoal to her family's kitchen in an iron pan when she tripped, sending the charcoal out the window and onto the roof of an adjacent home. The fire quickly spread down Feridje Street, one of Constantinople's main thoroughfares.

The Christian area of the city was quickly engulfed. There was a high degree of cooperation among the various ethnic groups who called the city home, but even this was no match for the high winds that drove the rapidly spreading fire. An entire square mile of the city near the Bosporus Strait was devastated. Only stone structures, mostly churches and hospitals, survived the conflagration.

In 1887, Edmondo de Amicis published perhaps the best account of this disaster in a book called Constantinople.

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