The French, British and Italian troops who, since November 1918, had unilaterally occupied the old city of Stamboul, Pera/Beyoglou across the Golden Horn, and Uskudar in Anatolia respectively, and had broken into the legislature to arrest and deport Nationalist deputies in March 1920, were forced to evacuate the city by October 1923 in accordance with the terms of the Lausanne Treaty. The initial elation of the Turkish residents was soon being tempered, however, by the political shock waves emanating from Ankara. 

Politics unavoidably affects archaeological pursuits. Some governments choose to use it to emphasize their heritage, like Italy’s use of ancient Rome wherever they could find it. In other cases, however, the presence of visible antiquities runs counter to the political message desired by the government of the day. The Ottoman’s Imperial Archaeology Museum was happy to include artifacts from the Empire’s storied past but, for the Nationalist Turks, Greek and Byzantine monuments were a reminder of the recent enemy. During the brief Allied occupation of Constantinople, French Gen. Charpy conducted excavations in substructures under what had been the Byzantine palace at Mangana and the church of St George, just below the old Ottoman palace of Topkapi. (Freely and Cakmak, Byzantine Monuments of Istanbul, 2004, pp. 196-98) He found a relief of the Virgin which he wanted to donate to the Louvre as part of the spoils of war, but the Director of the Ottoman Museum, Halil Bey, caught between rival masters in Constantinople and Ankara, insisted that it be turned over to his museum before he would approve any further French applications to excavate elsewhere in Anatolia. (Krings and Tassignon (eds), Archéologie dans l’Empire Ottoman autour de 1900, 2004, p. 278) The week after the French troops left the city in September 1923, the stairs and electric lighting system installed by the French to enable the public to visit the substructures were removed, (Demangel and Mamboury, Le Quartier de Manganes et la premiere region de Constantinople, 1939, p. 5) an action which may have inadvertently helped to preserve the remains. The British wanted to excavate around the ancient Hippodrome but when they applied in 1923 they were refused since this was in Stamboul, the most ancient and central district of Constantinople, which was then occupied by the French. In 1927, however, Stanley Casson was allowed to dig a few trenches and discovered the width and precise orientation of the hippodrome. (Casson et al., Preliminary Report upon the Excavations carried out in the Hippodrome in Constantinople in 1927, 1928)

Unlike Old Greece where western archaeologists swept aside Byzantine ruins to gain access to the deeper Classical Greek remains in order to emphasize Greece’s most glorious period, in Constantinople for one very brief moment archaeologists focused on Byzantine archaeology as an end in itself, here again emphasizing the period they believed to be its most glorious. The nationalistic Turks, however, were suspicious of any foreign attempts to study or emphasize Anatolia’s Greek, Roman, or Byzantine heritage. In addition, after 1922 the Turks refused all foreign requests to excavate until any artifacts previously discovered during the time of foreign occupation of Anatolia and Constantinople were given to museums in Turkey.