Ancient Anatolia edit

Anatolia or Asia Minor, a peninsula in the westernmost extension of Asia that constitutes much of the territory of modern Turkey, has a long history.

Understand edit

Map of the major ancient Anatolian sites

Thanks to its location connecting Europe and Asia, hence on the migration routes of early humans emerging out of Africa, Anatolia was the scene of the earliest settlements known to the date. The peninsula also had an important role during the agricultural revolution, with wild varieties of some of the common foodstuffs, such as that of wheat, first being domesticated and cultivated in the rolling Anatolian plateau, which later gave rise to the earliest sedentary communities. According to a hypothesis, the peninsula was the original homeland of the Indo-European speakers.

The prehistory of Asia Minor is marked by solitary sites of human habitation (or relics thereof). In the following Bronze and Iron Ages, the earliest organized societies emerged, often in the form of kingdoms. The artefacts retrieved from the archaeological sites unsurorisingly get more sophisticated as time progressed, both in terms of external appearance and purpose, as beautifully shown by the exhibition of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

  • 1 Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara. For travellers with even the slightest interest in the Anatolian history, no trip to Turkey is complete without a visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in the capital. It can be a great entree to the regional history at the start of your trip, as well as an equally great conclusion for it, but a visit is especially valuable if you don't have the resources to get to the often remote sites scattered far and wide over the land, as the museum, founded in an era when the current norm of displaying the archaeological findings as close to where they were dug out as possible wasn't in practice, displays much of the crème de la crème of ancient Anatolian (as well as ancient Near Eastern) art.    

Prehistory edit

Kula Geopark, "the Burnt Land"

Few prehistoric sites in Turkey are relatively easy to access and have some sort of visitor office. The Yarımburgaz Cave in the suburbs of Istanbul, for example, is in the middle of a rough neighbourhood, and its opening is competely barred up, despite being an extremely important site in terms of prehistoric archaeology.

  • 2 Karain Cave, north of Antalya. The cave had been the site of continuous human habitation since the early Paleolithic, 150–200,000 years ago.    
  • 3 Kula Geopark, near Kula. This is the first and as of 2022 the only UNESCO Global Geopark in the country. Known by the locals as Yanık Yöre and by the ancients as Katakekaumene (both roughly meaning "the burnt land"), the volcanic soils of the area are marked by footprints, found in 1954 during a road construction and thought to belong to three fellow travellers (along with their dog) 10–12,000 years old, who stepped on the lava before it fully solidified. Few footprints remain on the site, though, as most were removed to the 4 Natural History Museum in Ankara, where they are exhibited. Incidentally, a quartz stone tool, the oldest human-made object found in Anatolia securely dated (to 1.2 million years ago), was found on the banks of the nearby Gediz River.    
  • 5 Göbeklitepe, northeast of Urfa. Started as a hilltop temple by fully nomadic hunter-gatherers at least 11,600 years ago — before any human society adopted a sedentary lifestyle — the ongoing excavations in Göbeklitepe continue to change the conventions modern history-writing is based on. Göbeklitepe is composed of sets of T-shaped pillars positioned in circles, with animal reliefs carved on the pillars — some archaeologists think these images are archetypes of any religion or belief system existed on earth.    
  • 6 Çatalhöyük, southeast of Konya. One of the earliest sedentary settlements that existed between 7500 BC and 5700 BC, during the Neolithic. The inhabitants were the earliest farmers of the Anatolian steppe.    

Hittites edit

Main article: Hittites
The Sphinx Gate, Alaca Höyük

The Hittites appeared out of unclear origins in the northern Anatolian plateau during the Bronze Age.

They formed a definable governance — the earliest kingdom in Anatolia — in about 1600 BC, contemporary with Ancient Egypt, with whom they conducted an uneasy relationship.

Their best preserved ruins are in 7 Hattusa  , their capital. A number of associated sites are scattered across Anatolia as well as in neighbouring countries. For an in-depth description and detailed listings, see the dedicated article.

Carians edit

chro order

  • Rhodian Peraia - Bozburun
  • Carian Way
  • Aphrodisias - Caria - Geyre
  • Alabanda - uncertain
  • Mylasa - too Roman?
  • Amos - too Hellenistic?
  • Loryma
  • Bodrum - Halicarnassus - Ada
  • Alinda - Ada
  • Madnasa - Gölköy
  • Caryanda
  • Myndos - Gümüşlük - wine
  • Iasos
  • Euromus
  • Idyma, Akyaka - also to the destination article

Lycians edit

One of the rock-cut tombs at Telmessos

The Lycians were the natives of Lycia, a large peninsula extending into the Mediterranean in southwest Anatolia, speaking one of the indigenous Anatolian languages and writing it in their own alphabet. In their early history, they were probably allied with the Hittites; later on, the independent city states of Lycia formed the Lycian League, which is considered an early federal democracy.

Greeting any would-be invaders to their mountainous land fiercely, the Lycians were so proudly independent that they repeatedly burnt down their cities to the ground, along with the inhabitants themselves, rather than let them be occupied by foreigners. It was out of the respect for this pride that the succesful invaders, rather few in number, including Alexander the Great and the Romans, granted autonomy for Lycia.

Nowadays the Lycians are mostly remembered for the impressive mausoleums they carved into the mountain sides and the sarcophagi scattered across their once remote and impassable territory, which in an irony of fate is now one of the backbones of Turkish tourism industry, and one of the best travelled areas in the country.

  • 8 Kaunos, Dalyan. Kaunos was on the Carian-Lycian border, so influenced from both, but the rock tombs are Lycian, with a certain Hellenistic influence.    
  • 9 Telmessos, Fethiye. The ancient incarnation of the beach resort of Fethiye left behind impressive rock-cut tombs on the cliffs overlooking the town, as well as sarcophagi lining the modern streets.    
  • Patara?
  • Simena - Kaleköy - Sunken City
  • Myra
  • Olympos
  • Limyra Bridge
  • ...
  • The Lycian Way is a modern hiking trail treading ancient Lycia from one end to the other, providing access to the ruins otherwise hard or impossible to get to. Along its course, it partially takes advantage of the ancient paths.
  • [[]] (Lycian:).

Pisidians edit

The Pisidian land rested on the fastness of the western reaches of the Taurus Mountains, flanking the Mediterranean coast. The Pisidians were present here already in the 14th century BCE, contemporary with the Hittites, who recorded their land as Salawassa (which later morphed to Sagalassos, see below). There is little remained from the Pisidian language, only short inscriptions written in a variant of the Greek alphabet, but it was likely within the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European languages and closely related to Lycian. Throughout their history, the Pisidians stayed fiercely independent; at Termessos, they gave Alexander the Great a rare taste of defeat, but eventually adopted Greek culture by about the 2nd century BCE. Later, their land changed hands between several Hellenistic dynasties and was eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire.

The header is in correct chronological order?

  • Termessos
  • Sagalassos
  • Selge
  • Adada?

Phrygians edit

Cilandiras Bridge

Few people never heard about at least one of the Gordian Knot, Midas "the Golden Touch", Phrygian cap, and Phrygian mode, but their originators, the Phrygians remain a mystery.

Speaking a language similar to Greek and writing it in a script superficially resembling the Greek one, the Phrygians were probably immigrants from the Balkans, displacing the Hittites and settling in Western Anatolia in the 12th century BCE. At their kingdom's peak, they engaged in warfare with as far east as the Urartians and Assyrians. However, the 7th century BCE saw a watershed moment: after the capital Gordion was sacked by the Cimmerians from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe (what is now Ukraine), the Phrygian kingdom fell to the Lydians and lost its distinctive polity. In the following centuries, Phrygia was successively overrun by the Persian and Alexander the Great's armies, and the Celts arriving from the northwest sealed the deal. Thenceforth, the land was named Galatia after them, keeping this name on when it eventually became a Roman province.

In addition to their quintessential caps, the Phrygians might be the inventors of socks — the English word is thought to be ultimately loaned from Phrygian, through Greek and Latin. It will quickly dawn on you why they bothered if you visit their homeland over the Anatolian highland in the dead of winter.

  • Gordion
  • Pessinus
  • Phrygian Valley
    • Yazılıkaya
  • Cilandiras

Lydians edit

The Lydians are best known as the earliest civilization that minted coins in the form as we know today and for their legendary ruler Croesus, whose name is an ancient synonym for extreme wealth — who else but the inventors of "money" could have such a king, after all? They had an empire in Western Anatolia, inland from the Aegean Sea, between the 15th and 6th centuries BCE, that sparkled after the Phrygians waned. Their empire later fell to the Persians.

  • 10 Sardis. At the western terminus of the ancient Royal Road which led from the Persian capital at Persepolis, Sardis was the Lycian capital, although most of the often lonely ruins seen today date back to the post-Lydian Roman and Byzantine eras.    
  • 11 Uşak Museum, Uşak. Further inland from Sardis, this museum is a great reason to visit Uşak. It is home to numerous valuable Lydian artifacts from the 7th century BCE, known by the locals as the Croesus Treasure (Karun Hazinesi), although the historians are uncertain whether they belonged to that king.    
  • Kibyra. near Burdur - independent state. Also to the Lakes District?

Urartu edit

An Urartian cauldron, in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Inhabitants of the eastern highlands, the Urartians founded a distinctive Iron Age civilization between the 9th and 6th centuries BC around Lake Van — they left a legacy of greatly decorated iron artwork. They spoke a language unrelated to any other, except Hurrian which was spoken in neighbouring Mesopotamia.

  • Tuşba
  • Çavuştepe

Others edit

  • Mt. Nemrut. Commagene. A Hellenized branch of the Iranian Orontid dynasty.
  • Wilusa. Wilusa was a major member of Assuwa, a confederation in Western Anatolia united against the Hittites in the late Bronze age, and the name of which is probably the origin of "Asia". Wilusa was the earliest incarnation of Troy, before the war of the literally epic proportions and the Achaean take-over.

See also edit

The long history of Anatolia of course doesn't end here. Continue on the following:

Nearby areas which had connections with ancient Anatolia:

Sultanate of Rum edit

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Started out its life in the 11th century as an extension of the Seljuk Empire based in Persia, the Sultanate of Rum (Anadolu Selçukluları, "the Seljuks of Anatolia", in Turkish) was the earliest Turkish state founded in Anatolia, present-day Turkey.

Understand edit

The sultanate at its greatest extent; the dark blue is the core territory in 1100, the lighter shades are later conquests up to 1243

While there was a minor previous Turkic presence in Asia Minor (mainly Turcopoles, Christianized Turkic mercenaries recruited by the Byzantine and later the Crusader States armies), the massive Turkish settlement began after the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, fought near Muş in Eastern Anatolia and culminated in a victory of the Seljuk emperor Alparslan over the Eastern Roman/Byzantine emperor Romanus IV Diogenes.

The Sultanate of Rum seceded from the Seljuk Empire six years after Manzikert. Rum in its name referred to Rome, which was taken to mean the Roman/Byzantine Empire in general or Asia Minor in particular in the Islamic world at that time. The sultans based themselves for a short while in İznik, previously and consequently a major Byzantine stronghold in the west, then in Konya in the central plateau, and continued the highly Persianate cultural tradition of the Seljuks they sprang from. They eventually subjugated the other contemporary Turkish dynasties formed in Anatolia, chiefly in the east.

During the First, Second, and Third Crusades, the sultanate was one of the main adversaries of the Crusaders pouring in from Europe on the way to the Holy Land.

Gök Medrese, Sivas

The sultanate promoted art, science, and philosophy — Sufi mystic Rumi, deriving his sobriquet after the sultanate, took up residence in the capital — and faciliated trade across the routes criss-crossing Anatolia. They left behind a legacy of mosques, madrasas, and caravanserais, all characteristically embellished by turquoise tiles and incorporating majestic portals with elaborately carved details similar to those found in Iran, but with Byzantine and particularly local Armenian influence. Later, this architectural style was adapted by the Sultanate of Delhi, the predecessors of the Mughal Empire.

In 1243, the Mongolians marched on. After losing the Battle of Kösedağ, held near Sivas that year, the sultanate formally became a vassal to the Mongolians, in effect collapsed in all but name. Following half a century of chaos, several statelets collectively known as the Anatolian beyliks emerged in the power vacuum left behind.

While paying homage to the earlier Turkic states founded elsewhere (mainly in Central Asia and Iran) and the earlier civilizations that called Asia Minor home, modern Turks often see the sultanate as the earliest incarnation of their country — the land has been called "Turkey" or its variations (Tourkia, Turchia) by the outsiders since the sultanate's appearance, and the last time that name entirely ceased to exist on the maps was during the Mongol invasion following the Battle of Kösedağ.

In general usage in Turkey, Selçuklu or "Seljuk" without any qualifiers refers to this polity, not the identically-named greater empire which had its heartland in Iran.

Destinations edit

Map of the Sultanate of Rum sites

Major centres edit

  • İznik. The initial seat of the sultanate was held for less than two decades before the Byzantines reseized it. Therefore little remained from the period, and the sites that did, such as İsmail Bey Hamam, were rebuilt by the latter Ottomans. The town is nevertheless interesting and boasts a much larger heritage from the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans.
  • Konya. The main seat is home to a much larger legacy from the sultanate — many buildings constructed by them are major attractions. If you have to pick any spot to experience the Rum heritage, make it this one.
  • Beyşehir - summer palace
  • Alanya.
  • Kayseri.
  • Tokat - Gök Medrese? 1270, vassal years (or beylik?)
  • Sivas.
  • Sinop?
  • Battalgazi. The historic core of Malatya is home to the 12xx Great Mosque, with a central courtyard — the only one of its kind in Turkey — as well as a caravanserai (Seljuk?).
  • Erzurum.

Caravanserais edit

The sultanate went to great lengths to ensure trade is safe and trouble-free across their dominion, so built a sizeable number of caravanserais along the main routes. These medival motels were often way out of any significantly populated community, and service towns around them developed only later. Some of the caravanserais, ordered in a line extending from Denizli in the southwest to Doğubayazıt in the east are collectively in the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage. The following are the best preserved:

  • Sultanhan
  • ...

Contesting dynasties edit

A headstone in the Ahlat Cemetery

These were independent for a time following the Battle of Manzikert and autonomous to a degree afterwards, so their heritage exhibits a greater influence from the local cultures.

  • 12 Divriği. The capital of the Mengücek features the outstanding Grand Mosque from 1229, a   UNESCO World Heritage Site.    
  • 13 Hasankeyf. This was the capital of the Artukids (Artukoğulları), on a major crossing of the Tigris River. Sadly, most of the actual site was flooded by the waters of Ilısu Dam completed in 2020, but some of the Artukid buildings were moved to a higher ground and there are boat tours over the dam lake to the remaining castle.    
  • 14 Mardin. Often likened to a smaller and hillside version of Jerusalem for its yellow stone buildings, Mardin was another seat of the Artukids, and most of its architectural heritage dates back to their time.    
  • 15 Ahlat, near Tatvan. The town was the capital of the Ahlatshahs, also known as the Shah-Armens, the "Kings of Armenia". They ruled the territory around Lake Van in the 1100s. Their most particular legacy is in the form of kümbets, the mausoleums for the nobility fashioned after Armenian churches and in the Ahlat cemetery, home of several dozen highly elaborate headstones with a great influence of the Armenian khachkars.    
  • Saltukids - Tercan

Talk edit

Persian was not only the language of governance, literature, and education, but also the daily language among many in the elite, despite being of Turkic stock. Turkish, the vernacular, could become an official language only in the successive beylik period.

Written exclusively in the Greek alphabet, Karamanlides, a form of Turkish spoken by a Greek Orthodox population (who might or might not be the descendants of the Turcopoles) around Karaman until the 1920s population exchange with Greece, was probably developed during the years of the sultanate.

See also edit

Wondering what happened next? Read up on the Turkish history series:

Or maybe you want to travel back in time:

Associated historical epochs and routes:

Earlier Turkic history:

  • Karakorum in present-day Mongolia is the site of the earliest Turkic inscriptions (8th century CE) and the capital of the Uyghur Khaganate (9th century).

Anatolian beyliks edit

The Anatolian beyliks (also known as the Anatolian / Turkish principalities, - emirates, or - petty kingdoms) were several statelets existed between the 13th and 17th centuries all over Anatolia, in Turkey.

Beylik in Turkish denotes a territory under the rule of a bey, similar to (and somewhere inbetween) the lords, dukes, and counts of the contemporary European societies, although mostly without feudal connotations.

Understand edit

How the map of Anatolia roughly looked in 1330

With the expansion of the Mongol Empire into their homeland in Central Asia and the subsequent chaos, several tribes of the Oghuz Turks headed west, crossing the Caspian Sea along its southern rim. Some decided to settle in Khorasan and elsewhere in Persia, but most proceeded into Anatolia, then ruled by the Sultanate of Rum, founded by their Seljuk-Oghuz kindred in the previous centuries.

The Seljuk policy towards the tribes fleeing the Mongol hordes was to settle them along the borderlands of their kingdom, both to keep these unruly nomads away from the Seljuk policy centres, and also to keep the borders secure from unwanted incursions by using them as a first line of defence — an analogue in medieval Europe are the marchlands. The new folk was also provided with autonomy in their tribal affairs, as long as they accepted the supreme sovereignty of the sultan in Konya.

However, the Mongols further expanded westwards, and were soon at the doorstep of Anatolia, hitherto assumed to be safe from them. After the Battle of Kösedağ, which took place east of Sivas in 1243, the Sultanate of Rum collapsed. During the disorder and power vacuum that followed, the beys proclaimed their sovereignty one after another and these petty kingdoms emerged. All vied for subsuming others and establishing a pax beylika of their own, but it was the Ottomans among them eventually coming out victorious: the patchwork on the Anatolian maps persisted into the 17th century, when the last sovereign principality was annexed by the Ottomans. Some families descended from the beys kept their influence in Turkey until the 1950s, well after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of the Turkish Republic.

From the interior of Eşrefoğlu Mosque, Beyşehir

Despite their limited resources and the short and turbulent period in which they existed, most principalities championed development and art in the areas they ruled over, which is still evident especially in the communities away from the major centres of the consequent Ottoman era and present day. Their architectural heritage is uniquely in a post-Seljuk, pre-Ottoman transitionary style.

In Turkish, each of these emirates is generally named after the conventionally known founder of the dynasty plus -oğlu or -oğulları ("son/s of -"). These names sometimes find their way into the English usage.

Destinations edit

Map of the major sites from the period

Since the beyliks were founded along the borders and coastlines of the Sultanate of Rum, which had its heartland in Central Anatolia, it's easy to group the major destinations of the period history geographically.

Northern Anatolia edit

  • 16 Ankara. During the era, the modern capital of Turkey was not part of a petty kingdom per se, but rather was the only major town to be ruled by the Ahis, a commercial fraternity widespread in medieval Anatolia, in a similar fashion with the mercantile republics of Europe of the same epoch. Their rule left behind a couple of "forest mosques" — typified by a "forest" of wooden pillars lining the main hall — clinging down the hill from the citadel.
  • 17 Kastamonu. The seat of the Jandarid (Candaroğlu) or Isfendiyarid (İsfendiyaroğlu) boasts several mosques and bazaars from the era. The most outstanding monument, though, is just outside the town: the Mahmut Bey Mosque, an elaborate wooden construction.
  • 18 Kütahya. The capital of the Germiyanid dynasty is home to a contemporary madrasa, as well as several later Ottoman monuments.
  • 19 Söğüt. Söğüt was the capital of the Ottomans — considered a minor beylik in its beginnings, but had the luck to be on the border of the Byzantine Empire, already falling apart by that time and provided a lightly defenced territory to expand into. Söğüt features a mosque built by Ertuğrul, the dynasty's founder, as well as his tomb.

Western Anatolia edit

  • 20 Balıkesir. Balıkesir was founded on the ruins of the Byzantine Paleo Kastron (Greek for "old castle", also the origin of the Turkish name) by Karesi, the bey of the namesake kingdom, who has his tomb in the city.
  • 21 Beçin. 5 km south from the modern town of Milas, the hilltop citadel of Beçin was the capital of the Menteşe kingdom. While some buildings of the medieval capital have recently been renovated, it remains as a total ghost town, as it has for long been.
  • 22 Birgi. One of the prettiest old towns in the country, Birgi, the earlier capital of the Aydınids, is home of the Ulu Cami ("Grand Mosque"), rather small for this name, but it was regardless the central mosque of the kingdom and is embellished by fine woodwork inside.
  • 23 Manisa. The capital of the Saruhan Kingdom kept its prominency in the following Ottoman period.
  • 24 Miletus. Originally a major ancient Greek harbour, Miletus, now in ruins, was still a living town when the Menteşe built the İlyas Bey Mosque in 1403.
  • 25 Selçuk. The latter capital of the Aydınids features the İsa Bey Mosque, which, with its transitional architectural style, perfectly symbolizes the beylik era.

Southern Anatolia edit

Ramazanoğlu Hall, Adana
  • 26 Adana. This was the seat of the Ramadanids, the last Anatolian beylik to be absorbed into the Ottoman authority, in 1608. Ramazanoğlu Hall, the government residence of the kingdom, is one of the oldest mansions in Turkey and is now a cultural centre.    
  • 27 Antalya.    
  • Beyşehir.
  • Eğirdir.
  • Karaman.

Eastern Anatolia edit

Eastern Anatolia was the home of a number of petty kingdoms that, unlike the others elsewhere in Anatolia, flourished before the Mongol invasion, mainly in the 12th and 13th centuries. These are more intertwined into the history of the Sultanate of Rum, still going strong at that time, so they are covered in the article for the sultanate.

Talk edit

Old Anatolian Turkish, the medieval form of Turkish was the vernacular of the era. Yunus Emre (1238–1328), considered the national poet of Turkey, wrote in this language. Unlike Ottoman Turkish of the palace in the intervening Ottoman period, Old Anatolian Turkish is easy to understand by the modern speakers.

See also edit