Turkey has a history spanning many millennia. From Çatal Höyük, often called the oldest city, dating from 6800 BCE to bustling modern day İstanbul. The following gives a brief overview of the history in Turkey and links to sites that I visited.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Stone Age (7500 BCE - 5500 BCE)

Turkey was settled in the Stone Age around 7500 BCE. The most famous site of the Stone Age period is Çatal Höyük. It became a city around 6800 BCE and remained settled till about 5700 BCE. This city has a remarkable structure. Most houses we next to each other, with no streets separating them. Traffic and entrances were from the roofs. When a structure started to get old, it was filled in and a new house built on top of it. Many of the dead were buried in the houses under the floor.

Hatti and Hittite (2600 BCE - 1100 BCE)

In the Old Bronze Age (after 2600 BCE), the Hatti or Proto-Hittites built more substantial cities, among the Alacahöyük. It was probably the most important Proto-Hittite city, and later probably the first Hittite capital. The Hittites (who spoke an Indo-European language) conquered the area after 1900 BCE. They built a huge capital in Hattuşa. This was one of the most impressive sites that I visited in Turkey.

This early Hittite kingdom (1600 BCE - 1500 BCE) was replaced by the greater Hittite Empire (1450 BCE - 1200 BCE). This empire clashed for instance with the Egyptians under Ramesses II in 1298 BCE. Their religion was based on the worship of a Sun Goddess and a Storm God. Toward the end of the Hittite Empire, it was weakened by the subject cities along the Aegean coast, one of them being Troja (Troy). The Trojan war (see below) gave the Hittites some reprieve. The end came through a massive invasion from several Greek islands and city states around 1100 BCE.

After the Hittite Empire, Anatolia was divided in various smaller states.

Troy (Troja) (3000 BCE - 400 CE)

Troy (Troja) was first settled around 3000 BCE in the Early Bronze Age. Excavations showed a series of nine cities (Troy I through IX), built one on top of the previous one. Troy I through Troy V (3000 BCE - 1700 BCE) had a similar culture. These people were replaced by Indo-Europeans, related to the Mycenaeans (Troy VI, 1700 BCE - 1250 BCE). They held the key to the Dardanelles, the waterway between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

There is still disagreement on whether Troy VI or Troy VII was the Troy of King Priamos, the Troy of the Iliad fame. Most scholars believe it was Troy VI, which was severely damaged by the earthquake of 1250 BCE, which aided the Achaean victory.

Troy VII lasted from 1250 BCE to 1000 BCE. The Achaeans may have burned Troy in 1240 BCE. Balkan people invaded around 1190, and Troy became unimportant for four centuries. The Greek revived it for seven more centuries (Troy VIII, 700 BCE - 85 BCE). After the Romans moved in in 85 BCE, it remained important till 500 CE (Troy IX, Novum Ilion). During Byzantine times Troy was unimportant. Eventually it was completely forgotten. It came to light again when Heinrich Schliemann started to excavate it in 1870.

Greek (1300 BCE - 133 BCE)

The Greek influence was the largest after the Hittite Empire. Some of the important cities in Ionia (the area around present day İzmir) were Ephesus, Priene, Miletus. They contributed immensely to western culture. Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the area. Other important cities were Priene, dramatically located overlooking the plains of the Meander River, Miletus with a spectacular theater, and Didyma with the spectacular Temple of Apollo. Another Ionian city, Assos, was visited by important philosophers like Aristotle, and later by the Apostles St. Paul and St. Luke. Aphrodisias, a very well preserved city, is in my view the most beautiful and most interesting of the Greek/Roman sites in Turkey.

Phrygian (1100 BCE - 600 BCE)

One of the smaller states that followed the Hittites were the Phrygians, an Indo-European people. They invaded around 1200 BCE and settled near Gordion. This former Hittite city became the capital of the Phrygians around 800 BCE. King Midas (with the golden touch, ca 715 BCE) was the most famous Phrygian.

Lydian (700 BCE - 550 BCE)

Lydia dominated most of Ionia (the area around present-day İzmir. It later clashed with Phrygia. Lydia was most famous for inventing coinage. One of its kings was Croesus, the world's first great coin collector. Lydia lasted only till 547 BCE, when it was conquered by Persian invaders. Ephesus continued to be very important and rich during Lydian time.

Persian (550 BCE - 334 BCE)

King Cyrus of Persia conquered Anatolia and all its various states between 550 BCE and 530 BCE. The Persians were in turn defeated by Alexander the Great in 334 BCE.

Alexander the Great and his successors (334 BCE - 133 BCE)

Alexander conquered all of Anatolia. But his successors divided the area up in several states amid constant civil wars. Alexander and later his generals founded several cities, for instance Alexandria Troas.

In addition, the Celts (or Gauls) invaded Anatolia in 279 BCE, establishing the kingdom of Galatia, ruling western Anatolia from present-day Ankara. In eastern Anatolia, Mithridates I became King of Pontus. His state extended from the Black Sea coast all the way do Cappadocia in central Anatolia. Of the many kingdoms in Anatolia around 250 BCE, the most impressive was Pergamum. The Pergamese king sided with Rome, gaining considerable power because of that alliance.

Many other cities along the Adriatic were founded in that time, for instance Khryse with the Temple of Apollo Smintheion.

Roman (133 BCE - 300 CE)

Since Anatolia was divided in numerous small kingdoms, the Romans didn't have any problems in conquering Anatolia, once they were provoked enough by numerous small irritations by the various small kingdoms in Anatolia. For a while the Romans left Anatolia in the hands of their ally, the King of Pergamum. When the last Pergamese king died without an heir, he left his kingdom to Rome in 133 BCE. The Romans set up the province of Asia, with the capital Ephesus. One small, unimportant kingdom in Anatolia, called Commagene, in east central Anatolia during Roman rule made its mark in history. King Antiochus I (68 BCE - 38 BCE) built a huge cone-shaped funerary mound on top of Mount Nemrut.

Roman rule brought relative peace and prosperity to Anatolia for three centuries and provided the basis for the spread of Christianity, although the Roman emperors persecuted Christians.

Ephesus remained a very important city under Roman rule. A less well know, but quite important city was Euromos, of which only the Zeus Temple remains, one of the nicest temples in Turkey, that is almost unknown

Aphrodisias prospered and grew under Roman rule. It was the capital of Caria.

Byzantine (300 - 1037)

When Diocletian (284 - 305) abdicated, Constantine battled for succession and won in 324. He reunited the Roman empire and declared equal rights for all religions. He founded Constantinople, present-day İstanbul. While Rome declined, Constantinople and the Byzantine (eastern Roman) empire grew. Emperor Justinian 527 - 565) brought it to its greatest strength. Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofya, the Church of Divine Wisdom) was built by him. It remained the greatest, most splendid church of Christendom for almost 1000 years.

After his death, the Byzantine empire declined, but continued in some form for another 500 years.

Ottoman (1037 - 1918)

The first Turkish state in Anatolia was the Great Seljuk Empire (1037 - 1109). The Seljuks Turks invaded from Central Asia and conquered most of Anatolia. But like Alexanders empire, the Seljuk empire quickly fell apart amid civil war between various generals.

The Crusades tried to recapture Anatolia, but quickly deteriorated into plundering.

In 1243, Mongols invaded Anatolia, defeating the Seljuks. Some of the Turks moved to Bithnya, the area around Bursa, following a warlord called Ertu$#287;rul. His son, Osman, founded what was to become the Ottoman Empire.

One interesting remain from the Seljuk era is the caravanserai in Sultanhanı.

The Ottomans soon began expanding into the Balkans. By the end of the 14th century they had reached the Black Sea and Danube in what is today România.

In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror took Constantinople, which still held the remains of the Byzantine empire, bringing it to an end.

The Ottoman empire reached its glory days under Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520 - 1566), reaching Vienna in 1529. When he died, the Ottoman empire included all or parts of Hungary, the Balkans, southern Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, and the North African coast all the way to Morocco.

From then on the Ottoman empire slowly declined and fell behind European progress. By the 19th century it had lost most of its European parts.

In World War I, the Ottoman empire sided with Germany. During that war, the notorious Gallipoli campaign cost about 100,000 lives. At the end of the war, the Ottoman empire was divided up by the winning countries.

Modern Turkey (1922 - Today)

In 1919 the Greeks occupied Smyrna. This started Turkey in another war. They managed to expel the Greeks by 1922 from Smyrna. Mustafa Kemal led the War of Independence (1920 - 1922). His victory over the Greek occupation established him as a national hero. He declared a Turkish republic in 1923 and proceeded to build the secular republic which exists today.

List of all sites that I visited

Turkey Comp
Main page for Turkey

Page last updated on Tue Jun 11 11:56:37 2019 (Mountain Standard Time)

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