Istanbul Daily City ToursIstanbul Daily City Tours
Forgot password?

History And Civilizations

Early Ages

The history of Turkey goes back to 10,000 year-old civilisations. Anatolia is a melting pot where cultures from Sumer, Babylon and Assyria interacted for centuries with peoples such as the Hattis, Hittites and Hourrites. The result was a unique Anatolian civilisation which has long inspired the thoughts and legends of the West. The ancient Bronze Age witnessed the establishment of the first independent city states. At that time, the centre and southeast of Anatolia were inhabited by the indigenous Hattis. The most spectacular findings from this time are those of Alaca Hoyuk in the Kizilirmak region and of Horoztepe near Tokat, in the Black Sea region. They are contemporary with the royal tombs of Mycenae in Greece.

The Legendary Troy

Troy was founded around 3000 BC, and played a major role in the importation of tin, vital for the production of bronze.

The Hittites Arrive

The Hittites arrived in Anatolia towards the second millennium BC. They absorbed much of the Babylonian civilisation and long enjoyed a monopoly of iron in Asia. This, combined with the use of the chariot, gave the Hittites a military superiority over Egypt and other Mesopotamian states. The victorious raid against Babylon in 1590 BC was the climax of the first Hittite empire, followed by a period of decline. Then, in the first half of the fourteenth century BC, came a revival of power. This second era saw a Hittite hegemony snatching from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

Mitanni Kingdom

The Mitanni kingdom was a contemporary and the enemy of the Hittites. It was founded by the Hourrites, a people originally from the South Caspian Sea. The Hourrites exercised considerable influence over the region of the Hittites, and spread the use of two-wheel chariots and the breeding of horses throughout the Near East.

The Urartian State

At the beginning of the first millennium BC, the Urartus created a unified state whose territory extended from the Caucasus to Lake Urmiya, with its capital in the present city of Van. The Urartus were masters in hydraulic works and skilled in irrigation, drainage and the construction of canals and artificial lakes. They were also known for their horse breeding and formidable cavalry.

The Phrygians and King Midas

The Phrygians (750-300 BC) settled in Central and Western Anatolia, in the Afyon-Ankara-Eskisehir triangle, declaring Gordion on the Sakarya river to be their capital. Their civilisation met its apogee in the second half of the 8th century BC, under the famous King Midas whom, according to the mythology, Apollo ridiculed by having him grow ears of a donkey, and whom Dionysus invested with the power to turn everything he touched into gold. Gordion fell to Persian domination around 550 BC and was liberated in 333 BC by Alexander the Great.

The Lydians Invent Money – Sardes

Around East of Izmir in Sardes, lived another people, the Lydians, thought to have invented money between 800 and 650 BC. In the 6th century BC, Croesus, the King of Lydia, agreed with the advancing Persians to divide Anatolia along the river Kizilirmak. The Persians, however, did not keep this commitment and continued to encroach on Lydian territory. They remained the sovereign power in Anatolia until the arrival of Alexander the Great in 333 BC.

Anatolia Changes Hands Again – Pergamon

After the death of Alexander the Great, Anatolia became the hub of the Seleucid Empire. Pergamon (Bergama) grew at the expense of its neighbours, and snatched part of Phrygia in 241 BC. The kingdom became prodigiously rich, the emporium of Anatolia and a brilliant intellectual centre.

The Roman Period Begins

The Roman period of Anatolia began with the death of King Attalus III of Pergamon (Bergama) who willed his country to the Romans because he had no direct heir. Anatolia then lived through a period of peace and prosperity, particularly in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The pax Romana proved to be an extraordinary period of urban development. Ephesus served as the seat of the Roman governor of Asia and as a great commercial and cultural centre.

The Era of Eatern Roman Rmpire

The era of Roman Empire is an essential chapter in the history of the region. In 330, Constantine, the Roman emperor, transferred his capital from Rome to Roman Empire. Roman Empire, at that time a small city founded 1,000 years earlier by Greeks on the shores of the Strait was henceforth called Constantinople. The centre of the Empire thereafter became the Orient, in particular Anatolia, inhabited by the descendants of Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Greeks and others. Roman Empire became the Eastern Roman Empire; its official religion was proclaimed to be Christianity in 380 and in 392 paganism was banned. In 476, Rome collapsed and Constantinople remained the sole capital of the empire. Roman Empire was both a state and a civilisation, built along the lines of the Roman state, the Greek culture and the Christian faith. The emperor enjoyed divine power and relied heavily on the Church.

Roman Empire knew its first golden age under Justinian. One thousand years of Roman jurisprudence were gathered together in four volumes, a work which had a lasting influence for many centuries. Justinian was also a great builder. The Basilica of Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) (AD 532-7) was constructed during his reign. The history of Roman Empire is one of alternating periods of glory and decay, of religious dissent, of conflicts and wars with Persians, Arabs, Seljuks, Ottomans and peoples of the North.

By the 13th century, Roman Empire was drawing its final breath. After the mortal wound of 1204, when the Crusaders occupied Constantinople, sacked the city, forced the emperor to leave and established a Latin kingdom, it was a small state. Bulgaria declared her independence and a new maritime power, Venice took for herself the whole Aegean complex of islands. In 1261, the Byzantines had regained possession of their capital, but there were new threats.

Seljuk and Ottoman Turks

Konya / Ince Minare

In the 11th century, under their leader Tugrul, the Seljuk Turks founded the dynasty of great Seljuks reigning in Iran, Iraq and Syria. In 1071, his nephew Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantines in Malazgirt, near Lake Van. The doors of Anatolia were thus opened to the Turks, and Anatolia went through a profound transformation ethnically, politically, and in the religious, linguistic and cultural spheres. The Seljuk Sultanate in Anatolia continued until the beginning of the 14th century. The zenith of the Seljuk civilisation came in the first half of the 13th century with Konya as its political, economic, religious, artistic and literary centre. The Seljuks created a centralised administration organised around the Sultan, his ministers and provincial governors. Science and literature blossomed, as did mystic poetry. Anatolia was crossed by the great routes linking the east and west, and many of the caravanserais built along these routes still stand today. Agriculture, industry and handicrafts expanded and the country was suddenly rich in mosques, madrasahs (medreses – educational institutions) and caravanserais (kervansarays – roadside inns).

Collapse of The Seljuk Sultanate

The Seljuk Sultanate collapsed due to internal dissent and Mongol invasions. Anatolia was again fragmented into rival independent principalities, one of which came under Ottoman rule. Anatolia, though divided, had been united by language, religion and race, offering an opportunity for statesmanship and courage. This would be the task of Osman and his successors.

The Ottoman Empire Gains Ground

Osman declared himself the independent Sultan of the region of Sogut near Bursa he had hitherto held in fief, and founded the Ottoman State. During the rule of his son Orhan, Bursa and Iznik were captured and soon the whole south-eastern coast of Marmara was under Ottoman control. The many conquests and diplomatic successes of Orhan were not the only achievements of his reign. He had encouraged and promoted art, literature, science and commerce. He also established a regular standing army, known as the Janissaries. Well paid and disciplined, the Janissaries provided the new Ottoman state with a patriotic force of trained soldiers.

Built upon such solid foundations, the Ottoman Empire spread apace. In the reign of Murat, this expansion was still in a westerly direction and it was not until the frontiers were extended to the Adriatic, the Danube and Thessaly, that the Sultan turned his attention towards Eastern Anatolia Now that his rule was established in Europe and Asia, Beyazit turned towards Constantinople in 1402. The city was almost within Iris grasp when he was called to meet me westward march of Timurlane which delayed the conquest of Istanbul for several decades.

In 1453, under Mehmet the Conqueror, the Ottomans took Constantinople, a momentous event for the whole world and a great feat of arms. But the banner of Ottoman success was to be raised much higher and by the late l6th century the Ottomans were deep into Europe. In the following centuries, however, the Ottoman Empire lost its momentum, entered a period of stagnation and then gradually a period of decline.

World War One

The final blow to the Empire came with the First World War, during which The Ottoman Empire was on the losing side with Germany. Great Britain reversed the policy she had followed until then, and undertook with France, Russia and Italy, forming the Allied Forces. At the end of the war in 1918, the Ottoman government, under the occupation of the Allied Forces, choose not to further resist a peace treaty embodying the partition of Turkey. In May 1919, the Greeks, who had been promised a part of Anatolia, landed at Izmir and started an invasion in Western Anatolia while France sought control over South-Eastern Anatolia, and the Great Britain do the same in Istanbul in particular regions of the Middle East.

The Visions of Atatürk and Republic of Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Against this challenge, the Turkish nation engaged in a struggle to restore her territorial integrity and independence, to repulse foreign aggressors, to create a new state, to disassociate Turkey from the crumbling Ottoman dynasty, to eradicate an old and decrepit order and to build a modern country dedicated to political, social and economic progress. This was the vision of Ataturk, a general in the Ottoman army who had distinguished himself in the defence of Gallipoli (Canakkale) against the Naval Forces of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand. The Ottoman victory over the Allies at Gallipoli renewed Turkey’s visions for the empire Ataturk wanted a clean break with the past, to unite the nation in the quest for modernism and to lift Turkey to the level of European countries. On October 29 1923, the republic was proclaimed and Ataturk was elected president. Secularism was established by separating religious and state affairs. The Latin alphabet replaced the Arabic script and women were given the right to vote and to be elected as members of parliament. These reforms, as well as many others in all aspects of social life, put Turkey on the track towards becoming a thoroughly modern country.

A Proud Nation

When Ataturk died in 1938, he left a legacy of which the Turkish people today are proud. A nation that had regained confidence in itself after the independence war; a society determined to preserve the political, intellectual, cultural and social values he had bequeathed. The Turkish Republic has now been a member of the international community for over 80 years. During this period, great changes have occurred and many difficulties have been encountered. But the country remains firmly attached to the policies initiated by Ataturk. It has established a democratic multi-party political system, developed a vibrant civil society, and embarked on the path of industrialisation and market economy.

It has consolidated its ties with the west and with the European Union through membership in NATO and the Council of Europe and Customs Union. These trends mark a radical change from the days of the Ottoman Empire. Yet there is also continuity. The Turks have inherited both from the Islamic past and their Ottoman past. They have also inherited from their western past, as well as forming a part of the Western present. All these heritages, Eastern and Western, Asian and European, are intermingled in the civilisation of modem Turkey. A symbol of this union is the two bridges that span the Istanbul Strait, linking the two continents with many pasts and one future.And Turkey is a candidate country negotiating with European Union for being a member of EU. A Turkish government agency; General Secretariat of European Union is responsible for the negotiations. (