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About Turkey History

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Whether you are just coming on holiday or planning to buy property in Turkey, it is always nice to know a little about the history of your host country. Here is a concise guide to the last 10,000 years of Turkish history.

Turkey, or Anatolia, as the area was known in ancient times, has a fascinating history. Its location between Europe and Asia makes it one of the oldest continually inhabited regions of the world. If you travel around you will find archaeological ruins and architectural treasures left over from successive civilisations, such as the Hittite city of Hattu?a?, the Library of Celcus at Ephesus or the Byzantine cathedral, Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul. Two ancient wonders of the world and the legendary city of Troy, the centre of the Trojan War, are all situated in Turkey as well as hundreds of smaller sites scattered all across the countryside. Even Bodrum has its own classical theatre and the ancient ruins of the “Mausoleum of Maussollos”.

The story begins at Çatalhöyük where excavations have uncovered Neolithic settlements that date back almost 10,000 years; these were some of the first real communities of people and the coincide with the rise of farming, the domestication of animals and the use of metal tools. Moving into the early Bronze Age, Akkadian’s and Assyrian’s exerted some influence but Anatolia was soon to become one of the busiest bits of real estate around.

Hittles, Persians, Greeks and Romans

The first major empire in Anatolia was that of the Hittites in the late Bronze Age from the 18th to the 13th century BCE, who built up a civilisation rivalling that of the Egyptians and Babylonians, before a gradual decline and collapse. Various civilisations arose from the old Hittite Empire in the 12th century BCE with the kingdoms of Lydia, Phrygia and Urartu, each claiming a part of Anatolia while the Ionian Greeks settled the west coast, giving birth to the great cities of Colophon, Smyrna and Ephesus. In the west, the kingdom of Lydia captured and forced treaties on the Greek cities, and over time incorporated Phrygia into its domain, while in the east The Urartu kingdom was conquered by the Median Empire. This petty empire building, however, came to an abrupt end when, in the 6th and 5th centuries, the great Persian Achaemenid Empire swept across the middle east and incorporated the vast majority of modern Turkey.

In 334 BCE Alexander the Great amassed a huge army which swept across the peninsula, destroying the Persians and spreading Greek rule. Upon Alexander’s death his empire was broken up and Anatolia divided into a number of small Hellenistic kingdoms which, by the mid-1st century BCE, had all succumbed to Rome. Under Roman rule Anatolia enjoyed a period of relative peace that allowed it to grow and prosper and in 324 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine I chose Byzantium to be the new capital of the Roman Empire, renaming it New Rome (later Constantinople and Istanbul). As the Western Roman Empire fell into decline the Eastern Roman Empire, known by historians as the Byzantine Empire, survived and Anatolia remained under its control for another 700 years.

The Turks and the Ottomans 

The House of Seljuk was a branch of Turkic peoples who resided on the edge of the Muslim world and around the 10th century began migrating from their ancestral homelands towards the eastern regions of Anatolia. These eventually became the new homelands of the Turkic tribes and, by 1071, heralded the end of Roman control. In 1243, the Seljuk armies were defeated by the Mongols and the power of yet another empire slowly disintegrated. In its wake, one of the Turkish principalities evolved into the Ottoman Empire, thus filling the power vacuum left by the Seljuks and Byzantines.

The Ottoman Empire interacted with both Eastern and Western cultures throughout its 623-year history and in the 16th and 17th centuries it was among the world's most powerful political entities. Spanning three continents, controlling much of South-eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa it was in many respects, an Islamic successor to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Following years of decline, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I through the Ottoman-German Alliance in 1914, and was ultimately defeated. After the war, the victorious Allied Powers sought the dismemberment of the Ottoman state through the Treaty of Sèvres.

Ataturk and the Republic

The occupation of ?stanbul and ?zmir by the Allies in the aftermath of World War I led to the establishment of the Turkish national movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, a military commander who had distinguished himself during the Battle of Gallipoli. The Turkish War of Independence was waged with the aim of revoking the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres and by September 18, 1922 the occupying armies were repelled. The country saw the birth of the new Turkish state and on November 1, the newly founded parliament formally abolished the Sultanate, thus ending 623 years of Ottoman rule. The Treaty of Lausanne led to the international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed “Republic of Turkey” as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially born in a proclamation of October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara. 

Mustafa Kemal became the republic’s first president and subsequently introduced a broad range of swift and sweeping reforms - in the political, social, legal, economic, and cultural spheres - with the aim of founding a new secular republic from the remnants of its Ottoman past. According to the Law on Family Names, the Turkish parliament presented Mustafa Kemal with the honorific name “Atatürk" (Father of the Turks).

Atatürk is a hero to the Turks; during his 15 years of presidency he set the country on a path to realising a new future. By the time of his death, Turkey was already becoming an industrial society on the Western European model and many regions had some sort of viable economic security. Today, his achievements are a legacy to the modern state and many see Turkey’s eventual ascension to the EU as the ultimate achievement of Atatürk’s dreams.

He died in 1938 and if you are in the country on the 10th of November, a minutes silence is observed for the “Father of the Turks”.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 December 2010 08:38 )  


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