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 Hattuşaş, 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”.
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.
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.
Ataturk and the Republic
The occupation of İstanbul and İzmir 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.