The history of ancient Anatolia, or Asia Minor, where is one of the most important places civilizations like Persians, Greeks, and Turks inhabited.
Anatolia has a very long and rich history that would require many books to be completely covered. When people first started to settling and expanding their civilizations Anatolia was one of the first places these civilizations inhabited, because of it’s climate. In Anatolia, farming was possible after the ice age and this caused one of the world’s oldest cities to be found in Anatolia, around Çatalhöyük, dating 7000-4000 BC.
After Çatalöyük, Anatolia has been a popular spot for countless civilizations. The first central authority based feudal state that was found in Anatolia were the Hittites. They were one of the major states in the world at the time and the other one was Egypt. Hittites came to Anatolia during a series of major migrations and built a state with impressive architecture and art. Troy was on the west coast of Anatolia at the same time and it was working as a buffer against invasion from the Balkan area. When Troy ended in 1250 BC, the end of Hittites followed in 1240 BC.
The Phrygians started showing up in the Anatolian scene politically around 750 BC, it was at about this time that King Midas founded the Phrygian Empire. Gordion, which is still an active archaeological site, is where most of the artifacts from this period are found.
The Lycian, Lydian and Carion civilizations were other occupants of Anatolia during the 7th and 6th centuries BC as well.
Persians (546 BC – 331 BC)
Persians conquered Anatolia during the years of 546-331 BC. In the year 547 BC, the Persian King Cyrus won the war against the Lydian King Croesus and started taking over the cities of Anatolia in the name of Persia. King Cyrus founded the Achaemenid Empire and Persians occupied Anatolia for two centuries.
The Hellenistic Period (330 BC – 30 BC)
The rise of Macedonia’s Philip II and his son Alexander the Great caused the Persian Empire to fall. After Alexander’s death, his powerful commanders all started ruling city-states and there wasn’t any political unity for a long time. During this period, some of Anatolia was ruled by the Pergamon King and Western Anatolia became a part of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Age (30 BC – 395)
Anatolia, or Asia Minor as the Romans called it, entered Roman rule around 30 BC. Romans made changes in Anatolian architecture and marble became an important component of the buildings erected during this period. The Romans constructed many masterpiece level buildings around Anatolia. Central heating became available as well, allowing bigger structures to be made and used.
The famous Roman baths were constructed during this time all over Anatolia. These large structures that use thermal heat, along with the colonnaded streets that protected people from the weather, were hallmarks of Roman architecture. Some of these structures partially survived the centuries and can be visited and seen.
In this era, Christianity spread in Anatolia. St. Paul had built churches, some of them in Pergamum, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Ephesus. Also, again during this era, the term Christian was first used by St. Peter in Southeast Anatolia.
Byzantines (324 – 1453)
The Byzantine era started when Constantine made Byzantium (now, Istanbul) his capital. He named Byzantium New Rome first, but then decided on Constantinople. The city Constantinople was capital to the Eastern Byzantine Empire for about a thousand years. During this era, we can see that Christianity became much more wide spread around Anatolia and that the religious buildings and religious art work also spread within. One of the most intriguing structures is Hagia Sophia Church that was ordered to be built by Justinian. Hagia Sophia’s famous dome, the interior mosaics and colors attract lots of visitors to Istanbul each year. The Byzantine era ended when Istanbul was conquered by the Turks.
Turks (1071 – …)
The history of the Turks starts in Central Asia. Living the nomadic lifestyle, some Turks left Central Asia and built different countries and states in different locations. Turks first came to Anatolia in around the 11th century with the Great Seljuk Empire. The point of no return for Byzantine was losing the battle of Manzikert in 1071. With this battle won, Turks found the gates of Anatolia opened to them. In the following century, Turks conquered most of Anatolia and founded the Anatolian Seljuk Empire as a part of the Great Seljuk Empire. This was the first Turkish empire present in Anatolia.
The Anatolian Seljuk Empire collapsed after being attacked by Mongolians many times. Several small Turkish beylics were founded in its place in Anatolia. One of those small beylics was the Ottoman beylic. This beylic managed to reunite all the small Turkish states together, grew rapidly and became the Ottoman Empire. In 1453, Sultan Mehmet II conquered Istanbul and ended the reign of the Byzantine Empire over the city.
From the time of Mehmet II the conqueror, to the 16th century, Ottoman Empire was a period of great development and growth. The lands were vast, the architecture and art was developing. The famous architect Mimar Sinan built mosques, such as the Blue Mosque, that are loved and cherished today. Palaces such as Dolmabahçe and Topkapı were built during this time and can still be visited as they are museums now. The Grand Bazaar, the old school mall of Istanbul, still serves customers with its thousands of shops.
After the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire was no longer the power house it used to be, and kept losing power until WWI. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire was broken and shrunk to the center of Anatolia. The rest of its lands were occupied by countries that had won the war. With four more years of fighting lead by Atatürk, Anatolia was liberated and from the occupying forces, and the Republic of Turkey was found in 1923, October 29.