A Brief History of Turkey
- Turkey's history goes back a long way. Turkey, as we know it today, is one of the world's earliest permanently inhabited regions, the setting for a whole series of invasions and empires. The stones found at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey mark it as the world’s first temple and one of the most important archaeological sites ever discovered. Carbon dating shows they may be as much as 13,000 years old. The region was conquered by Alexander the Great, leading into what is known as the Hellenistic period. This overlapped in to the Byzantine Empire, later the Latin Empire, which was the successor to the Roman Empire in that region. After the Mongol invasion in 1243, the area disintegrated into small Turkish principalities.
- A tribal leader called Osman began to gain power in the fourteenth century and his followers (apparently knowledge about actual events is a little hazy) evolved into the peoples known as the Ottomans (from Osman, it's thought). The Ottomans proved to be an efficient fighting unit, united the principalities and conquered the Balkans. So, Hellenism gave way to Turkification and Islam, as the Ottoman Empire expanded. During the World War I, the Ottoman government committed genocides against its Armenian, Greek and Assyrian subjects and after its defeat in the war, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned.
- Turkey was proclaimed a secular, unitary and parliamentary republic, on 29 October 1923 with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the inspirational reforming leader of Turkey as its first president. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the father of the modern Turkish nation. When he rose to power in 1921, he lifted the ban on alcohol, adopted the Gregorian calendar instead of the Islamic, made Sunday a day of rest instead of Friday, changed the Turkish alphabet from Arabic letters to Roman, and mandated that the call to prayer be in Turkish rather than Arabic. He even banned the iconic red Turkish fez hat. Ataturk also developed links with the west and Turkey joined NATO as early as 1952. The economy strengthened. And the capital was moved from Istanbul, to Ankara, the second largest city, in the centre of Anatolia, the crossroads of Turkey
Facts and Factoids
- Turkey is almost unique in that it straddles two continents. It is located mainly in what is known as Anatolia in Western Asia, but there’s a portion in the Balkans in Southeast Europe (Thrace). So it's an exciting fusion of east and west.
- The name of Turkey is thought to come from Turchia, the word Italian observers used to refer to Anatolia.
- With such a huge landmass, Turkey enjoys a variety of climates. It's been dubbed 'The Land of Four Seasons'. It's also being marketed as 'The Largest Museum in the World'.
- The first ever Christian church was located in Antioch, Turkey.
- While nearly all of the Turkish population is Muslim, Turkey is not officially a Muslim country. Nevertheless, Turkey has 82,693 mosques, more than any other country per capita in the world.
- Most Turks did not have surnames, until a law was passed requiring it in 1934.
- Turkey is the birthplace of such historical figures as Aesop; Homer; St. Paul; King Midas; Galen, noted physician, surgeon, medical researcher, and philosopher in the Roman Empire; and Herodotus, the father of history.
- Santa Claus, also known as St. Nicholas, was born in Patara, Turkey, in the 3rd century A.D.
- Tulips were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire - not the Netherlands.
- Turkish Delight, or lokum, is one of the oldest sweets in world history, dating back 500 years.
What To See in Turkey?
This is a great country to visit, with a huge amount of history and incredible scenery, not to mention the beaches and sophisticated ports.
Read about my Turkish travels: