Seven Journeys to Anatolia: Episode V



Celts, the indigenous people of Europe, faced oppression from the Romans during the 4th century BC. As a result, some Celts migrated through the Balkans and across the Bosphorus to Central Anatolia. According to historical records, Ankara was first established by the Celts and made their regional—one of the earliest Celtic capital cities in the world. The Celts called their new city Ancyra, meaning “anchor’, one of the oldest words in the language of the sea-loving Celts. The Celtic region, which included Ankara, Yozgat, Sivas, Konya and Cappadocia, flourished after coming under the rule of the Roman Empire. The Temple of Augustus, which is the most important ancient architectural monument in Ankara, was built by the Galatian King Pylamenes in the first century AD. Inscribed on its walls is the “Monument Ancyranum,” the sole surviving “Political Testament” of Augustus detailing his achievements. In the fifth century, the temple was converted into a church by the Byzantines. Not very far from the temple is the spectacular Ankara Citadel. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations next to the Citadel displays ancient Hatti, Hittite and later treasures. In Ankara’s Anittepe district, the Mausoleum of Atatürk (Anıtkabir) is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern Anatolian architectural styles.


All the major early-Hittite sites lie in the province of Çorum, in Boğazkale – Alacahöyük National Park, northeast of Ankara. Impressive double walls running past the Royal Gate, the Lion Gate and the Yer Kapı (an underground tunnel), ring the Hittite city of Hattuşaş, known today as Boğazkale. The more than 70 temples in the city made this the Hittite religious center and gave it the name, “City of Temples.” On the eastern slopes of Hattuşaş, the Yazılıkaya, an open-air rock pantheon dating from the 13th century BC, contains fine reliefs of all the Hittite gods and goddesses.
Set in a narrow gorge of the Yeşilırmak (Iris) River, Amasya dates from the third century BC. The ruins of the citadel rise from the craggy rock and contain an Ottoman palace and a secret underground passageway. Hewn into the rock face above the city, impressive Roman rock tombs are illuminated at night, creating a spectacular image. The beauty of the natural surroundings and the splendid architectural legacy have combined to endow the city with the accolade of one of the most beautiful cities In Turkey. Among the sights of interest for visitors are the 13th-century Seljuk Burmali Minare Mosque, the Torumtay Tomb, the Gökmedrese Mosque, the 14th-century İlhanid Hospital with lovely reliefs around its portal, the 15th century Beyazıt I Mosque Complex and the unusual octagonal Kapı Ağa Medrese.


Tokat, also on the Yeşilırmak River, has many Seljuk and Ottoman monuments which lend a picturesque yet solemn aesthetic to the cityscape.


Sivas, an important commercial center during the Middle Ages, stood at the junction of the caravan routes to Persia and Baghdad. Between 1142 and 1171 it was the capital of the Danişmend Emirs and a vitally important urban center during Seljuk rule. The remaining architectural monuments reflect this formerly prominent position. The Ulu Mosque dates from the Danişmend Emirate. The Seljuk buildings include the 13th-century İzzeddin Keykavus Şifahanesi, which was a hospital and a medical school, the beautifully decorated Gök Medrese, the twin minarets of the Çifte Minareli Medrese and the Buruciye Medrese all of which reflect the aesthetic of the Seljuk period.


Kangal, south of Sivas, is the home of Turkey’s most famous breed of dog – the kangal (“canis Galliensis,” who came to Anatolia with the Galatians In the 3rd century BC). Used as sheep dogs, these trusty golden-haired animals have also proven themselves in police and security work.


Divriği, became the capital of the Turkish Mengücek Emirs in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although very much off the beaten track, visitors come to Divriği to see the Ulu Mosque and Medrese of 1229. Seljuk stonework reached its most exuberant expression in the animal and flower carvings on the portals. UNESCO has declared this to be one of the world’s leading cultural heritage sites.



Yunus Emre – 13th Century


“I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He was not there; I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.


I searched on the mountain and in the valleys but neither in the heights nor in the depth was I able to find Him. I went to the Caaba in Mecca, but He was not there either.


I questioned the scholars and philosophers but He was beyond their understanding.


I then looked into my heart and it was there where He dwelled that I saw Him; He was nowhere else to be found.”


Mevlana – 13th Century

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Konya, one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great period cultural centers in Turkey. During that period of cultural, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green-tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya’s most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum housing manuscripts of Mevlana’s works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect. Every year, in the first half of December, a ceremony is held to commemorate Mevlana. The controlled, trance-like turning or sema of the white-robed men creates a fascinating performance for the viewer. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bold and striking Seljuk tiles. Nearby is the ince Minareli Medrese of 1258. It is remarkable for its marvelous baroque Seljuk portal.


South of Konya, through a land of unique and little-known spiritual history, are the biblical sites of Hatunsaray (Lystra), Derbe (Kerti Höyük) in Karaman and the region of Binbirkilise (1001 Churches), the cradle of early Christianity,


Northwest of Konya near Eskişehir stands the town of Seyitgazi. On a hillside above the town stands the imposing 13th-century complex built in memory of Seyyit Battal Gazi, a 7th-century commander of Arab forces who was killed doing battle with the Byzantines and buried here.


Northeast of Seyitgazi is the village of Yunus Emre (Sarıköy), the great 13th century Turkish poet who is buried here. His poetry, with its message of love and humanity, lives today, as relevant as ever. UNESCO declared 1991 as the Year of Tolerance and dedicated it to Yunus Emre.




Beware of your hand, tongue and desire.

Whatever you seek, seek within yourself.

A path not guided by science leads only to darkness.


Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli – 13th Century

Violent eruptions of the volcanoes Mt. Erciyes and Mt. Hasan long ago covered the plateau surrounding Nevşehir with tuff, a soft stone comprised of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain have eroded this brittle rock and created a spectacular surrealistic landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines, in colors that range from warm reds and golds to cool greens and greys. Locals call these fascinating capped pinnacles “peri bacaları” or “fairy chimneys”. Göreme National Park, in the region of Cappadocia, is one of those rare places in the world where the works of humankind blend unobtrusively into the natural surroundings. During the Byzantine times, chapels and monasteries were hollowed out of the rock, their ochre-toned frescoes reflecting the hues of the surrounding landscape. Even today cave dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge harmoniously into the landscape.


North of Göreme National Park in Hacıbektaş is the Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli Complex, today a museum. The famous Sufi dervish leader of the Bektaşi order is buried here. This 14th-century complex includes a mausoleum and a mosque, a guest house, a kitchen, a wishing tree, and an area for ascetics.


Hacı Bektaş-ı Veil was the Turkish philosopher who championed the value of women, honored their status in society, and encouraged them to be educated. His system of thought is based on reason, knowledge, love, respect and equality.


Southeast of Hacıbektaş lies Kayseri, known as Caesarea in Roman times. The city spreads out at the foot of Mt. Erciyes, an extinct volcano. The 13th-century Hunat Hatun Mosque and Medrese, with the Mahperi Hatun Mausoleum, comprise the Hunat Hatun Complex, the first Seljuk complex in Anatolia. South of the complex stands the beautifully decorated Döner Kümbet, a Seljuk mausoleum of classic simplicity, A major Seljuk city, Kayseri was an important center of learning, with many medreses among the remaining historical buildings. The Çifte (Giyasiye and Şifahiye) Medrese, the first Seljuk school of anatomy is now the Gevher Nesibe Medical History Museum.


Kültepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh – Karum, was one of the earliest Hlttite commercial cities. Dating from 2000 BC, Kültepe was also one of the world’s first cities to be open to free trade.

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