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History of Cappadocia

In paleolithic periods first time human settles in the Cappadocia. Volcanoes that reactivated again after this period did not allow human settlement for a long time, until the neolithic period. A British archaeologist Ian Todd found obsidian and sileks stone tools on Avla Hill near Ürgüp which determines neolithic period here. After a dark period, intersection civilizations appeared guiding the history of Cappadocia and formed the Silk Road. So who is in the history of Cappadocia?

Assyrian Trade Colonies in Cappadocia (3000 – 1750 BC)

According to chronology, the oldest civilization known in the history of Cappadocia is Assyrians. They established their first commercial organizations in the open market places namely as  Kayseri Küllütepe and Hattuşaş Karum. The first period of writing in Anatolia was also the Assyrian period. It has been seen that the ancient cuneiform texts known as Cappadocia tablets, contain regulated trade and marriage laws. The basics of the art of Hittite civilization that is established here later also put from the Assyrians. It was they who brought their worship and god ideas to Anatolia and combined the existing art with the art of Mesopotamia.

Cappadocia during the Hittites (1750 – 700 BC)

 The Hittites came from Europe through the Caucasus after the Assyrians and entered in the history of Cappadocia. The capital of the Hittites which turned into a huge empire, was Hattuşaş and its important cities were Alişar and Alacahöyük. They have established a long-lasting civilization in almost everywhere of the Cappadocia region. They engraved mountains and the rocky areas near the river to important passages. There is a thinking that the underground cities that were used for protection, also built in the HİTTİTES period. Narrow corridors, huge stones covering the entrance of  corridors and ventilation system were developed by the Hittites.

Persians and the Kingdom of Cappadocia (585 – 332 BC)

In the language of the Persians Cappadocia is called as ‘Katpatuka’ which means ‘Land of Beautiful Horses’. Persians who embraced Zoroastrianism worshiped the volcanoes of the region because they believed in the holiness of the fire. They ruled until it was defeated by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. Alexander the Great defeated the Persians but could not overcome the resistance of the people of Cappadocia. The Kingdom of Cappadocia was established in this period. Cappadocia Kingdom lost peace after the death of Alexander the Great and turned into a province of the Roman Empire, which became stronger in 17 A.D.

Contributions of the Byzantine-Roman Empire Period to the History of Cappadocia (AD 17 – 395)

In 17A.D. Tiberius linked Cappadocia to Rome. The Romans also opened a road to the west that was important in terms of trade and military in order to reach the Aegean. Kayseri whose economy was highly developed became the center of Cappadocia in Roman period.

In 4th century the first Christians who started to migrate from cities to villages made Kayseri a Christian base. The rocky Göreme and its surroundings which are quite suitable for shelter became the first place where monastic life began with the teaching of St. Aziz Basil bishop of Kayseri.

In the years when the Roman Empire started to divide, the influence of Eastern Rome continued for a long time in Cappadocia. As a result of the wars between the Sassanids and Byzantines in the first half of the 7th century, the Sassanids took the region under its protection for a very short time. When the Sassanids were destroyed by Caliph Osman in 651, Cappadocia was exposed to Umayyad-Arab raids this time. The banning of Leon’s icons was also the result of these conflicts. It is not known whether there is an influence of Islam in which the icons are prohibited in this movement, but it took almost 100 years, and the monks who did not accept the bans, hide themselves in Cappadocia and continue to live according to the teachings of Christianity. At that time Cappadocia’s monastic life was most developed. In the small and big churches of Göreme Open Air Museum, Ihlara Valley and the region, it is possible to see the traces, devotion, belief and religious resistance.

Seljuk Period (1071 – 1299)

A new era started in Anatolia with the 1071’s Battle of Manzikert, in which the Byzantine Emperor was defeated by Alparslan(a descendant of Seljuk Bey). The Anatolian Seljuk State was established in 1075 and the Seljuk period began in Cappadocia with the conquest of Kayseri by the Seljuks in 1082.

After the 13th century, Anatolian Beyliks appeared with the weakening of the Seljuks. In 1308, the Mongols invaded Anatolia and burned down Kayseri. In this way Anatolian Seljuks who lost their power, lost their history from Cappadocia.

Sarhan Caravanserai built by Seljuk Sultan Izzettin Keykavus in Avanos and Alaaddin Mosque architecture of Alaaddin Keykubat period are among the historical places and works in Cappadocia, which reflect the 13th century Seljuk art. There are Ürgüp Taşkınpaşa Mosque, Urgup Ladies Castle, Temenni Hill and Altikapi Tomb shaped according to Seljuk architecture but they built in the Karamanlı period.

Cappadocia in the Ottoman Period

It would not be a lie if we say that the Ottoman period was the calmest and most developed period in the history of Cappadocia. Christians were welcomed with a tolerance that they could worship comfortably as in the Seljuk period. During the period of Damat İbrahim Pasha Nevşehir was attempted to be reconstructed while it was a small village connected with Niğde. And mosques, fountains and complexes were built in historical places of Cappadocia, Özkonak, Avanos, Gülşehir regions. One of them is the bridge built in the eastern expedition of Yavuz Sultan Selim in 1514. Ulu Mosque in Avanos, the complexes and mosques in Gülşehir can also be counted among the Ottoman artifacts.

After the establishment of the republic(with the population exchanges between 1924 and 1926)the Christian people leave the region and left behind the structures with traces of all civilizations.

It was also a frequent destination for trade routes, connecting geography of different continents with each other.

There is a different story and a different myth of every history. In short the history of Cappadocia is very special, which has hundreds of narratives from the formation of fairy chimneys to the life of the monks.

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