CAPPADOCIA (THE LAND OF BEAUTIFUL HORSES)

 

Cappadocia region is the place where the nature and history come together with most beautiful scene in the world. While geographic events were forming Peribacaları (fairy chimneys), during the historical period, human had carried the signs of thousand years old civilizations with carving houses and churches within these earth pillars and decorating them with frescoes.

Cappadocia is a magical and breathtaking region with its unique mix of natural geography, Anatolian history and vibrant traditional Turkish culture. The rocky fairy chimneys attest to ancient volcanic eruptions and the ravages of sun, frost, wind, and rain; the history embodies the consequences of its unique Central Anatolian situation which offered both protection from and vulnerability to the various armies that swept across the region; but more importantly, the living culture encapsulates a tolerance of religious and cultural differences which is deeply rooted in a past where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived alongside each other in harmony for centuries.


GEOLOGICAL FORMATION
The surrealistic geological formation of Cappadocia is one of the wonders of the world. It is the result of the natural forces during the intense volcanic activity.
In addition to the European Alps, the Taurus Mountains of southern Anatolia were formed during the Tertiary period of geological development (65 million to 2 million years ago). During the "Alpine period" of mountain-building, deep fissures and large depressed areas were created. The fracturing process allowed the subsurface magma (rocks in their molten state) to find its way to the surface where it formed the Erciyes, Develi, Melendiz, Kegiboydoran, and Hasan Dag cones.
After numerous eruptions these cones increased in size and formed a chain of volcanoes running parallel to the Taurus Mountains. Also the volcanic material slowly ran towards the depressed areas and covered the previously formed hills and valleys. This geological activity changed the general landscape of the region, giving it the appearance of a plateau.

Wind, climate, mechanical weathering, rain, snow, and rivers caused the erosion giving to Cappadocia its unusual and characteristic rock formations. The Cappadocian climate, with sharp changes of temperature, heavy rains, and melting snow in the spring, plays an important role in the formation of the Cappadocian landscape. In addition, mechanical weathering is responsible for fragmentation because rocks expand when heated and break up as they cool. Frozen water in the cracks can also cause fragmentation. However, the most important sources of erosion are rain and rivers. Heavy rainfall transformed the smooth surface of the plateau into a complex pattern of gullies that followed preexisting fissures in the rocks. Eroded materials were then removed by the rivers. Sometime streams and rivers made very sharp vertical cuts into the volcanic soil and created isolated pinnacles at the intersection of two or more gullies. Rain and rivers also formed valleys such as Zelve and Goreme.


"FAIRY CHIMNEYS"
“Fairy chimneys" were formed when lava covering the tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) gave way along preexisting cracks of sloping areas and became isolated pinnacles. They can attain a height of up to forty meters, have conical shapes and consist of caps of harder rock resting on pillars of softer rock.
A "fairy chimney" exists until the neck of the cone erodes and its protective cap falls off. The subsequent disintegration of the remaining pinnacle continues until it is completely leveled down.


HISTORY OF CAPPADOCIA
Prehistoric Period
Traces of Prehistoric cultures in Cappadocia can most easily be found around Köskhöyük/Nigde, Asiklihöyük/Aksaray and in the Civelek Cave near Nevsehir. Excavations in these three areas are still taking place.

 

Asikli Höyük (mound)

Archaeological excavations uncovered the first brick living quarters in Cappadocia in Asikli Höyük (mound), an extension of Aksaray's Ihlara Canyon settlements. Yellow and pink clay plaster was used in making the walls and floors of the houses, some of the most beautiful and complicated architectural examples of first towns. They buried the dead in the Hocker position, like a foetus in the womb, on the floor of their houses. According to Prof. U. Esin, who researched at Asikli Höyük, a bigger population than that that had been previously theorised was revealed by the abundance and density of the settlements discovered in these areas in the Aceramic Neolithic Period. Nowhere else in Anatolia can the unique obsidian tools be found like those from Cappadocian Tumuli. Figurines, made from lightly baked clay, were unearthed together with flat stone axes wrought in many fine shapes, chisels and coulters made from bones and ornaments made from copper, agate and other different kinds of stones. Evidence provided by a skeleton found here indicates that the earliest brain surgery (trepanation) known in the world was performed on a woman 20-25 years of age at Asikli Höyük.

 

Protohittite and Assyrian Trade Colonies Periods (3000BC - 1750BC)

Mining and metallurgy reached its peak in Anatolia during the Early Bronze Age. Major developments were observed in Northern Anatolia towards the end of this period. Between 2000BC and 1750BC Assyrian merchants from northern Mesopotamia formed the first commercial organisations by establishing trade colonies in Anatolia. The centre of these colonies was at Kanesh Kharum near Kültepe in Kayseri province (Kharum: A commercial market place). Another important commercial market place referred in documents is the Kharum Hattush at Bogazköy. Anatolia was rich in gold, silver and copper, but lacked tin, essential for obtaining bronze as an alloy. For this reason tin was one of the major trading materials, as well as textile goods and perfumes. The merchants had no political dominance, but were protected by the regional Beys.
Fortunately for the Assyrian merchants, writing was seen for the first time in Anatolia. From the "Cappadocia tablets", cuneiform clay tablets on which ancient Assyrian was written, it has been learnt that merchants paid a 10% road tax to the Bey, received 30% interest from locals for, and paid a 5% tax to the Anatolian kings for goods they sold. The same tablets tell us that Assyrian merchants sometimes married Anatolian women, and the marriage agreements contained clauses to protect the women's rights from their husbands.
Assyrian merchants also introduced cylinder seals, metallurgy, their religious beliefs, Gods and temples to Anatolia. Native Anatolian art flourished under the influence of Assyrian Mesopotamic art, eventually developing an identity of its own. During the following ages this developed into the fundamentals of Hittite art.


Hittite Period (1750-1200 BC)

People coming from Europe via the Caucasus, and settling in Cappadocia around 2000 BC, formed an Empire in the region merging with the native people of the area. Their language was of Indo-European origin.
The capital of the Hittite kingdom was at Hattushash (Bogazköy), and the other important cities were Alacahöyük and Alisar. Hittite remains can be found in all the tumuli in Cappadocia.
The Hittite Empire, which lasted for six centuries in the region, collapsed around 1200 BC when the confederacy of Hittite states was invaded by the Phrygian people from the Balkans.

 

Late Hittite Kingdom (1200-700 BC)

After the Phrygians destroyed all the important towns in Central Anatolia eliminating the Hittite Empire, fragments of the Late Hittite Kingdoms sprang up around central and southeast Anatolia. The Late Hittite Kingdom in Cappadocia was the Tabal kingdom, which extended over Kayseri, Nevsehir and Nigde. Rock monuments from this age, with Hittite hieroglyphics can be found at Gülsehir.

 

The Persian Empire and The Kingdom of Cappadocia (585BC-332BC)

The Cimmerians ended the Phrygian reign, and were then followed by the Medes (585BC) and the Persians (547 BC). The Persians divided the empire into semi autonomous provinces and ruled the area using governors who were known as 'satraps'. In the ancient Persian language, Katpatuka, the word for Cappadocia, meant "Land of the well bred horses".
The Persians gave their people the freedom to choose their own religion and to speak their native languages. Since the religion they were devoted to was the Zoroastrian religion, fire was considered to be divine, and so, the volcanoes of Erciyes and Hasandagi were sacred for them. The Persians constructed a "Royal Road" connecting their capital city in Cappadocia to the Aegean region. The Macedonian King Alexander defeated Persian armies twice, in 334 and 332 BC, and conquered this great empire.
After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, King Alexander met with great resistance in Cappadocia. He tried to rule the area through one of his commanders named Sabictus, but the ruling classes and people resisted and declared Ariarthes, a Persian aristocrat, as king. Ariarthes I (332 - 322 BC) was a successful ruler, and extended the borders of the Cappadocian Kingdom as far as the Black Sea.
The kingdom of Cappadocia lived in peace until the death of Alexander. From then until 17AD, when it became a Roman province, it fought wars with the Macedonians, the Galatians and the Pontus nation.


The Roman Period (17AD - 395AD)

The wars came to an end in 17AD when Tiberius conquered Cappadocia and placed it under Roman rule. After the conquest, the Romans reconstructed the road to the west that was of both commercial and military significance.
During the Roman era the area saw many migrations and attacks from the east. The area was defended by Roman military units known as "Legions".
During the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus, Cappadocia's economy flourished, but the capital, Kayseri (Caesera) was attacked by Sassanid armies from Iran. Emperor Gordianus III ordered the construction of defensive city walls.
During this time some of the first Christians were moving from the big cities to villages. In the 4th century, when Kayseri was a flourishing religious centre, the rocky landscape of Göreme was discovered. Adopting the teachings of St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (Kayseri), the Christians began to lead a monastic life in the carved out rocks of Cappadocia.

 

The Byzantine Period (397 - 1071)

When the Roman Empire divided into two, Cappadocia fell under the eastern region. In the early 7th century there were severe wars between the Sassanid and Byzantine armies, and for 6 or 7 years the Sassanids held the area. In 638 Caliph Ömer ended the domination of the Sassanids, and the Arab Ommiades began to attack.
The long lasting religious debates among sects reached a peak with the adoption of the Iconoclastic view by Leon III, who was influenced by Islamic traditions. Christian priests and monks who were in favour of icons began to take refuge in Cappadocia. The Iconoclastic period lasted over a century (726-843). During this time, although several Cappadocian churches were under the influence of Iconoclasm, the people who were in favour of icons were able to continue to worship comfortably.

 

The Seljuk Period (1071-1299)

The arrival of the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia marked the beginning of a new era in history. After their victories in Iran and Mesopotamia, Turks rapidly spread throughout Anatolia, settling there in the second half of the 11th century. In 1071 the Byzantine emperor Romanos Diogenes, who was of Cappadocian origin, was defeated and captured by the Seljuk ruler Alparslan at Malazgirt. In 1080 Suleiman Shah founded the Anatolian Seljuk State, the capital of which was Konya. In 1082 Kayseri was conquered by Turks. Cities such as Nigde and Aksaray were reconstructed, and caravanserais, mosques, Madrasah, and tombs were built.
The Seljuk Turks' conquest of Anatolia did not affect the administrative authority of the Patriarchy. It was only after the 14th century that its size and status were diminished.

 

The Ottoman Period

The Region of Cappadocia was very peaceful also during the Ottoman Period. Nevsehir was a small village in the province of Nigde until the time of Damat Ibrahim Pasha. At the beginning of the 18th century, especially during the time of Damat Ibrahim Pasha, places like Nevsehir, Gülsehir, Ozkonak, Avanos and Ürgüp prospered and mosques, külliyes (a collection of buildings of an institution, usually composed of schools, a mosque, lunatic asylum, hospital, kitchen, etc.) and fountains were built. The bridge in the centre of the town of Ozkonak, which was built during Yavuz Sultan Selim's campaign to the east (1514), is important in terms of being an early Ottoman Period building.
The Christian people living in the area were treated with tolerance in the Ottoman Period as in the Seljuk Period. The 18th century church of Constantine-Helena in Sinasos-Ürgüp, the 19th century church built in honor of Dimitrius in Gülsehir and the Orthodox Church in Derinkuyu are some of the best examples of this tolerance.

In the meantime many former Cappadocians had shifted to a Turkish dialect (written in Greek alphabet, Karamanlıca), and where the Greek language was maintained (Sille, villages near Kayseri, Pharasa town and other nearby villages), it became heavily influenced by the surrounding Turkish. This dialect of Greek is known as Cappadocian Greek. Following the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the language is now only spoken by a handful of the former population's descendants in modern Greece.

 

    
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