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Antalya, A Medieval Town: A General overview of the Period from Late Antiquity through to the end of the Seljuk Period (I)
İlhan ERDEM*

Due to barbarian attacks and a widespread economical crisis in the Roman Empire in the 3rd century A.D., the cities of Antiquity declined as did their epoch, and new centers with geo-strategic locations easier to defend prospered. A new era dawned, which was later termed the Middle Ages by historians, it emerged with its own institutions. At this point Antalya was ready to answer- the needs of the new era and the town prospered from Late Antiquity through the Middle Ages and became one of the important centers of Anatolia.

In 689 A.D. Justinian II resettled a number of Mardaites, brought from the Amanus mountains and settled in Antalya, in order to fight against the Arabs. This increased the military strength of the town, and made the Mardaites an integral part of the army.

The Kibyrrhaiotai fleet was stationed at Antalya and it took part in almost all the naval operations of the Byzantine Empire in the Mediterranean. For instance, it played an active part against the Arabs at Carthage in 689. against Italy in 732 and 743 and whenever necessary this fleet was used to procure and protect the food supplies of the imperial capital.

All these administrative and military activities were based in Antalya which made the town one of the most important centers, not only Pamphylia but also of the whole of Byzantium. With the Arab raids, the towns of Perge, Aspendos and Side, once famous in Antiquity, diminished in power and size, while Antalya, almost invulnerable and having a strong garrison, prospered and became the shining star of Anatolia in the Middle Ages. According to Ihn Hawqal, a geographer from the 10th century, Antalya and Trabzon were the two leading towns with the highest revenue from custom clues.

It is understood that in the 12th century Antalya was still one of the most important towns and military and commercial base of Byzantium at the Mediterranean. The contemporary Byzantine source Khoniates speaks of Antalya as, "the wonderful city of Attalos".

With the overwhelming defeat of the Byzantines by the Seljuk Turks at Myriokephalon in 1176, Byzantium lost many important centers in Anatolia. However, Antalya remained in the hands of Byzantium and resisted the Turks. Learning of the death of the Emperor Manuel, the Seljuk Turks besieged Antalya but could not conquer the city.

With the 4th Crusade, Antalya lost contact with Byzantium and passed into the hands of Aldobrandini, an Italian freebooter. The break in trade through the port of Antalya, due to political uncertainties and chaos drew the Seljuks to attack Antalya and Sultan Giyaseclclin 1st besieged the town around the beginning of 1207. Following a siege of two months Antalya passed into Seljuk hands on the 5 March 1207.

The present work aims to present an accurate view of Antalya in the Middle Ages and to provide fresh information and conclusions concerning the developments and changes in the period before and after the Seljuk Turk conquest of Antalya.

*Doç. Dr. İlhan Erdem, Ankara Üniversitesi, Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi, Ortaçağ Tarihi Anabilim Dalı, 06100 Sıhhıye - Ankara.

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