Home Page Issues Publishing Principles Order Form Links Contact Türkçe
Detailed Search  
Click here to visit web site of anakkale Ceramics
If you would like to get announcement mails about Akmed activities, please subcribe to our mailling list.
First name:
Last name:


Antalya, a City of the Middle Ages: A General Approach to Its Development from Late Antiquity to the End of Seljuk Period (II)
İlhan ERDEM*

In the 3rd century A.D., the centers with geostrategic features that were easier to defend began to rise to prominence, while the life style of Antiquity and the cities reflecting the characteristics of that period were declining, due in part to the extensive economic crisis and the recurring attacks of barbarians on the Roman Empire. A new era was dawning. This epoch, which was to be named the Middle Ages by later historians, came with its own institutions. And the city of Antalya had a potential to meet the conditions and requirements of these times. Because of this, beginning from the late Antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages, the city developed and grew into being one of the most important crossroads in Anatolia.

In this article, the first part of which was published previously, we attempt to correctly determine the historical status of Antalya in the Middle Ages, and to arrive at fresh data and new conclusions about the developments and changes that took place both before the arrival of Turks and after Turkish rule was established. Our basic references are drawn generally from original sources and the relevant works of western researchers.

With the conquest of Antalya in 1207, the renowned cities of antiquity like Perge, Aspendos, Syllaion and Side also fell under Turkish rule, extending in consequence the area dominated by the Seljuk administration's Army Command of Antalya as far as the Manavgat River to the east. During the sojourn of the conqueror Sultan Giyaseddin I., the defenses of the city were strengthened and an organization to conduct religious affairs was established. Also after the conquest, official testimonials for the freedom of religious practices were bequeathed to non-Muslim communities in the city. However, the local Rums (Anatolian Greeks) incited by Walter of Cyprus rioted in 1215, putting the Muslim citizens and the Turkish garrison in the city to the sword. Sultan Izzeddin I., who heard about this massacre three days later, grasped the gravity of the situation and took immediate action. He personally spurred his forces on to capture the castle and thus took back the city. After the rioters were punished, Emir Mübareziddin Ertokuş, the commander with a good knowledge about the cultures, languages and customs of the peoples along this coast, was appointed again to head the administration. Then, a population census and the recording of assets was made, and a new settlement arrangement was put into effect.

During this period, the Old Harbor of Antalya was the sole port that provided the Seljuks access to the Mediterranean Sea, and by taking advantage of this location, the Sultans set out to make trade agreements. The first known record of such an official deal was cosigned in 1214 between Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus I. and King Hugh I. (1205-1218) of Cyprus, which was followed by a series of treaties with other states, the primary one being with the Republic of Venice. All these trade deals helped Antalya develop into a large commercial center and its population prospered by through upsurge in revenues. As a result of the Seljuk control in Antalya, the city's connections with the Anatolian mainland increased considerably, since the Bulgarians, Russians, Syrians and Egyptians also had heavy trade relations with the hinterland at this time.

After its incorporation into the Sultanate, Antalya became the winter capital of the Seljuk sultans. On his return from a military campaign against the Armenians in 1217, Izzeddin Keykavus I. visited this attractive city and chose to spend the winter season there, and Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad did the same after his conquest of Alaiye. In the Seljuk chronicles, where Antalya is also mentioned as a frontier stronghold or an outpost, we find some implications that the Turks constructed a shipyard there or at least preserved an existing one and fortified it. The Seljuk fleet under Ertokuş attained a level of strength in this period equal to previous Byzantine fleets based in Antalya.

The Seljuk sultans' admiration for the city was enormous. The great monarch Alaaddin Keykubat, who loved Antalya, preferred this city not only for pleasure and amusement, but rather as his sanctuary in trying to solve the numerous problems of the country and to work on the affairs of state and government. After Antalya, he chose Alaiye as his second resort and similarly had this place adorned with significant works of art.

We know that from the middle of the 13th century onwards, the Turkmens started to be influential in the region's destiny, by achieving an important capacity of military and political power in Antalya. The swelling of the Turkmen population in this area and the other cities of Anatolia was effected by groups fleeing from the Mongol incursions in the Central Asia and finally reaching safety in this country of the Seljuks. By Sultan Alaaddin's decree, an important number of these groups were settled in Antalya and its surroundings.

Among the Seljuk Sultans, Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II. also considered Antalya important and spent his winter months there. Almost all of the existing caravanserais in the vicinity of Antalya was built during his reign, among which are: Şarapsa Han on the Antalya-Alanya road, Kırkgöz Han and İncir Han on the İsparta route and Susuz Han by Susuz Village. In addition to these structures, a number of other Seljuk works worth mentioning are the Great Mosque (Ulu Cami), the mesjid of Ahi Yusuf, the Karatay Medrese and the Fluted Minaret, plus the obvious tangibility of many fountains, bridges, inns, free-kitchens and tekkes or lodges for the dervishes.

Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus II., who lost his throne after being defeated by the Mongols in the Sultanönü Battle of 1256, took refuge in Antalya and from there he continued to struggle with the enemy for a while, since this city was one of the important places of the Borderland Turkmens and of resistance against the Mongol invasion during his reign. At some point in this period, it was under consideration to name Antalya the capital city of the Seljuks; replacing Konya, as capital of the Sultanate.

Antalya ensured a considerable cash flow from the customs revenues to the state treasury during the Seljuk period, as it did in Byzantine times.

As a bustling city in Anatolia, its settled population consisted of four communities, including the Rums who, although the majority in the Byzantine period, were gradually replaced by Turks under the Seljuk dynasty and slipped to a secondary position, followed by the community of Jews and others. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city and the region of Antalya was the produce center of Anatolia, particularly of citrus fruits. Almost all the travelers passing through or the geographers writing about Antalya are of the same opinion, that the city was well-watered and full of gardens, its vineyards and orchards were abundant in fruits and vegetables. Also during this period of time, a certain kind of cloth called Antalya Kemha was produced in the city. Its popularity was so widespread that a quantity of 500 bolts of Kemha was included among the tax which the Mongolian ruler Hiilagu of the Ilkhan dynasty charged the Seljuk State with paying.

After Sultan İzzeddin, Antalya seemed to lose its importance in the political and economic background of the Seljuk administration, while other locations like Ayas, Ayasuluk and Balat in Western Anatolia, and Trabzon to the north developed into being more important centers in Anatolia for trading with the Levant.

In summing up, Antalya emerges as one of the most important cities of Anatolia during both the Byzantine and the Seljuk periods, without showing any decline throughout the Middle Ages, and preserving its status at best, in contrast to the waning of Perge, Side and Aspendos, which were once the jewels of antiquity. Developing into an important trade center along the Mediterranean coast of Anatolia, Antalya also contributed greatly to our environmental and cultural style through its opulent socio-cultural composition, as well as being a very important cornerstone in the Turkish Renaissance that flourished all over in Anatolia during the reign of the Seljuk dynasty. These active builders left here a mosque and a medrese, both of which also served as institutions for education, and many bath-houses, as well as a wide and well organized bazaar, marking the presence of an affluent community of Turkish tradesmen dominant in the city.

In our day, Antalya is striving towards a new mission, despite the loss of its imperial importance and status in the New Age and in modern times.

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

Article List