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Alanya – The City of 2.5 Thousand Year's History

The ancient greeks called the city Korakesion,

Romans called it Coracesium, in Buzantian Empire the city was known as Kolonoros,

and the Seljuqs named it Alaiye

A place where the modern city of Alanya is located has been attracting people from the ancient times. More than 20 centuries earlier this place was inhabited and it left its archeological traces. For the opportunity to own such privileges as mild climate, fertile lands of foothills and mountain glens, convenient access to the sea people made wars, built defensive installations and paid tribute.

In classical times there was a border between the ancient areas such as Pamphylia (Greek: Παμφυλία, Latin: Pamphylia) and Cilicia (Greek: Κιλικία, Latin: Cilicia). However, in the ancient sources the city is mention both as Pamphylia and Cilicia.

The Greek father of the history Gerotod Galikarnassky wrote about the region between Pamphylia and Cicilia “People who inhabited this area had come there after Trojan War. A plenty of nations who had loved there before met the aliens”. For the whole ancient history the city was closely connected with Greek civilization.

For the first time Mediterranean sea shore based defensible trade city of Korakesion (Greek: Κορακήσιον, in English translation “The Country of Rooks”) which is situated on the small peninsula and populated by Greek colonists was described in the treaty of 4th century B.C.E. “About The Lands and The Nations of Mediterranean Sea” which was referred to Greek geographer Skilaks Kariandsky.

Korakesion is considered to become defensible after the time when it was conquered by Alexander Makedonsky. Distant from the main lands and by this deteriorated by internecine warfare the city (along with the other coastal cities) which wields a fortress and accessible harbor and inhabited by many military veterans, deserters, sailors, fugitive slaves is becoming a shelter for so-called Cilician pirates. A coast with a plenty of creeks, protected by the rocks was perfect hiding place for the pirate ships and beautiful forests that cover adjacent mountains became an excellent material for shipbuilding.

Sea raiders began to flow together there from the whole Mediterranean area. For the residents maritime banditry was becoming the basic way to earn for living for hundreds of years to come.

In 224-188 B.C.E. the territory of Cilicia was captured by Antiochus III the Great, the ruler of the Seleucid Empire. But Korakesion withstood all the difficulties of the siege and retained “pirate” independence of the city.

In 142 B.C.E. Diodotus Tryphon repossesed Syrian throne from the inheritants of Anthiochus the Great with support of Cilician pirates. The pirate city of Korakesion became the residency of self-appointed tsar. It just took several years for Diodotus Tryphone with a support of the pirates to make Korakesion a powerful unassailable fortress situated on hill sides of the high rugged peninsula with cliff abrupt flanks surrounded by the sea on the three sides and connected with the continent by narrow neck of land. Korakesion became the main naval base of Cilician pirates for hundred years to come. Behind the walls of that fortress all the pirates who lived on the coastal area could find shelter and defence. An accessible port became the place of berth and the construction site for the pirate’s ships and mysterious caves kept prisoners and plundered wealth.

In 102 B.C.E. Cilicia was conquered by Roman Empire and then in 84 C.E. by the King of Great Armenia Tigranes II. However, the conquerers could control only the part of the flatland areas but the city of Korakesion as many of other pirate cities was beyond the power of the warriors. Tens of thousands of pirates aboard a fast maneuverable ships set all the territory of Eastern Mediterranean coast under control. They robbed, collected treaty from all the trade ships without any exception and attacked Greek islands such as Samos, Samothraki, Delos and Roman cities and ports. Moreover, they took up slave-trade and successfully resist the Roman navy. The Greek historian and biographer Plutarch highlights in his works the fact about young Julius Caesar, a future lord of Rome, who was taken captive by Cilician pirates.

Cilician pirates became such kind of problem for Romans that make it necessary to pass the certain law according to which commander Gnaeus Pompey the Great (Pompeius Magnus) obtained great anti-pirate empowerment, monetary funds, fleet which comprised 500 ships and 120 thousand people army. In 67 B.C.E. Pompey navy attacked all the largest Mediterranean pirate bases simultaneuosly. Plutarch wrote: “The majority of the most powerful pirates situated their families and treasures…in the fortresses which are located in the defensible cities in Tavra but these pirates themselves fit out the ships and were waiting for Pompey who clamored against them in the place nearby Kerakesion in Cilicia. During the battle that happened the pirates were vanquished and beleaguered in their fortresses. …The warriors sent envoys to Pompey in order to beg for mercy and surrendered together with cities and islands which they had taken and after that had reinforced in a way to make it difficult not only to capture them by force but also even to approach”. More than 20 thousands furious Cilician pirates who had some hundreds of ship by that time, were almost completely smashed by Pompey within less than 3 months and that was the result of flawlessly planned military commitment.

In 66 B.C.E. the whole territory of Cilicia and Pamphlylia was getting back to be under protectorate of The Roman Empire and the city under the name of Coracesium is becoming a part of the Roman province called Pamphlylia.

In 41 B.C.E. in Cilicia (close to today’s Mersin) there was the first meeting between the ruler of the Eastern part of Rome Antony and Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII. In 32 B.C.E. in Coracesium (today's Alanya) they got officially married, but in accordance with the imaginations of Romans the marriage was not considered to be entirely legal. As for the legend enamoured Roman made a sand beach located at the bottom of Coracesium as a gift for Cleopatra which she took a fancy to. Apart from that he gave her the city itself and all Cilicia.

After the collapse of Roman Empire in 395 the city became a part of Western Roman (Byzantine) Empire and soon was named as Kolonoros (Latin: Kolonoros, Greek: Καλόν Ὄρος which in English translation means “Wonderful mountain”). This is the way how the sailors called it and most of all it was marked by this particular name on the maps of that time.

There is quite little information about almost a thousand years period of the life of Kolonoros’ being a part of Byzantine Empire. It is known that in 5th century Byzantians built St. George Church inside the fortress which remained existing until now. During the 5th century the city was constantly facing Arab invasion and the fortress constructions were being fortified and improved. However, the city itself, after riding out the storm fell into ruin.

After the Byzantine army’s loss of the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 the city was plundered by the Seljuks. In 1120 the emperor John II Komnin undertook the military expedition to Pamhylia. As a result of that Kolonoros was returned back to Byzantian Emprire and reinforced afterwards.

In 1204 the crusaders captured Constantinople, the capital of Byzantian Empire, and found The Latin Empire. One of the feudal-crusaders, the Greek Kyr Vart, who took advantage of the period when he was completely powerless in his region, made his own residence on Kolonoros and then set his own ruling system.

In the winter of 1221 the army of Seljuq sultan Ala al-Din Kayqubad (Alā al-Dīn Kayqubād bin Kaykā'ūs, or Alaaddin Kayqubad), who started to capture the costal area of Mediterranean Sea appeared by the walls of Kolonoros. The fortress Kolonoros considered to be unassailable was completely blocked both the land and the sea sides. A hundred of heavy catapults was received in order to destroy the walls of the fortress. The siege continued for two months and after that the ruler of Kolonoros Kyr Vart agreed the negotiations and relinquished the fortress under honorable conditions.

All the city defenders survived, Kyr Vart was appointed to the post of emir of the city called Aksehir (situated in today’s Konya Province) and he obtained all communities around Aksehir as ikta, in other words to allot the territory and its revenue with the right to inherit, and his daughter became a wife of sultan Alaaddin Kayqubad I.

Provident ruler and proficient commander, sultan Alaaddin Kayqubad I during the years of his ruling (1219-1236) achieved the highest prosperity of Konyan (Seljuq) sultanate. He liked Kolonoros so much and he gave the city another name of Alaye (Ἀλάγια) after himself and he made it second, after Konya, capital and his own winter residency.

At the order of sultan practically the new fortress was rebuilt in 12 years. 133 towers, powerful bulwarks and high fortress walls, with the length of 6.5 km encompassed the whole mountain in several rows. On the top of the cliff inside the fortress there was a sultan's Winter Palace and the complicated water storage system called “cistern” was invented.

A watchtower was erected in order to protect the port. In five years it was built by a famous Syrian architect from Aleppo Ebu Ali Reha el-Kettani, the designer of the Sinop Fortress. This powerful and remarkably reliable octangular shaped construction with the height of 33 meters was build with a special red bricks and because of this the tower was named Kyzyl Kule (Turkish: Kızıl Kule, which in English means Red Tower).

At the bottom of the cliff the same architect Ebu Ali Reha el-Kettani within one year built an unique shipyard (Turkish: Tersane, English: Tersan) which consisted of five stone galleries under the wagon roof. Each gallery with the width of 7.7 m. and the depth of 42 m. is opened to the sea. The galleries are located in a way to use the daylight as much as possible. During several centuries the new ships were being built and the old ones were being repaired on the staples of this shipyard.

During that time the city was becoming increasingly important as trading and military port and according to its value it left Antalya behind. Arabian traveler Ibn Batuta described the new Seljuq capital with the following words: “Alaye is a large city near the coast. It is populated by the Turks. The city is frequently visited by vendors from Cairo, Alexandria and Syria. The area is rich with forestland. The wood is transported from here to Alexandria… and other cities of Egypt. In the outskirts of the upper town a magnificent citadel, built by sultan Alaaddin is dreadfully rising”.

Mongol (1243) and Egyptian Mamluks (1277) invasions seriously damaged the power of Conyan (Seljuq) sultanate, and in 1300 Seljuq state was finally dissipated.

Since 1293 the city of Alaye had become the center of independent beylik (feudal ownership) that belonged to Karamanid dynasty (Turkish: Karamanoğulları, English: Karamanogullari). In 1427 All the territory of beylik together with Alaye was sold for five thousands altyn to Mamluk sultan who was the ruler of Egypt.

In 1471 Gedik Ahmed Pacha, one of the sultan Mehmed Fatih II's (Fatih the Conqueror) commanders made Alaye the part of the Ottoman Empire. The shipyards were building the warships for the Ottoman navy and those ships controlled practically the whole territory of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the administrative division of the Ottoman Empire in 1571 Alaye was included to the province called Cyprus (Kibris) and then it became a part of the principality of Conya. Since 1868 Alaye was a part of Antalya, and since 1871 the city was an administrative region of Antalya province.

In 1933 according to the founder of Modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s suggestion the city of Alaye was renamed to Alanya. It is believed that the reason of that was the telegram from mayor of Alaye to the president in which there was a city name spelling mistake. Instead of Alaiye the name was written as Alanya. Ataturk noticed that mistake but he liked the way the word Alanya sounded so much.

For the first half of the 20th century Alanya was provincial agricultural town that made living from growing citrus and bananas. As a resort, Alanya has become famous since 50s of 20th century when Turks after having earned money in Germany were coming back to their native land and were building small hotels on the coastal area, on the place of banana plantations and orange gardens. Generally the first guests were ex-employers and acquaintances from Germany. A mixture of the unique sea-coast, mild climate and sensible economic policy of the Turkish authorities led to fast-growing development of modern Alanya and its turning to the largest tourist center of the Mediterranean area.

By virtue of majestic monuments and historical structure, UNESCO assigned to Alanya a status of the city which belongs to the world’s cultural heritage. In memory of the unique historical monuments creator there is an equestrian statue that meets everyone arrived to Alanya. It is sultan Ala al-Din Kayqubad I riding the beautiful horse.


Victor Denisov