Aksaray is an important center in the Cappadocia region. The province has
many interesting sites to explore in addition to wonderful surroundings.
There are important historical buildings from
mostly from the 14th century, such as the Ulu Mosque and the Kizil (Egri)
Minaret. The brickwork of the Kizil Minaret is elaborate. The impressive
Caravanserai (legacy of the Silk Road) built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat is well-preserved and
the Agzikarahan Caravanserai is the second most important and famous monument
from the Seljuk period.
Aksaray possesses the most frequently visited regions of
Cappadocia, displaying natural beauties mingled with the pages of history.
Viransehir (Nora), which was once an important military base of the Byzantines and the
Romans because of its strategic position, carries historical remains from Roman
and Byzantine times.
One of the most spectacular sights in Aksaray
is the Hasan Mountains, which was formed from an ancient volcano. At a height of
3200 meters, it is a hotspot for trekking and mountaineering.
The lava flowing from the Hasan Mountains cooled down and formed a beautiful
Canyon with its breaks and splits in the Ihlara Valley, which is about 40
kilometers from Aksaray. The Melendiz brook flows through this valley. The
valley reaches a height of almost 150 meters at some places. One finds many
churches, shelters and tombs engraved into the rock surfaces of the valley. Some
of these shelters and churches are connected to each other by means of many
Ihlara is a 14 km-long fascinating canyon, formed by the
Melendiz River. In this valley can be found Byzantine rock chapels cut into the
canyon walls and decorated with wonderful frescoes. Of these chapels the Agacalti (Daniel)
Church, the Yilanli (Apocalypse) Church, the Sumbullu (Hyacinth) Church, the
Purenliseki Church, and St. Georges Church are the most interesting.
In the Guzelyurt valley, there are dwellings from the
prehistoric periods and they are in an underground city form. In addition to
these there are chapels and buildings carved into the rock. The Manastir Valley,
and the Sivisli Church, one of the most interesting churches in the area, and
underground cities in Ortakoy and Saratli-Gulagac, are
the other attractive places to visit. Near these sites, you will also find guest houses,
restaurants and good hotels.
In and around Aksaray there are 55 registered
ancient cities that one can explore the ancient worlds of Anatolia. Many of
archaeological and ethnographic works of art of the ancient Anatolia are
displayed in the
Museum located in the Zinciriye Mederese-an impressive
architecture from the Karamanoglu period in the 14the century.
(ancient Purushanda / Burushattum) is another interesting ancient site, worth to
visit, which has occupation going back into the 3rd millennium. The city was
later occupied in
the Assyrian Colony period. Around
1950 B.C., traders from the northern Mesopotamian city of Ashur established
karums, or merchants' colonies, at a number of Central Anatolian cities, among
them the site of Acemhöyük. Assyrian merchants lived in a restricted area of
these cities, trading textiles and tin from the southeast for silver but
operating under the rule of local kings. Acemhöyük is a large mound located
north-west of Aksaray on the Konya Plain. It is on a route linking Anatolia with
the East and seems to have been an important center for the copper trade and
industry at the time
Asikli Tumulus located at the Ihlara Valley,
one can see ruins of the first village settlements from the Aceramic Neolithic
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
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
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.
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.
After the Phrygians destroyed all the important towns in
Central Anatolia eliminating the Hittite Empire, fragments of the
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 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,
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 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
During the Roman era the area saw many migrations and attacks
from the east. The area was defended by Roman military units known as
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
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.
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 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 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.
Strabon, a writer of antiquity, describes the borders of the
Cappadocia Region, in his 17-volume book Geographika (Geography) written
in his maturity in Rome during the reign of Emperor Augustus, as a very large
area surrounded by Taurus Mountains in the south, Aksaray in the west, Malatya
in the east and all the way up to the Black Sea coast in the north. Present day
Cappadocia is the area covered by the city provinces of Nevsehir, Aksaray, Nigde,
Kayseri and Kirsehir. The smaller rocky region of Cappadocia is the area around
Uchisar, Goreme, Avanos, Urgup, Derinkuyu, Kaymakli and Ihlara.
The interesting rock formations, known as "fairy
chimneys", have been formed as the result of the erosion of this tufa
layer, sculpted by wind and flood water, running down on the slopes of the
valleys. Water has found its way through the valleys creating cracks and
ruptures in the hard rock. The softer, easily erodable material underneath has
been gradually swept away receding the slopes and in this way, conical
formations protected with basalt caps have been created.
The fairy chimneys with caps, mainly found in the vicinity of
Urgup, have a conical shaped body and a boulder on top of it. The cone is
constructed from tufa and volcanic ash, while the cap is of hard, more resistant
rock such as lahar or ignimbrite. Various types of fairy chimneys are found in
Cappadocia. Among these are those with caps, cones, mushroom like forms, columns
and pointed rocks.
Fairy chimneys are generally found in the valleys of the
Uchisar- Ürgüp-Avanos triangle, between Urgup and Sahinefendi, around the town
of Cat in Nevsehir, in the Sogani valley in Kayseri, and in the village of
Selime in Aksaray.
Volcanic eruptions and geological formation
Mount Erciyes, Hasandagi and Golludag were active volcanoes in
the geological periods. Alongside with many other volcanoes, eruptions of these
volcanoes started in the Early Miocene (10 million years ago) and have continued
until the present day. The lava produced by these volcanoes, under the Neogene
lakes, formed a layer of tufa on the plateaus, which varied in hardness and was
between 100 and 150m thick. Other substances in the layer are ignimbrite, soft
tufa, tufa, lahar, ash, clay, sandstone, marn, basalt and other agglomerates.
Plateaus, having been essentially shaped with the lava from
the bigger volcanoes, were continuously altered with the eruptions of smaller
volcanoes. Starting in the Early Pliocene Period, the rivers in the area,
especially Kizilirmak (the Red River), and local lakes contributed to the
erosion of this layer of tufa stone, eventually giving the area its present day
Another characteristic feature of the area is the sweeping
curves on the sides of the valleys, formed by rainwater. The array of colors
seen on some of the valleys is due to the difference in heat of the lava layers.
Such patterns can be seen in Uchisar, Cavusin/ Güllüdere, Goreme/ Meskendir,
Ortahisar/Kizilçukur and Pancarlik valleys.