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Cappadocia: the site of nature’s wonderful formations, a central Anatolian and world heritage with a history dating back to 3000 B.C
This awesome geography where history and nature intertwines has been host to many civilizations throughout the centuries. The unique volcanic landscape of the region took shape as a result of the erosion of the volcanic layers which spread through the area with the eruption of Erciyes, Hasandag and Güllüdag mountains about 60 million years ago.
Cappadocia, which means “land of beautiful horses,”in Persian language, has been the hub of many civilizations and a gigantic shelter and center for Christians who fled from the Roman Empire during the Hittite period and hid in the houses and churches carved inside of rocks.
With the formation of fairy chimneys in time, the local communities carved houses and churches into these rocks and made frescoes inside of these structures connecting the past with the present.
A district of Nevşehir and one of the key points of the Silk Road, Cappadocia is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
If you are ready to go on a journey to dreamland, Cappadocia is waiting to introduce you to all of its mysteries!
The earliest record of the name of Cappadocia dates from the late 6th century BC, when it appears in the trilingual inscriptions of two early Achaemenid kings, Darius I and Xerxes, as one of the countries (Old Persian dahyu-) of the Persian Empire. In these lists of countries, the Old Persian name is Katpatuka, which possibly means “the land/country of beautiful horses”.
“Cappadocia” could also come from the Luwian language, meaning “Low Country”.
Herodotus tells us that the name of the Cappadocians was applied to them by the Persians, while they were termed by the Greeks as “Syrians” or “White Syrians” Leucosyri. One of the Cappadocian tribes he mentions is the Moschoi, associated by Flavius Josephus with the biblical figure Meshech, son of Japheth: “and the Mosocheni were founded by Mosoch; now they are Cappadocians”. AotJ I:6.
Cappadocia appears in the biblical account given in the book of Acts 2:9. The Cappadocians were named as one group hearing the Gospel account from Galileans in their own language on the day of Pentecost shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:5 seems to suggest that the Cappadocians in this account were “God-fearing Jews”. See Acts of the Apostles.
The region is also mentioned in the Jewish Mishnah, in Ketubot 13:11.
Under the later kings of the Persian Empire, the Cappadocians were divided into two satrapies, or governments, with one comprising the central and inland portion, to which the name of Cappadocia continued to be applied by Greek geographers, while the other was called Pontus. This division had already come about before the time of Xenophon. As after the fall of the Persian government the two provinces continued to be separate, the distinction was perpetuated, and the name Cappadocia came to be restricted to the inland province (sometimes called Great Cappadocia), which alone will be the focus of this article.
The kingdom of Cappadocia still existed in the time of Strabo (ca 64 BC – ca 24 AD) as a nominally independent state. Cilicia was the name given to the district in which Caesarea, the capital of the whole country, was situated. The only two cities of Cappadocia considered by Strabo to deserve that appellation were Caesarea (originally known as Mazaca) and Tyana, not far from the foot of the Taurus.
Cappadocia was known as Hatti in the late Bronze Age, and was the homeland of the Hittite power centred at Hattusa. After the fall of the Hittite Empire, with the decline of the Syro-Cappadocians (Mushki) after their defeat by the Lydian king Croesus in the 6th century, Cappadocia was ruled by a sort of feudal aristocracy, dwelling in strong castles and keeping the peasants in a servile condition, which later made them apt to foreign slavery. It was included in the third Persian satrapy in the division established by Darius but continued to be governed by rulers of its own, none apparently supreme over the whole country and all more or less tributaries of the Great King.
Kingdom of Cappadocia
After ending the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great tried to rule the area through one of his military commanders. But Ariarathes, a Persian aristocrat, somehow became king of the Cappadocians. As Ariarathes I (332–322 BC), he was a successful ruler, and he extended the borders of the Cappadocian Kingdom as far as to the Black Sea. The kingdom of Cappadocia lived in peace until the death of Alexander. The previous empire was then divided into many parts, and Cappadocia fell to Eumenes. His claims were made good in 322 BC by the regent Perdiccas, who crucified Ariarathes; but in the dissensions which brought about Eumenes’s death, Ariarathes II, the adopted son of Ariarathes I, recovered his inheritance and left it to a line of successors, who mostly bore the name of the founder of the dynasty.
Under Ariarathes IV, Cappadocia came into relations with Rome, first as a foe espousing the cause of Antiochus the Great, then as an ally against Perseus of Macedon. The kings henceforward threw in their lot with the Republic as against the Seleucids, to whom they had been from time to time tributary. Ariarathes V marched with the Roman proconsul Publius Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus against Aristonicus, a claimant to the throne of Pergamon, and their forces were annihilated (130 BC). The imbroglio which followed his death ultimately led to interference by the rising power of Pontus and the intrigues and wars which ended in the failure of the dynasty.
Roman and Byzantine province
Main article: Cappadocia (Roman province)
The Cappadocians, supported by Rome against Mithridates VI of Pontus, elected a native lord, Ariobarzanes, to succeed (93 BC); but in the same year Armenian troops under Tigranes the Great entered Cappadocia, dethroned king Ariobarzanes and crowned Gordios as the new client-king of Cappadocia, thus creating a buffer zone against the encroaching Romans. It was not until Rome had deposed the Pontic and Armenian kings that the rule of Ariobarzanes was established (63 BC). In the civil wars Cappadocia was first for Pompey, then for Caesar, then for Antony, and finally, Octavian. The Ariobarzanes dynasty came to an end, a Cappadocian nobleman Archelaus was given the throne, by favour first of Antony and then of Octavian, and maintained tributary independence until AD 17, when the emperor Tiberius, who he had angered, summoned him to Rome and reduced Cappadocia to a Roman province.
Cappadocia contains several underground cities (see Kaymaklı Underground City), largely used by early Christians as hiding places before Christianity became an accepted religion. The underground cities have vast defence networks of traps throughout their many levels. These traps are very creative, including such devices as large round stones to block doors and holes in the ceiling through which the defenders may drop spears.Early Christianity
The Cappadocian Fathers of the 4th century were integral to much of early Christian philosophy. It also produced, among other people, another Patriarch of Constantinople, John of Cappadocia, who held office 517–520. For most of the Byzantine era it remained relatively undisturbed by the conflicts in the area with the Sassanid Empire, but was a vital frontier zone later against the Muslim conquests. From the 7th century, Cappadocia was divided between the Anatolic and Armeniac themes. In the 9th–11th centuries, the region comprised the themes of Charsianon and Cappadocia.
Cappadocia shared an always-changing relationship with neighbouring Armenia, by that time a region of the Empire. The Arab historian Abu Al Faraj asserts the following about Armenian settlers in Sivas, during the 10th century: “Sivas, in Cappadocia, was dominated by the Armenians and their numbers became so many that they became vital members of the imperial armies. These Armenians were used as watch-posts in strong fortresses, taken from the Arabs. They distinguished themselves as experienced infantry soldiers in the imperial army and were constantly fighting with outstanding courage and success by the side of the Romans in other words Byzantine”. As a result of the Byzantine military campaigns and the Seljuk invasion of Armenia, the Armenians spread into Cappadocia and eastward from Cilicia into the mountainous areas of northern Syria and Mesopotamia, and the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was eventually formed. This immigration was increased further after the decline of the local imperial power and the establishment of the Crusader States following the Fourth Crusade. To the crusaders, Cappadocia was “terra Hermeniorum,” the land of the Armenians, due to the large number of Armenians settled there.
Following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, various Turkish clans under the leadership of the Seljuks began settling in Anatolia. With the rise of Turkish power in Anatolia, Cappadocia slowly became a tributary to the Turkish states that were established to the east and to the west; some of the population converted to Islam with the remainder forming the Cappadocian Greek population. By the end of the early 12th century, Anatolian Seljuks had established their sole dominance over the region. With the decline and the fall of the Konya-based Seljuks in the second half of the 13th century, they were gradually replaced by the Karaman-based Beylik of Karaman, who themselves were gradually succeeded by the Ottoman Empire over the course of the 15th century. Cappadocia remained part of the Ottoman Empire for the centuries to come, and remains now part of the modern state of Turkey. A fundamental change occurred in between when a new urban center, Nevşehir, was founded in the early 18th century by a grand vizier who was a native of the locality (Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha), to serve as regional capital, a role the city continues to assume to this day.
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.
Cappadocia, one of the most generous regions of Anatolia, was formed by nature’s magic hand.
Cappadocia and its surrounding area began to take shape 60 million years ago when the volcanic layer of lava and ashes covered the landscape upon the eruption of the volcanic mountains Erciyes, Hasandag and Güllüdag. The volcanic landscape took its final shape within time due to erosion caused by wind and rain.
The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia took form over millions of years and are among the most beautiful examples of nature’s own design. The fairy chimneys and the houses and churches carved by settlers out of these rocks have been preserved for centuries with great care. The fairy chimneys and magnificent frescoes carved inside are among the must-see sites.
The Goreme Open Air Museum, has a large collection of relics and structures of the Christian culture that presided in Cappadocia over a long time. Especially the churches carved into the rocks are monumental structures and forerunners of natural architecture. More than 250 churches, such as the Tokali Kilise (Church of the Buckle), Rahibeler Manastırı (Monastery of Nuns), Yilanli Kilise (the Snake Church) and the Chapel of St. Barbara wait for their visitors.
Ortahisar Castle carved into the rocks at an altitude of 1200 meters during Hittite period was built to protect the city but also used as a settlement. It is possible to take amazing pictures of Cappadocia from this height.
Çatalhöyük is another historical site worth seeing. It is close to Cappadocia and one of the first pro-city settlements of the world. The mound with the world’s oldest landscape painting sheds light to the Neolithic period when the transition to settled life occurred.
Populated with, underground cities and caves the region harbors a great variety of artifacts and ruins that provide invaluable information on all historical epochs dating from the prehistoric periods. Mounds such as Alacahöyük and Karahöyük as well as seven-layered underground cities such as Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı, Mazı and Civelek Cave are among the witnesses of history located in this region.
Additionally, Cappadocia has many relics belonging to Seljukian and Ottoman cultures. The tomb of Haci Bektas Veli, Balım Evi, Cuma Mosque are among the structures worth visiting.
One of the most popular and enjoyable aspects of Cappadocia are the spectacular ballon flights unfertaken in the area. The balloon cruises start early in the morning and offer awesome views of the landscape populated with fairy chimneys. You will experience unforgettable moments observing the ever-changing colors of the sunrise illuminating the historical beauties of the region.
Cappadocia has a variety of specialities identified with the Nevsehir cuisine. Especially Testi Kebabı, a unique local dish will leave an unforgettably delicious taste in your mouth with its juicy soft meat cooked in special, covered crocks. Once the meal is cooked, the crock is cracked to get the meal out. Apart from that the region is also known for its large vineyards and tasty wines.
Visitors who want to explore the history and natural wonders of ancient times are more than welcome in Cappadocia.
Cappadocia, the site where nature and history harmonize, organizes various festivals and events to entertain its guests all the year round.
Haci Bektas Veli Memorial is held in August every year and offers entertaining activities to participants from many countries of the world.
Sports enthusiasts show great interest in the Cappadocia Cycling Tour organized with the participation of contestants from all over the world every year in June. Both competitors and the audience have a great time.
Organized annually in September, the Avanos International Tourism and Crafts Festival is another important event promoting the touristic assets of the region.
Cappadocia offering many activities, natural wonders and historical sites is surely worth the visit.
Cappadocia is located in the Central Anatolian region and easy to reach.
One way to get to Cappadocia is to take a direct flight from any of the major airports in Turkey to either Kayseri Airport or Nevsehir Cappadocia Airport both of which are quite close to the region. The shuttles and other transportation vehicles stationed outside of the exit gate will take you to the right destination in a short time.
Alternatively Cappadocia can be reached via highway. Nevsehir is located at the intersection point of highways and offers regular transportation between any city of Turkey and Nevşehir. The shuttles and similar transportation devices leaving from the Nevşehir Central Bus station will take you to Cappadocia shortly.
Cappadocia is waiting for its visitors who do not want to miss the chance to explore its mysteries.
Nevşehir — The main province of Cappadocia.
Ürgüp — The biggest town and heart of Cappadocia.
Göreme — Cave Houses built into the Fairy Chimneys.
Uçhisar — The highest point of the region with it’s natural rock castle.
Avanos — Pottery town which is divided into two by the longest river of Turkey (Kızılırmak).
Ortahisar — A small village famous with its rock castle.
Mustafapaşa — Old Greek village.
Guzelyurt — historic Greek Town in Cappadocia . There are underground cities, St. Gregorius church, Red Church, Monestary valley
Ihlara — Biggest Canyon in Cappadocia. 1.2 million visitors every year