Alanya on the Mediterranean once nestled amidst citrus and banana orchards, but when this picturesque town became a popular holiday resort, hotels gradually took the place of the luxuriant groves. However, although it has changed, it is still beautiful, with its medieval castle and tower, sand beaches and sapphire sea, palm trees, traditional houses and narrow lanes. And beyond the town in both directions are numerous lovely bays and beaches.
It lays along the borders between the ancient lands of Pamphylia and Cilicia. Studies carried out at Kadiini Cave by Professor Dr. Kilic Kokten in 1957 revealed that there were prehistoric settlements here during the Late Paleolithic (20,000-17,000 BC). The oldest known name of the town was Coracesium, by which we find it recorded in the 4th century BC, and in Byzantine times it was named Kolonoros. The Anatolian Seljuk ruler Alaeddin Keykubad (1220-1237) captured the castle in the 13th century and called the town Alaiye. This was changed to Alanya by Ataturk when he paid a visit here in 1935.
The sheltered harbor attracted pirates to Coracesium, which in the mid-2nd century BC became the stronghold of a notorious pirate chief named Trython. The pirates were expelled by Antiochus VII in 139 BC, and again, this time for good, in 65 BC by the Roman general Magnus. Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad marched on this strategic port from his capital Konya 200 kilometers inland, and the Christian ruler of Colonoros, Kyr Vart, surrendered in 1221 when he realized that there was no hope of holding out against the attacking army. Sultan Keykubad married the daughter of Kyr Vart, who was converted to Islam and took the Muslim name Mah-Peri. After the death of Sultan Keykubad, the town declined along with Seljuk power as a result of the Mongol invasion of 1243, followed by the Egyptian Mamluk invasion of 1277. In 1300 the Seljuk state broke up into several principalities, one of which, the Karamanogullari, gained control of the city. In 1427 the Karamanogullari sold Alanya to the Mamluk sultan for five thousand gold sovereigns, and in 1471 it became part of the Ottoman Empire under Mehmed II.
In 1571, along with Tarsus, it became part of the province of Cyprus. In 1871, after briefly becoming a sub-province of Konya, it became a district of Antalya.
The old town is surrounded by walls 6.5 kilometers in length, with 140 towers, which protected the town and harbor for centuries. Inside the walls are nearly 400 cisterns which provided the townsfolk with water during the long dry summers. This area is like an open-air museum of Seljuk architecture. The land and sea walls join at the imposing Red Tower on the harbor edge, and enclose the neighborhood known as Ehmedek and the Ickale (Inner Castle), before passing the high platform of Adam Atacagi above the cliffs overlooking the craggy Cilvarda promontory below. The walls then circle past the towers of Arap Evliyasi and Esat, Tophane and the Seljuk shipyards back to the Red Tower. Although the town's history goes back to Hellenistic times, most of the fortifications and historic buildings here date from the Seljuks.
Two Seljuk period brick cisterns in the inner castle are still in use today. There is also a small 11th-century Byzantine church here, showing that this part of the town was inhabited long before the construction of the castle. The Red Tower is a superb example of Seljuk architecture and the town's principal landmark. An inscription on the north side records the name of the architect, Abu Ali of Aleppo. The tower was restored by Turkish experts between 1951 and 1953 and is now an ethnographic museum.
Alanya was the first Mediterranean port to be taken by the Seljuks, and they built the shipyard which can still be seen today, consisting of a row of five vaulted docks. Here Alaeddin Keykubad constructed his fleet, thanks to which he became known as Sultan of Two Seas.