Amasya Turkey


Homeland of Strabo...

Amasya is one of the provinces which is distinct both with its natural setup and historical values it holds. It was the homeland of the famous geographer Strabo. Located in a narrow cleft of the Yesilirmak (Iris) river, it has a past of 3000 years during which many civilizations left priceless remains of their times. The ruins of the citadel on the rock face of the cleft shelters 2000-year-old water-channels, 1000-year-old bridges, a mental hospital, an Ottoman Palace and a secret underground passageway. On the rock faces, there are impressive rock tombs of the Pontus Kings, which contribute very much to the attractiveness of the city. At night, when they are illuminated, the view is unforgettable.

The city also has many historically and architecturally precious buildings; the Ferhat water channel, the 13th century Seljuk Burmali Mosque, the 15th century Yildirim Beyazit Mosque and Complex; the 14th century Ilhanli Bimarhane Mental Hospital with lovely reliefs around its portal, the extraordinary octagonal Kapi Aga Medrese, the Torumtay Mausoleum and the Gok Medrese.

There are traditional Turkish mansions which have been well - preserved. The 19th-century Hazeranlar Mansion has been restored perfectly and now it is of great interest with an art gallery on its first floor and an ethnographical museum on the second. The Archaeological Museum has an interesting collection including the mummies of the Ilhanli rulers of the city. As for natural beauty, the city is set apart from the rest of Anatolia in its tight mountain valley and hides its own secret beauty.

Lake Borabay (65 km northeast of Amasya) is a crater lake with an amazing view and fresh air. It is a perfect area for fishing (especially trout), for picnicking and for being alone with nature. Yedikir Dam Lake and Omarca National Park are other excursion sites. Terzikoy spa center, a thermal resort, is also worth a visit. It is nicely situated in a narrow valley, at some places, it seems more a gorge, through which the Yesilirmak River flows. On the North bank of the river, there's not much flat space and the land rises steeply to the highest mountain peak that commands the valley and surrounding area. The easily defendable situation, the supply of fresh water and the wind through the valley, creating a fine microclimate, made this location very attractive to men. Its long history starts in the midst of times before the Bronze Age, it was also a Hittite town, for Hittite artifacts are found.

Except for archaeological findings, little is known of the town before the arrival of the armies of Alexander the Great. Known is however that the town's earliest city walls went from the Northern river bank up the steep slopes to the fortress on the highest mountain peak. When Alexander's empire broke up soon after his death (323 BC) in several states, Amasya became the capital of the Kingdom of Pontus and the town entered one of its 'golden ages'. Although the Pontic Kings moved their capital to Sinop in 183 BC, it retained its status.

In the third Pontic-Roman war, the town was razed to the ground around 65 BC. Later the town was rebuilt by the Romans and became a provincial capital. Its most famous citizen was Strabo (64 BC-21 AD). Actually, the name Strabo was not a very flattering one, meaning cross-eyed. Strabo's eyes were not a handicap to become the greatest geographer of his time. He visited large parts of the Roman world, wrote historical works and atlases, both spiced with local stories and myths. Unfortunately little remained of his original works. The Romans were replaced by the Byzantines who left, except an enlargement of the fortress into a citadel, no marks on the town. The town was taken in 1071 by the Seljuks. The sons of one the Seljuk commanders founded, at the end of the 11th century, the Danishmend Dynasty. The Danishmend Dynasty ruled independently for about a hundred years. In 1175 the Danishmend Dynasty has united with the Seljuks again. The Seljuks could not enjoy this reunion for long, in 1243 they were defeated by other Asian invaders, the Mongols.

Around the middle of the 13th century, the Mongols had established their own dynasty, the Ilkhanids. The Ilkhanid Mongols would reign Amasya for about half a century and be replaced at the beginning of the 14th century by the Eretna Dynasty. The Eretna Dynasty was established by Eretna the Mongol governor of Sivas. The Eretna Dynasty lasted till 1381 to be superseded by the principality of vizier Kadi Burhanettin. The Ottomans took the town in 1392. The Ottoman Sultans favored the city and till the 17th century most heirs to the throne were taught how to rule and tested for their skills as governor of the province of Amasya. The town became a center of learning and theological studies. Till about the middle of the 19th century the town prospered, thereafter decline set in, sped by earthquakes, fires and the overall decline of the Ottoman Empire.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk arrived here in June 1919 coming from Havza. Amasya had already a force of volunteers to fight against the Greek gangs, who had an own Pontus state in mind. Mustafa Kemal staged mass meetings and the support for resistance grew. At the region, Mustafa Kemal was joined by three compatriots. Those four men, Mustafa Kemal, Hussein Rauf (an ex-navy officer), Ali Fuad (an Ottoman army corps commander) and Refet (a high ranking officer of Mustafa Kemal's staff) draw a Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence stated that since Istanbul was under Entente occupation and the government under Entente control, the nation had to save itself. In order to reach the goal of saving the nation and to coordinate the various resistance movements, a congress at Sivas (conformably far away from any Entente influence) was called for. The text was telegraphed to several army commanders who gave the declaration their approval. The Declaration of Independence has signed 21 June 1919. It might seem that there were only four founding fathers of the resistance, however, there was an important fifth. In Erzurum, General Kazim Karabekir (already a long time compatriot of Mustafa Kemal) commanded the largest force of what remained of the Ottoman armies. He had no plans whatsoever to give the Entente powers (in his case the British) control over 'his' army. Thinking along the about the same lines as Mustafa Kemal, he had called for a congress at Erzurum.

This Congress, summoned before there was anything known about a Sivas Congress, should give him the legal pretext to handle in the nation's interest; since the Government was under Entente control it could not act and the nation's interest had to come first. Mustafa Kemal told his friends and compatriots about the Erzurum Congress and that he planned to take part in it. The congress was planned to begin on 23 July 1919. As a reaction to the Declaration of Independence, the Ottoman Government issued an order (23 June 1919) not to obey or have contact with Inspector General Mustafa Kemal. The 26th of June Mustafa Kemal left for Erzurum via Tokat and Sivas.

Today, it is one of the most picturesque towns in Turkey with the old houses leaning over the Yesilirmak River, the green and brown of the valley's slopes and its old buildings which give the town a unique touch. There's so much to see in the city that you can easily spend two days in town, you'll enjoy it. In the case of Amasya, it's hard to speak about a real town center. However, to make it easy we can divide the town into three sections, North of the River and South of the river we can divide the town into two sections, a section North of the square with the Ataturk monument and the other section south of it. The river can be crossed by five bridges (actually, six if you count the most Northern bridge, at the edge of town but not on the map) one of the bridges is a footbridge. Talking about the river, I have seen local people fishing and they had a catch about every five minutes.

Going North from the square with the Ataturk monument you'll see on the North-East side the 14th-century Gumuslu Mosque. Following the riverbank brings you to the tourist information office, English and German are spoken by the kind gentleman who keeps the office open. When following the road right, a short distance from the tourist information office, you'll arrive at the Bimarhane. It was a mental asylum, built (around 1300) in Seljuk style by an Ilkhanid Sultan in honor of his wife. Patients were treated here with hypnosis and music. The Ilkhanids, Seljuks, and Turks were way before the West in treating mental illnesses. The building is nicely restored, its portal is impressive, the rooms around the courtyard were used to treat the patients.