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Coordinates: 39°N 32°E / 39°N 32°E / 39; 32

Composite satellite image of Turkey. Anatolia corresponds to the western two-thirds of Turkey.

Anatolia (Turkish: Anadolu, from Greek Aνατολή anatolē; also Asia Minor, from Greek: Μικρά Ασία, mikrá asía) is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising about two-thirds of the modern Republic of Turkey. The region is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, Georgia to the northeast, Armenia and the Euphrates river to the east, the Mesopotamian plain and Orontes river to the southeast,[1] the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west.

Though Anatolia lies entirely within Turkey, the two are not synonymous, as the borders of Turkey extend far to the east of Anatolia. Anatolia has been home to many civilizations throughout history, such as the Hittites, Phrygians, and Lydians, and Achaemenid, Greek, Armenian, Roman, Byzantine, Anatolian Seljuk and Ottoman states.

While the coastal regions of Anatolia are generally humid and covered with forests, the central Anatolia mostly consists of a semiarid, high-altitude plateau, with altitude increasing to the east. Steep ranges separate the plateau from the coastline to the north and south, while to the west the plateau slopes down gently to the broad Aegean coastal plain. The Sea of Marmara forms a connection between Black and Aegean seas through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, and separates Anatolia from Thrace on the European mainland.

The vast majority of the people residing in Anatolia are Turks. Kurds, who constitute a major community in southeastern Anatolia, are the largest ethnic minority. Azerbaijanis, Albanians, Arabs, Armenians, Bosnians, Circassians, Georgians, Greeks, Jews, Lazs and a number of other ethnic groups also live in Anatolia in smaller numbers.



The name Anatolia comes from the Greek Aνατολή (anatolē) meaning the "East" or more literally "sunrise."[2] The precise reference of this term has varied over time, perhaps originally referring only to the Ionian colonies on the Asia Minor coast. In the Byzantine Empire, Anatolikon was a theme covering the western and central parts of Turkey's present-day Central Anatolian Region.[3][4]


Asia Minor

While not entirely synonymous with Anatolia, the term Asia Minor, derived from the Latin Asia Minores, refers to Asia inside the Roman Empire, versus Asia Magna, all of Asia beyond the borders.[5]

Physical geography

The Anatolian peninsula is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the sea of Marmara to the northwest, which separates Anatolia from Thrace in Europe. To the east, Anatolia is bounded by Georgia, Armenia and the Euphrates River before that river bends to the southeast to enter Mesopotamia. To the southeast, Anatolia is bounded by the ranges that separate it from the Orontes valley in Syria and the Mesopotamian plain. The norther coast of Anatolia stretches farther east than the central region, reaching all the way to the modern border with Georgia.

Anatolia's terrain is structurally complex. A central massif composed of uplifted blocks and downfolded troughs, covered by recent deposits and giving the appearance of a plateau with rough terrain, is wedged between two folded mountain ranges that converge in the east. True lowland is confined to a few narrow coastal strips along the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Black Sea coasts. Flat or gently sloping land is rare and largely confined to the deltas of the Kızıl River, the coastal plains of Çukurova and the valley floors of the Gediz River and the Büyük Menderes River as well as some interior high plains in Anatolia, mainly around Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake) and the Konya Basin (Konya Ovasi).


Black Sea Coast

The seven census-defined regions of Turkey
Panoramic view of the Pontic Mountains

The Black Sea is characterized by a range of steep mountains that extend along the entire length of the Black Sea coast, separating it from the inland Anatolian plateau. In the west, the mountains tend to be low, with elevations from 1,525 to 1,800 meters, but they rise in the easterly direction to heights greater than 3,000 meters south of Rize, reaching 3,937 m at the Kaçkar Mountains in the Pontic Alps. Lengthy, troughlike valleys and basins characterize the mountains. The southern slopes, facing the Anatolian Plateau, are mostly unwooded, but the northern slopes contain dense growths of both deciduous and evergreen trees. The higher slopes facing northwest tend to be densely forested.

The coast is rugged and rocky, with rivers that cascade through the gorges of the coastal ranges. A few larger rivers, those cutting back through the Pontic Alps, have tributaries that flow in broad, elevated basins. Access inland from the coast is limited to a few narrow valleys because mountain ridges. Because of these natural conditions, the Black Sea coast historically has been isolated from Anatolia.

Marmara Coast

View of Bursa from the hills near Uludağ, the ancient Mysian Olympus

The coast of Anatolia that borders the Sea of Marmara consists mainly of rolling plateau country well suited to agriculture. It receives about 520 millimeters of rainfall annually.

Densely populated, this area includes the cities of Istanbul and Bursa, Turkey's fourth largest city. The Bosphorus, which links the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, is about twenty-five kilometers long and averages 1.5 kilometers in width but narrows in places to less than 1000 meters. There are two suspension bridges over the Bosphorus, both its Asian and European banks rise steeply from the water and form a succession of cliffs, coves, and nearly landlocked bays. Most of the shores are densely wooded and are marked by numerous small towns and villages. The Dardanelles Strait, which links the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea, is approximately forty kilometers long and increases in width toward the south. Unlike the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles has fewer settlements along its shores.

The most important valleys are the Kocaeli Valley, the Bursa Ovasi (Bursa Basin), and the Plains of Troy (historically known as the Troad.) The valley lowlands around Bursa are densely populated.

Aegean Coast

View of Ölüdeniz near Fethiye

Located on the west coast of Anatolia, the Aegean region has a fertile soil and a typically Mediterranean climate; with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The broad, cultivated lowland valleys contain about half of the country's richest farmlands.

The largest city in the Aegean Region of Turkey is İzmir, which is also the country's third largest city and a major manufacturing center, as well as its second largest port after Istanbul.

Olive and olive oil production is particularly important for the economy of the region. The seaside town of Ayvalık and numerous towns in the provinces of Balıkesir, İzmir and Aydın are particularly famous for their olive oil and related products; such as soap and cosmetics.

The region also has many important centers of tourism which are known both for their historic monuments and for the beauty of their beaches; such as Assos, Ayvalık, Bergama, Foça, İzmir, Çeşme, Sardis, Ephesus, Kuşadası, Didim, Miletus, Bodrum, Marmaris, Datça and Fethiye.

Panoramic view of Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus, the city of Herodotus and the home of the Mausoleum of Maussollos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Mediterranean Coast

Beaches and marina of Kemer near Antalya in the Turkish Riviera

Beginning in the west of Antalya province, the south-facing mediterranean coast of Turkey is separated from the interior by steep ranges, known as the Taurus mountains, that run along the entire length of the coast. The Taurus Mountains (Toros Dağları) are Anatolia's second chain of folded mountains. The south facing slopes rise steeply from the mediterranean coastal plain, but slope very gently on the north side towards the Anatolian plateau. In the east, the Taurus mountains arc around the northern side of the Arabian Platform, before turning south and continuing as the ranges that define the Great Rift Valley. Between Adana and Antalya, the Taurus Mountains rise sharply from the coast to high elevations, reaching altitudes of over 3,700 meters north of Adana. The Taurus Mountains are more rugged and less dissected by rivers than the Pontus Mountains and historically have served as a barrier to human movement inland from the Mediterranean coast except where there are mountain passes such as the historic Cilician Gates (Gülek Pass), northwest of Adana.

Toward the east, the extensive plains around Adana, Turkey's fourth largest city, consist largely of reclaimed flood lands. In general, rivers have not cut valleys to the sea in the western part of the region. East of Adana, much of the coastal plain has limestone features such as collapsed caverns and sinkholes. Other than Adana, Antalya, and Mersin, the Mediterranean coast has few major cities, although it has numerous farming villages.

Panoramic view of Alanya, inhabited since the Hittites and the medieval homeport of the Seljuk naval forces, famous today for its natural beauty and historic monuments

Central Plateau

Stretching inland from the Aegean coastal plain, the Central Anatolia occupies the area between the two zones of the folded coastal ranges in the north and south, extending east to the point where the two ranges converge. The plateau-like, semiarid highlands of Anatolia are considered the heartland of the country. The region varies in elevation from 600 to 1,200 meters from west to east. The Anatolian plateau is interspersed with extinct volcanoes, the tallest of which is Mt. Erciyes, rising to 3917 m near Kayseri.

Frequently interspersed throughout the folded mountains, and also situated on the Anatolian Plateau, are well-defined basins, which the Turks call "ova". Some are no more than a widening of a stream valley; others, such as the Konya Ovasi, are large basins of inland drainage or are the result of limestone erosion. Most of the basins take their names from cities or towns located at their rims. Where a lake has formed within the basin, the water body is usually saline as a result of the internal drainage — the water has no outlet to the sea. The two largest basins on the plateau are the Konya Ovasi and the basin occupied by the large salt lake, Tuz Gölü.

Forested areas are confined to the northwest and northeast of the plateau. Rain-fed cultivation is widespread, with wheat being the principal crop. Irrigated agriculture is restricted to the areas surrounding rivers and wherever sufficient underground water is available. Important irrigated crops include barley, corn, cotton, various fruits, grapes, opium poppies, sugar beets, roses, and tobacco. There also is extensive grazing throughout the plateau.

Central Anatolia receives little annual rainfall with an average precipitation of 400 millimeters per year. While parts of the northeastern and northwestern of the region receives more than 500 mm (19.69 in) precipitation, the driest semiarid central part of the plateau receives an average yearly precipitation of only 300 millimeters. However, actual rainfall from year to year is irregular and occasionally may be less than 200 millimeters, leading to severe reductions in crop yields for both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture. Overgrazing has contributed to soil erosion on some parts of the plateau. In general, the plateau experiences high temperatures and little rainfall in summer and cold weather with heavy snow in winter.


Anatolia has a varied range of climates. The central plateau is characterized by a continental climate, with hot summers and cold snowy winters. The south and west coasts enjoy a typical Mediterranean climate, with mild rainy winters, and warm dry summers. The Black sea and Marmara coasts have temperate oceanic climate, with cool foggy summers and much rainfall throughout the year.


Anatolia's diverse topography and climate has fostered a similar diversity of plant and animal communities.

The mountains and coastal plain of northern Anatolia, with its humid and mild climate, is home to temperate broadleaf, mixed and coniferous forests. The central and eastern plateau, with its drier continental climate, is home to deciduous forests and forest steppes. Western and southern Anatolia, which have a Mediterranean climate, are home to Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub ecoregions.

  • Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests: These temperate broadleaf and mixed forests extend across northern Anatolia, lying between the mountains of northern Anatolia and the Black Sea. They include the enclaves of temperate rainforest lying along the southeastern coast of the Black Sea in eastern Turkey and Georgia.[6]
  • Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forests: These forests occupy the mountains of northern Anatolia, running east and west between the coastal Euxine-Colchic forests and the drier, continental climate forests of central and eastern Anatolia.[7]
  • Central Anatolian deciduous forests: These forests of deciduous oaks and evergreen pines cover the plateau of central Anatolia.[8]
  • Central Anatolian steppe: These dry grasslands cover the drier valleys and surround the saline lakes of central Anatolia, and include halophytic (salt tolerant) plant communities.[9]
  • Eastern Anatolian deciduous forests: This ecoregion occupies the plateau of eastern Anatolia. The drier and more continental climate is home to steppe-forests dominated by deciduous oaks, with areas of shrubland, montane forest, and valley forest.[10]
  • Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forests: These forests occupy the western, Mediterranean-climate portion of the Anatolian plateau. Pine forests and mixed pine and oak woodlands and shrublands are predominant.[11]
  • Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests: These Mediterranean-climate forests occupy the coastal lowlands and valleys of western Anatolia bordering the Aegean Sea. The ecoregion is home to forests of Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia), oak forests and woodlands, and maquis shrubland of Turkish Pine and evergreen sclerophyllous trees and shrubs, including Olive (Olea europaea), Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo), Arbutus andrachne, Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera), and Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis).[12]
  • Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests: These mountain forests occupy the Mediterranean-climate Taurus Mountains of southern Anatolia. Conifer forests are predominant, chiefly Anatolian black pine (Pinus nigra), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), Taurus fir (Abies cilicica), and juniper (Juniperus foetidissima and J. excelsa). Broadleaf trees include oaks, hornbeam, and maples.[13]
  • Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests: This ecoregion occupies the coastal strip of southern Anatolia between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Plant communities include broadleaf sclerophyllous maquis shrublands, forests of Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) and Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia), and dry oak (Quercus spp.) woodlands and steppes.[14]



Ancient regions of Anatolia.

Eastern Anatolia contains the oldest monumental structures in the world. For example, the monumental structures at Göbekli Tepe were built by hunters and gatherers a thousand years before the development of agriculture. Eastern Anatolia is also a heart region for the Neolithic revolution, one of the earliest areas in which humans domesticated plants and animals. Neolithic sites such as Çatalhöyük, Çayönü, Nevali Cori and Hacilar represent the world's oldest known agricultural villages.

The earliest historical records of Anatolia are from the Akkadian Empire under Sargon in the 24th century BC. The region was famous for exporting various raw materials.[15] The Assyrian Empire claimed the resources, notably silver. One of the numerous Assyrian cuneiform records found in Anatolia at Kanesh uses an advanced system of trading computations and credit lines.[15]

Unlike the Akkadians and the Assyrians, whose Anatolian possessions were peripheral to their core lands in Mesopotamia, the Hittites were centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia. They were speakers of an Indo-European language known as the "language of Nesa". Originating from Nesa, they conquered Hattusa in the 18th century BC, imposing themselves over a Hurrian speaking population. During the Late Bronze Age they created an empire, the Hittite New Kingdom, which reached its height in the 14th century BC. The empire included a large part of Anatolia, north-western Syria and upper Mesopotamia. After 1180 BC, the empire disintegrated into several independent "Neo-Hittite" states. Ancient Anatolia is subdivided by mordern scholars into various regions named after the people that occupied them, such as Lydia, Lycia, Caria, Mysia, Bithynia, Phrygia, Galatia, Lycaonia, Pisidia, Paphlagonia, Cilicia, and Cappadocia.

Beginning with the Bronze Age Collapse at the end of the 1st millennium BC, the west coast of Anatolia was settled by Ionian Greeks. Over several centuries numerous Ancient Greek city states were established on the coasts of Anatolia. In the 6th century BC all of Anatolia was conquered by Cyrus the Great ,founder of Achaemenid Empire. In the 4th century BC Alexander the Great conquered the peninsula. Following his death and the breakup of his empire, Anatolia was ruled by a series of Hellenistic kingdoms. Two hundred years later western and central Anatolia came under Roman control, but it continued to be strongly influenced by Hellenistic culture. In the first century BC the Armenians established the Armenian Empire under Tigran who reigned throughout much of eastern Anatolia between the Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas. Anatolia is known as the birthplace of coinage as a medium of exchange (some time in the 7th century BC), which flourished during the Greek and Roman eras.[16][17]

Medieval Period

Anatolia c. 1200.
Beyliks and other states around Anatolia, c. 1300.

After the division of the Roman Empire, Anatolia became part of the East Roman, or Byzantine Empire. Byzantine control was challenged by Arab raids starting in the seventh century, but in the 9th and 10th century a resurgent Byzantine Empire regained its lost territories, including Armenia and Syria. Following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuk Turks swept across Anatolia and conquered all of it except parts of the northern and western coasts by 1080. The Turkish language and Islamic religion were gradually introduced as a result of the Seljuk conquest, and this period marks the start of Anatolia's slow transition from predominantly Christian and Greek-speaking, to predominantly Muslim and Turkish-speaking. In the following century, the Byzantines managed to reassert their control in Western and Northern Anatolia. Control of Anatolia was then split between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm, with the Byzantine holdings gradually being reduced. In 1255, the Mongols swept through central and eastern Anatolia, and would remain until 1335. The Ilkhanate garrison was stationed near Ankara.[18][19]

By the end of the 14th century, most of Anatolia was controlled by various Anatolian Turkish Beyliks. The Turkmen Beyliks were under the control of the Mongols, at least nominally, through declining Seljuk Sultans.[20][21] The Beyliks did not mint coins in the names of their own leaders while they remained under the suzerainty of the Ilkhanids.[22] The Osmanli ruler Osman I was the first Turkish ruler who minted coins in his own name in 1320's, for it bears the legend "Minted by Osman son of Ertugul".[23] Since the minting of coins was a prerogative accorded in Islamic practice only to be a sovereign, it can be considered that Osmanli became independent of the Mongol Khans.[24]

After the decline of the Ilkhanate from 1335–1353, the Mongol Empire's legacy in the region was the Uyghur Eretna Dynasty that was overthrown by Kadi Burhan al-Din in 1381.[25] Among the Turkmen leaders the Ottomans emerged as great power under Osman and his son Orhan I. Smyrna was conquered in 1330, and the last Byzantine possession, Philadélphia (modern Alaşehir), fell in 1323. The Anatolian Turkish beyliks were in turn absorbed into the rising Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. The Ottomans completed the conquest of the peninsula in 1517 with the taking of Halicarnassus (Bodrum) from the Knights of Saint John.

Modern times

Ethnographic map of Anatolia from 1911.

With the beginning of the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, and as a result of the expansionist policies of Czarist Russia in the Caucasus, many Muslim nations and groups in that region, mainly Circassians, Tatars, Azeris, Lezgis, Chechens, and several Turkic groups left their ancestral homelands and settled in Anatolia. As the Ottoman Empire further fragmented during the Balkan Wars, much of the non-Christian populations of its former possessions, mainly the Balkan Muslims, flocked to Anatolia and were resettled in various locations, mostly in formerly Christian villages throughout Anatolia.[26]

Anatolia remained multi-ethnic until the early 20th century (see the rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire). Following the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, all remaining ethnic Anatolian Greeks were forced out during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, most of Anatolia has been part of Turkey, its inhabitants being mainly Turks and Kurds (see demographics of Turkey and history of Turkey).

See also


  1. ^ Mitchell, S. Anatolia: Land, men, and gods in Asia Minor. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Volume I, p. 1. [1]
  2. ^ "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon". 
  3. ^ "On the First Thema, Called Anatolikon. This theme is called Anatolikon, not because it is above and in the direction of the east where the sun rises, but because it lies East of Byzantium and Europe." Constantine VII Porphyogenitus, De Thematibus, ed. A. Pertusi. Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1952, pp. 59–61.
  4. ^ John Haldon, "Byzantium, a History", 2002. PAge 32.
  5. ^ History of the Goths, Herwig Wolfram second edition page 81, (85-29044)
  6. ^ "Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008. [2]
  7. ^ "Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008. [3]
  8. ^ "Central Anatolian deciduous forests" National Geographic ecoregion profile. Accessed May 25, 2008 [4]
  9. ^ "Central Anatolian steppe" WWF scientific Report. Accessed May 25, 2008
  10. ^ "Eastern Anatolian deciduous forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008. [5]
  11. ^ "Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008 [6]
  12. ^ Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008 [7]
  13. ^ "Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008 [8]
  14. ^ "SEastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests" WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008
  15. ^ a b Freeman, Charles (1999). Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198721943. 
  16. ^ Howgego, C. J. (1995). Ancient History from Coins. ISBN 0415089921. 
  17. ^ Asia Minor Coins - an index of Greek and Roman coins from Asia Minor (ancient Anatolia)
  18. ^ H. M. Balyuzi-Muḥammad and the course of Islám, p.342
  19. ^ John Freely- Storm on Horseback: The Seljuk Warriors of Turkey, p.83
  20. ^ Mehmet Fuat Köprülü, Gary Leiser-The origins of the Ottoman empire, p.33
  21. ^ Peter Partner-God of battles: holy wars of Christianity and Islam, p.122
  22. ^ Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire, p.13
  23. ^ Artuk-Osmanli Beyliginin Kurucusu, 27f
  24. ^ Pamuk-A Monetary history, p.30-31
  25. ^ Clifford Edmund Bosworth-The new Islamic dynasties: a chronological and genealogical manual, p.234
  26. ^ Justin McCarthy,"Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821-1922",1996,ISBN 0878500944


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