Asia Minor

Asia Minor, meaning “lesser Asia”, is a region of the ancient world also known as Anatolia. It covers an area of 292,000 square miles. Ancient Asia Minor was an important area for ancient and modern man, and covered the area now known as Turkey. Greek Asia Minor was called Anatolia.

The climate of this area is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean Sea. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are cool and wet. High winds are a common occurrence.

Civilization came to Anatolia early. Located where Asia and Europe meet, it has been the centre of many civilizations throughout the ages. Early Neolithic settlements like Catal Huyuk are being studied, offering tantalizing glimpses into the past. One of the earliest known settlements, the town of Catal Huyuk dates back over 9000 years.

The first recorded ruler of Anatolia was Sargon, king of the Akkadians, around 2400 BCE. The Akkadians found a rich land. The raw materials they exported kept Sargon’s kingdom thriving for centuries. Unfortunately, climate changes in Mesopotamia caused famine, which reduced manpower, whichin turn reduced trade. The Akkadian empire fell around 2150 BCE.

The Gutians displaced the Akkadians, only to be vanquished in turn by the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrian civilization used cuneiform text to create records of trade and credit lines.

During the Bronze Age, the Hittites came from the central plateau of Anatolia. From 1200-900 BCE, the Hittites rivalled even mighty Egypt as a super-power.

The Phrygians came from the sea to rule Anatolia in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. The Phrygian King Midas was believed to turn anything into gold by the power of his touch.

By 700 BCE, the Phrygians were defeated by a nomadic people known as the Cimmerians, who settled in Western Anatolia. Meanwhile, near the Aegean coast, the Lydians founded their kingdom, along with their capital city, Sardis. The Greeks claim that the Lydians were the first culture to coin money.

In 560 BCE, the famous ruler Croesus took the throne. His wealth was legendary, and under his rule, Greek Asia Minor became a trading powerhouse. Soon, he was to rule all the Greek colonies. He was defeated by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Under the Persians, the Greek cities were permitted their autonomy. Greek rule would not return for 200 years, when Alexander the Great took over the peninsula.

In the second century, the Romans conquered Asia Minor. Under their administration, centuries of peace reigned.

By the Middle Ages, Anatolia was part of the Byzantine Empire. Under their rule, Greek and Roman culture flourished. The area became a centre of Christianity. A major trade route passed through the area, providing a valuable source inf income.

The Byzantine Empire couldn’t last forever. Invading Mongols and Arabs harried the peninsula until the 15th century, when the Ottoman Empire took over. They made Constantinople (now Istanbul) their capital city. The Ottoman Empire ruled Anatolia until 1922.

Map of Asia Minor and Europe. Courtesy Wikipedia.
Scene from southern Anatolia. Courtesy Wikipedia.