A tale of two worlds: 5 historical facts about Turkey
Turkey is synonymous with hot weather, gelatinous treats and the red fez, but beyond the cultural delights of your average summer holiday Turkey has a wealth of cultural history to offer the more inquiring traveller. Here are five interesting facts we’ve discovered to get you started on your historic and cultural adventure
Turkey is a land bridge
Straddling the edges of eastern European and western Asia, Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, is divided by The Bosphorus Strait, dividing the city between two continents.
Formerly called Constantinople, modern day Istanbul is often misremembered as the capital of Turkey (Ankara is the capital) but perhaps this is because it was once the capital of the Roman Empire. Toward the end of the Roman period the then Emperor Constantine moved his failing empire to Turkey, and the strategic waters of the divided city that took his name.
Home to the first
Long before Emperor Constantine had the thought to make Turkey his home, homosapiens cast off their nomadic lifestyle and settled in Çatalhöyük.
Along with the Hacilar settlement in south west Turkey, Çatalhöyük is one of archeology’s earliest dated finds, thought to date back to 7,000 - 6,000 BC. Çatalhöyük demonstrates humankind’s earlier cultural endeavours and is home to what is known as the world’s first map, or more accurately, the earliest landscape painting; a decorative jar depicting the settlement itself and the backdrop of mountains that surrounds it.
The legendary city
Homer’s epic poems of Ancient Greece, the Iliad and the Odyssey both make reference to the legendary city of Troy.
But Troy is more than myth: Troia as the Anatolian city we know today, is in fact one and the same city! In 2001 research conducted over almost three decades revealed that many of the geographical similarities between the legend and the city of central Turkey we can visit today. The city was built and destroyed so many times between 2600AD and 500AD by various rulers that it leaves a variety of artefacts and ruins from many of historic periods—from the Troy of Homer, to the Troy of the Roman poet Virgil and beyond. Archaeologically speaking, it’s kaleidoscopic!
How do you take it?
Fast forward now to your last flat white, did you know that coffee was introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century by Turkish trade?
Commerce and rule by the Ottoman Empire were the conditions in which the first precious coffee beans made their way to Italy, where their stimulating effects proved very popular. The delicacy took off - so much so that Italy is thought to be coffee’s cultural home. From big boot Italy it moved on and spread through the rest of Europe - thankfully!
The writing’s on the wall
On a linguistic note: For those of you who thought a Muslim country would operate within the Arabic alphabet—think again.
Turkish was written in a form of Arabic script for centuries during Ottoman rule, but often it did not represent the voice of the people on the ground. Arabic—rich in constants but poor in vowels—could not accurately reflect the sound of the Turkish language as it was over many regions in the country. With much debate, reform was brought in 1926 with the introduction of a Latin-based alphabet. Historically the change made wider cultural reform possible for the European country and it was argued that the change facilitated an increased literacy level. Others, including the second president of Turkey, felt the cultural move toward the west had come at the cost of losing an intimintimate connection with the Arabic world.
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