Ankara History Facts and Timeline

(Ankara, Turkey)

Though not Turkey's largest city, Ankara is the nation's capital and home of government. This centrally located city has been at the heart of regional trade, commerce and industry for centuries.

The history of Ankara is incredibly rich, encompassing cultures from the Hittites to the Byzantines. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, was largely responsible for turning this city into the urban metropolis that it is today when he made it the capital of his new republic.

Ancient Roots

It was during the Bronze Age that the history of Ankara really began to take shape. Following a devastating earthquake in Gordion, the Phrygian civilisation, under the rule of King Midas, migrated en masse to this central hill in Anatolia around 1000 BC.

Ankara is actually much older than that, with at least the Hittites living here as early as 1200 BC. However, the Phrygians are often credited with founding the trading hub that thrived at the intersection of major Bronze Age transport routes. The Persians were the next major empire to occupy the city, ruling it until Alexander the Great took over in the year of 333 BC.

The Greeks

Under the Greeks, the history of Ankara thrived. It became a new trading centre for goods travelling between the Black Sea and the major cities of the region in every direction. During this era, the Greeks gave the city its modern name, Ankyra, which means 'anchor' in Greek. The Seleucids and the Galatians were the next two powers to occupy the city, from 250 BC onwards.

Roman Rule

When Augustus Caesar gave Ankyra to Rome in 25 BC, another important chapter began in the history of Ankara. The Romans made this one of their key cities, as it lay perfectly at the intersection of the main east-west and north-south roads that passed through Anatolia, connecting the rest of the civilised world. This unfettered access also made it easy for invaders to reach Ankara.

The Romans ran their regional administration from Ankara, beefing up their military presence to ward off invaders. It was one of earliest cities to be influenced by Christianity, which competed with Roman paganism among the citizens. By the end of the 4th century AD, it was even a popular resort town for wealthy Romans.

From Byzantines to Turks

When the Roman Empire fell, the Byzantines began a long reign over Ankara that lasted for several centuries. Arabs and Persians tried unsuccessfully to take the city, and even the Seljuq Turks had their problems securing Ankara when they took control over Anatolia from 1071 onwards, following the Battle of Manzikert. The Ottomans also found it hard to hold on to the city, and so it slipped into a period of relative obscurity until as recently as the 20th century.

Ataturk and Modern Turkey

A final era in the history of Ankara began in 1920, when Ataturk chose this city as the centre of his independence struggle. Just a quiet outpost at the time, Ankara grew rapidly in the years following Ataturk's victory. He named the city his new capital towards the end of 1923 and developed it in a European fashion.

The entire timeline is still on display in Ankara, with an old section filled with Roman and Byzantine architecture. This is somewhat mirrored by Ataturk's new district, with its wide boulevards, theatres and grand hotels.