Antalya History Facts and Timeline
Located next to the Mediterranean Sea, Antalya is one of Turkey's largest and most important cities. Like most of Anatolia, the history of Antalya is rich and colourful with ties to pre-Roman empires, Christian apostles and all the struggles that went with it.
Today, it is one of the world's most visited cities by tourists, thanks in no small part to its wealth of historic sites and location, since it is something of a convenient gateway into Turkey and beyond.
A Relative Newcomer
Unlike many of the settlements that line the Mediterranean, Antalya is a relatively new city. It only got started in the 1st century BC, when King Attalus II of Pergamum established a naval base here to house his mighty fleet of ships. He named the harbour town Attaleia after himself and ruled it until his death in the year of 133 BC.
History of a Roman Inheritance
In an unusual move, King Attalus II bequeathed the city of Antalya and his entire kingdom to the Roman Empire. When the Romans took over, the town grew rapidly into a full-fledged city. Even Emperor Hadrian visited in 130 AD, and this historic event is marked by the arch known as Hadrian's Gate that still stands today. During this era, Christianity made inroads into Anatolia through Antalya, with figures like the Apostle Paul visiting in the 2nd century AD.
The Seljuq Turks Take Over
The Byzantines took over when the Roman Empire fell apart, and during their lengthy reign Antalya was one of their most important cities. Eventually the city was taken over by the Seljuq Turks in 1207, who gave it a new name - Antaliya. The Seljuqs also built the iconic Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret) and this has remained the symbol of the city centuries after it was constructed.
An Ottoman City
After a brief period of occupation by the Mongols, who broke the Seljuq Turks' grip on Anatolia, the Ottomans eventually ended up in control of Antalya in the late 14th century. At the time, Antalya was considered one of the more beautiful cities in the region. It was divided into walled quarters where Christians, Jews, Greeks and also Turks all lived in relative peace. A great wall surrounded the entire port district, comprising fortified towers and gates.
The local economy has always been centred around the city's port, which provided trade with interior Anatolian cities like Konya. Plenty of the history of Antalya is still on view today, including parts of the city wall and the promenade, along with dozens of historic structures. This has created a popular tourism sector that provides a healthy percentage of the city's economy today.
At the end of WWI, the Italians controlled Antalya for a few years once the Ottoman Empire was divvied up by the Allies. This brief occupation ended in 1921, when Ataturk's armies began removing all foreign presences from the region.
When the Turkish Republic was created in the year of 1923, under the independence movement of Ataturk, Antalya became a part of the modern nation of Turkey. The 1970s saw the next great wave of development, as the rural periphery of Antalya was steadily converted into one of the country's largest metropolitan areas.