Bursa History Facts and Timeline

(Bursa, Turkey)

Famous for its thermal baths and historic sites, as well as providing access to the popular Mount Uludag and its ski resort, the Turkish city of Bursa is as diverse as it comes in Turkey.

Once an early capital of the Ottoman State, Bursa has evolved into one of Turkey's most industrialised cities, as well as being a major tourist destination that showcases its native culture and cuisine. Visitors have plenty to choose from when they come to the fourth-largest city in Turkey.

The Bithynians

Legend has it that the history of Bursa began around 200 BC when the king of Bithynia, Prusias, was given the Greek town of Cius at the foot of Mount Uludag by Philip V of Macedon. King Prusias renovated the settlement and developed it into the city of Prusia, named in his honour. The Bithynians ruled Prusia for just over a century, until their last king, Nicomedes IV Philopator, gave his entire kingdom to Rome upon his death in the year of 74 BC.

The Christian Influence

In the first few centuries of Christianity, Bursa saw a steady growth in popularity. The natural thermal baths at Cekirge were one of the main draws for visitors to this corner of north-west Anatolia. However, historians agree that it was Justinian I who really put this city on the global radar screen in 527 AD. It was soon known as a destination of relaxation, meditation and Christianity.

A Long Cycle of Turkish Rule

The strategic location of Bursa has always made it a desirable city. When the Byzantine Empire began to wane, both the Seljuq Turks and the Arabs made moves to conquer the city. The Seljuqs controlled most of Anatolia by 1075 and had little trouble adding Bursa to their holdings. But when the First Crusade passed through some two decades later, the city began a long cycle of occupation between these two powers that would last an entire century.

The Birth of the Ottoman Empire

The history of Bursa took a significant turn in the 14th century, when the first Ottoman sultan emerged on the scene. Osman Gazi, the father of the Ottoman Empire, besieged Bursa in 1326 and made it the very first capital of his burgeoning empire.

Osman's successor, Orhan Gazi, expanded this territory from Ankara to Edirne. He adopted the title of sultan and minted the first Ottoman coins, and by the end of his reign in 1359, he wielded considerable influence over the Byzantine emperors. During this time, Bursa developed into the powerful centre of commerce and administration that it is today.

Even after the capital of the Ottoman Empire was relocated to Edirne in the early 15th century, Bursa continued to enjoy a leading role in the empire. The tombs of both Osman and Orhan are located here and are major landmarks of the city even today. Silk became one of the most important products made in Bursa right through the 17th century, providing luxury for the Ottoman palaces.

The Turkish Republic

Even when Anatolia switched from the power of the Ottomans to the new Turkish Republic under Ataturk, Bursa remained an essential player.

The modern history of Bursa is largely one of industry and commercialism, boosted during the 1960s and 1970s when automakers and other heavy industries moved their factories to the outskirts of the city. Nowadays, this is one of Turkey's most prosperous cities and it is still an important centre for commercial activity.