Antalya, located on the southwestern coast of Turkey, is a city rich in history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty. Its origins can be traced back to ancient times, with evidence of human settlements in the region dating back to the Paleolithic era. Throughout its long history, Antalya has witnessed the rise and fall of various civilizations, each leaving their mark on the city and contributing to its unique character.
The earliest known inhabitants of the area were the Lycians, an indigenous Anatolian people who established several city-states along the coast. They took advantage of Antalya's strategic location, nestled between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, to develop trade routes and establish maritime connections with neighboring regions. Their settlements thrived, and evidence of their civilization can still be found in the form of impressive rock-cut tombs and ancient ruins, such as the ruins of the ancient city of Termessos, situated in the mountains overlooking Antalya.
Antalya's history took a significant turn with the arrival of the Persians in the 6th century BCE. The Persian Empire, under the rule of Cyrus the Great, conquered the region and incorporated it into their vast empire. During this period, Antalya served as an important port and a vital link between Persia and the Aegean world. However, the Persian rule eventually gave way to the conquest of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, as he swept through Anatolia, incorporating the region into his empire.
The Hellenistic period brought a new wave of influence to Antalya. Greek culture and architecture flourished, and the city became a thriving center of commerce and culture. The Pergamon Kingdom, which emerged after Alexander's death, had a significant impact on the region, and the city of Attaleia (as it was known at the time) was established as an important coastal stronghold. The ancient city walls, still visible today, were built during this period to protect the city from potential invasions.
With the decline of the Hellenistic kingdoms, Antalya came under the control of the Roman Empire in the 1st century BCE. The Romans recognized the strategic value of the city and invested in its development, constructing impressive public buildings, including a theater, aqueducts, and a harbor. Antalya became a prosperous Roman city and a crucial hub on the trade routes connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Roman influence is particularly evident in the ancient city of Perge, located a short distance from Antalya, which boasts well-preserved structures like a theater, stadium, and agora.
During the Byzantine era, Antalya's importance continued to grow. The city served as a major ecclesiastical center, with numerous churches and monasteries built during this period. However, the region faced numerous threats from invasions by Arab forces in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Arab raids caused significant damage to the city and led to a decline in its population and prosperity.
In the 13th century, the Seljuk Turks emerged as a dominant power in Anatolia. Under the rule of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I, Antalya experienced a revival, with the construction of new buildings, including mosques, madrasas, and caravanserais. The Seljuks established a stable political environment, fostering trade and cultural exchange, and Antalya became a vibrant center of Seljuk architecture and art.