Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Alanya Castle in Anatolia

The Roman-Byzantine-Turkish Fortress of Alanya

Alanya Castle is a magnificent ruin which sits atop a 250-metre high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The castle was built on the remnants of earlier Byzantine era and Roman era fortifications with walls stretching over 6km.

The origins of the city today known as Alanya date back thousands of years. References to the ancient city of Coracesium, the name for the early settlement, can be found from the 4th Century BC.

The castle rock was likely inhabited under the Hittites and the Achaemenid Empire, and was first fortified in the Hellenistic period following the area's conquest by Alexander the Great.

During much of antiquity, Alanya notoriously sheltered pirates thanks to its perfectly designed bay and harbor.  Antiochus VII Sidetes of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire completed work in 137 BC on a new castle and port.

The period of piracy in Alanya finally ended after the city's incorporation into the Pamphylia province by Pompey in 67 BC, with the Battle of Korakesion fought in the city's harbor.

Isaurian banditry remained an issue under the Romans, and the tribes revolted in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, with the largest rebellion being from 404 to 408.

The castle is in the city of Alanya, Turkey
which is part of Antalya province (in red). 
In 395AD the Roman Empire effectively split into two nations and two emperors. The city of Alanya remained under the Eastern Roman Empire.

The region was under the military governance of the Theme of Cibyrrhaeot.  The castle would have become an important fortification for the southern coast of Anatolia.

In church affairs the area was a suffragan of Side, in the metropolis of Pamphylia Prima.
Islam arrived in the 7th century with Arab raids and major wars going deep into Anatolia for hundreds of years.  The endless 400 years of Arab wars led to the construction of new fortifications in the city though details are few.

681 marked the end of a bishopric in Alanya, although St. Peter of Atroa may have taken refuge here from iconoclastic persecution in the early 9th century.

The area fell from Byzantine control after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 to tribes of Seljuk Turks, only to be returned in 1120 by Emperor John II Komnenos.

Emperor John II Komnenos
reconquered the Alanya area for the empire.

Early in John's reign the Turks were pressing forward against the Byzantine frontier in western Asia Minor, and he was determined to drive them back.

In 1119, the Seljuqs had cut the land route to the city of Antalya on the southern coast of Anatolia. John II and Axouch the Grand Domestic recaptured Laodicea and Sozopolis, re-opening land communication with Antalya. This route was especially important as it also led to Cilicia and the Crusader states of Syria.

John's campaigns continued into central Anatolia and into Syria until 1142.  John's campaigns benefited the Byzantine Empire because they protected the empire's heartland, which lacked reliable borders, while gradually extending its territory back into Asia Minor. The Turks were forced onto the defensive.

Following the Fourth Crusade's attack on Constantinople the empire broke up into Latin and Greek states.

After over 1,000 years Roman rule ended.  The Christian Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia periodically held the port and castle of Alanya.

It was from an Armenian, Kir Fard, that the Turks took lasting control in 1221 when the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Kayqubad I captured it, assigning the former ruler, whose daughter he married, to the governance of the city.

Seljuk rule saw the golden age of the city, and it can be considered the winter capital of their empire. Building projects, including the twin citadel, city walls, arsenal, and Kızıl Kule (Red Tower) made it an important seaport for western Mediterranean trade, particularly with Ayyubid Egypt and the Italian city-states.

Alaeddin Kayqubad I also constructed numerous gardens and pavilions outside the walls, and many of his works can still be found in the city. These were likely financed by his own treasury and by the local emirs, and constructed by the contractor Abu 'Ali al-Kattani al-Halabi. Alaeddin Kayqubad I's son, Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II, continued the building campaign with a new cistern in 1240.

The harbour and port that shielded Cicilian bandits and pirates in the 3rd Century BC, referred to as the Tersane or Dockyard, was turned into the main naval base of the Seljuk navy.

The Eastern Roman Empire in 1140.
Emperor John II Komnenos fought numerous wars against the Turks to secure the
southern coast of Anatolia for the empire and improve lines of communication
with the Christian Crusader States in Syria.

The Byzantine era Church of Saint George inside Alanya Castle. 

Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi)

Alanya Castle, Turkey

Inside the Castle walls are a number of interesting buildings and monuments, including the palace of Alaaddin Keykubat, as well as several Mosques (including the 16th Century Suleymaniye Mosque) and even a church, proof of the often diverse and tolerant nature of the city.

Opposite the Suleymaniye Mosque is a covered Bazaar or Bedesten, used during the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading base. There are numerous other buildings and fortifications surrounding the Castle, including the Ehmedek (middle battlements), an arsenal (or Tophane) and a Mint (Darphane), although interestingly not a single coin was minted there. There are also many sea caves that can only be reached by boat. The Castle Citadel (or Ickale), dating to the 6th century, contains a platform that today offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula.

That Alanya Castle is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list is testament to its diverse and sprawling history. With over 6km of defensive wall reinforced by 140 bastions and 400 cisterns, Alanya was perhaps one of the best-defended cities in the Mediterranean.

Alanya Castle would have been one of the fortifications in the
Eastern Roman military district - The Theme of Cibyrrhaeot.

Alanya Castle looking down on the city and harbor.

Built in 1226, the Red Tower was completed by the Seljuk Turks immediately
after their conquest of the southern coast.

The Tower and the Castle
The Fortifications at Alanya date back over 2,400 years ago.  It is impossible to know what the complex looked like under the Achaemenid Empire, the Romans or the Byzantines.
It was certainly common that when fortifications were updated they would use the original walls and buildings as a starting point.  After all, why start from scratch?  That would be a waste of time and money.
Looking at the newer Turkish built Red Tower you can see the differences in stone work and color as compared to the older castle walls.  There is also a color difference between the upper wall of the castle itself and the lower portion.  That implies Turkish repairs to existing walls. 
It is logical to conclude that the current castle looks much as it did in Byzantine times.  Naturally the Turks would have done repairs over the years to the existing walls and perhaps even expanded them.   

(John II Komnenos)      (Alanya Castle)      (City of Alanya)

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