THE IRON AGE (1200 BC – 600 BC)

11C-10C BC : The Achaen migrations : the famous Troyan War, sung by Homer, marks the apogée of the (Greek) Aechaens' maritime expeditions in the Aegean Sea. Following the destruction of the Kingdom of Troy and the annihilation of the Hittite Empire, the Anatolian peoples were not able to resist the Greek expansion and colonization that spread inland from the coasts of the Aegean Sea. About 1100 BC, the Aechaens, driven away by the Dorians who had invaded Thessaly, the Peloponnese, Crete and the Cyclades, were forced to flee from Greece and settled on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The colonization started with the Aeolians (mostly farmers) who settled in the northern parts of the Aegean region founding cities like Lesbos, Pitane, Elea, Gryneion, Kyme, Aigai, Larisa, Smyrne. A new wave, the Ionians and the Aecheans, settled in the central parts of the Aegean region which became the refuge for literature and art that had been banished by the Dorian warriors from the Greek peninsula. Then the Dorians themselves arrived, pursuing those they had expelled, and they settled in the south of the Aegean region founding Cnidus and Halicarnassus, Lindos Lalysos and Camiros in Rhodos, Cos Island.

Each of them founded a confederacy. From the 8C BC onwards, the Ionian confederacy was the most important and prosperous with its twelve famous cities of Miletus, Myus, Priene, Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedus, Teos, Clazomenae, Phocea, Samos, Chios and Erythrae (Smyrna joined the confederacy much later when it was occupied by the inhabitants of Colophon) that were destined to play an important role during the first millenium. At the foot of Mount Mycale stood the Panionion, a meeting place where the cities of the Ionian Confederacy held their council and celebrated a yearly festival (end of summer), called Panionia, in the sanctuary dedicated to Poseidon Heliconios. For the improvement of their cities, the members would discuss politics, business, trade, farming processing, art, science etc... and would share their problems, trying to find appropriate solutions. The commercial and cultural influence of these cities spread over Anatolia where they opened new trading posts.

The art and culture that developed in these cities owe a great part of their originality to the last long contacts they had with the Phrygian, Lydian, Lycian and Carian cultures. With the contribution of the Assyrian, Hittite, Urartian, Babylonian, Syrian, Aramean, phoenician and Egyptian contacts, the cities not only developed a poetic literature and a unique art, but also laid the foundations of the exact sciences with the creation of positivism and research, based on the objective observation of nature. From the 6 C BC, due to these scientific activities, the cultural leadership of the Near-East passed to the Anatolian Ionian cities.

In architecture, while the end of the 7C BC already witnessed the development of the Aeolian style, the first half of the 6C BC saw the birth of Ionian art. The slender proportions and the elegance of the Ionic order symbolized in one of the most beautiful achievements of the time was the Artemision, Ephesus monumental sanctuary.

Ephesus – Gold figurine
of a woman, 7C BC

900 - 600 BC : The Urartu Kingkom was established in eastern Anatolia, around Lake Van with Tushpa as the capital. The Urartians, a people of Asiatic origins and descendants of the Hurrites, were sheperds and farmers who attained to a high level of comfort, culture and civilization. They clevely used the reliefs to build their fortresses, palaces and temples which they surrounded with cyclopean walls. They also dug huge irrigation canals. Renowned metallurgists, they created very fine objects made of bronze which they exported to the Mediterranean basin. In search of new raw materials and as they were trying to extend their domination to south-eastern Anatolia and to northern Syria, they were confronted to the Assyrians. In 590 BC their kingdom was overthrown by the Medes.

Bronze lion statuette, 8C BC.

800 - 696 BC - The Phrygian Kingdom: the Phrygians, who originated from Thrace, were among those invaders known as "Sea peoples" who are thought to be responsible for the final destruction of the Hittite Empire. They settled on the ruins of the Hittite cities, however, the first archaeological evidences of their civilization appeared only in the middle of the 8C BC when Gordion, the first capital of this very powerful but ephemeral kingdom, was founded. Phrygia was famous for its legendary King, Midas of the "golden touch", and for King Gordius' intricate knot which was cut by Alexander the Great. Phrygians excelled in metalworking, woodwork and weaving. In 696, Gordion was destroyed by the Cimmerians. After the invasion, the Phrygians showed a renewal in other centers located between Afyon and Eskişehir (the monumental rock-cut reliefs at Midasşehir/Yazılıkaya). But when Phrygia came under the domination of the Lydians and later the Persians, it declined considerably. During the Hellenistic Period Phrygia was taken by Antigone, Lysimachus, the Seleucids, the Galatians, Pergamum and it was finally annexed to the Roman Province of Asia.

Ram’s head situla, end of 8C BC.

650 - 546 BC: The Lydian Kingdom: Lydia was a prosperous state, which, from the reign of king Gyges (687-652) rapidly acquired a great political power( Greek Ionian cities were under its protectorate). The capital was Sardis where the Pactolos (Sart Çayı) flows. The stream bore silver and gold nuggets, a natural amalgam called electrum. Economically developed (they were traders and bankers), under king Ardys (652-615), the Lydians for the first time in history minted and used coins made of electrum for the purpose of exchanging goods. Towards the middle of the 7C BC, Lydia was devastated by the Cimmerians but nevertheless succeeded to surmount this crisis: through the impetus given by its famest and legendary king Croesus (560-546), it became the main power in Asia Minor during the first half of the 6C BC. The minting technique improved by separating the metals, and a new monetary system of gold coins and silver coins was created. The coins now bore an official seal of king (head of lion and bull) to guarantee their value.
Having overestimated his strength and wealth, Croesus, in 546 the last king of Lydia was defeated by Persian king Cyrus launched into the conquest of Asia Minor.

electrum coin at the time of King Ardys

Gold coin at the time of King Croesus

Silver coin at the time of King Croesus


The Carians, whose origins are still not very well known, occupied Caria, a country of mountains and valleys poor in agricultural and other resources, located between Miletus and Halicarnassus. This rough and uncouth people entered history as mercenaries in the service of the Egyptian pharaohs, the Ionians and later the Persians who subjected them from 544-543 onwards. Thanks to that, Caria seems to have retained some kind of independence, although they joined the Ionian revolt against the Persians after 499, and that they were subjugated by the Athenians between 466-412. From the 4C BC Caria was ruled by satraps. The most famous was Mausolus (377-353), and despite his joining the "revolt of the satraps" and a Persian garrison being retained at Halicarnassus, he craftily developed Caria into an independent power and he was even confered the title of king. Halicarnassus was famous for the Mausoleum, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The lycians lived in Lycia, a region extending from Dalaman stream in the west to the outskirts of Antalya in the east, and can be considered as one of the first Anatolian people, and the first tribe to live without interruption in the Mediterranean region. The area was settled in the 3rd millenium BC, but the Lycians, who called themselves “Termilae”, are known through Hittite sources which refered to them as the“Lukkas” who spoke the Lucian language. During the Battle of kadesh the Lycians were allied to the Hittites against the Egyptians. The Iliad also tells that during the Trojan Wars, the Lycian king named Sarpedon came to help Troy. By living in a coastal mountainous region made the Lycians value their freedom and independence, and master the seas. During the Persian Conquest, Lycians, like the inhabitants of Xanthos, prefered mass suicide than rather be captured. The Persians, who never established complete control over the Lycians (the revolt of Limyran ruler Pericles) forced them under the Carian sovereignty of Mausolus. In 333 BC Alexander the Great encountered practically no resistance from the Lycians who considered him as a saviour. But in reality Lycians ceased to be free, passing under the rules of his diadochs Antigonus, Lysimachus, the Ptolemies who imposed the use of Greek as the official language, and the Seleucids before their defeat by the Romans. Lycia, which had been given to the Rhodians for their support to Rome, refused to bow and finally was granted its independence in 167 BC. The Lycian League, with Patara as the capital, was established with democratic principals. A “Lyciarch” was elected by a senate that convened every autumn at a different city. The league continued to fonction after Lycia became a Roman province in 46 AD. In 141 and 240 AD, the prosperous region was struck by an earthquake and both Rome and rich local inhabitants contributed to the repairs and rebuilding. Christianity developed relatively early and many Lycian cities became bishopric centers with Myra as metropolis and Saint Nicholas as the most famous Lycian Christian. From the 8th century these cities disappeared one after the other subsequently to Arab raids.
The most visible traces of Lycian culture can be seen in the numerous tombs that have survived.

Lycian funerary architecture of the classical period (5-4C BC) displays quite unique characteristics: the Lycians, who were skilled woodworkers, copied in stone the design, construction technique and decoration of their wooden houses.

The most visible traces of Lycian culture can be seen in the numerous tombs that have survived. Lycian funerary architecture of the classical period (5-4C BC) displays quite unique characteristics: the Lycians, who were skilled woodworkers, copied in stone the design, construction technique and decoration of their wooden houses.