In addition to its natural beauty and rich soil, Van, the pearl of Anatolia, has been home for millennia to many civilizations. Due to its location and beauty, many civilizations have made this area their home, thus giving the city a rich historical legacy. Van is one of the most crowded districts of the region in terms of population. The district borders Ağrı to the north, Hakkari to the south, Iran to the east and Bitlis to the west. Due to its extensive network of rivers and streams, the area has extremely fertile soil. Let’s take a more detailed look at the unknown history of the ancient city of Van from Urartu to today.
Thousands of years of history
The history of the Van district goes back 4000 years. The first settlers were the Hurrians who migrated from Central Asia. The Hittites, who were also living in the area at the time, established the first political union in Anatolia. However, they couldn’t wrestle the Van district entirely from the hands of the Hurrians. Instead, the Hittites were only able to take the Babylonian and Assyrian dominions south of Lake Van. This was despite them, like the Hurrians, also being from Central Asia. They were never able to take Van though.
The Urartians versus the Hurrians
The Urartians were another civilization from Central Asia who came to the district and took it from the Hurrians. After conquering the district, they founded the Kingdom of Urartu in the 9th Century B.C. 12 kings ruled over this kingdom for 247 years. Between 713 and 612 B.C., the Assyrian Empire took control of the district. The capital of the Kingdom was Tushpa, which later become known as Van.
From the Urartians to the Medes, From the Medes to the Persians, From the Persians to the Macedonians...
In 585 B.C., the Medes put an end to the Kingdom of Urartu, giving the district a new owner. After the Medes, the next owner was the Persians. During the 4th Century B.C., in the year 331 to be precise, Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, defeated the Persian Empire. After Alexander’s death, the district became part of the Seleucid Empire. It later became part of the Roman Empire. For many years, the district was fought over by the Parthian and Roman Empires. In 225 B.C., the area was taken over by the Parthians, only to be lost again to the Sasanians in 226 A.D. In 395 A.D. the Roman Empire was divided into two and the area became part of the Eastern Empire. There were frequent battles in the district between the Byzantines and the Sasanians, and the area was constantly changing hands.
Van becomes part of the Islamic Empire
In the 7th Century A.D. Hazrat Omar put paid to the Persian Empire and conquered Van during the same period. Following the conquest, the Islamic armies turned the whole of Anatolia into part of the Islamic Empire. Muslims and the Muslim Armenians around Van then established various principalities. This led to a struggle for power and eventual civil war within the Islamic states. The Byzantines took advantage of the situation and re invaded the district; terribly torturing the Muslims and Christian Armenians that they found. This led the people of Van to petition the Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan.
Alp Arslan conquered Van in the year 1065, and defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The district was finally under complete Turkish control and Anatolia became the Turkish homeland.
Turkish Van and the Seljuks
Turkish Van within the Seljuk state was controlled by various Turkish principalities until it became part of the Ottoman Empire. During the Ottoman period, the city became a subject of conflict between the Ottomans and the Safavid dynasty, and the Safavids sometimes took control. Following the Iranian Expedition by Suleiman the Magnificent, the area became entirely the property of the Ottoman Empire.
Despite Van being a part of Ottoman land, it was still later the site of many battles with the Safavids. In 1535, it even fell into Safavid hands once again. However, Van was conquered again in 1548 by Sultan Suleiman.
Following the political reforms made in the Ottoman State...
Van became the state capital, and several important men became its governor. 1. Van was invaded by the Russians during WWI and with Russian help, the city was taken by the Armenians. On the 2nd April, 1918, Van was again liberated from the occupation by the Turks. However, during their occupation, much of the city was ruined by the Russians and Armenians. With the founding of the Republic, Van became the capital of a district with the same name. The city began to develop rapidly after the 1950s. Van is steeped in history, and with its historical wonders and natural beauties, is one of Turkey’s must-see cities.
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