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Anatolia (Turkish: Anadolu) (Greek: Ανατολία, Anatolía) is a geographic region bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the bulk of the Asian mainland to the east.


The name Anatolia comes from the Greek Aνατολή (Αnatolí), “rise (i.e. sunrise),” or Ανατολία (Anatolía), “(land) of the sunrise” or simply the “East.”[1] It likely dates back at least 3,000 years, from the Ionian settlement period called the 1st millennium BC. (See also Ionian League). The Byzantine Greek term Anatolikon (the “Eastern One”) signified the lands to the East of Europe and of the Byzantine Empire’s capital city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).[2] The etymology of the word supports the idea that Anatolia was a peninsula bordered by the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Eastern Taurus Range.

The Turkish form Anadolu derives from the Greek version – both which predated the growth of Constantinople across the Bosporus strait to both continental shores. Turkish folk etymology further breaks down the geographical term into two words: Ana (”mother”) and Dolu (”full”). Thus, the name means “Full of Motherliness” and is used to advance a pedagogical ideal: Women’s contribution of mother’s milk to national masculine bravery.[3] Less literally, it is sometimes interpreted as Mother of Cities, perhaps dating to the pre-Islamic era when the Byzantine Empire was the biggest international power known in that part of Asia, and occupied the entire region

For more details on this topic, see Names of Anatolia.

Physical geography

The Anatolian peninsula is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea (itself an arm of the Mediterranean) to the west, and the bulk of the Asian mainland to the east.

Anatolia’s terrain is structurally complex. A central massif composed of uplifted blocks and downfolded troughs, covered by recent deposits and giving the appearance of a plateau with rough terrain, is wedged between two folded mountain ranges that converge in the east. True lowland is confined to a few narrow coastal strips along the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea coasts. Flat or gently sloping land is rare and largely confined to the deltas of the Kızıl River, the coastal plains of Çukurova, and the valley floors of the Gediz River and the Büyük Menderes River, and some interior high plains in Anatolia, mainly around Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake) and Konya Ovası (Konya Basin).

Black Sea region

The Black Sea region has a steep, rocky coast with rivers that cascade through the gorges of the coastal ranges. The North Anatolian mountains are an interrupted chain of folded highlands that generally parallel the Black Sea coast. A few larger rivers, those cutting back through the Pontic Mountains (Turkish: Kaçkar Dağları), have tributaries that flow in broad, elevated basins. Rivers flow from the mountains toward the Black Sea trough in lengthy valleys.

Access inland from the coast is limited to a few narrow valleys because mountain ridges, with elevations of 1,525 to 1,800 metres (5,000 to 5,900 ft) in the west and 3,000 to 4,000 metres (10000 to 13000 ft) in the east in Kaçkar Mountains, form an almost unbroken wall separating the coast from the interior. The higher slopes facing southwest tend to be densely wet. Because of these natural conditions, the Black Sea coast historically has been isolated from Anatolia. The southern slopes—facing the Anatolian Plateau—are mostly unwooded, but the northern slopes contain dense growths of both deciduous and evergreen trees.

Mediterranean region

The narrow coastal plains of the Mediterranean region, separated from the Anatolian plateau by the Taurus Mountains, which reach elevations of 2,000 to 2,750 metres (6600 to 9000 ft), are cultivated intensively. Fertile soils and a warm climate make the Mediterranean coast ideal for growing citrus fruits, grapes, figs, bananas, various vegetables, barley, wheat, and, in irrigated areas, rice and cotton. The Çukurova in the east is a plain that is the most developed agricultural area of the Mediterranean region.

Anatolian plateau

Stretching inland from the Aegean coastal plain, Central Anatolia occupies the area between the two zones of the folded mountains, extending east to the point where the two ranges converge. The plateau-like, semiarid highlands of Anatolia are considered the heartland of the country. The region varies in elevation from 600 to 1,200 meters (2000 to 4000 ft) from west to east. The two largest basins on the plateau are the Konya Ovası and the basin occupied by the large salt lake, Tuz Gölü. Both basins are characterized by inland drainage. Wooded areas are confined to the northwest and northeast of the plateau.

Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the interior of Turkey a continental climate with distinct seasons. The Anatolian Plateau is much more subject to extremes than are the coastal areas. Winters on the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of -30 °C to -40 °C (-22 °F to -40 °F) can occur in the mountainous areas in the east, and snow may lie on the ground 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (34 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F). Annual precipitation averages about 400 mm (15.7 inches), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya Ovası and the Malatya Ovası, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 mm (11.8 inches). May is generally the driest month and July and August are the wettest.

Eastern Anatolia

Eastern Anatolia where the Pontus and Taurus mountain ranges converge, is rugged country with higher elevations, a more severe climate, and greater precipitation than are found on the Anatolian Plateau. The region is known as the Anti-Taurus, and the average elevation of its peaks exceeds 3,000 m. Mount Ararat, at 5,137 metres (16854 ft) the highest point in Turkey, is located in the Anti-Taurus. Lake Van is situated in the mountains at an elevation of 1,546 metres (5072 ft). The headwaters of three major rivers arise in the Anti-Taurus: the east-flowing Aras River, which empties into the Caspian Sea; the south-flowing Euphrates and Tigris join in Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Several small streams that empty into the Black Sea or landlocked Lake Van also originate in these mountains.

Southeast Anatolia lies south of the Anti-Taurus Mountains. It is a region of rolling hills and a broad plateau surface that extends into Syria. Elevations decrease gradually, from about 800 metres (2600 ft) in the north to about 500 metres (1600 ft) in the south. Traditionally, wheat and barley were the main crops of the region, but the inauguration of major new irrigation projects in the 1980s has led to greater agricultural diversity and development.

Temperatures of Anatolia

Ankara (central Anatolia)

Antalya (southern Anatolia)

Van (eastern Anatolia)


Anatolia’s diverse topography and climate has fostered a similar diversity of plant and animal communities.

The mountains and coastal plain of northern Anatolia, with its humid and mild climate, is home to temperate broadleaf, mixed, and coniferous forests. The central and eastern plateau, with its drier continental climate, is home to deciduous forests and forest steppes. Western and southern Anatolia, which have a Mediterranean climate, are home to Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub ecoregions.

* Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests: These temperate broadleaf and mixed forests extend across northern Anatolia, lying between the mountains of northern Anatolia and the Black Sea. They include the enclaves of temperate rainforest lying along the southeastern coast of the Black Sea in eastern Turkey and Georgia.[4]
* Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forests: These forests occupy the mountains of northern Anatolia, running east and west between the coastal Euxine-Colchic forests and the drier, continental climate forests of central and eastern Anatolia. [5]
* Central Anatolian deciduous forests: These forests of deciduous oaks and evergreen pines cover the plateau of central Anatolia. [6]
* Central Anatolian steppe: These dry grasslands cover the drier valleys and surround the saline lakes of central Anatolia, and include halophytic (salt tolerant) plant communities. [7]
* Eastern Anatolian deciduous forests: This ecoregion occupies the plateau of eastern Anatolia. The drier and more continental climate is home to steppe-forests dominated by deciduous oaks, with areas of shrubland, montane forest, and valley forest. [8]
* Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forests These forests occupy the western, Mediterranean-climate portion of the Anatolian plateau. Pine forests and mixed pine and oak woodlands and shrublands are predominant. [9]
* Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests: These Mediterranean-climate forests occupy the coastal lowlands and valleys of western Anatolia bordering the Aegean Sea. The ecoregion is home to forests of Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia), oak forests and woodlands, and maquis shrubland of Turkish Pine and evergreen sclerophyllous trees and shrubs, including Olive (Olea europaea), Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo), Arbutus andrachne, Kermes Oak (Quercus coccifera), and Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis). [10]
* Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests: These mountain forests occupy the Mediterranean-climate Taurus Mountains of southern Anatolia. Conifer forests are predominant, chiefly Anatolian black pine (Pinus nigra), Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), Taurus fir (Abies cilicica), and juniper (Juniperus foetidissima and J. excelsa). Broadleaf trees include oaks, hornbeam, and maples. [11]
* Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests: This ecoregion occupies the coastal strip of southern Anatolia, between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Plant communities include broadleaf sclerophyllous maquis shrublands, forests of Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) and Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia), and dry oak (Quercus spp.) woodlands and steppes. [12]


Main article: History of Anatolia

Because of its strategic location at the intersection of Asia and Europe, Anatolia has been the center of several civilizations since prehistoric times. Neolithic settlements such as Çatalhöyük, Çayönü, Nevali Cori, Hacilar, Göbekli Tepe, and Mersin are being explored by archaeologists. Through recorded history, Anatolians have spoken both Indo-European and Semitic languages, as well as many languages of uncertain affiliations. In fact, given the antiquity of the Indo-European Hittite and Luwian languages, some scholars have proposed Anatolia as the hypothetical center from which the Indo-European languages originated.

The earliest definitive record of rule in Anatolia is from the Akkadian Empire under Sargon in the 24th century BCE. The region was famous for exporting various raw materials .[13] Akkad suffered problematic climate changes in Mesopotamia, as well as a reduction in available manpower that affected trade. This led to the fall of the Akkadians around 2150 BCE at the hands of the Gutians.[14]

After the Gutians were vanquished, the Assyrian Empire claimed the resources, notably silver. One of the numerous Assyrian cuneiform records found in Anatolia at Kanesh uses an advanced system of trading computations and credit lines.[13] More than 2500 years ago, the area was home for Armenians. In the first century BC, it was one small part of Tigran, the King of Armenia, whose kingdom was spread among Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas.

The Turkish language was introduced gradually with the conquest of Anatolia by Turkic peoples from the 11th century AD. Anatolia remained multi-ethnic until the early 20th century (see Rise of Nationalism under the Ottoman Empire). Beginning in 1915, the indigenous Christian Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia was systematically wiped out, and by the time the Turkish Republic was established there were few Armenians left in the Anatolian interior (see Armenian Genocide). Greeks who were native to Western Anatolia were also driven out, notable in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which occurred as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne, where most of the Turks in Greece were moved to Turkey and vice versa. Today, the inhabitants of Anatolia are mainly Turks and Kurds as well as Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, an ethnic and linguistic minority who exist in the southeastern regions. Georgians (see Chveneburi) have a presence in the northeast.


1. ^ Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon
2. ^ “On the First Thema, Called Anatolikon. This theme is called Anatolikon, not because it is above and in the direction of the east where the sun rises, but because it lies East of Byzantium and Europe.” Constantine VII Porphyogenitus, De Thematibus, ed. A. Pertusi. Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1952, pp. 59-61.[clarify]
3. ^ Sam Kaplan, “Din-u Devlet All Over Again?”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 34:117 (2002)
4. ^ “Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25 2008. [1]
5. ^ “Northern Anatolian conifer and deciduous forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25 2008. [2]
6. ^ “Central Anatolian deciduous forests” National Geographic ecoregion profile. Accessed May 25, 2008 [3]
7. ^ “Central Anatolian steppe” WWF scientific Report. Accessed May 25 2008 [4]
8. ^ “Eastern Anatolian deciduous forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25 2008. [5]
9. ^ “Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25 2008 [6]
10. ^ Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25 2008 [7]
11. ^ “Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25 2008 [8]
12. ^ “SEastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests” WWF scientific report. Accessed May 25, 2008]
13. ^ a b Freeman, Charles (1999). Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198721943.
14. ^ Saggs, H.W.F. (2000). Babylonians. University of California Press. ISBN 0520202228.




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