The surrealistic geological formation of Cappadocia is one of the wonders of the world. It is the result of two opposing forces in nature-volcanic activity in the constructive stage and erosion in the destructive stage.

In addition to the European Alps, the Taurus mountains of southern Anatolia were formed during the Tertiary period of geological development (65 million to 2 million years ago). During the “Alpine period” of mountain-building, deep fissures and large depressed areas were created. The fracturing process allowed the subsurface magma (rocks in their molten state) to find its way to the surface where it formed the Erciyas, Develi, Melendiz, Keciboydoran, and Hasan Dag eruption cones. After numerous eruptions these cones increased in size and formed a chain of volcanoes running parallel to the Taurus mountains. In addition, volcanic material slowly ran towards the depressed areas and drowned previously formed hills and valleys. This geological activity changed the general landscape of the region, giving it the appearance of a plateau.

Wind, climate, mechanical weathering (forces breaking up rocks) rain, and rivers are the types of erosion that gave Cappadocia its unusual, characteristic formations. The Cappadocian climate, with sharp changes of temperature, heavy rains, and melting snow in the spring, plays an important role in the formation of the Cappadocian landscape. In addition, mechanical weathering is responsible for fragmentation because rocks expand when heated and break up as they cool. Water freezing in the cracks can also cause fragmentation. However, the most important sources of erosion are rain and rivers. Heavy rainfall transformed the smooth surface of the plateau into a complex pattern of gullies that followed preexisting fissures in the rocks. Eroded materials were then removed by the rivers. Sometimes streams and rivers made very sharp vertical cuts into the volcanic soil and created isolated pinnacles at the intersection of two or more gullies. Rain and rivers also formed valleys such as Zelve and Goreme.



6700-5700 B.C.
During the 1960s an important Neolithic site that flourished around 6700-5700 B.C. was discovered at Catal Hoyuk near Konya. An outstanding collection of tools, artifacts, statues of the mother (fertility) goddess of Anatolia, and seals were found there. The houses were decorated with murals, and among them was a unique fresco dating from 6200 B.C. depicting the houses and city plan of Catal Hoyuk with a large twin-peaked volcano in the background. A volcanic eruption is represented by heavy smoke clouds, flowing lava, and rocks tossed into the air. The volcano represented Hasan Dag, one of the most impressive volcanoes in Cappadocia, and the fresco is considered to be the earliest landscape in history. It can be seen in the reconstructed shrine of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.



1900 B.C.
Mesopotamia exerted economic and political power over central Anatolia before the arrival of the Assyrians. During the third millennium B.C. the Arkadian King Sargon from Mesopotamia advanced into the heart of Anatolia to protect merchants from his country. The beginning of the second millennium was a prosperous time for Anatolia. The Assyrians had learned of this region’s riches and subsequently established trade centers called karums, meaning “port” or administrative center. Eventually at least thirteen karums were established as part of the Assyrians’ extensive network of commercial activities, which spread from the Aegean Sea to the Indus valley. Trade between the people of Anatolia and the Assyrian merchants continued for about 150 years. The “Cappadocian tablets” reveal that the Assyrians were experienced traders who maintained daily business correspondence with their capital, Asur. Other documents such as trade agreements, receipts, wills, and marriage contracts were also found among the clay tablets.
Kultepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh, was the most important karum. Using established trade routes, the Assyrian merchants imported tin, clothing, textiles, perfumes, and other luxury goods to sell in Anatolia. In return they received gold, silver, and copper which were sent back to Assyria. Importing tin was highly profitable for the Assyrians since the local people required it for making bronze. Caravans consisting of as many as 250 donkeys followed trade routes where wabartums had been established. Like the famous caravansarays of the Selcuk period, wabartums provided storage areas and accommodations for people and animals, and also served as trading centers. Due to the threat from bandits, the caravans frequently changed their routes. Assyrian merchants, whose lives revolved around trade, lived in the karum located at the foot of the citadel of Kultepe (Kanesh). Although they often married local women, Assyrians were not allowed to own land, were compelled to pay special taxes for the use of roads and storage of their goods, and also were required to pay a percentage of their sales to the local king. The existence of documents regarding the right of the local kings to punish Assyrians found guilty of smuggling suggests that heavy taxation led some merchants to deal in contraband. Around 1850 to 1800 B.C. the period of the Assyrian trade colonies came to an end as a result of a war between local Anatolian kingdoms.



Towards the end of the third millennium B.C. the arrival of Indo-European tribes arrested the growth of the Hatti, a pre-Hittite Early Bronze Age civilization in Anatolia. The early Hittites probably intermingled with the local Hatti population and formed small principalities that were often at war with each other. Clay tablets concerning that period provide the names of local kings, the most important of which was Anitta (1750 B.C.), who overcame several rival city-states, formed one of the first political alliances in Anatolia, and established his capital at Kiiltepe. The unique culture of the Hittites, which was born and which subsequently thrived in Cappadocia, resulted from the mixture of the indigenous Hattic and immigrant Indo-European peoples.



18th to 12th CENTURIES B.C.
Kings who succeeded Anitta assumed the title, “King of the Hatti.” The Hittite kingdom rapidly gained power, and a later king led the Hittites into Syria where they captured Aleppo, and into Babylon where they eventually brought an end to the legendary Hammurabi dynasty. As a result of these military campaigns, the Hittites established direct contact with the peoples of Mesopotamia and northern Syria.
During the 15th and 14th centuries B.C., after a period of disunity, the Hittites founded one of the greatest empires in the ancient world. Syria and Palestine became battlegrounds for two powerful rivals, the Hittites and the Egyptians. Sixteen years after the fierce battle of Kadesh (1286) in northern Syria, Ramses II signed a peace treaty with Hattusilis III. This treaty was sealed by the marriage of one of Hattusilis’ daughters to Ramses II.
The great Hittite empire finally collapsed during the 12th century B.C. when Anatolia was invaded by seagoing tribes. The ensuing centuries constituted a “dark age” in central Anatolia which lasted for nearly 300 years until one of the warring tribes, the Phrygians, established its supremacy.



From the 11th century B.C. Cappadocia was known as the “Land of Tabal” and included central and southern Anatolia where late Hittite kingdoms had been established. Tabal had a close, if turbulent, relationship with the Assyrians to whom they paid tribute even though they resisted domination. During the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. Tabal was frequently attacked by the Assyrians.



6th to 4th CENTURIES B.C.
From the 6th century B.C. until the time of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C., the Persians controlled Cappadocia. They divided Anatolia into several satrapies (provinces), each of which was governed by a satrap or “protector of the kingdom,” a Persian noble who ruled on behalf of the empire. The geographer Strabo recorded that during the reign of Darius from the 6th to the 5th centuries B.C., the Cappadocians were required to pay tribute to Persia in the form of gold, numerous sheep and mules, and 1,500 of Cappadocia’s famous horses. The Persians referred to the origin of these highly prized horses as “Katpatukya” (later called “Cappadocia”), or “Land of Beautiful Horses.” Bas-relief located at Persepolis (Iran) depict Cappadocian tribute bearers (wearing Persian clothing) presenting a mule to the king. The longstanding Persian cult of fire-worship was well received by the Cappadocians whose volcanic soil and landscape provided ideal elements for such beliefs. The Persians, for their part, felt that the topography of Cappadocia was well suited to their fire-worshipping cult. Historians have noted that fire temples existed and continued in Cappadocia through the 4th century A.D.



4th CENTURY B.C. to A.D. 17
In the mid-4th century B.C. Alexander cut the famous Gordian knot and then traveled to Cappadocia. He appointed a local chieftan as governor of the region and thus upset the delicate balance of power between the Cappadocians and the Persians. The situation was further complicated by the division of Alexander’s empire among his generals (diadochi). Numerous intrigues and battles ensued and continued to the period of the Cappadocian kingdoms, which lasted from the 4th century B.C. to A.D. 17 when Cappadocia became a province of the vast Roman empire.
After the death of Alexander an independent Cappadocian kingdom was established. During this period the history of the region was turbulent and characterized by numerous intrigues. The Ariarathes dynasty traditionally sought political alliances through marriages between powerful families and provincial kings. Cappadocia became a battleground for local power struggles as well as conflicts between the kingdom of Pontus (Black Sea) and the Roman empire.
One of the more notable kings was Ariarathes V, a very learned man during whose reign many scholars and philosophers were invited to Cappadocia, and the friendly relations he established with the Romans lasted until the end of his life. The political and familial alliances that were formed through marriages later led to bitter disputes between the kingdoms of Pontus and Bithynia. Mihridates, king of Pontus, almost succeeded in dominating the region and placing his son on the throne, but the Roman senate intervened and declared Cappadocia an autonomous region.
Finally, in 66 B.C. Pompey invaded Cappadocia and put Ariobarzanes I, of Cappadocian origin, on the throne. The ever-persistent Mihridates dethroned him no less than six times, but with the help of the Romans, Ariobarzanes 1 and his successors prevailed. The struggle for political dominance in the region continued until Cappadocia became a Roman province in A.D. 17.



A.D. 17 to 4th CENTURY
During the reign of Vespasian, two Roman legions were established in Cappadocia to protect the area, especially the eastern frontier, from attack by the Parthians. Vespasian also united Cappadocia and Galatia in A.D. 79. At the beginning of the 2nd century, the Emperor Trajan had many military roads built in Cappadocia since the location was crucial to the defense of the eastern boundaries of the empire.
At the beginning of the 3rd century commercial ties between Cappadocia and Smyrna were strengthened Coins bearing the names “Caesarea” (Kayseri) and “Smyrna” (Izmir) were minted, and merchants from Smyrna and Ephesus conducted business in Cappadocia.
From the 3rd century, Cappadocia witnessed invasions by the Sassanid Persians and the Goths, both of whom were repelled by the Romans. During this period Christianity spread in the region, and a diocese was established at Caesarea. In the 4th century Cappadocia gave to the Christian world three important religious leaders-Basil the Great, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus-each of whom played important roles in the development of the church and monastic life in Cappadocia.



4th to 15th CENTURIES
At the beginning of the 7th century Caesarea (present-day Kayseri) was occupied by the Sassanid Persians until the Emperor Heraclitus drove them out. Subsequently the Arabs attacked Cappadocia where they remained a threat for the next two centuries. During the Macedonian dynasty (10th century), the Emperors Basil and Leo the Wise were both successful in repelling Arab attacks.
The Byzantine emperors and the local inhabitants decided to take measures against sudden attacks and thus devised a system of defense comprised of several elements: governing by “themes,” an “optic warning system,” the construction of additional forts, a good network of military and trade roads, and underground cities.
The system of governing by “themes” provided for the distribution of land to generals, who were directly responsible to the emperor for protecting each “theme,” one of which was Cappadocia. The land remained under the control of a general who could act independently with regard to recruiting, commanding, and choosing appropriate defensive strategy. The “optic warning system” was established by placing fires and lanterns on the tops of designated hills and mountains in the provinces. This system relayed messages all the way to the Great Lighthouse in Constantinople so that the capital would be informed about the exact moment of the enemy’s attack. Many forts, castles, and watchtowers were placed at strategic positions such as passes and sources of water, and also linked the main towns. In addition to these defensive measures, the local inhabitants carved underground cities for their protection.




9th to 13th CENTURIES
From the 9th century Anatolia witnessed the arrival of nomadic Turkish tribes from Central Asia, which originated in the Ural-Altai region and dispersed over vast areas from China to Europe. In 1071 during the battle of Malazgirt, which occurred in the eastern part of modern-day Turkey, the Selguk leader Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantines, and thereafter the Selcuks gained undisputed control of Anatolian soil. The Selcuk Turks soon established their own centers of learning.
During the 11th century the Selcuks chose iznik as their first capital but later moved to Konya after the Crusaders captured Iznik and gave the city to the Byzantines. During the next centuries Anatolia became a battleground for Selcuks, Crusaders on their way to the Holy Lands, and Byzantine armies.
During the reigns of Keyhusrev and Aladdin Keykubad in the 13th century, the Selcuks enjoyed a golden-age during which they reached both the Mediterranean and Black Seas where they built shipyards. They also constructed magnificent caravansarays, medreses (schools), and mosques throughout the empire. By the mid-13th century the Mongols started attacking various parts of the empire, and eventually they invaded all of Anatolia. Kayseri was captured and looted by the Mongols, under whose domination the Selcuks remained until 1302.
The Selcuk empire was the first Turkish empire established on Anatolian soil. Although its rise and fall occurred in less than two centuries, this empire laid the foundations of Ottoman culture and art. The Selcuks brought with them unmistakable influences of the nomadic cultures of Central Asia and enriched and enhanced the history of central Anatolia.




Communal existence in monasteries may have developed as a reaction to the asceticism of monks seeking salvation through solitude. According to a decree of Emperor Justinian (527-565), monks could not live alone unless they first spent three years in a community of monks. However, it was possible for monks to sleep outside of the monastery. This may explain the absence of sleeping quarters in most monasteries.
Most monastic complexes consisted of a church, a refectory and storage rooms. The existence of storage rooms was related to the secular functions of the monasteries as agricultural production units.
For the monks, the day started with prayers but was spent in hard physical labor, interspersed with meditation and also the singing of hymns in unison to relieve fatigue. The hymns would reflect the “joy of doing”, and the brethren who combined work with prayer, would be imitating the angels who honoured God in the same manner. In fact, monks considered work to be a form of prayer. The day ended with the only meal of the day, and this also started with prayers. Monks received spiritual guidance from their leaders. They led simple lives, renounced personal property and cared for the community. Today, Greek Orthodox monasteries still follow the rules set up several centuries ago in Cappadocia.