Country Listing

Turkey Table of Contents


Phrygians and Lydians

The twelfth to ninth centuries B.C. were a time of turmoil throughout Anatolia and the Aegean world. The destruction of Troy, Hattusas, and numerous other cities in the region was a collective disaster that coincided with the rise of the aggressive Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Dorian invasion of Greece, and the appearance of the "sea peoples" who ravaged the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean.

The first light to penetrate the dark age in Anatolia was lit by the very Phrygians who had destroyed Hattusas. Architects, builders, and skilled workers of iron, they had assimilated the Hittites' syncretic culture and adopted many of their political institutions. Phrygian kings apparently ruled most of western and central Anatolia in the ninth century B.C. from their capital at Gordium (a site sixty kilometers southwest of modern Ankara). Phrygian strength soon waned, however, and the kingdom was overthrown in the seventh century B.C. by the Cimmerians, a nomadic people who had been pursued over the Caucasus into Anatolia by the Scythians.

Order was restored in Anatolia by the Lydians, a Thracian warrior caste who dominated the indigenous peasantry and derived their great wealth from alluvial gold found in the tributaries of the Hermus River (Gediz Nehri). From their court at Sardis, such Lydian kings as Croesus controlled western Anatolia until their kingdom fell to the Persians in 546 B.C.

Armenians and Kurds

The Armenians took refuge in the Lake Van region in the seventh century B.C., apparently in reaction to Cimmerian raids. Their country was described by Xenophon around 400 B.C. as a tributary of Persia. By the first century B.C., a united Armenian kingdom that stretched from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea had been established as a client of the Roman Empire to buffer the frontier with Persia.

Xenophon also recorded the presence of the Kurds. Contemporary linguistic evidence has challenged the previously held view that the Kurds are descendants of the Medes, although many Kurds still accept this explanation of their origin. Kurdish people migrated from the Eurasian steppes in the second millennium B.C. and joined indigenous inhabitants living in the region.

Data as of January 1995