|Alanya, which has one of the most remarkable views on Turkey's south coast, lies on a rocky peninsula jutting into the sea. It possesses interesting houses, sheer precipices, and fortification walls. The first known settlement founded on the site of present day Alanya was Coracesium, meaning rock. This city was sometimes included in the province of Cilicia, sometimes in Pamphylia. Strabo, proceeding west to east in his description of Cilicia, starts with Coracesium, describing it as a castle set on a steep cliff. |
Due to its ideal harbour and eminently defensible situation, this site served in almost every period as a pirate's or rebel's den. For this reason it was the only Cilician city to resist Antiochos III in 199 B.C. A half century later, Diodotos Trypon, the local ruler, also refused to remain allied with Antiochos VII. Piracy in the Mediterranean in the first century B.C. was a great economic and political problem for the Roman Empire; the seizure of grain ships by pirates reached such proportions that it threatened even Rome with widespread hunger. For this reason, Puplius Servius was sent to Cilicia in 78 B.C., and organized a series of campaigns against the pirates, but the was ultimately unsuccessful. Next he was empowered by the Roman Senate in 65 B.C., and he subdued all of the pirate strongholds by attacking them both by land and by sea. Coracesium, was the last to fall, and in the process not only was the pirate fleet destroyed, but the city's fortification walls were pulled down and the stones pitched into the sea.
During the Roman imperial era, Coracesium must have become a large city, for in the second century it began for the first time to mint coinage in its own name.
Not much is known about Coracesium in the first centuries of Christendom and the early Byzantine period. Together with its neighbours Cilicia and Pamphylia, it must have accepted Christianity at an early date.
This period, too, witnessed a change in the name of the site; it became known as Kalonoros or Beautiful Mountain. This name continued to be employed in various permutations well into the Middle Ages. Even after its conquest by the Turks, the city was known by the Venetians, Genoese, and Cypriots under the rubric Candelor, Scandelore, or Galenorum.
As soon as the Rum Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I (reigned 1220-1237) ascended the throne, his first strategic ploy was to move against this castle. On securing its surrender from its ruler Kyr Vard, he affixed his own name to the town, calling it Alaiye. Its proximity to the Seljuk capital of Konya as well as Alaeddin's harbour improvements, assured the town's rapid development. Because the sultan wintered in Alanya, the town witnessed much construction activity, and was provided with the wonderful buildings we see today.
After the collapse of the Seljuk state, this area passed into the control of the Karaminids and was sometimes administered by local rulers swearing allegiance to them. Often the Lusignan kings of Cyprus tried to lay hands on Alanya, and the Turks and the Egyptians used it as a base from which to invade Cyprus. With the rise of the Ottoman Empire, commerce in the eastern Mediterranean declined, and Alanya lost most of its former importance. Today, Alanya is one of the best preserved of all Seljuk cities.
The eastern section of the Alanya castle borders the sea and is protected at the site of its conjunction with the northern wall, by a large octagonal tower known as K?z?l Kule, or the Red Tower. This tower is 29 metres in diameter and 33 metres high. Despite its simple exterior, the tower's interior consists of a series of defensive systems combined with a complex five-storey plan. The two lower storeys of the upper portion is built of reddish bricks, giving rise to the tower's name. Inscriptions record that this tower was built for Alaeddin Keykubad in 1226 by the architect Abu Ali of Aleppo. The tower was restored between the years 1951 and 1957.
Some 150 metres to the south of the Red Tower, lies the sole surviving Seljuk tersane or naval yard. The total area of 57x40 metres is divided by walls into five vaulted spaces. Each one of these is connected to the others by four doorways with pointed arches; these interior spaces were large enough to serve as construction areas for medieval ships. The tersane is entered from the direction of the Red Tower. The entrance carries a five-line inscription attributing the construction of the naval yard to Alaeddin Keykubad in the year 1227. The first line reads, "Victory for God and early conquest" (Koran LXI, 13). A small room to the right of the entrance may have been used as a storeroom, or perhaps a mosque for workmen in the naval yard, although there is no mihrab niche present to indicate the direction of Mecca. A room to the left is lit by daylight and was probaly used as an office.
To the south of the naval yard rises a two-storey tower (called today the Tophane) designed to protect it from landward or seaward attack. This square tower; 19 metres in height, was erected on a high cliff. The ground floor is divided into four vaulted rooms by interior walls. The upper floor takes the form of an open room surrounded by vaulted bays. The north walls, starting from the Red Tower, stretch up to a fortified area known as the Ehmedek. Built on the ruins of earlier Hellenistic fortifications, two structures, each possessing three towers, form a highly irregular plan. The principal entrance is from a large gate to the east. From here one climbs stairs to a small tower. Immediately inside the entrance lies a large amorphous open area with cisterns. Further on are three large rooms. Scratched in the plaster near a window of the eastern room are representations of pre-contemporary sailing boats. The middle room probably served as a residence hall, and the small domed room in north-west corner was its bath. The north face of the base tower of the Ehmedek contains a beautiful inscription dating to 1227, during the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad. If one goes due south from the Ehmedek, one encounters the Süleymaniye mosque. This mosque is divided into two main areas; a square main chamber surmounted by a dome, and in front of it, a porch with three domes separated by arches. The domes are made of brick, and the walls of ashlar masonry as well as brick. At the north-west corner of the mosque rises a duodecagonal minaret.
South from the mosque is a caravanserai consisting of a wide courtyard surrounded by rooms for travellers and merchants. The wide vaulted section behind the rooms was used for animals. The Ak?ebe Türbe or tomb lies above the caravanserai. The principal building was a single-domed until build of reddish brick. Adjacent to the domet space and along its eastern face lie another similar domed area and a vaulted room. A small minaret decorated with blue tiles rises to the north-east of the door to the structure.
The citadel lies at the highest point of the castle and is in the form of an irregular rectangle 180x150 metres. The original buildings of this area were built against three sides of the surrounding fortification wall. The western side required a less substantial wall because of its proximity to a sheer drop. Two big cisterns built of brick lie in the middle of this space. If one takes into account the castle's historical importance, a place should have existed in this area, but so far no such building has been found among the ruins evident in the citadel. If it did exist, however, it was most probably situated in the south-east corner, since this area contains much collapsed building debris and traces of painted frescoes. A Byzantine church can also be seen here in the citadel, undisturbed by the construction around it. The church has a cross-shaped plan, surmounted at the crossing by a high dome on pendentives. A few remains of frescoed figures are still to be seen in the side apses and on the pendentives.
A small chapel built on the southern fortification wall bears witness to the three principal phases of occupation at Alanya. This structure, known today as Arap Evliyasi (Arab Saint), was built during the Byzantine period on top of the ruins of a Hellenistic tower. In Seljuk times the church was incorporated into the defensive wall, with a crenelated parapet carefully built above it. The church, entered from the east, is surmounted by a low dome made of brick, and can be dated on stylistic grounds to the eleventh century A.D. This structure was subsequently used as a mosque.