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My Favourite Planet > English > Middle East > Turkey > Kuşadası
Kuşadası, Turkey A brief history of Kuşadası   page 2
The Genoese fortress on Güvercin Ada (Pigeon Island), Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

The Genoese fortress on Güvercin Ada (Pigeon Island), Kuşadası
Very little has been published about the history or archaeology of Kuşadası, and it appears quite difficult to discover exactly how much investigation has taken place here in recent years. Ionia has so many ancient historical sites, such as Ephesus, Priene, Miletus and Didyma, that it seems there is very little here to attract archaeologists or researchers.

We hope to provide a more detailed history in the near future, but for now here are some historical snapshots.

Although it has a good bay and beach for anchorage, a small island (today known as Güvercin Ada, Dove or Pigeon Island) and a spit or headland (Yilanci Burnu) to the south, the topography does not provide a natural feature for defence, unlike the Ayasuluk hill at nearby Ephesus (today part of Selçuk). The location was therefore not suitable for the founding of a large city in ancient times when the Mediterranean settlements were victim to sea raids by neighbouring communities and pirates.

Still, it is known that the area was inhabited in prehistoric times and that a settlement was bound to grow here as a convenient crossing point to Samos, which became one of the most important islands in the eastern Aegean and a stepping stone between Europe and Asia for trade and conquest. Land routes from here also led along the coast and into the centre of Anatolia.

The first Greeks, including speakers of the Ionian Greek dialect, arrived in Greece around 2000 BC and over the next thousand years spread around the Aegean (Athens, for example, was an Ionian city). By 1000 BC Ionian colonizers had taken Ephesus and displaced the indigenous Anatolian population. As they established their new cities along the Anatolian coast the area became known as Ionia. It is thought an Ionian settlement known as Neopolis (New City) was founded on the Yilanci Burnu headland (see Kuşadası gallery page 10), although it seems that so far very little archaeological exploration has taken place here to substantiate this theory.

The geographer Strabo (64/63 BC – circa 24 AD) mentioned Neapolis and Pygela as the two towns along the Ionian coast, in the Strait of Mykale, between Panionion and Ephesus:

"Then follows Neapolis, which formerly belonged to the Ephesians, but now belongs to the Samians, having exchanged Marathesium for it, the more distant for the nearer place.

Next is Pygela, a small town, containing a temple of Diana Munychia. It was founded by Agamemnon, and colonized by some of his soldiers, who had a disease in the buttocks, and were called Pygalgeis; as they laboured under this complaint, they settled there, and the town had the appropriate name of Pygela.

Next is a harbour called Panormus, with a temple of the Ephesian Diana; then the city [Ephesus]." [1]

The independent cities of Ionia became subject of the Phrygian, Lydian and Persian empires in turn, until in the mid 4th century BC the area was "liberated" from the Persians by Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, following Alexander's death his successors (the Diadochi) fought bitterly over his empire, until the Attalid kings of Pergamon finally took control of Ionia. Attalus III (circa 170–133 BC), the last king of Pergamon bequeathed his empire to the Romans.

In Anatolia (known to the Romans as Asia minor), Greece and the eastern Mediterranean the Roman Empire was replaced by the Byzantine Empire. The area was attacked by Arabs from the 7th century AD, and several islands and coastal towns were taken by crusaders, and later other European powers such as Venice and Genoa - competing for lucrative trade routes with Asia - managed to keep footholds in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, even after the Ottoman Turks had conquered the Byzantine territories. Thus, the Genoese were able to establish a trading settlement known as Scala Nuova in the 13th century and built the fortress on Güvercin Ada.

The Ottomans were able to successively drive the Europeans from Turkey, and cities such as Venice and Genoa gradually lost their predominance in trade with Asia as the Portugese and Spaniards discovered new sea routes via Cape Horn.

the national flag of Turkey

photo gallery

Pigeon Island, Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Pigeon Island
haircut on the quay, Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

haircut on
the quay
island pigeons, Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

island pigeons
Kaleiçi Camii mosque, Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Kaleiçi Camii
fiddler in the lounge, Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

fiddler in
the lounge
sunset in Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Kuşadası sunset
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The Turkish town of Kuşadası grew slowly as a port, fishing harbour and market town, and in the early 17th century gained a benefactor in the statesman and military commander Öküz Kara Mehmed Pasha (died 1619), nicknamed Öküz (the ox) and Kara (black). He was Grand Vizier [2], or prime minister to two Ottoman sultans: 1614-1616 he served Ahmed I Bakhti (builder of the Sultan Ahmed Camii or "Blue Mosque" in Istanbul), and in 1619 Ahmed's ill-fated son Osman II "the Young".

Between these stints as Grand Vizier, Öküz Kara Mehmed Pasha was made governor of the Ottoman vilayet (province) of Aydın, in which Kuşadası was one of the main ports. In an attempt to encourage trade he began a building programme in Kuşadası which included improvements to the town's fortifications and facilities, the building of a hamam (Turkish bath), the Kale Içi Camii mosque (1618) and the Öküz Mehmed Pasha Han caravanserai (also 1618) in the Kale Içi (inner castle, i.e. within the town's surrounding walls) district around the harbour.

The han is one of many caravanserais built along trade routes through Asia (the best known being the Silk Road) to act as secure inns for travellers, traders and pilgrims, their animals and wares [3]. This fortified hotel consists of two storeys of rooms built around a courtyard approximately 18.5 meters (60 feet) long and 21.6 meters (71 feet) wide. The outer walls are topped by crenellated battlements which were equipped with cannons to fend off pirates.

After the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the caravanserai fell into disuse and disrepair. It was renovated in 1965 and converted into a luxury 26 room hotel, now called the "Club Caravansérail". The courtyard serves as an open-air restaurant with regular Turkish folklore evenings of music and dancing.

Kuşadası gradually lost its importance as an international port, particularly due to the growth of Izmir (then known as Smyrna) which was made the local provinicial capital in 1850, and was connected to other parts of the Ottoman Empire by railways over the following decades. [4]

Since the 1970s the town has been developed as a tourist attraction, and has become increasingly popular over the last decade. It is also a port-of-call for many cruise ships whose passengers spend a day here, shopping, sightseeing and visiting local historical sites such as Ephesus (see Ionian spring part 1 at The Cheshire Cat Blog).

Statue of Öküz Kara Mehmed Pasha, Kusadasi, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Modern statue of Öküz Kara
Mehmed Pasha, at Kuşadası's
main bazaar, near the harbour.
Notes, references and links

1. Strabo on Neapolis

Strabo, Geography, Book 14, chapter 1, section 20. Translated by H. C. Hamilton and W. Falconer. George Bell & Sons, London, 1903. At Perseus Digital Library.

According to the footnotes Marathesium was Scala Nova. Also, "Pliny and Mela give a different origin and name to this town: by them it is called Phygela from φυλὴ, flight or desertion of the sailors, who, wearied with the voyage, abandoned Agamemnon."

2. The Turkish word Vizier comes from the Arabic "wazir", bearer of burdens. The office of Grand Vizier as prime minister to the Ottoman sultan became increasingly important as the political and military complexities of ruling the huge empire grew, and especially when young or inexperienced sultans ascended to the throne.

3. The Persian word caravanserai means literally "caravan palace"; in Turkish kervansaray or han (from Persian khan); in Arabic funduq.

The Seljuk Turks built the first hans in Anatolia soon after their arrival at the end of the 11th century. The earliest known Turkish han is thought to have been built around 1210 by Sultan Ghiyath ad-Din Kaykhusraw I (ruled 1192–1196, and again 1205–1211).

Hans also served many other functions, including headquarters for travelling sultans and officials, barracks for campaigning troops, jails and postal stageposts.

See Katharine Branning's informative website about Seljuk hans in Anatolia:

4. For further information about Turkish railways, see the following websites:

Turkish State Railways website, in Turkish and English.

Information about train travel within Turkey.

A wiki site for Turkish railways enthusiasts, including history and maps.
Run by Jean-Patrick Charrey in Paris, France.

Area map
map of north-western Turkey and the Aegean area at My Favourite Planet

Map of north-western Turkey and the Aegean area.

See a larger interactive map of this area.
  Sculpture of Kemal Atatürk in Kusadasi harbour, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Bronze sculpture of Kemal Atatürk
(1881-1938), founder of the modern
Turkish state, at Kuşadası harbour.
Map, photos and articles: © David John

Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis

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Higher resolution versions are available on request.

Some of the information and photos in this guide to Kuşadası
originally appeared in 2004 on
See also
The Cheshire Cat Blog
photo essays about Turkey:

Istanbul Essentials part 1

Istanbul Essentials part 2

Istanbul Essentials part 3
with video

Ionian Spring part 1

Ionian Spring part 2

Ionian Spring part 3
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