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Bursa

History

Bursa dates back to at least 200 BC. According to legend, it was founded by Prusias, the King of Bithynia, but soon came under the sway of Eumenes II of Pergamum and thereafter under Roman rule.

Bursa first grew to importance in the early centuries of Christianity, when the thermal baths at Çekirge were first developed. However, it was Justinian I (r AD 527–65) who really put Bursa on the map.

With the decline of the Byzantine Empire, Bursa’s location near Constantinople attracted the interest of would-be conquerors, including Arabs and Seljuks. Having seized much of Anatolia by 1075, the Seljuks took Bursa (then Prusa) with ease. But 22 years later the First Crusade arrived, and the city entered a cycle of conquest and reconquest, changing hands periodically for the next 100 years.

After the Turkish migrations into Anatolia during the 11th and 12th centuries, small principalities arose around individual Turkish warlords. One such warlord was Ertuğrul Gazi, who formed a small state near Bursa. In 1317 Bursa was besieged by his son Osman’s forces and was starved into submission on 6 April 1326. Under the rule of Osman Gazi, Bursa became the capital of the nascent empire that took Osman’s name, Osmanlı (Ottoman).

Osman was succeeded by Orhan Gazi (r 1326–59), who expanded the empire to include everything from what is now Ankara to Adrianople (Edirne), effectively encircling the Byzantine capital at Constantinople. Orhan took the title of sultan, struck the first Ottoman coinage, and, near the end of his reign, was able to dictate to the Byzantine emperors, one of whom, John VI Cantacuzene, became his close ally and father-in-law.

Although the Ottoman capital moved to Edirne in 1402, Bursa remained an important city. Both Osman and Orhan were buried there; their tombs are still important monuments.

With the founding of the Turkish Republic, Bursa started to develop as an industrial centre. In the 1960s and ‘70s boom times arrived as Fiat (Tofaş) and Renault established factor­ies here. Today it’s still a major commercial centre and one of Turkey’s wealthiest cities.