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Ankara

History

Although Hittite remains dating back to before 1200 BC have been found in Ankara, the town really began as a Phrygian settlement that prospered at the intersection of the north-south and east-west trade routes. Later it was taken by Alexander the Great, claimed by the Seleucids and finally occupied by the Galatians, who invaded Anatolia around 250 BC. Augustus Caesar annexed it to Rome in 25 BC as Ankyra.

The Byzantines held the town for cent­uries, with intermittent raids by the Persians and Arabs. When the Seljuk Turks came to Anatolia after 1071, they grabbed the city but held it only with difficulty. The Ottomans, too, had problems: Sultan Yıldırım Beyazıt was captured by Tamerlane near here, and subsequently died in captivity. Spurned as a jinxed endeavour, the city slowly slumped into a backwater, prized for nothing but its goats.

That all changed, of course, when Atatürk picked Angora as his base of operations in the struggle for independence. When he set up his provisional government here in 1920, the city was just a small, dusty settlement of some 30, 000 people – but after his victory in the War of Independence, Atatürk declared it the new Turkish capital (October 1923), and set about developing it. European urban planners were consulted, and the result is a city boasting long, wide boulevards, a forested park with an artificial lake, and numerous residential and diplomatic neighbourhoods. The city’s position in the centre of Turkey made it more suitable than İstanbul, both physically and symbolically, as a capital for the new republic. From 1919 to 1927, Atatürk never set foot in İstanbul, preferring to work at making Ankara top dog in fact as well as on paper.