Heroic City Of Civilization Maras
Maraş, where traces of civilization date back to the 16th millennium B.C., is one of the most important pieces in the Anatolian cultural mosaic. You will enjoy touring Maraş, a perennially attractive destination in every period of its history.
With a civilized past going back thousands of years, Maraş in southeastern Turkey is one of the most important pieces in Anatolia’s rich cultural mosaic. Besides its traditions, its culinary culture and its flora and fauna, which are richer than those of many an entire European country, it is also one of the world’s major water basins. Traces of civilization in Maraş date back to the 16th millennium B.C., and exciting developments are occurring almost by the day in the excavations being carried out at Domuztepe Höyük and the Yukari Döngel Obasi cave settlement, shedding light on the area’s pre-historic periods. Only a few months ago a clay figure, very probably the earliest example of man’s shaping and baking clay, was found at the cave settlement near the city. The exact age of the finds, estimated to date to the period between the 16th and the 13th millennia B.C., will be determined following carbon dating.
Maraş’s known history goes back to the second millennium B.C. The sources relate that the name Maraş comes from that of a Hittite general, Maraj. Capital city of the Hittites when they shared super-power status with ancient Egypt, Maraş took the name Markasi when it came under Assyrian rule.
Its fertile soil and highly defensible geographical situation made Maraş an attractive target of new conquerors in every period of history. The Medes, the Persians, Alexander the Great and the Seleucan Kingdom all ruled here. Possessed of beneficent natural beauty, the city was added to the lands of the Roman Empire, one of the greatest in history, in the 1st century B.C. Such a source of pride and happiness for Rome did Maraş become that it it acquired a new name, Germanicia, from the term ‘Germanicus’ (conqueror of Germany), one of the titles of the Emperor Caligula.
Passing in time from Rome to Byzantium, Maraş became the Arab conquerors’ most sought-after target in Anatolia. The Byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties all placed special importance on the city. Maraş’s first encounter with the Turks was with the Seljuks in the 11th century. But there was no end to those who adored and coveted Maraş: The Crusaders, the Cilician Kingdom, the Mamluks, and finally the Dulkadiroğlu Principality, which dominated the city for around 200 years. The Dulkarids in particular left behind monuments in Maraş that have survived to our day. The Ulu Cami, or Great Mosque, an icon of the city’s distinctive architecture, was a gift to the city of the Dulkarid ruler, Alaüddevle Bey.
Added to the Ottoman lands by Sultan Selim I, Maraş was a provincial capital for a long time before becoming a ‘sanjak’ or sub-provincial capital. The city was given a Turkish Medal of Independence by the young Republic for its role in the War of Independence, and the epithet ‘Kahraman’ (Hero) was added in front of its name.
THE GLORY OF THE PAST COMES TO THE LIGHT OF DAY!
The city’s importance for the history of culture was further enhanced by the discovery of the spectacular floor mosaics of the ancient city of Germanikeia, whose founding in the beginings of 1st century A.C. is attributed to the Roman Emperor Caligula. The districts of Bağlarbaşi and Dulkadir, known locally as Karamaraş, at first glance give the appearance of a modest scattering of mostly one-story houses. Below this plain appearance however lurks a magnificent cultural treasure in the form of the floor mosaics of the historic Roman terrace houses, some of the finest examples of Roman art.
A SPLENDOR TO RIVAL ZEUGMA
The Maraş mosaics, which adorned like fine lace the floors of the villas of prominent Romans of the period are such as to vie aesthetically with those of Ephesus and Zeugma. A stroke of luck for Kahramanmaraş in terms of their cultural tourism potential, Germanikeia floor mosaics have so far been encountered in four houses in the region. According to archaeologists, these mosaics constitute only a very small portion of those still under the ground. Following studies, a total of around a hundred Romans villas, as well as the agora and a temple of ancient Germanikeia, are thought to exist in the region where the floor mosaics were found. When the archaeological excavations are completed in the near future, Kahramanmaraş Archaeological Museum is going to take its place among the most important drawing points for art and culture buffs, with an extensive collection of some of the finest examples of the traditional Anatolian art of the mosaic.
EAGLE’S EYRIE CASTLES
A city rich in castles, Kahramanmaraş harbors literally dozens of them. These castles are the legacy of a long line of civilizations from the Hittites to the Ottomans. Among them, the biggest is Maraş Castle in the city center. Filled with cafes today, Maraş Castle actually stands atop a large Hittite ‘höyük’ or mound. It is an excellent place for a bird’s-eye view of the city at evening when pigeons fly over in flocks. The township of Andirin, administratively attached to Maraş, is another area noteworthy for its large number of castles. The castles at Andirin with its harsh winds and extremely undulating terrain were at the same time built in view of each other for communications purposes. Over the centuries they have seen active use in protecting the caravans which were the commercial fleets of the Middle Ages as well as the caravanserais where those caravans alighted. With their impressive appearances, the Haştirin, Geben, Azgit and Afşin Hurman castles transport visitors into the depths of history. And the secret of their meticulous construction on the sheer rocky slopes must be sought in the mysteries of Anatolian architecture.
TERMS PECULIAR TO MARAŞ
Ede: Brother, Elder Brother
Ökkeş: A traditional name frequently given to boys in Maraş
Firik: The unbaked Maraş tarhana
Kahke: A bread ring or black sesame seed bun
Tahildak: Ripe fig
Küldöken: A polite term of address for women
Gişi: Bey A polite term of address for men
SEE: : Kahramanmaraş Archaeology Museum / the Great Mosque / the Grand Bazaar and neighboring area / Maraş Castle / Döngel Caves / the Andirin Castles / Bridge on the Ceyhan River / Menzelet Dam Reservoir / the Visit of the Seven Sleepers
TASTE: Maraş ice cream / Tarhana / Peppers / Pistachios / Yanyana, Sour Meatball Kebab, Stuffed Meatballs, and other local dishes / Trout
BUY: Among the traditional handicrafts, Chests / Knives / Rawhide Sandals / twisted gold Maraş Bracelets
HOW TO GET THERE
Turkish Airlines flies daily round trip from Istanbul to Kahramanmaraş and AJET from Ankara to Kahramanmaraş on Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays.