History started very early in the country that is now known as Turkey. Already in the Neolithic age Anatolia saw the rise of settled habitation. The remains of Çatalhöyük also named Çatal Hüyük, the earliest known city of the world, dating from 6800 BC, were excavated near Konya. During this Neolithic Age (New Stone Age), Asia Minor was world leader in urban development. This leadership position was lost during the subsequent Chalcolithic or Copper Age period. The Bronze Age started at about 2200 BC with the rise of Hatti. The Hattians were a non-Indo-European people who were organised in feudal city-states and small kingdoms or principalities. They gave their name to Asia Minor which was then called the Land of the Hatti. During 2000-1700 BC the Hattian prinicpalities were gradually conquered and taken over by the Indo-European Hittites. The Hittites founded a strong state uniting the whole of Asia Minor under their rule (1450-1200BC). Actually, the name Asia probably originates from the Hittite wordAssuwa, a term which designated a coalition of Western Anatolian states opposing the Hittites. Eventually, the Hittite Empire extended to most of Anatolia and parts of Syria and Canaan, so that by 1300 BC the Hittites were bordering on the Egyptian sphere of influence. In 1274 BC, at Kadesh in Syria the Hittites clashed with the Egyptian Empire of Ramses II. The inconclusive battle resulted in the first known peace treaty, the treaty of Kadesh, 1258BC. A tablet with in cuneiform writing of the text of the treaty is on display at the Archeological Museum in Istanbul.
The end of the Bronze Age was marked by the invasion of the Sea Peoples which caused the fall of the Hittite Empire and the also destruction of Troy. The subsequent Iron Age period, saw the rise of new states such as Urartu in the east, Phrygia in Central Anatolia, Lydia and Lycia in the west. At the same time, the Aegean coast was colonized by Greek settlers.
In about 550 BC, Cyrus had taken power of the vast Persian Empire and extended his conquests into Asia Minor. The Persians remained in power untul the coming of Alexander the Great who defeated the Persian Emperor Darius at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, his empire was divided among his generals. Instability and wars led to the emergence of several smaller kingdoms in Asia Minor, such as Pergamon, Pontus, Commagene, etc. Eventually, all were taken over by Rome that had developed into the new world power.
As part of the Roman Empire, Asia Minor prospered during the two century long period of peace, known as the Pax Romana. Life was gentle in Asia Minor, culture blossomed as a synthesis of Greek, Roman, and Persian arts. Ephesus, the capital of western Asia Minor and place of residence of the governor, was the symbol of this civilization. The city counted 200,000 inhabitants and was adorned with prestigious buildings like the Celsus Library.
During the reign of the emperors Diocletian and his successor Constantine the Great, the Roman Empire was divided into a western and an eastern part, the latter became also known as the Byzantine Empire. While the western part was poor and weak, the Byzantine Empire succeeded initially due to its vast wealth and judicious rulers. However, a series of wars with Sassanid Persia that lasted from 502-629 AD weakend both the Byzantine and Persian Emprire and opened the way to the Arab-Islamic conquest of Syria, Armenia, Norh-Africa and Persia.
In the 10th century the Seljuk Turks, recent converts to Islam, migrated from their ancestral homelands, north of the Caspian Sea and Aral Lake, into mainland Persia, in the province of Khurasan. Under their leader Alp Arslan (Hero Lion) they migrated further into the steps and plains of Anatolia. At the decisive battle of Manzikert Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV. This defeat of the Byzantines is regarded as the primary cause for the first Crusade as the western response to the emperor"s call for military assistance. In the series of crusades that followed the first one, it was during the fourth crusade (1202-1204) that the crusaders captured and sacked Constantinople. This constitued a mortal blow to the Byzantine Empire. In 1261 Constantinople was recovered and the Empire re-established. However, it was weakened, its wealth was gone and most of its territories were lost.
Meanwhile, in 1243, the Seljuk armies were defeated by the Mongol hordes of Tamerlan. After their retreat, one of the Turkish principalities governed by Osman I was to evolve over the next 200 years into the Ottoman Empire. On Thursday May 29, 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered the city of Constantinople, thereby effectively ending the Byzantine Empire
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire was among the world's most powerful political entities, controlling territories on three continents. However, the following two centuries were centuries of decline, during which the Empire steadily lost land to Western countries and only kept most of its Asian territories and Eastern Thrace. During World War I the Ottoman Empire took part on the side of the Central Powers and was ultimately defeated. At the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres the Ottoman Empire was carved up and limited to Central Anatolia. This prompted the war hero Mustafa Kemal Pasha to start the war of independence which eventually led to the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1922.
More on the history and culture of Turkey is provided by the following links: