Amasya is the administrative district of Amasya Province in northern Turkey. It covers an area of 1730 km², and the population is 133,000, of which 74,000 live in the city and the remainder in surrounding villages. Altitude is 411 m.
Amasya stands in the mountains above the Black Sea coast, the city was built in a narrow valley along the banks of the Yeşilırmak River. Although near the Black Sea this area is very high above the coast and has an inland climate, well-suited to growing apples, for which the province of Amasya is famed.
In antiquity Amaseia was a fortified city high on the cliffs above the river. This area has a long history as provincial capital, a wealthy city producing kings and princes, artists, scientists, poets and thinkers, from the kings of Pontus, through Strabo the geographer, to many generations of the Ottoman imperial dynasty and right up to being the location of an important moment in the life of Ataturk. With its Ottoman period wooden houses and the tombs of the Pontus kings carved into the cliffs overhead Amasya is still attractive to visitors.
According to Strabo the name Amasya comes from Amasis the queen of the Amazons, who were said to have lived here. The name has changed little throughout history, Αμάσεια, Amaseia, Amassia and Amasia all being found in Greek and Roman coinage. Following the arrival of the Turks the name mutated to Amasya.
Situated between the Black Sea and inner Anatolia in a region of fertile plains irrigated by the Tersakan, Çekerek and Yeşilırmak rivers, Amasya lies in a naturally beautiful narrow river valley, bounded by almost vertical cliffs and high peaks of the Canik and Pontus mountains.
Five bridges cross the river, and most of the town lies on the southern bank, spread along the river. The climb up to the higher ground is very steep, making the valley walls uninhabitable. The town is therefore shaped like a letter 'v' as it follows a sharp bend in the river.
Its location in this steep valley makes the city a mountain stronghold, easy to defend, and thus Amasya has had a long and prominent history.
Archaeological research shows that Amasya was first settled in 5,500 BC by the Hittites and subsequently by Phrygians, Cimmerians, Lydians, Persians
By 183 BC the city was settled by Hellenistic people, eventually becoming the capital of the kings of Pontus from 333 BC to 26 BC. Today there are prominent ruins including the royal tombs of Pontus in the rocks above the riverbank in the centre of the city.
Amaseia was captured by the Roman Lucullus in 70 BC and was quickly made a free city and administrative centre of his new province of Bithynia and Pontus by Pompey. By this time Amaseia was a thriving city, the home of thinkers, writers and poets, and one of them, Strabo, left a full description of Amaseia as it was between 60 BC and 19 AD. Under the Romans it gained the titles 'metropolis' and 'first city' in the second century AD. After the division of the Roman Empire by emperor Diocletian the city became part of the East Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire). At this time it had a predominantly Greek-speaking population.
Early Turkish rulers
In 1075 following 700 years of Byzantine rule Amasya was conquered by the Turkmen Danishmend emirs. It became their capital until it was annexed by the Seljuk ruler Qilic Arslan. Under the Seljuks and the Ilkhan the city became a centre of Islamic culture. Schools, mosques, tombs and other architecture of this period still remain.
After being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Bayezid I Amasya grew in importance as a centre of learning; the children of the Ottoman rulers being sent here for their education. As part of their preparation for future rule they were given the position and responsibility of governor of Amasya. Future sultans from Beyazid I in the late 14th century through to Murat III in the 16th were schooled here and held the position of governor in their youth.
The population of Amasya at this time was very different from that of most other cities in the Ottoman Empire; as it was part of their the training for the future sultans to learn about every nation of the Empire. Every millet of the Empire was represented in Amasya in a particular village -- such as a pontic village, an Armenian village, a Bosnian village, a Tatar village, a Turkish village, an Arab village, a Kurdish village, etc. (see: 1927 Population count data by DİE.)
The Turkish War of Independence
In 1919 Amasya was the location of the final planning meetings held by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk for the building of a Turkish army to establish the Turkish republic following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. It was here that Mustafa Kemal made the announcement of the Turkish War of Independence in the Amasya Circular.
The Republic of Turkey
The Greeks of Amasya were replaced by Turks from Greece in the population exchange at the founding of the Turkish Republic.
The province of Amasya is known for producing high-quality, small but well-flavoured apples. Other crops include tobacco and poppy seeds. Other economic activities in the region include mining, textiles and cement manufacture, but Amasya is not a very wealthy city. It is however an attractive, well-preserved town, especially when sitting by the river, which has a particular mystique on a winter evening when fog fılls the valley. Tourists (and also soldiers from the local base) contribute valuable income to the shopkeepers of the city. The railway line from Sivas to Samsun runs through Amasya, and there is an attractive Ottoman period railway station.
There is some nightlife, mainly bars and cafes for students, and some basic restaurants. The cuisine includes the local speciality toyga çorbası a soup containing yoghurt, drunk hot or cold. Other delights include pastries with poppy seeds and tea by the riverbank.
Places of interest
Yalıboyu houses in AmasyaOn the rock of Harşena above the town is the terraced site of the royal palace and the tombs of the kings of Pontus (illuminated at night) which, although not kept in the best condition, are an impressive sight from the town.
Harsene Kalesi - A fortification, mentioned by Strabo and largely rebuilt in medieval times also lies in ruins on a rocky outcrop above the town. And in the district of Nerkis lies some remains of another castle, Enderun Kalesi.
The town itself has many historically and architecturally valuable buildings, including the Ferhat aqueduct, the 13th century Seljuk Burmali Mosque, the 14th century Ilkhan Bimarhane Mental Hospital with lovely reliefs around its portal, the tomb of 15th century scholar Pir Ilyas and the 15th century mosque of Yildirim Beyazit. Unfortunately, Amasya is vulnerable to earthquakes which have damaged many monuments (most recently in 1939).
There are a number of well-preserved traditional Ottoman Turkish mansions, some of the best examples of Turkish domestic architecture. The 19th century Hazeranlar Konağı has been carefully restored and includes a small art gallery and ethnographical museum. Other wooden houses are being restored as hotels and guest houses.
The Archaeological Museum of Amasya has a large and interesting collection, of artefacts from many eras of antiquity, including the mummies of the Ilkhanli rulers of Amasya.
A number of tombs of Muslim saints, yatır, said to emanate healing powers. The sick and dying come to breathe the air and drink the waters of nearby springs.
Lake Borabay (65 km northeast of Amasya in the district of Taşova) is a crater lake with an impressive view and fresh air. It is a perfect area for fishing (especially trout), picnicking and sports. Other excursion sites from Amasya include Yedikir reservoir and Omarca National Park.