Geographical Setting :

When we talk about Asia Minor, geographically, we refer to the land mass known as Anatolia, which roughly occupies the area covered by present day Turkey. The word Anatolia covers much of present Turkey, whereas Asia Minor is limited to Central and Western portions of the country. As generally referred, Asia Minor doesn't include the eastern Turkey. So, Anatolia, relatively covers a larger area than Asia Minor does. We don't know exactly when and how the Anatolian Peninsula came to be called Asia Minor or Asia, but we have some clues from ancient writers like Homers, Herodotus, Strabo who refer to the land by this name. The name Asia Minor was first clearly used by Ptolemaios in the 2nd C., and in the modern geographical meaning it was used in the first half of the 5th C. In the ancient times, Asia Minor referred to was a much narrower area than what we know today. Asia Minor was used to discriminate the land in question from a larger area Asia Major that covers the continent of Asia. Besides the name Asia Minor, another name is often used to refer to this area as well. Anatolia or Anadolu in Turkish means the land where the sun rises" comes from the ancient Greek name Anatole and has been used since the 3rd C. Anatolia in general covers a larger area than Asia Minor does and is used to cover Syria, Mesopotamia and Egypt as well as Asia Minor. Anatolia is more often used after the 3rd C., and in the Byzantine times it was used replacing the name Asia. 

Land is bordered by the three seas being, Pontus Euxinus ( Black Sea ) on north, by Aigaios Pelagos (Aegean Sea) on west, by Thalassa (Mediterranean Sea) on south and an inner sea Propontis (sea of Marmara) on the northwest. The Seas of Pontus Euxinus and Propontis are connected with a long narrow strait known as Bosporus Thrakios (Bosphorus). On his Scythian campaign Persian king Darius built a pontoon bridge of boats and transported his army across the Bosphorus. Propontis sea is separated from Aigaois Pelagos by another strait Hellespont or Dardanelles. Similar to that of Darius, Xerxes the Persian king on his campaign against Greece built a pontoon bridge on Dardanelles between the towns Abydos and Sestos through which his army moved into Europe. Pontus Euxinus, according to Herodotus is the most amazing among the seas and most beautiful and he gives us the length of this sea as 11,100 stadia (1,250 miles) whereas the Pontus is roughly 6,000 stadia (750 miles). 

Two great mountain chains run from west to east, being Pontic mountain chain along the Black Sea coast to the north and Taurus mountain chain that goes parallel to the coast of Mediterranean Sea and bends inward towards the eastern Turkey. Besides these two main chains, the country has many single volcanoes that scatter from central to Eastern Turkey. One to mention here, Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey was the final resting place of Noah's Ark after the great flood that is told in the chapter Genesis of the Old Testament. Mt. Ararat is the highest peak in the land with its elevation of 16,000 feet. Mt. Nemrut on the northern shore of Lake Van in eastern Turkey that is at an altitude of roughly 5,500 feet has one of the largest volcanic craters in the world with a 4 1/4 miles diameter.  Known in ancient times as, Mt. Argaeus (Erciyes) located in eastern Cappadocia with an elevation of 13,000 feet spewed out volcanic tufa that was to form unreal volcanic rock formations of Cappadocia. Mt. Hasan that marks the western border of Cappadocia has an elevation of 10,000 feet and its eruption in the past played a role along with Mt. Argaeus in forming Cappadocia area. 

Anatolia has abundance of water. There are great rivers in Anatolia that emerge from various parts of the land and run in various directions. Sangarios river (Sakarya) emerges from Pessinus in Phrygia and after running through Galatia, Phrygia and Bithynia flows into Pontus Euxinus. River Halys with a length of 400 miles emerges from the mountains in eastern Turkey and flows through central Anatolia into Pontus Euxinus. Inside the bent of Halys was the homeland of Hittites. Iris river (Yesilirmak) emerging from eastern Anatolia runs through the hinterlands of Pontus area and joins the Pontus Euxinus. Rivers of the Old Testament, Euphrates and Tigris both emerge from eastern Turkey and flow down through respectively Syria and Iraq into Persian Gulf, having in between the ancient land of Mesopotamia. Araxes river rises in eastern Turkey and flows through Caucasus east to the Caspian sea.



Travels around Asia Minor 1976-2002
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Last Update : April, 2011