About Alanya Castle
Alanya Castle is a magnificent Seljuk ruin which sits atop a 250-metre high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea. With walls stretching over 6km, Alanya Castle – sometimes called Alanya Fortress – encloses a number of fascinating sites and structures which are well worth exploring today.
The origins of the city today known as Alanya date back thousands of years. References to the ancient city of Coracesium, the name for the early settlement, can be found from the 4th Century BC. During much of antiquity, Alanya notoriously sheltered pirates thanks to its perfectly designed bay and harbour. However, during Pompey the Great’s famous campaign to rid the Mediterranean of pirates, Alanya was the site of an important battle in which the pirates were defeated. For the remainder of the Empire period, the city remained under Roman and subsequently Byzantine control but it was not one of the region’s more prominent settlements during this time.
It wasn’t until 1221 that the city really rose to prominence. After the city’s conquest by the Seljuk Turks, Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat I decided to make Alanya his winter home and the city entered its zenith.
The harbour and port that shielded Cicilian bandits and pirates in the 3rd Century BC, referred to as the Tersane or Dockyard, was turned into the main naval base of the Seljuk navy; defensive walls were restored and the Red Tower, perhaps the most striking of monuments that remain at the site, was constructed. From then until the 18th Century Alanya, incorporated into the Ottoman empire in 1471, became an important port for trading with other Mediterranean countries, particularly Egypt, Syria and Cyprus. Today Alanya is the best preserved dockyard of the Mediterranean basin.
The Red Tower (sometimes referred to as Kizilkule) ranks among the most impressive elements of Alanya Castle and stands 29 meters high. The Castle walls start here and pass through the middle battlements (Ehmedek), the Citadel or Inner Castle (Ickale), the Arab Saint bastion (Arap Evliyasi), the Esat bastion, the arsenal (Tophane) and the historic shipyard (Tersane) before finishing once again at the Red Tower.
Inside the Castle walls are a number of interesting buildings and monuments, including the palace of Alaaddin Keykubat, as well as several Mosques (including the 16th Century Suleymaniye Mosque) and even a church, proof of the often diverse and tolerant nature of the city.
Opposite the Suleymaniye Mosque is a covered Bazaar or Bedesten, used during the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading base. There are numerous other buildings and fortifications surrounding the Castle, including the Ehmedek (middle battlements), an arsenal (or Tophane) and a Mint (Darphane), although interestingly not a single coin was minted there. There are also many sea caves that can only be reached by boat. The Castle Citadel (or Ickale), dating to the 6th century, contains a platform that today offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula.
That Alanya Castle is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list is testament to its diverse and sprawling history. With over 6km of defensive wall reinforced by 140 bastions and 400 cisterns, Alanya was perhaps one of the best-defended cities in the Mediterranean.
Contributed by Ros Gammie