The capital of Modern Turkey, Ankara, has a very long history. The city, inhabited and given different names by many civilizations, has always been a center because of its geographical location. While Ankara, where the most important decisions were made in the Republican era, had a population of 30.000 then, it is now the second biggest city of the country.
The names given to the city in history were Ankuva, Ancyra, Angora and Engürü. During the excavations around Ankara the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age settlements of Gavurkale, Karaoğlan, Ahlatlıbel and Etiyokuşu have been uncovered. Haci Bayram Hill and the surrounding area, which includes the Old Town, have been excavated and in the light of the discoveries it is now known that first city was founded by the Phrygians. After the Phrygians, Ankara was under the domination of the Lydians, Persians, Galatians, Romans and Byzantines. In the city, captured by the Ottomans in 1354, are the traces of Roman and Republican periods.
Ankara was a center for angora production, which was of great importance in textile industry, in the Roman period. The city, the capital of Galatian state, was embellished with some structures; such as the theatre, bath, gymnasium, collonaded street and the monumental pillar. The Column of Justinian, built for the Roman emperor, is in present-day Ulus, in the Old Town. One of the examples of Roman architecture is the Temple of Augustus. The temple was converted into a church in the Byzantine period and then into a madrasah in Ottoman times with some architectural elaborations. The Roman Bath is one of the foremost ancient monuments built in the 3rd century B.C.
The churches were built and the citadel was repaired and enlarged in the Byzantine period because the city was still one of the important cities then. It is assumed that the citadel, on a hill dominating the Old Town, was built by the Phrygian King Midas and changed hands many times. Very few remains of the outer castle, occupying a very large area, have survived to the present time, while the inner castle, which has 42 towers, can be seen today. In the inner castle, the typical old Ankara houses in good restoration can be seen besides the Alaeddin Mosque, which is a Seljuk period monument.
Ankara was governed by a group of artisans called Ahis for a period of time. The mosque and tomb of Ahi Şerafettin and the Mosque of Ahi Elvan are from this period.
The foremost monuments surviving since the period of Ahis are the Ottoman edifices. The city was an important commercial hub in the Ottoman period because the bedesten and hans on the hillside prove that it had a lively commercial life. Especially sof, a goat wool fabric, was an important export. The mosques of Had Bayram and Cenabi Ahmet Pasha, the mosque, tomb and bath of Karacabey, bedesten, old pavilions and some of the hans are the major Ottoman monuments which can be seen frequently in the Old Town. The Haci Bayram Mosque, dating to the 15th century, was built after the city was captured by the Ottomans. The mosque to the north-west of the Temple of Augustus, is of stone and brick and was restored in the 18th century. It is well worth going inside to see the tiles covering its walls and its plaster relief mihrab (prayer niche). The tomb of Haci Bayram next to the mosque was restored to its original state in 1947, and it is now one of the foremost monuments worth a visit.
The Museum of Old Anatolian Civilizations, which was once a bedesten converted into a museum in 1969, is among the major museums in the world. The museum houses items from the civilizations of Anatolia, beginning with the Prehistorical ages, going on through Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek and finally Roman times. The development of mankind can be observed in the museum starting from the Paleolitic Age frescoes and artifacts.
Some other museums worth a visit are the Ethnographical Museum, the Roman Bath, the Museum of Liberation and the Painting and Sculpture Museum.
The Kocatepe Mosque in the center is one of the most important examples of contemporary religious architecture. The mosque is of particular interest with its size, brass covered domes and slender minarets.
The heart of the city started to shift to Kızılay from the first settlement, Ulus, in the Republican era. Most of the public institutions and establishment are in Kızılay now. The green areas in Ankara have been preponderant recently. Gençlik Park and Altın Park, Ahlatlibel Refreshment Area and Dikmen Valley, built later, add to the beauty of the city.
Atatürk Orman Çiftliği (Atatürk Farm and Zoo), established by the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Atatürk in 1925, is now a pleasant place to spend a day. There are cafes, picnic areas and the biggest and the best-kept zoo in Turkey here. In 1981, a replica of the house where Atatürk was born, which is now a museum in Salonica, was built for the 100th anniversary of his birth.
It is possible to see some ancient cities around Ankara. The most important of them all is the Phrygian capital Gordion around Polatli. It is a major site which informs us about the architecture and the craft of one of the biggest civilizations in Anatolia.