The city of Ankara lies in the center of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the great, high Anatolian Plateau, at an altitude of 850 meters. It is the center of the province of the same name, which is a predominantly fertile wheat steppe-land with forested areas in its northeast region. It is bordered by the provinces of Cankiri and Bolu to the north, Eskisehir to the west, Konya and Aksaray to the south, and Kirikkale and Kirsehir to the east.
The region’s history goes back to the Bronze Age; Hatti Civilization, which was succeeded in the 2nd millennium BC by the Hittites, then the Phrygians (10th century BC); Lydians and Persians followed. After these came the Galatians, a Celtic race who were the first to make Ankara their capital (3rd century BC). It was then known as Ancyra, meaning anchor. The town subsequently fell to the Romans, Byzantines, and Selcuks under ruler Alparslan in 1073, and then to the Ottomans under sultan Yildirim Beyazit in 1402, who remained in control until the First World War.
The town, once an important trading center on the caravan route to the east, had declined in importance by the nineteenth century. It became an important center again when Kemal Ataturk chose it as the base from which to direct the War of Liberation. In consequence of its role in the war and its strategic position, it was declared the capital of the new Turkish Republic on the 13th October,1923.
Anitkabir (Ataturk Mausoleum)
Located in an imposing position in the Anittepe quarter of the city stands the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. Completed in 1953, it is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern architectural ideas and remains unsurpassed as an accomplishment of modern Turkish architecture. There is a museum housing writings, letters and items belonging to Ataturk as well as an exhibition of photographs recording important moments in his life and the establishment of the republic. An important exhibition of the War of Liberation is also open to the public. (Anitkabir and the museum is open everyday, except Mondays. During the summer, there is a light and sound show in the evenings).
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Close to the citadel gate, a 15th century Ottoman bedesten has been beautifully restored and since 1921 it houses a marvelous and unique collection including Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Hatti, Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Urartian and Roman works. In 1997 this great museum won the “European Museum of the Year” award among 65 museums from 21 European countries. (Open everyday, except Monday. During the summer, the museum opens everyday).
The Ethnographical Museum
Opposite the Opera House on Talat Pasa Boulevard in Namazgah district is the Ethnographical Museum. There is a fine collection of folkloric artifacts as well as fine items and rugs from Seljuk and Ottoman mosques in this museum since 1930. When Ataturk died in 1938, he was buried in the internal courtyard until the construction of his Mausoleum in 1953. The bronze statue of Ataturk on the horse in front of the museum was made in 1927 by an Italian artist P. Canonica. (Open everyday, except Monday).
The Ankara Citadel
The foundations of the citadel were laid by the Galatians on a prominent lava outcrop, and completed by the Romans; the Byzantines and Seljuks made restorations and additions. The area around and inside the citadel is the oldest part of Ankara and many fine examples of traditional architecture can be seen within the citadel walls. There are also lovely green areas in which to relax.
The Temple of Augustus
The Corinthian style temple can be found in the old Ulus district of the city. It was built in the 1st century BC and only later dedicated to the Emperor Augustus at the beginning of the 1st century AD. It is important today for the ‘Monument Ancyranum’ or ‘Res gestae Divi Augusti’, the testament and political achievements of Augustus that is inscribed on its walls in both Latin and Greek. This inscription is the copy of the original which was engraved on two bronze pillars and placed at the entrance of his Mausoleum in Rome. The originals are lost but the copy engraved on the Augusteum in Ankara still exists. In the fifth century the temple was converted to a church.
The Roman Bath
The bath, situated on Cankiri Avenue in Ulus, has the typical features of Roman baths: a frigidarium (cold section), tepidarium (cool section) and caldarium (hot section). The hot and warm rooms were wider divisions because of Ankara’s very cold winter climate. They were built in the time of the Emperor Caracalla (3rd century AD) in honor of the god of medicine, Asclepios. The dimensions of the bath was 80×130 meters and it was made of stones and bricks. Today only the basement and first floors remain.
The Column of Julian
This column, in Ulus, was erected in 362 AD probably to commemorate a visit by the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate on his way to the campaign against Persians. It stands fifteen meters high and has a typical leaf decoration on the capital.
Haci Bayram Mosque
This mosque, in Ulus, next to the Temple of Augustus, was built in the early 15th century and subsequently restored by Sinan in the l6th century with Kutahya tiles being added in the 18th century. The mosque was built in honor of Haci Bayram Veli whose tomb is next to the mosque.