Pamphylia, Antalya

The rich plain of Pamphylia, curving around the top of the Gulf of Antalya between Antalya (ancient Adalia or Attaleia) in the west and Alanya (ancient Coracesium) in the east, against the impressive backdrop of the Bey Daglari mountain (over 2000m/6564ft) in the west and the Central Taurus in the north, nestles almost like a piece of North Africa between its mountains and the Mediterranean. The white chalk faces of the low foothills of Pisidia in the north are covered with pines and marquis, their lower slopes dotted with the ruins of ancient castles and classical cities and the many villages crowding the well-watered valley floors. The Pamphylian plain itself is rich alluvial farmland, given over to the intensive cultivation of vegetables, cotton, citrus fruits, and bananas. Towards Lycia in the west, however, the subsoil is of limestone tufa, and here the cultivated travertine terraces start right at the foot of the mountains, falling steeply to the sea and the ancient harbor of Antalya.

In classical times Pamphylia’s most important cities were Adalia, Alanya, Perge, Aspendos and Side. The main period of settlement is thought to have been when Greek refugees mingled with the local peoples having fled here following the fall of Troy around 1184 BC. The name Pamphylia is ancient Greek for "land of all tribes" and an indication of just how colorful a mixture this must have been. Ruled in turn by the Lydians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Antigonos I, one of his successors, the Seleucids and Egypt’s Ptolimites, it enjoyed a brief period of independence until the west of the region was ceded to the King of Pergamum in 188 BC. The Romans made it the heart of the military province of Cilicia, then merged it with Lycia in the 1st century AD to form a single province which reached the height of its prosperity in the 2nd century AD. Earlier, this part of the coast had also been notorious for its pirates who were to plague the Romans until their reign of terror was ended by Pompei. He also took the local cult of Mithraism back with him to Rome, and for a long time Mithras was the official protector of the Roman Empire and the great rival of the Christian religion. This local attachment to Mithraism made it particularly difficult for the early Christians to gain general acceptance of their new religion. As a consequence the Crusaders set up numerous small Christian enclaves, each with its castle, along the coast of Pamphylia and Cilicia. The Italians seized on this fact, as "heirs to the Roman Empire" and representatives of the Church of Rome to lay claim to these coasts in the Turkish War of Liberation earlier this century.