Amasya Tourist Attractions
Central South Pontus (Black Sea)Situation and ImportanceThe provincial capital of Amasya nestles picturesquely in the narrow transverse valley of the Yeslirmak (the ancient Iris) at the southern edge of the Pontus Mountains.
Amasya's impressive setting is best appreciated from the vantage point of the fortress, the remains of which survive enthroned above the town. There are two distinct parts to Old Amasya. North of the river lies the earlier once walled Old Town, still with a large number of old dwelling houses. South of the river is an area which, though less ancient, nevertheless has many historic buildings both religious and secular. Despite the damage wrought by severe earthquakes in 1734, 1825 and 1935, and by a fire in 1915, Amasya remains one of the most rewarding towns in Turkey to visit. The surrounding countryside is also famed for its wealth of fruit trees and its mulberry plantations (silk manufacture).HistoryThe origins of Amasya's citadel probably go back to pre-Hellenistic times. In the third century B.C. the town became the capital of the Pontic kingdom, after the last of the Greek tyrants of Kos was executed by Antigonus in 302 B.C. His opportunist nephew Mithridates, fleeing with a large following into the Pontus Mountains, captured the fortress at Amasya and proclaimed himself king. The Pontic dynasty he founded lasted until after 70 B.C., ending with the death of Mithridates VI Eupator, killed in the Third Mithridatic War against the Romans, led by Lucullus. Pharnaces, a son of Mithridates, attempted to regain his father's kingdom, but was defeated by Julius Caesar at the Battle of Zela in 47 B.C. Following this the town was absorbed into the Roman Empire.Amasya was the birthplace of the celebrated geographer Strabo (64-20 B.C.) who, journeying the length and breadth of the ancient known world, recorded his findings in his seventeen volume "Oikomene". From 1243 onwards the region was under Mongol rule, a high-point being reached when Eretua was governor. During this period (1335-52) Amasya prospered. The town eventually fell to the Ottomans in 1392 and was occupied by Bayazit I. His son Mehmet I (reigned 1413-21) successfully defended the Amasya citadel against the Mongol prince Timur Lenk (Tamerlane, the Lame; 1402-04).In the Middle Ages Amasya's prosperity was such as to warrant comparison with Baghdad. But with political, economic and cultural power concentrated increasingly in the west of the Empire, Amasya gradually declined into a provincial town. A substantial part of its architectural heritage has however been preserved.
From its source on the northwestern slopes of the 2,812m/9,229ft Köse Dagi, the Yesilirmak (Green) river winds its way for a total of 520km/323mi to the Black Sea. It begins by flowing westwards through a series of depressions running parallel to the main North Anatolian fault (the 31sq.km/12sq.mile Almus Baraji and the Tokat and Turhal basins). Turning north it next cuts through the Buzluk Dag by means of a narrow transverse valley into the Amasya Ovasi basin, from which it escapes northeastwards, via a second, equally deep and narrow valley, into the Tasova depression. Here it is joined by the west-flowing Kelkit Çayi before traversing the main northern ridge, passing through a third mountain gorge where in 1981 the 135m/443ft-high Hasan Ugurlu dam was constructed creating a 23sq.km/9sq.mile reservoir linked to the 10sq.km/4sq.mile Ayvacik, Belhor and Suat Ugurlu Dam. The river finally leaves the mountains south of Çarsamba. Between Samsun in the west and Terme in the east it forms a large alluvial delta with numerous lagoons from whence it spills out into the Black Sea.
The oldest part of Amasya, at one time walled, extends below the citadel on the north side of the Yesilirmak. Until quite recently many of the houses backing onto the river still retained their massive waterwheels (norias) which scooped up water and deposited it into irrigation channels. Sadly almost all have now vanished. Even so, the partly restored rows of houses along the riverside make a picture-postcard scene.
Immediately north and high above the town stands Amasya's citadel with upper and lower levels from where there is an excellent view. The remains of defensive walls dating from Roman times can be seen running down the steep rocky slopes on either side. A third stretch of wall along the Yesilirmak to the north completed the Old Town's defences. The citadel ruins can be reached on foot from the east end of the Kizlar Sarayi, the ascent of the steep rock steps taking a little over half an hour. Taxis provide a rather less strenuous alternative with a climb of no more than 20m/66ft to the citadel tower from the parking place.At the time of the Pontic kings a temple dedicated to the Persian god Ahura Mazda (corresponding to Zeus Stratios) stood on the double summit. Later there was an acropolis here, with substantial defense-works including towers and ring walls. Vestiges of these can still be seen in the Turkish citadel. Three stairways tunneled in the rock lead down towards the river, possibly providing access to cisterns intended to safeguard the water supply. Some historians on the other hand believe the tunnels were blind passages leading to Mithraic cult sites. No exits have ever been discovered.
On the left bank of the Yesilirmak, about 2km/1.25mi north of Amasya, there is a rock tomb, later used in the Byzantine period as a chapel, with remains of wall-paintings. As well as inscriptions in Greek its rock facade has corner pillars and string courses to the windows.
Buyuk Aga Medresesi
The interesting octagonal Koranic school, also known as Kapi Agasi Medresesi, was founded in 1488 by Hüseyin Agas, Chief White Eunuch to Bayazit II. An unusually high iwan (central dome with half-domes either side) dominates the rear of the courtyard. The restored building has recently been returned to its original use. Visitors are allowed a brief glimpse into the classrooms.
Burmanli Minare Camii
This small mosque, erected by the Seljuk bey Necmettin Ferun in 1242 for the Sultan Keyhusrev II, is situated in the southern part of Amasya, a short distance above the Tas Hani. It owes its name to the spiral decoration on the minaret.
Also known as Timar or Bimar Hani this Old Turkish building on the southeast bank of the Yesilirmak was erected in 1308-09. It was originally a hospital (dar üs-sifa = "lunatic asylum") and medical school founded by the Mongol Ilkhan Ölceytü and his wife Yildiz Hatun. By assassinating the last Seljuk sultan, Ölceytü finally brought to an end the long rule of the Sultans of Rum. The hani has a magnificent portal.
Cut into the cliffs below the citadel in Amasya are tombs of the Pontic kings (333 to 44 B.C.), some of the tombs being as much as 12m/39ft high. They are reached by crossing the Alçak Köprü and continuing through the Old Town (Içeri Sehir Mahallesi) by a road where the old royal palace (Kizlar Sarayi) once stood, its walled garden extending down to the river. The five sepulchral chambers, in groups of two and three respectively, date from the third and second centuries B.C. Two of the tombs can be entered. Linked by narrow steps they are hewn from the solid rock, with vaulted ceilings, smooth walls and stone plinths on which the sarcophagi were laid. Dowel holes in the facades and walls point to the tombs having been richly ornamented (marble panels/flagstones). The westernmost tomb also served as a place of burial in Byzantine times. The fifth tomb (Pharnaces I, 185-159 B.C.) was left unfinished. From the western group of tombs a stepped passageway gives access to one of the three tunnels originating in the citadel and leading to cisterns or, in the opinion of some scholars, a Mithraic shrine.
The scant remains of the royal palace and gardens in Amasya cannot begin to convey their former splendor.
This small mosque, on the upper slope of the hill to the south of Amasya, was originally a Byzantine church (early seventh century). It was converted to a mosque in 1117. Badly damaged by fire in 1915, only the apse and some sections of wall survive. The minaret was built in 1812.
The partly restored Gök Medrese in Amasya was built by the Seljuk provincial governor Turumtay in 1266/67. The very striking three-aisled former Koranic school with its fifteen small domes is particularly noteworthy for its fine stalactitic portal and carved wooden doors. The interior of the medrese is simply furnished. Three Ilkhlan mummies are buried here.To the right of the entrance to the Koranic school can be seen the Turumtay Türbesi (erected in 1279), mausoleum of the (embalmed) founder of the Gök Medrese.
Halifet Gazi Türbesi
Halifet Gazi Türbesi is a mausoleum in the Üçler quarter of Amasya, south of the main road, it is believed to date from about 1145. It was built for a vizier of the Damishmendid emir, Melik Gazi. His remains are interred in a superbly ornamented marble coffin (rams' heads and Medusa heads between flower tendrils) presumed to have come from a Late Roman necropolis. Adjoining the türbesi are the ruins of yet another old medrese.
Below the citadel, in the Hatuniye district of Amasya, on the Yesilirmak embankment not far from the Bülbül Hatun Camii, stands a superb old Ottoman town house of 1872. Beautifully restored and now open as a museum, it was the home of a court pharmacist Hasan Talât Efendi who, as Aziz Mahmud Efendi, became established in Amasya in the 1860s. He built the house after being banished from the sultan's palace.The comfortably appointed, solidly built, two-storyed house has a large forecourt and a cellar running from one end of the building to the other (now used for lectures/displays). The rooms on the ground floor, grouped around a spacious hall, were chiefly intended for domestic use and comprised kitchens, servants' quarters, dining-rooms and lavatory. The private accommodation, also leading off a generously-sized hall, was on the first floor. It included a winter- and coffee room, bedrooms with showers and baths, a dressing room, a large reception-cum-living area and a ladies' drawing-room.
Mehmet Pasa Camii
Built in 1486 by a councillor of Bayazit II's son Ahmet, the Mehmet Pasa Camii in Amasya stands close to the Timar Hani on the southeast bank of the Yesilirmak.
Following restoration of the Gök Medrese, Amasya's museum was moved to a new building on the main road facing the Sultan Bayazit Külliyesi. In addition to ancient artifacts it also has an ethnographic collection.Among the collection are mummies, sculptures, coins, glass works, ceramics, masks, jewelry, weapons, household items, and manuscripts.
This türbesi, hidden away in an alley to the west of the Sultan Bayazit Külliyesi in Amasya, was probably the tomb of one of Bayazit I's sons. Dating from 1513 it is also known as the Sehzade Osman Türbesi.
The sons of three Ottoman sultans - Mehmet I, Bayazit I and Bayazit II - lie buried in the Sehzadeler Türbesi (1410), situated on the main road in Amasya opposite the Sehzade Türbesi.
Sultan Beyazit Külliyesi
Rising conspicuously on the west side of the town center of Amasya, between the Yesilirmak and the main road, the Sultan Beyazit Külliyesi was founded in 1486 by Ahmed, son of Bayazit II. The mosque has two domes, one in front of the other. Complementing them are a pair of minarets each with its own distinctive ornamentation. The prayer hall, entered through a five-bay portico, has windows with surrounds of blue glazed tiles.In front of the mosque, flanked by fine trees, stands an ablutions fountain (or sadirvan). The grounds of the mosque also contain a library; among the 20,000 volumes are some valuable Koranic scripts. To the west, in front of a türbe, is the Bayazit Medresesi.
Erected in 1279, the mausoleum to the right of the entrance of the Gök Medrese is the tomb of the Koranic school's founder (embalmed).
Yörgüç Pasa Külliyesi
This much venerated mosque, built between 1430 and 1438 by Yörgüç Pasa, teacher to Sultan Mehmet I, is tucked away to the north of the main road on the most westerly outskirts of Amasya. As well as a room containing three türbes (to the right of the vestibule), the complex of buildings also includes a hospital and a Koranic school.
Map of Amasya Attractions