Amasya is a small city in the Anatolian portion of the modern nation of Turkey and it serves as the capital of a Turkish province (il) of the same name. It is situated in north-central Anatolia within a deep gorge carved by the Yeşilırmak (Green River, known in Greek as Iris) as it flows northeast through the Pontic Mountains toward its mouth on the Black Sea. The gorge is hemmed in on the north by Harşena Dağı (Mount Harshena) and on the south by Farhad Dağı (Mount Farhad).
Its naturally fortified location along trade routes leading from central Anatolia to the Black Sea made Amasya an excellent candidate for habitation, and its history as a town thus must stretch back into remote antiquity.1 Its name is first recorded in Greek texts as Amáseia, from which its modern name derives. From the end of the fourth century to the middle of the first century BCE, the city was the seat of the Hellenistic Kings of Pontus, whose tombs are cut into the southern face of Harşena Dağı and still look over the city today. During the period of Roman and Byzantine rule the town was an important regional center and had a thriving Christian population, which remained intact for some time after the Muslim conquest.
Amasya's history under Muslim rule began in the 1080s/470s AH when it was conquered by the Turkmen amir Danishmand Ghazi (d. 1104/497 AH). The city remained under Danishmandid rule until the early twelfth century when it fell to the Seljuqs of Rum. After the defeat of the Rum Seljuqs by invading Mongol armies in 1243/641 AH, Amasya remained under Seljuq control for several decades, but by the end of the thirteenth/seventh century AH it had passed into the hands of Ilkhanid governors. In 1352/783, Amasya was annexed into the northeastern Anatolian principality of Eretna b. Ja'far (r. 1336-1352/736-753 AH), a commander of Uyghur origin who had served under the Ilkhanid governors of Anatolia. It remained under Eretnid rule until 1389/791 AH, when it was captured by the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I and remained under Ottoman rule until the early twentieth century and the foundation of the modern Turkish nation-state.
The shift in power from Christian to Muslim rule resulted in some significant changes to the shape of the city. The citadel atop Mount Harşena to the north was simply rebuilt, and the new Muslim rulers converted the largest Byzantine church on the south bank of the Yeşilırmak to a mosque, known as Fethiyye Camii (Jami' al-Fathiyya or "Mosque of Victorious Conquest"). The Seljuqs added a number of monuments, however, including the Burmalı Minare Camii as well as madrasas, bath houses, and a palace. A revolt in 1240 led by a dervish named Baba Rasul resulted in further conversions of churches to mosques and madrasas (probably including the Gök Madrasa), effectively decentralizing the city from a classical model centered on cathedral and market into neighborhoods clustered around religious institutions.2During the Ilkhanid period, the city received one of its most important monuments: a Bimarhane (Hospital), which still stands today.
The Ottoman sultans favored Amasya for its natural beauty and climate, and the period saw further changes to the urban fabric through the construction of several large monuments in the historic town center. Among the notable Ottoman institutions are the Büyük Ağa Madrasa, famous for its octagonal plan, a bedestan (covered market), and several mosques. The most dramatic was the Complex of Bayezid II, which included a grand mosque, madrasa, library and public soup kitchen. It transformed the town center into a green space replete with public services.
Gabriel, Monuments Turcs, II: 6.
Wolper, Cities and Saints, 57-58.
Gabriel, Albert. Monuments Turcs d’Anatolie. 2 vols. Paris: E. de Boccard, 1931-1934.
Goodwin, Godfrey. A History of Ottoman Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1971.
Sinclair, T., David Braund, R. Talbert, Johan Åhlfeldt, Jeffrey Becker, W. Röllig, Tom Elliott, H. Kopp, DARMC, Sean Gillies, B. Siewert-Mayer, Diane Braund, Francis Deblauwe and Eric Kansa. "Amaseia: a Pleiades place resource." Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places,2016. https://pleiades.stoa.org/places/857018