In the mythology of the Hittites and the Phrygians, the region of Nevşehir lies on the planet of Cappadocia, whose creation was the work of the Gods of the Volcanoes and which was shaped by the soft and magical hands of the Gods of the Rains and the Winds. Cappadocia represents a site where Nature and History have commingled in the most beautiful fashion in the world. While geographical circumstances created the Fairy Chimneys, human beings in the course of the historical process sculpted the interiors of these Fairy Chimneys to construct their dwellings and churches, which they decorated with frescoes that have survived as witnesses of civilizations thousands of years old. To preserve this incredible cultural treasury and prevent its capture by others, Thales of Miletus himself divided the Kızılırmağı river (the ancient Halys) into two sections to facilitate the crossing by the forces of the Lydian king to oppose the Persian invading forces. The first scientific calculations in history were also carried out here. Nevşehir constitutes the capital city of the planet Cappadocia. But, the renown of Cappadocia has so intensified as to extend beyond the nation's boundaries and overwhelm that of Nevşehir itself, which has nearly been forgotten. Here, therefore, we hope to conduct a complete survey of the historical and cultural aspect of the Nevşehir area.
The natural beauties and cultural wealth in the environs of Avanos, Zelye and Göreme have attracted the attention of historical writers and travelers for centuries. Historically, Cappadocia was first known as "Katpatuka" in the Persian period, signifying a region where fine horses were bred. It has not yet been resolved whether the word is of Hatti, Luwian, Hittite or Assyrian origin. Surviving documents make mention of horses and horse- breeding in this area. During the Great Kingdom period (1460-1190 B.C.), the Hittites assigned great importance to horses and horsebreeding. Correspondingly, they imported expert horsebreeders from the land of the Mitanni and transmitted their expertise to future generations by inscribing their words on clay tablets. As evidence, we might refer to a work written by a young Mitanni horsebreeding specialist named Kikkuli, which has been recovered from the contemporary Boğazköy state archives.
Precious histories have survived from the pens of Xenophon (401 B.C.), Strabon of Amasya (18 A.D.), Gregoir of Nissa (334-94 A.D.) and a young vineyard keeper of Machan (now, Göreme) (495-515 A.D.). Paul Lucas, appointed by the French Royal Court to travel in the countries of the Mediterranean, was the first observer of the modern period to acquaint Europeans with this fascinating area.
On his way from Ankara to Kayseri in the month of August 1705, Paul Lucas, who had been commanded by the French king Louis XIV to conduct research in the countries of the East, was astonished upon his arrival in the vicinity of Avanos and Ürgüp. The geologzcal structure-which closely resembles a fairytale land the curious spatial units of rock in which the inhabitants dwelled, the churches and the colorful world of their interiors left him in a state of amazement.
After Lucas returned home, he published his notes in a two-volume book of travels in Paris in 1712. Describing his observations in the Cappadocian region, he produced a rather fanciful description heightened by his imagnation, thus: "...When I first came upon the ancient structural ruins lying on the opposite bank of the Kızılırmak, I fell into a state of utter bewilderment. Here stood countless-heretofore unknown-pyramidal formations.... Each of these formations possessed a beautiful door, a charming staircase by which to gain entrance and large windows in all the rooms to secure illu- mination. Within a single rock mass had been hewn a number of living quarters, each lying one above the other.... They numbered not several hundreds, but more than a couple of thousand. At first, I assumed that these pyramids represented dwellings that had formerly belonged to monks. For their shapes recalled that of ecclesiastical caps. Afterwards, however, I detected that they possessed a variety of forms."
On his second journey through the region in 1714, he characterized the Fairy Chimneys as the "ancient cemetery of a vanished city." This prompted a great scandal in the court of King Louis XIV. The members of the Court were convinced that Paul Lucas was a pathological liar (mithmom,anie); in fact, the French ambassador in Istanbul asserted that he wanted to make a personal investigation of the region to determine whether or not Paul Lucas was telling the truth. Comte Desalleurs confirmed that the facts of the cir- cumstances were true and that pyramidal shaped entities existed. When the book of travels was published it aroused a great public debate in Europe. Ürgüp and vicinity, which were shown in the engravings, represented quite a remote locale for the Europe of that day. Moreover, the information supplied by Lucas was not supported by ancient sources on this subject. The fantastic depiction furnished by Lucas was very tantalizing to the West, but for some it was beyond belief and greeted with incredulity. The German writer, C.M. Wieland (1753-1814) expressed such criticism, as follows: "It is impossible to give credence to the claim that such a great number of houses in the shape of pyramids exists when the subject is not given the slight- est notice by any of the ancient writers or travel books."
A more realistic description of Ürgüp and Göreme was provided by the French traveler Charles Texier who visited the region some one hundred fiftyyears after Lucas. This well-known architect, who was assigned by the French government the task of conducting research in Anatolia, examined the Cappadocia region in a painstaking manner in the course of his journeys undertaken in 1833 and 1837. Publishing the results of his travels and research in Anatolia in a monumental, six-volume work titled Description, de l'Asie Mineure, which included engravings and plans, he states at one point that "...Nature had never displayed herself to the foreign observer's eye in such an extraordinary fashion. I have never heard of a more long-lived and dream-like natural phenomenon in any other region of the world."
European travelers after Lucas in the nineteenth century came to Cappadocia to conduct studies of a scientific nature; yet, they were unable to disguise their astonishment upon their encounters with this bizarre geology. The English traveler W.F. Ainsworth recounts the surreal appearance of the volcanic valley, thus: "After crossing a valley that extends the length of the river, we suddenly found ourselves in a forest composed of rocks of conical and columnar form which surrounded us in an utterly bewildering manner. It was as if we were touring the ruins of some very ancient and vast city. Some of the cones carried on their peaks large and randomly shaped fragments of rock."
In July 1837, W.J. Hamilton, a prominent English geologist, arrived in the area and, lending support to Texier's view, agreed that "Words fail one in attempting to describe the appearance of this extraordinary locale." The leading Prussian field marshal Moltke, who visited Ürgüp on his way from Nevşehir to Kayseri, noted the characteristic tissue of the region by stating that "An ancient citadel perched on a rocky cliff, which rose up perpendicularly and into which a number of caves had been hewn in a peculiar manner, overlooked the town. The houses of Ürgüp were of stone and constructed in a most elegant manner.... The mountain valley lying behind Ürgüp was covered with vineyards and cleft by deep ravines. On their slopes stand fantastic castles such as are depicted on old wallpaper."
Fuller information concerning the rock churches appeared in the work titled Description de l'Asie Mineure, which Texier published in 1862. In the volume he published jointly with the English architect R.P. Pullan in 1864 on Byzantine architecture, the rock churches of Ürgüp and environs are thoroughly discussed. The Englishman W.J. Hamilton expressed his amazement by exclaiming that "Words are inadequate to describe the appearance of this extraordinary place." Scientific studies and publications began in the late nineteenth century. Physical analyses of the Cappadocian region and the utilization of historical sources were executed by scientists, such as A.D. Mordtmann, W.M. Ramsey, J.R.S. Sterret and Charles Texier. The monumen- tal work published by G. de Jerphanion between the years 1907-12 was the first extensive art historical study to examine in a systematic rrianner the rock churches, monasteries and the wall frescoes on their interiors. In 1958, the French Nicole Thierry and Catherine Jolivet published those churches excluded from the study by the priest Jerphanion, thereby assisting in endowing Cappadocia with its present-day renown.
Earliest Evidence Of Human Habitation In The Region
Though paleolithic remains can be identified in the area, this cultural phase occurs fairly late and possibly represents the last paleolithic era. In any case, this is supported by all the data that has been thus far recovered. The reason may be that the Würm glacier covered the Anatolian plateau for iong ages and that the eruption of volcanoes, in particular, would have made human occupation impossible. Yet, despite the absence of evidence, it is undeniable that the valleys of the Cappadocian region where the river banks and sources of fresh water are abundant offered extremely favorable living conditions for early human settlement. It should not be an error to assume that tufa represented a warm habitation space for human life, because it could usually be easily worked-by obsidian, for example, a much harder stone-without the need for metal. The rocky heights along the sides of the valley were also obviously appropriate for protective purposes. We know that for hundreds of thousands of years human communities maintained their existence by gathering fruit and hunting and fishing and that they settled along river banks because of their critical dependence on water. In this respect, the Kızılırmak river undoubtedly served an historical function. The lack of confirming evidence for these events is a consequence of living nature in Cappadocia; over time, successive communities reworked the traces they encountered, and each resettlement effaced and obliterated the older imprints. This has made it very difficult and even impossible to date the spatial volumes in the rocks of Cappadocia.
Near Gelveri, in addition to the notable settlements and artefacts of Hittite origin, which bear a prehistoric connection to Continental European cultures, English archeologists have recovered paleolithic and neolithic stone tools at Avla Tepesi, eight kilometers southeast of Ürgüp. Similarly, the British Archeological Institute of Ankara discovered quite interesting finds in a study of prehistoric sites conducted between 1964-66. The results of this surface field research headed by Ian Todd identified a nıimber of settlement sites-the earliest of which was Neolithic-most of which were in the Nevşehir and Niğde areas. The towns of İğdeli Çeşme, Acıgöl and Tatlar, which lie within the provincial boundaries of Nevşehir, are a few of the sites that witnessed very large Neolithic era settlements. The excavations of Acemtumulus being conducted at Yeşilova near Tuz Gölü (at Tat), which lies 18 kilometers northwest of the town of Aksaray, are of prime interest. The finds from the dig can be assigned dates ranging from the late fourth to the mid-seventh centuries. A settlement with houses arranged in a regular fashion has come to light beneath Byzantine structures. The artefacts suggest that this was an undefended settlement occupied with agricultural cultivation. The level (Level 3) postdating the Byzantine settlement, which is no doubt Roman, produced pottery of Hellenistic character and may be dated to the first century B.C.-first century A.D. The cultural stratum of approximately four meters that lies beneath this level is also associated with the Hellenistic period. These settlements, which comprise four structural levels, all exhibit evidence of fire and earthquakes. Level 4 settlement was terminated by a violent fire. Level 5 preserves the terror of earthquake with the remains of two elderly persons in tortured postures, caught in the act of attempting to protect themselves from the onslaught. The twisted bodies of two youths were found in Level 7 which had been leveled by fire. After Level 8, houses of megaron make their appearance. A wall of sundried brick was uncovered in Level 16, which had been laid on a terrace of fill. Level 17, dated to 600-500 B.C., contained burnished red earthenware with geometric motifs. Cultural artefacts of the Hittites and the Early Bronze age occurred in Levels 19-24. City wall fragments exhibiting a simple technique and pots of Hittite style were recovered from Levels 19, 20 and 22. Remains of the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages up to 4,000 B.C. were common. The excavations begyun in 1968 in the vicinity of the Hacıbektaş tumulus (Sulucakara tumulus), which contains relics dated to the Early through Middle Hittite periods and the Phrygian, Roman, Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Those undertaken in 1967 by the Italians at the tumulus of Topaklı have brought to light settlements from the Early Bronze age to the Byzantine period in 24 structural strata. These furnish proof that the Nevşehir region is a very ancient site of human habitation.
Here, commercial and associated relations among the settlement units emerged to meet the essential needs connected with the transition to sedentary life; communities that possessed and produced the basic materials and commodities for which deıxıand was expressed became leading centers in every era. At the close of the Early Bronze age (3200-1950 B.C.), Assyrian merchants termed the region within the Kızılırmak crescent the "Land of the Hatti." Assyrian city merchants in northern Mesopotamia established a widespread and active commercial network in Central Anatolia (1950-1750 B.C.). The names of nine major trading centers and hundreds of small cities appear in the hundreds of records of commercial correspondence made of baked clay that have survived; among these is the name of Nenessa. Furthermore, one of the natural main routes that linked Aksaray and Kayseri followed the banks of the Kızılırmak river. Evidence confirms the existence of settlement during the Hittite era. The Assyrian tablets, however, furnish valuable data on Avanos, which today is located within the province of Nevşehir; we are therefore enabled to acquire information about the Nevşehir region by tracing the history of Avanos.
J.C. Gardin and P. Garelli reported in the early nineteenth century that investigation of the commercial routes of the Assyrians had revealed that their terminal points lay as far as the environs of Incesu, Aksaray, Konya, Bor, Niğde and Ereğli and that Nenessa and Washania were situated within the boundaries of this region. Moreover, tablets inform us that two mer-chants who could travel from Kanesh (Kayseri, Kültepe) to Burushhattum (Acemtumulus) in four days commonly passed through Washania, Nenessa and Ullama. In 1926, the linguist Emile Forrer deciphered the name "Zu- Wynassa" on one of the tablets in the course of his research in the Boğazköy Hittite Royal archives. Zu-Winassa, the Hittite name, most likely corresponded to Nenassa, as it was known in the Assyrian language. Nenessa (or, St. Vanot, as noted by Gregoir of Nissa) was transformed, according to the research of N. Thierry, to Venessa and Avanos. In Ottoman records, Avanos is called, alternatively, "Enes," "Uvenez" or "Evenez."
Around the year 2000 B.C., city states make their appearance in central Anatolia. During this era, the Hittites established their rule ca. 1750 B.C. when they arrived in Central Anatolia, the land of the Hatti. In roughly f 1200 B.C., the tribes who came from Thrace and the Mediterranean-Aegean E tribes who appear in the legends of Homer as the destroyers of Troy put an G end to the Hittite empire: Following this invasion, Anatolia entered an age of darkness that lasted for four hundred years, and it became subject to the Phrygians.
Around 800 B.C., we witness the reappearance in the region of the Hittite kingdom of Tabal. The Tabal kingdom, which achieved fame for its horsebreeding, fell in the mideighth century B.C. The center of this kingdom was Ttıvanna (Tiana-Kemerhisar) near Bor. The first settlers in the Cappadocian region were the Hatti, the Luwians and the Hittites. The Assyrians founded a trading colony in this region between the close of the third millennium B.C. and the beginning of the second millennium B.C which is known as the age of the Assyrian trading colony. The cuneiform tablets in Assyrian that were discovered at Kültepe (Kanesh) known as the Cappadocian tablets (early second millennium B.C.) are the first written records of Anatolia. Study of the tablets and decipherment of the langauge has revealed that they were produced by Assyrian merchants. These tablets, which shed light on the social and political life of the period, are essentially commercial and economic agreements. These records inform us that at this time small dynasties and principalities existed in Central Anatolia, which were the that the local king independent of a central out hority. They indica doms held sway over small areas and that they maintained a peaceful existence.
Kanesh (Kültepe), the most prominent city of the period, was the center of trading activity in Anatolia. Expanding greatly in the second half of the ninth centuıy B.C., the Tabal kingdom assumed total control over the region. Confirmation of this situation is gained from the hieroglyphic rock inscriptions occurring at Hacıbektaş-Karaburna, Topada (Acıgöl), Gülşehir-Sıvasa (Gökçetoprak). The region, which had formed the nucleus of the Hittite empire, subsequently came under the hegemony of the Phrygians and the Persians. Invasions of the region were conducted by the Cimmerians and the Scythians and, after 700 B.C., were incorporated into the empires of the Lydians, the Medes and the Persians, respectively. After the sixth century, Nevşehir and the surrounding area came under the rule of the Lydians. In the mid-sixth century, the Lydian king Croesus crossed the Kızılırmak in an attempt to halt the Persians (575-46 B.C.). Thales of Miletus discovered for King Croesus a solution to the problem of crossing the Kızılırmak river. The historian Herodotus relates the following: "At that time Thales, who happened to be present at the bivouac, had a deep trench dug that led toward the upper edge of the bivouac site in a semi-circular form; thus, the river flowed from its normal bed to the trench and, after meandering through the area in the opposite direction, it once again returned to its original bed. Now, once it had been divided into two streams, it was a simpler matter to cross the river." After the defeat of croesus in this battle, the regxon came into the hands of the Persians (Achaemenads). The Persians did not compel the populace to migrate. But, they left the administration of the great land holdings in the hands of the military elite of Persian origin and the local religious leaders. Here, a fusion occurred between the local culture and the Persian culture. Herodotus describes the Persian cultural structure, as follows: "They do not know how to make religious icons, temples and altars; they slaughter their sacrifices on the tops of mountains, and what they call Zeus is the divine dome of the sky. They dedicate their sacrifices to the sun, the moon, the earth, the fire, the water and the wind." The fire-worshipping cult of the Persians became particularly important in the Cappadocian region; the volcanic peak Argaios (Mount Erciyes) was especially convenient for this cult. The Persian gods, unlike the gods of other religions, had no true temples of worship. Instead, certain grounds were sacred to them; these holy sites were scattered throughout the region, with which were associated numerous fire temples. Greek writers called these sacred gröunds "Pirhethee" and their priests "Piree," that is, "those who make fires." In the Zend language these priests were called "Atharvan," or fire priests. Fire temples were situated on elevated terrain within the sacred grounds and consisted in a stone niche covered with coals that burned continuously. The Atharvan (Magian priest) wore a long, white robes and, on their heads, wool caps whose peaks fell level with the mouth; each day they would enter the holy gTounds with a bunch of branches and sing hymns for about an hour at the base of the fire temple. On occasion they would offer libations as sacrifices or they would slaughter an animal. The one who offered the sacrifice would employ a heavy, wooden hammer for this task, for the "use of iron was strictly forbidden...." The most sacred of the holy grounds in Cappadocia were called in Persian "Zela" (Zile). Professor Emeritus Günaltay specifically reminds us that Strabon reports that the Zela sacred grounds were consecrated to the three most popular gods, whose names were Anaitis, Omanos and Anadates. The Persian beliefs associated with fire worship were rapidly adopted by the Cappadocians. The Persians were fortunate in their encounter with a perfect geography to contribute support their tenets. The region, where fires and volcanoes were common formed an ideal terrain for these beliefs. Historians report that temples devoted to fire gods were in existence until the fourth century A.D.
Under Persian rule, the region began to be known as "Cappadocia," and a Cappadocian satrapy was established. In the Persian period, animal husbandry was quite developed in Cappadocia, and it is known that the Persians received their tax payment of 360 talents in kind, in the form of 1,500 horses, 2,000 mules and 50,000 sheep. In contrast to the commercial and money economy in effect in the coastal regions, a landlocked commerce held sway in the interior. The Persian state, whose economic oppor- tunities remained constricted, gradually lost power. Prof. Emeritus Gunaltay has asserted that "During the conquest of Iran, fertile lands were granted to the elite while the villagers were reduced to the position of serfs bound to the soil. When the Persian nobility lost their wealth through extravagant entertainments, elaborate chases and a superficial life, they would sell their villagers to Greek or Roman slave traders. Only the slaves (serfs) that served in the fire temples were exempt from sale.Such events provide sufficient information as to why the Mesopotamian culture of the era of the Kültepe tablets completely vanished. Because of such social tragedies, the Cappadocians no longer recalled their national traditions and, therefore, came to submit to the influence of Ionian culture.
Young Alexander, the king of Macedonia, produced the collapse of the great Persian empire through a series of victories over its armies in 334 B.C. and 331 B.C. This peace was broken by the Eastern campaign of the Macedonian, Alexander the Great (333-23 B.C.), and an ongoing series of wars was pursued by Alexander's generals and their descendants. Our earliest historical knowledge indicates that Avanos was founded in the year 332 B.C. by a lieutenant of Alexander named Eumenes. The Alexandran era was followed by the establishment of a Cappadocian kingdom, whose capital was located in Kayseri (Mazaka). The Cappadocian throne at Mazaka changed hands several times.In addition to the constant turnover of political powers,the inhabitants of Cappadocia had become exhausted by the attacks and pillaging by the invaders of the region. Following the transformation from an empire to a republic by Rome, Cappadocia became increasingly subject to oppression. Rulers were unable to advance beyond acting as a satellite of Rome. Cappadocia became a Roman province in Asia in 17 A.D. During this period, because of the poverty in which Cappadocia had fallen, the Roman emperor Tiberius was forced to lighten the oppressive tax burden on the region. The following year, a Roman governor (legat) was appointed to Cappadocia. As Strabon relates (18 A.D.), Avanos had now become a very wealthy and developed city. Avanos (Venessa) was the most important of the three prominent cities of the region. Avanos, after Kayseri, as a religious center was second in size and significance and the third largest political administrative center of the state, after Kayseri and Comano Because the chief priest was third most eminent functionary in the kingdom's hierarchy, he had an income of 3,000 heradul and 15 talents (the equivalent of 500 kilograms of silver at the current exchange rate). The servant Euphrates also informs us that there was a well-established and powerful aristocracy in Venessa. The most fascinating information on Avanos is contained in the writings of monks.
The first of these is Gregoir of Nissa (334-94 A.D.) who, in his letter to hisfriend Adelphois, thanks him for the hospitality he displayed to him at his villa when he was passing through Venessa; the villa was apparently the most luxurious of those in the capital. According to the letter, Venessa is a very developed city provided with all the amenities and possesses a splendid monument to martyrs and wonderful fruit orchards and vineyards from which high quality wine is produced. This letter by Gregoir of Nyssa is the only extant record describing Avanos in antiquity. His letter goes on to relate that "...It is difficult to find words to describe the beauties of Avanos One must see it with one's own eyes... I have visited numerous places in my life and I have heard many things; and every place about whose beauties I have been told I have gone to visit. But, after seeing Avanos, none of them bears any distinction by comparison. Neither the famed Helicon nor v the Isles of Bliss nor the plains of Sission nor Thessaly-all fall short of Avanos. Nature that is fashioned in such an aesthetically pleasing manner as it is here has no equal in the whole world. One should view the Kızılırmak river (Halys) whose waters of crimson hue flow pass near the feet of shepherds grazing their flocks. On the opposite bank of the Kızılırmak, the beauty of the intense green of the fruit trees, the flourishing vineyards of extraordinary bounty and the pear blossoms set like pearls is incompara- ble. Rather than natural beauty, it seems to possess the rare and excellent beauty of a painting from the hand of a superior artist.... "He goes on to state that at the entrance to the city stood a church in the process of construction.Though its roof was as yet incomplete, it exhibited a supreme loveliness; the church referred to was very probably, as N. Thierry has suggested, the Dere Yamanlı church.
The official policy of Diocletianus (284-305) in persecution of the Christians had no success. The succeeding period of Constantine I.witnessed a stirring time for religious activity; it was a time when it was regarded as ordinary to believe in a number of cults simultaneously and brought about a phenomenon of religious syncretism. Even though Constantine I accepted Christianity by 312 A.D. at the latest, this should not imply that he turned away from the tradition of idol worshipping. It is known that he continued in his old beliefs and customs, that he was even an adherent of the sun cult and that he offered support and assistance to this cult. Gregoir of Nissa states in his letter that included in the Christian religious ceremonies existed relics of the ancient polytheist ritual for the worship of Zeus. In fact, the ancient polytheist religious concepts had attained dominance for a time. Unfortunately, however, we do not know how long this theological confusion continued at Avanos, which disturbed Gregoir so much. Incidentally, Gregoir is said to have been baptized on his deathbed.
After the fourth century A.D., we have at hand another letter-this one by Ilieron of Machan (now, Göreme) that may also assist us in tracing the his- tory of Venessa (Avanos). Neither the Romans nor those who came after- wards (the Byzantines) wished to have the region assimilated into their own culture. Rather, their foremost concerns were maintaining control over the free commercial roads and utilization of the human potential of the Cappadocian region in the Byzantine army.