Saturday, January 21, 2017

YOROS CASTLE

Anadolu Kavağı, Beykoz - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°10'43.3"N 29°05'41.5"E / 41.178694, 29.094861

Yoros Castle / Anadolu Kavagi - Beykoz photo yoros_castle121.jpg

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Yoros Castle (Turkish: Yoros kalesi) is a Byzantine ruined castle at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, to the north of Joshua's Hill, in Istanbul, Turkey. It is also commonly referred to as the Genoese Castle, due to Genoa’s possession of it in the mid-15th century.

Yoros Castle sits on a hill surrounded by steep bluffs overlooking the Bosphorus. It is just north of a small fishing village called Anadolu Kavağı, on Macar Bay, and the entire area is referred to as Anadolu Kavağı. This section is one of the narrowest stretches of the Bosphorus, and on the opposite shore sits an area called Rumeli Kavağı, which formerly held a fortification similar to Yoros Castle. (Anadolu and Rumeli were Ottoman terms for the Anatolian and European parts of the empire).

As the main passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Bosporus strait had a great commercial and strategic importance during the past. For this reason, numerous castles and fortresses were built on its shores. The fortress of Yoros is one of the most conspicuous of them. It was constructed on a hill at Anadolu Kavağı, on the Asian side of Bosphorus, on the Black Sea entrance.

The villagers of Anadolu Kavağı historically depended mostly on fishing for income, but it appears some may have acted as 'wreckers'. Turkish rumors report that they would light fires in order to disorient ships and ground them in the narrow straits, seizing their goods. Conversely, many claim that Anadolu Kavağı was also used as a shelter for trade ships against storms, where it is recorded even up to three hundred ships were serviced at a time.

Yoros Castle was intermittently occupied throughout the course of the Byzantine Empire. Under the Palaiologos dynasty during the decline of the empire, Yoros Castle was well fortified, as was the Rumeli Kavağı on the opposite side of the Bosphorus. A massive chain could be extended across the Bosphorus between these two points, cutting off the straits to attacking warships, similar to the chain across the Golden Horn which was used to defend Constantinople during the last Ottoman siege by Sultan Mehmed II.

Byzantines, Genoese, and Ottomans fought over this strategic fortification for years. It was first conquered by Ottoman forces in 1305, but retaken by the Byzantines shortly thereafter. Sultan Bayezid I took the castle again in 1391 while preparing for his siege of Constantinople. It was used as his field headquarters during the construction of Anadoluhisarı, one of the more important castles for the siege. In 1399 the Byzantines attempted to take back Yoros Castle. The attack failed, but the village of Anadolu Kavağı was burned to the ground.

The Ottomans held the fortress from 1391-1414, losing it to the Genoese in 1414. The forty-year Genoese occupation lent the castle its moniker of Genoese Castle. Upon Sultan Mehmed II’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the presence of the Genoese at such a strategic location posed a threat to the new Ottoman capital. Within a few years, Sultan Mehmed drove the Genoese out. He then fortified the walls, and constructed a customs office, quarantine, and check point, as well as placing a garrison of troops there. Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) later added a mosque within the castle walls.

Later Anadolu Kavağı would be an important outpost for the Romans and the Byzantines who are supposed to have built the present fortress in the 13th century. The fortress was first captured by the Ottomans in 1305, only to be recaptured by the Byzantines some time later. Then the Genoese took it over as well as the other fortress, Rumeli Kavağı, across on the European side in 1352 because the Byzantines could no longer defend them. In times of war it is said that there was a heavy chain strung between the two sides to prevent enemy ships from sailing through the Bosphorus. On one occasion, the Venetian and Genoese fleets fought off Anadolu Kavağı.

Sultan Bayezid I (r. 1389-1402) took the castle and used it as his base while Anadolu Hisari (Anatolian Fortress) was being built (1393-94) further down the strait. In 1414, the Genoese managed to seize the castle again and held it until some years after the conquest of Constantinople when Fatih Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1451-1481) decided it might become a threat to the city. He got rid of the Genoese and added fortifications to the castle which then served as a customs and quarantine office. Evliya Çelebi writes that Sultan Beyazit II (r. 1481 to 1512) erected a mosque at the site.

At various times during the Ottoman period, “poplar fortresses” or border and control fortresses were built here and the area got its name in such a way. Sultan Murad IV (r. 1623-40) christened Anadolu Kavağı, and Rumeli Kavağı and Anadolu Kavağı were turned into strong outposts for protecting the mouth of the Bosphorus in the 17th century. The fortifications on both sides of the mouth of the Bosphorus were fortified in 1783 by Toussaint and strengthened by Monnier 11 years later. Little remains of the fortress on the European side.

The first mention of the place is made by the ancient historian Herodotus who describes it as the worship place of Jason and the Argonauts on the road for Cholchis. What is more, many Greek and Roman historical sources describe this place as ‘Hieron’, the Sacred Place. A great temple including altar of the twelve Gods or Zeus Ourios (‘of good winds’) served as a common haven and place of worship for sailors entering or leaving from there in antiquity. Hieron was the gate to the Black Sea.

Additionally, it acted as a spot from which all Black Sea navigational charts took their measurements and the crucial shelter from the numerous dangers involved in negotiating the winding Bosporus: pirates, storms, and wind of the straits. During the early Byzantine epoch, the emperor Justinian (527-565) charged a custom with a tax collector in the fortress. In addition, in the course of the Middle Byzantine period, the place was fortified with a larger wall enclosure and served to control from the north.

Byzantines, Genoese and Ottomans fought over its strategic position of the fort. After a naval battle in 1352, a Genoese military and commercial garrison was settled in the Yoros fortress, to handle the passage of the commercial ships and prevent the attacks to the capital city. Approximately half a century of Genoese occupation gave to it the epithet of ‘The Genoese Fortress’.

By the end of the 14th century the fortress was in the hand of the Ottomans and was used as a base for the construction of the Anadolu Hisar, one of the important headquarters of the Sultan Mehmed for the Conquest of the Byzantine capital in 1453. After this date, the Genoese was not allowed to use the fortress, which became an important garrison place of the Ottoman army for the defence of Istanbul. It was restored many times during the 15th and 17th centuries.

Some say this castle was built by the Byzantines; other say by the Genoese. What it certain is that it stood as an outpost meant to protect traders coming to the city from the south. The two wide bastions that stand at the entrance to this castle are still in good shape. When examining the walls of this castle, one can see Greek inscriptions above the main doors. Those who visit here will encounter a view of İstanbul they have never seen before.

Yoros Castle (Yoros kalesi) is a ruined castle at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, to the north of Joshua’s Hill, in Istanbul. It is also commonly referred to as the Genoese Castle, due to Genoa’s possession of it in the mid-15th century. Sitting on a hill surrounded by steep bluffs overlooking the Bosphorus. It is just north of a small fishing village called Anadolu Kavağı, on Macar Bay, and the entire area is referred to as Anadolu Kavağı.

This section is one of the narrowest stretches of the Bosphorus, and on the opposite shore sits an area called Rumeli Kavağı, which formerly held a fortification similar to Yoros Castle.
Strategically set near the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, the future site of Yoros Castle was settled by the Phoenicians and Greeks prior to the Byzantine period for trading and military purposes. The Greeks called the area Hieron (Sacred Place). The remains of temples, including Dios, Altar of the Twelve Gods, and Zeus Ourios (Zeus, granter of fair winds) were discovered in the area, dating to centuries BCE.

One can still see the remains of the old Genoese fortress on the heights of Anadolu Kavağı which was the ancient Hieron. Its name in ancient times was Yoros Fortress. It is said that the origin of the name Yoros was “oros” (mountain) or “ourios” (suitable winds). At the same time, Ourious was one of the names of Zeus. Another source writes that there was a temple to Dios (God), but probably confused Dios for Zeus.

The area was originally settled by Greeks and Phoenicians and the remains of some of the temples erected here have been discovered during archeological excavations. The 16th century French topographer, Petrus Gyllius, associated Yoros with the name for Zeus Ourious while the Hieron or sacred precinct was where a temple to the Twelve Olympian Gods was built. These 12 gods who were related to each other in one way or another are thought to have originated in Anatolia and ruled over the world under the supervision of their leader, Zeus.

Yoros Castle was intermittently occupied throughout the course of the Byzantine Empire. Under the Palaiologos dynasty during the decline of the empire, Yoros Castle was well fortified, as was the Rumeli Kavağı on the opposite side of the Bosphorus. A massive chain could be extended across the Bosphorus between these two points, cutting off the straits to attacking warships, similar to the chain across the Golden Horn which was used to defend Constantinople during the last Ottoman siege by Sultan Mehmed II.

Byzantines, Genoese, and Ottomans fought over this strategic fortification for years. It was first conquered by Ottoman forces in 1305, but retaken by the Byzantines shortly thereafter. Bayezid I took the castle again in 1391 while preparing for his siege of Constantinople. It was used as his field headquarters during the construction of Anadoluhisarı, one of the more important castles for the siege. In 1399 the Byzantines attempted to take back Yoros Castle. The attack failed, but the village of Anadolu Kavağı was burned to the ground.

The Ottomans held the fortress from 1391-1414, losing it to the Genoese in 1414. The forty-year Genoese occupation lent the castle its moniker of Genoese Castle. Upon Fatih Sultan Mehmed’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the presence of the Genoese at such a strategic location posed a threat to the new Ottoman capital. Within a few years, Sultan Mehmed drove the Genoese out.

He then fortified the walls, and constructed a customs office, quarantine, and check point, as well as placing a garrison of troops there. Bayezid II (1481-1512) later added a mosque within the castle walls. Cossack raids had plagued the Ottoman Empire throughout its long history. In 1624 a fleet of 150 Cossack caiques sailed across the Black Sea to attack towns and villages near Istanbul. During the reign of the Sultan Beyazıd II (1481-1512) a mosque, a bath and many houses were added for the families of the soldiers.  Many western travellers and Turkish geographers mentioned Yoros and emphasized its strategic importance.

They struck villages inside the Bosphorus, and Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640) refortified Anadolu Kavağı to defend against the fleet. It would prove instrumental in securing the region from seaborne Cossack raids. Under Sultan Osman III (1754-1757), Yoros Castle was once again refortified. Later, in 1783 Sultan Abdülhamid I added more watchtowers. After this period, it gradually fell into disrepair. By the time of the Turkish Republic, the castle was no longer used.

The ruins of the citadel and surrounding walls still exist, though the mosque, most of the towers, and other structures are gone. Yoros Castle and the village of Anadolu Kavağı are a popular day trip from Istanbul. Typically, the site is not supervised and visitors are free to climb all over the ancient walls. However, there are currently archaeological excavations going on and visitors are unable to enter the castle.

Greek inscriptions remain etched on the walls of the castle to this day, along with the symbol of the Palealogus family, who ruled Byzantium until its fall. The military importance of the site cannot be overstated. In fact, much of the area surrounding Yoros Castle is today in the hands of the Turkish military, who have closed off areas to visitors.

Today, a large fortress with an upper citadel surrounded by towers, a monumental entrance, many marble decoration and remain of buildings - discovered with archaeological excavations -  dominates the little village of Anadolu Kavağı.

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