History of Kahramanmaraş, from the Hittites to modern Turkey

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The history of Kahramanmaraş, unfortunately passed into the news as one of the epicenters of the 2023 earthquake, from the Hittite origins to modern Turkey

The origins of Kahramanmaraş

It is not known with certainty when the city of Kahramanmaraş was founded, but according to historians its origins date back to the Hittite kingdom of Gurgum, which had this city as its ancient capital; specifically, its oldest location would be precisely the point where the homonymous castle stands today. The first known king was Larama I, who ruled starting from 950 BC, but his nephew, Muwatalli II, will already be forced to kneel before the Assyrian forces, an element that will become a constant for this potentate, decreeing its end in 711 BC. On that date , in fact King Sargon II marched on the city, quelling a revolt against it and definitively annexing it to the Kingdom of Assyria and changing its name to Marqas.

Kahramanmaraş Castle

From this moment on, the fortunes of Kahramanmaraş will follow those of most of the cities of the region, passing first to the Medes, then to the Persians, then to the Seleucids and finally to the Roman Empire. In this period, it was renamed Germanicia Caesarea by the emperor Caligula to pay homage to his father Germanicus.

The Middle Ages and the clashes between Turks and Armenians

Under the Byzantines it became one of the major centers of Orthodox Christianity, so much so that it participated in the First Council of Nicaea in 325, its position, however, will condition its history for a long time. During the Middle Ages, in fact, those territories were the border between the Byzantine Kingdom and the Arab potentates, thus becoming a strategic location to be seized at any cost. The Abbasids arrived here in the 7th century, the real change of course was obtained following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, when the Turkish Seljuks triumphed over the Byzantine army, definitively opening the doors of Anatolia.


It was precisely after this battle that Kahramanmaraş became increasingly linked to the Armenians, thanks above all to the efforts of Filareto Bracamio, a Byzantine general of Armenian origin who, following this defeat, will found his own semi-autonomous principality with its own capital in Germanicia Cesarea. With the death of the latter, the city will pass briefly to the Turkish dynasty of the Danishmendids, however being conquered over and over again by the Crusaders and their Armenian allies. This period of alternation between Turkish and Armenian potentates continued until the arrival of the Mamluks, who in 1304 conquered it from the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, definitively putting an end to the latter’s claims on the city.

From the Mamluks to the birth of today’s Turkey

From 1337 to 1515 it was controlled by the vassal dynasty of the Dulkadirid Turks, who made it one of its capitals and ruled it until the arrival of the Ottomans, who placed it as the maximum administrative center of the Dulkadir Eyalet before and under the Eyalet of Aleppo then. With the Ottoman defeat in World War I, this territory passed to the French, who, together with their Armenian troops, administered it until the Battle of Marash in 1920.


According to Turkish historians, following the harassment of an Armenian legionary against a Muslim woman, reprisals would have taken place which would have attracted the attention of the Turkish National Movement and the Kuva-yi Milliye militia who, once they arrived here, gave life to one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the entire struggle for Turkish independence, where unfortunately many civilians died. Precisely as a result of these clashes, the city, which under the Ottomans was called Maraş, was called Kahramanmaraş, or “the heroic Maraş”. In 1978 the city became the protagonist of the dramatic “Maraş Massacre”, in which the Gray Wolves killed more than 100 Kurdish Alevis; according to some experts this contributed significantly to the establishment of martial law and, less directly, to the 1980 coup by Kenan Evren.

Kahramanmaraş is one of the areas most affected by the 2023 earthquake and I warmly invite anyone who has the opportunity to allocate at least €1 to facilitate the rebirth of this beautiful city and its inhabitants.

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