A thousand years of history destroyed! Gaziantep Castle was badly damaged by the earthquake


Two strong earthquakes that occurred on February 6 in the Pazardzhik region of Kahramanmaras caused the death of thousands of people in Turkey and Syria. It is estimated that more than 11,000 buildings in 11 provinces were completely destroyed by the earthquake. While search and rescue efforts continued rapidly in the earthquake areas, Gaziantep Castle, which is thousands of years old, was also heavily damaged by the earthquake. The walls of the centuries-old castle, when viewed from the sky, were completely destroyed. The thousand-year-old castle, which was almost in ruins, also showed the extent of the destruction caused by two strong earthquakes. Let’s look at the details of the news together.

Why was the Kahramanmaras earthquake so devastating?

The century-old Gaziantep Castle was seriously damaged during the February 6 earthquake.

While the repercussions of the strong earthquake continued, the historic Gaziantep Castle was also severely damaged. While the bastions in the eastern, southern and southeastern parts of the castle, located in the central region of Shahinbey, were destroyed by the earthquake, debris was scattered along the roads around the castle. Iron railings around the castle were scattered along the surrounding sidewalks. While the retaining wall near the castle collapsed, large cracks were found in some of the bastions. The circumference of the round castle of Gaziantep is approximately 1200 meters. The historic building, the walls of which are made of stone blocks, has 12 towers and bastions.

Strong aftershocks during the earthquake led to the collapse of the eastern wall and the dome of the 17th century Shirvani mosque, located next to the castle. British historian and academic Oscar Aanmoen tweeted a picture of the castle before and after the earthquake and used the following expressions:

The history of the castle goes back to the Hittites.

The origins of the centuries-old castle date back to the Hittites, from the Anatolian civilizations of the First century. According to historical records, this point of the castle was used as a watchtower by the Hittites until the 2nd millennium BC. Then he came under the patronage of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Ottoman empires. It is known that the castle was rebuilt into a more perfect structure, especially during the Roman period, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The building, which at that time almost turned into a castle, was also used for surveillance purposes.

It is known that the castle, whose borders expanded over time, acquired its current appearance in the 6th century during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Gaziantep Castle, which during this time became a military area, was often repaired with restoration work due to damage in the past. On the other hand, historical records mention that the Byzantines dug a large moat around the castle for defense. It is known that access to the building at that time was provided by a bridge.

He brought to our days the decorations of the Ayyubids and Mamluks.

Gaziantep Castle

In 661, the castle came under the rule of the Umayyads. After the re-capture of Gaziantep by the Byzantines in 962, the historical castle passed to another owner. In 1067, he came under the patronage of the Anatolian state of the Seljuks. The Crusaders who invaded the area in 1098 connected the castle with the famous city of Edessa. The aforementioned Edessa is within the boundaries of today’s Sanliurfa. Returning to the Anatolian state of the Seljuks in 1150, the castle entered a period of chaotic warfare. In this process, the Seljuks alternately came under the control of the Cilician Armenian kingdom and the Zengi dynasty.

When the Ayyubids captured the castle in 1181, they began to rebuild and fortify it. In 1218, Gaziantep was again captured by the Seljuks and was again under the protection of the Ilkhanate and the Mamluks in turn. During these riots, many of the 12 towers of the castle were filled with Ayyubid and Mamluk decorations. The castle, captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1516, eventually lost its military significance and began to experience a more stable period.

The historic castle survived another strong earthquake in 1882.

Gaziantep Castle

Before the great catastrophe, on February 6, another strong earthquake struck Gaziantep Castle. Known for being used as a military warehouse and dungeon in the 1840s, the castle was damaged by a massive earthquake in 1822. As a result of this earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.0, many buildings in the city were once again under the rubble. Excavations inside the castle show that the structures inside the castle, dating back to the late Ottoman period, were also destroyed by the earthquake. It is assumed that during the earthquake in question, these structures were filled in to support the towers and bastions of the castle, and the entrances to the tunnels were closed.

The underground tunnels of the castle are listed by UNESCO.

Gaziantep Castle

The historic castle also has a series of underground tunnels. These underground tunnels, dug for water supply and sewerage systems, are inscribed on the UNESCO Tentative List of World Cultural Heritage. During the archaeological excavations, which lasted two years and ended in August 2022, a series of caves and new meter-long tunnels were discovered. Teams that have been trying to get to the exit points of these tunnels since 2020 planned to open them to visitors on short notice. The tunnels also contain symbols of the cross thought to be from the Roman period. Archaeologist Ali Korkmaz said: “In the course of research, excavation and cleaning work, we have unearthed tunnels and galleries with a total length of about 1 kilometer.” On the other hand, the condition of these underground tunnels, which are scheduled to open to visitors in the near future, after a strong earthquake is unknown.

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