About 3,000 years ago the country now known as Turkey was divided into several kingdoms. The most important of these was the Hittite Kingdom. Another kingdom was ruled from the city of Troy. Around 1200 B.C. many Greeks began to migrate to Turkey. They settled along the coasts and established their own states there. These ancient Greeks conquered the people of Troy during the Trojan War, one of the most famous wars in history.
Subsequently, both Asian and European Turkey were conquered by the Persians, who in turn were driven out by the Macedonian Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. After the death of Alexander several small kingdoms rose and fell in Turkey. They all were conquered eventually by the Roman general Pompey (106-48 B.C.) in 63 B.C. The Romans divided Turkey into several provinces and built many cities.
Byzantine Empire. In A.D. 330 the Roman emperor Constantine chose Byzantium as his eastern capital. Byzantium, renamed Constantinople, became the most important city in the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire. For some 200 years, from the 9th to the 11th century, the Byzantine Empire was a great world power. The Christian religion and much of the ancient Greek civilization survived here and were passed on to other parts of Europe and Asia.
During the 1000's, the first Turkish tribes, called Seljuks, came from western Central Asia and settled in what is now central and eastern Turkey. The Seljuks were followers of the Islamic religion. They attacked the Byzantine Empire and set up a Muslim state in Asian Turkey. The Seljuks in turn were weakened by the Christian Crusaders on their way to capture Palestine from its Muslim rulers. Later, Mongol invaders from Central Asia destroyed the little remaining power of the Seljuks. But the Seljuk settlements and states survived.
The Ottoman Empire. Another group of Turkish tribes from Central Asia arrived in the 1200's. They were called Ottomans, after their legendary first leader, Osman, or Othman (1259-1326). The Ottomans, or Ottoman Turks, conquered what remained of the Seljuk states. In 1326 they reached the Sea of Marmara. By 1360 the Ottomans had conquered much of what is now European Turkey. Constantinople held out until 1453, when it, too, fell to the Ottoman Turks.
The Ottoman Empire reached its height during the 1500's. Under Sultan Suleiman I (1496-1566), known as the Magnificent, the empire extended across southeastern Europe and through parts of southern Russia, to Southwest Asia and North Africa.
Under succeeding sultans the empire began to slowly decline. By the late 1800's and early 1900's, it had lost most of its European territories, including what are today Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and other parts of the Balkans. Egypt and other northern African states also became virtually independent.
Many Turks believed that changes in Turkish laws and customs were necessary to halt further decline. Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, known as Abdul the Damned, promised reforms but did not keep his word. In 1908 he was overthrown by a group of reforming politicians called Young Turks. They introduced political and social reforms and established a constitutional monarchy under Sultan Mohammed V.
Breakup of the Empire. It was too late, however, to stem the decline. The final breakup of the empire came after World War I (1914-18). As one of the defeated powers, the empire was forced to give up its remaining non-Turkish lands. The chief victorious powers, France and Britain, occupied Istanbul for a time, and in 1919, Greek troops invaded Turkey's Aegean coast.
Republic of Turkey. With the Ottoman government helpless, a Turkish general, Mustafa Kemal, organized a temporary government whose forces expelled the Greeks in 1922. The last sultan, Mohammed VI, was deposed, and in 1923, Kemal established a Turkish republic, with its capital in Ankara. Kemal became its first president. Adopting the surname Atatürk ("Father of the Turks"), he introduced many reforms that helped transform Turkey into a modern nation.
After Atatürk's death in 1938, his Republican People's Party was led by Ismet Inönü, who served as president until 1950. From 1950 to 1960, Turkey was governed by the Democratic Party, with Celal Bayar as president and Adnan Menderes as prime minister. In 1960 the government was overthrown by the military under General Cemal Gürsel. A civilian government was restored in 1961, with Gürsel as president and Inönü as prime minister.
In 1965, Süleyman Demirel, head of the Justice Party, became prime minister. He governed until 1971, when he was forced to resign by the military. Following elections in 1973, Bülent Ecevit, leader of the Republican People's Party, became prime minister.
In 1974, following a military coup in Cyprus, Turkish forces occupied part of the island nation, which is home to both Greeks and Turks. In 1980, after a series of weak governments proved unable to cope with the nation's problems, General Kenan Evren took over the government. He became president under a new constitution in 1982, serving until 1989, when Turgut Ozal was elected president. Ozal was succeeded after his death in 1993 by Süleyman Demirel. Tansu Ciller became Turkey's first woman prime minister in 1993.
Recent Events. In the 1995 elections, the Welfare Party — an Islamic party — won the largest number of seats. Its leader, Necmettin Erbakan, took office the following year, becoming Turkey's first Islamic prime minister since independence. But tensions mounted between Islamic fundamentalists and members of the military, who objected to Erbakan's pro-Muslim policies. Erbakan was forced to resign, and Mesut Yilmaz succeeded him briefly. In 1998 the Welfare Party was banned. In 1999, after a year of political instability, a new coalition government, headed by former prime minister Bülent Ecevit, took power. Other major events of 1999 included the capture and sentencing to death of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who had led violent rebellions against the Turkish army since 1985. Also, two devastating earthquakes claimed the lives of more than 15,000 people.
In May 2000 Ahmet Necdet Sezer succeeded Demirel as president. He backed democratic reforms that would help Turkey gain entry into the European Union.