Anatolia (Anadolu, Ανατολία, Anatolía) or Asia minor, comprising most of modern Turkey, is the geographic region bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west, and the bulk of the Asian mainland to the east.
The Turkish form Anadolu derives from the Greek version—both which predated the growth of Constantinople across the Bosporus strait to both continental shores. Turkish folk etymology further breaks down the geographical term into two words: Ana ("mother") and Dolu ("full"). Thus, the name means "Full of Motherliness" and is used to advance a pedagogical ideal: Women's contribution of mother's milk to national masculine bravery. Less literally, the term is sometimes interpreted as Mother of Cities, referring to Constantinople, perhaps dating to the pre-Islamic era when the Byzantine Empire was the biggest international power known in that part of Asia, and occupied the entire region.
The Anatolian peninsula is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Aegean Sea (itself an arm of the Mediterranean) to the west, and the bulk of the Asian mainland to the east.
Anatolia's terrain is structurally complex. A central massif composed of uplifted blocks and downfolded troughs, covered by recent deposits and giving the appearance of a plateau with rough terrain, is wedged between two folded mountain ranges that converge in the east. True lowland is confined to a few narrow coastal strips along the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea coasts. Flat or gently sloping land is rare and largely confined to the deltas of the Kızıl River, the coastal plains of Çukurova, and the valley floors of the Gediz River and the Büyük Menderes River, and some interior high plains in Anatolia, mainly around Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake) and Konya Ovası (Konya Basin).
Access inland from the coast is limited to a few narrow valleys because mountain ridges, with elevations of 1,525 to 1,800 metres (5,000 to 5,900 ft) in the west and 3,000 to 4,000 metres (10000 to 13000 ft) in the east in Kaçkar Mountains, form an almost unbroken wall separating the coast from the interior. The higher slopes facing southwest tend to be densely wet. Because of these natural conditions, the Black Sea coast historically has been isolated from Anatolia. The southern slopes—facing the Anatolian Plateau—are mostly unwooded, but the northern slopes contain dense growths of both deciduous and evergreen trees.
The narrow coastal plains of the Mediterranean region, separated from the Anatolian plateau by the Taurus Mountains, which reach elevations of 2,000 to 2,750 metres (6600 to 9000 ft), are cultivated intensively. Fertile soils and a warm climate make the Mediterranean coast ideal for growing citrus fruits, grapes, figs, bananas, various vegetables, barley, wheat, and, in irrigated areas, rice and cotton. The Çukurova in the east is a plain that is the most developed agricultural area of the Mediterranean region.
Mountains close to the coast prevent Mediterranean influences from extending inland, giving the interior of Turkey a continental climate with distinct seasons. The Anatolian Plateau is much more subject to extremes than are the coastal areas. Winters on the plateau are especially severe. Temperatures of -30 °C to -40 °C (-22 °F to -40 °F) can occur in the mountainous areas in the east, and snow may lie on the ground 120 days of the year. In the west, winter temperatures average below 1 °C (34 °F). Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F). Annual precipitation averages about 400 mm (15.7 inches), with actual amounts determined by elevation. The driest regions are the Konya Ovası and the Malatya Ovası, where annual rainfall frequently is less than 300 mm (11.8 inches). May is generally the driest month and July and August are the wettest.
Southeast Anatolia lies south of the Anti-Taurus Mountains. It is a region of rolling hills and a broad plateau surface that extends into Syria. Elevations decrease gradually, from about 800 metres (2600 ft) in the north to about 500 metres (1600 ft) in the south. Traditionally, wheat and barley were the main crops of the region, but the inauguration of major new irrigation projects in the 1980s has led to greater agricultural diversity and development.
Anatolia's diverse topography and climate has fostered a similar diversity of plant and animal communities.
The mountains and coastal plain of northern Anatolia, with its humid and mild climate, is home to temperate broadleaf, mixed, and coniferous forests. The central and eastern plateau, with its drier continental climate, is home to deciduous forests and forest steppes. Western and southern Anatolia, which have a Mediterranean climate, are home to Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub ecoregions.
Eastern Anatolia contains the oldest monumental structures in the world. For example, the monumental structures at Göbekli Tepe were built by hunters and gatherers, a thousand years before the development of agriculture. Eastern Anatolia is also a hearth region for the Neolithic, one of the earliest areas in which humans domesticated plants and animals. Neolithic sites such as Çatalhöyük, Çayönü, Nevali Cori, and Hacilar represent the world's oldest known agricultural villages. The Neolithic toolkit spread through demic diffusion, such that the first farmers migrated to new areas, carrying their genes and languages with them. Languages in the Indo-European, Dravidian, and Afro-Asiatic language families all descend from an ancestral language spoken by the first farmers in eastern Anatolia and the Levant.
The earliest historical records of Anatolia are from the Akkadian Empire under Sargon in the 24th century BCE. The region was famous for exporting various raw materials. Akkad suffered problematic climate changes in Mesopotamia, as well as a reduction in available manpower that affected trade. This led to the fall of the Akkadians around 2150 BCE at the hands of the Gutians.
After the Gutians were vanquished, the Assyrian Empire claimed the resources, notably silver. One of the numerous Assyrian cuneiform records found in Anatolia at Kanesh uses an advanced system of trading computations and credit lines.
Unlike the Akkadians and the Assyrians, whose Anatolian possessions were peripheral to their core lands in Mesopotamia, the Hittites were centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia. Speakers of an Indo-European language, they established a kingdom in the 18th century BC, and built an empire which reached its height in the 14th century BC. The empire included a large part of Anatolia, north-western Syria, and upper Mesopotamia. After 1180 BC, the empire disintegrated into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some surviving until as late as the 8th century BC.
The Armenians in the first century BC established the Armenian kingdom under Tigran who reigned throughout much of the region situated between the Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas. Asia Minor is is known as the birthplace of coinage as a medium of exchange (some time in the 7th century BC), which flourished during the Greek and Roman eras.
The Turkish language was introduced gradually with the conquest of Anatolia by Turkic peoples from the 11th century AD. Anatolia remained multi-ethnic until the early 20th century (see Rise of Nationalism under the Ottoman Empire). Events of World War I wiped out the indigenous Christian Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia, and by the time the Turkish Republic was established there were few Armenians left in the Anatolian interior (see Armenian Genocide). Greeks who were native to Western Anatolia were also driven out, notably in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which occurred as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne, where most of the Turks in Greece were moved to Turkey and vice versa. As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, during Balkan Wars and World War I, much of the non-Christian populations of its former posessions, but mainly Balkan Muslims were ethnically cleansed from their homes and flocked to Anatolia and were settled in various locations. Today, the inhabitants of Anatolia are mainly Turks, and Kurds, other Muslim ethnic groups as well as Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, an ethnic and linguistic minority who exist in the southeastern regions. Georgians (see Chveneburi) have a presence in the northeast. Much of the remaining Armenian and other Christians and Jews are concentrated in the major cities, but mostly in Istanbul.