One of the great crossroads of ancient civilizations is a broad peninsula that lies between the Black and Mediterranean seas. Called Asia Minor (Lesser Asia) by the Romans, the land is the Asian part of modern Turkey, across Thrace. It lies across the Aegean Sea to the east of Greece and is usually known by its Greek name Anatolia.
Asia Minor juts westward from Asia to within half a mile (800 meters) of Europe at the divided city of Istanbul, where a suspension bridge over the strait of Bosphorus links the two continents. Asia Minor is also bordered by the Sea of Marmara on the northwest. The area of the peninsula is about 292,000 square miles (756,000 square kilometres).
The interior is a high arid plateau, about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in elevation, flanked to the north and south by rugged mountain ranges. Within the plateau a number of ranges enclose broad, flat valleys, where several salty lakes have formed.
A Mediterranean-type climate of hot, dry summers and mild, moist winters prevails in the coastal areas. The dry central plateau has hot summers and cold winters. During all seasons high winds are common; moist Mediterranean winds bring rain to the coastal regions in the winter. There is little summer rainfall.
In about 2000 BC Asia Minor was in the hands of the Hittites, who migrated from the area east of the Black Sea. Their civilization rivalled that of the Egyptians and Babylonians. In the 12th century BC their empire fell to the Assyrians. Small seaboard states grew up, only to fall to the Greeks, who colonized the entire coast in about the 8th century BC. According to legend, they first laid siege to the city-state of Troy during the Trojan War. In 560 BC Croesus mounted the throne of Lydia in Asia Minor and soon brought all the Greek colonies under his rule. Croesus was overthrown by Cyrus the Great of Persia. Two hundred years later Alexander the Great again spread Greek rule over the peninsula.
After its conquest by Rome in the 2nd century BC, Asia Minor enjoyed centuries of peace. During the Middle Ages, as a part of the Byzantine Empire, it became a centre of Christianity and the guardian of Greek and Roman culture. One of the chief medieval trade routes passed through the region. As the power of the empire declined, Arabs and Mongols invaded. In the 15th century the Ottoman Turks conquered the peninsula and made Istanbul (then known as Constantinople) the capital. The Ottoman Empire lasted until 1922. The next year Asia Minor became the larger part of the Turkish Republic under Kemal Atatürk. He had set up a government at Ankara, which became the new capital of Turkey.
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