Caria was the region of South-west Asia Minor between todays Meander “Meandros” and Dalaman “Indos” rivers. The earliest written records of the Carian people date back to 2nd millennium from Egyptian and Hittite sources naming the region as “Karkisa” or “Karakisa”. The exact roots of the Carian race have not been established and are still the subject of much discussion.
The inhabitants of Caria, known as Carians, had arrived there before the Greeks. They were described by Herodotos as being of Minoan descent, while the Carians themselves maintained that they were Anatolian mainlanders intensely engaged in seafaring and were akin to the Mysians and the Lydians.
Recent studies of the last twenty years show that human settlement existed during the Neolithic period. One hundred and seventy cave | rock paintings have been discovered in the Bafa region since 1994 with the prehistoric artwork dating back to between 8-6000 BCE. The paintings and symbols have been made on the interior faces and ceilings of small caverns, grottoes and niches formed by the natural erosion of climate and weather. Archaeologists believe the sites were used for cult purposes with descriptions of humans, unique in content to other cave paintings found in Anatolia and the Near East.
It is accepted that an Anatolian Sky God was worshipped from Neolithic times in the area of the sacred peak of Mount “Latmos”. The holiness attributed to this region has continued through antiquity with the worship and following of many religions, faiths and divine gods.
Findings form the Milas Genclik Tepe Mound date the settlement to the Chalcolithic Age and surveys have found traces of settlements in the region dating to the early Bronze Age. Hittite records of the 2nd millennium mention the region as Karkisa and an inscription written in the Hittite Luwian language prove a connection to the ancient kingdom. Regional excavations have revealed Mycenaean pottery from Musgebi (Ortakent-Bodrum), Knidos and Stratonikeia dating to the 15-13th centuries BCE showing relations to the west (Greece).
Starting from the end of the 2nd millennium BCE, Dorian migrations arrived to Caria and the Aegean from the west. The Dorians formed a hexaopolis (6 cities) from the islands of Cos and Rhodes including Knidos on the mainland. As the Carian hinterland was characterized by villages protecting their own culture, the Hellenization did not spread inland from the coast. Records from the beginning of the 7th century BCE tell of the Carian governor Arselis of Mylasa supporting King Gyges to capture the Lydian throne. The Lydian Kingdom held control of much of Anatolia including Caria throughout that era, but was weakly enforced because of the mountainous landscape of Caria.
After the Lydian kingdom was defeated by the Persians in 546 BCE, all Western Anatolia fell under the rule of the Persian administration. Persian control continued over Anatolia, although weakened for a period after defeats by the Greeks at the battle of Marathon (490 BCE), and Salamis Plataia (480C). Then Athenians were defeated by the Spartans in the Pelopenesian wars and all the Anatolian cities fell back under the control of the Persians with a treaty called the “King’s Peace” (387 BCE).
Alexander the Great’s army first defeated the Persians at the Helespont before crossing the Dardanelles into Asia Minor. On his arrival in Caria, the capital Halicarnassos was one of the very few cities to show resistance. As a result, the city was totally destroyed along with its glory except for the magnificent mausoleum. Caria was conquered by him in 334 BC with the help of the former queen of the land Ada of Caria who had been dethroned by the Persian Empire and actively helped Alexander in his conquest of Caria on condition of being reinstated as queen. After their capture of Caria, she declared Alexander as her heir.
As part of the Roman Empire the name of Caria was still used for the geographic region but the territory administratively belonged to the province of Asia. During the administrative reforms of the 4th century this province was abolished and divided into smaller units. Caria became a separate province as part of the Diocese of Asia.
Christianity was on the whole slow to take hold in Caria. The region was not visited by St. Paul, and the only early churches seem to be those of Laodicea and Colossae (Chonae) on the extreme inland fringe of the country, which itself pursued its pagan customs. It appears that it was not until Christianity was officially adopted in Constantinople that the new religion made any real headway in Caria.
During the 7th century and towards the end of the Byzantine Empire monasteries and numerous churches were built; most famous was the monastery of Young Paul (10th century) hidden away on the slopes of Mt.Latmos now called “Arap Avlusu” by the locals.
The Turkish tribes arrived in Anatolia at the end of the 11th century. Their control spread and in the 13th century most of the southwest region was controlled by the Mentese Beylik (Turkish State) based at Becin close to Milas. Ottoman rule started taking control in the region from the end of the 14th century, although they suffered a heavy defeat to the Mongolians at the battle of Ankara in 1402. Meanwhile, the Knights of St.John moved from a fortified outpost in Izmir and were shown the site of Halicarnassos to build a new castle. Construction took over a hundred years to complete and was soon surrendered after the fall of Rhodes in 1523. The Knights retreated first to Sicily then re-established their order on the island of Malta. Today the castle at Halicarnassos is used as a museum of underwater archaeology.
The Ottoman Empire crumbled after the First World War and following the War of Independence (1919- 1922), the modern Turkish Republic was born in 1923. Today the ancient region of Caria now covers the modern provinces of Mugla, Aydin and Denizli.