Ancient City of Ani in Eastern Turkey : A Forgotten Ghost City

Ani, also known as “the world city” or the “cradle of civilizations,” lies about 42 kilometers (26.1 miles) from the Kars city center and was inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016.

Historic city of Ani in modern-day Turkey, formerly had up to 100,000 inhabitants and was a flourishing, prosperous community. One of the commercial and commerce hubs was Ani. The city has experienced both wealth and warfare over the ages, changing control numerous times during its existence. However, despite ongoing efforts to conserve the once-thriving location, the city is currently in a condition of degradation.

Armenian merchants and political figures built Ani more than 1,600 years ago. The city known as a “hilltop citadel” swiftly prospered due to its advantageous location along several trade routes, notably the Silk Road.

The Golden Age in Ani

Ani’s population increased over time, and between 961 and 1045 it served as the seat of the Armenian kingdom of Bagratid. The city was ruled by King Ashot III, who established the golden period of Ani. He built opulent churches and ordered the best art produced at the time. He was known as King Ashot the Merciful because of his attempts to revitalize the city.

From 970 to 1320, a variety of civilizations and languages, including Armenian, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Georgian, and Persian, called the 85 hectare (210 acre) site home. In Ani, Muslims and Christians coexisted for many years.

A Battle, a Natural Disaster, Decline of Ani

This structure, which was built on the site of the former city of Ani, has lost half of its structure over the years since it was constructed. (Photo Credit: Flickr CC BY 2.0; Motohiro Sunouchi)

The city’s final demise occurred when the Mongols came and occupied Ani in the fourteenth century. Invasion by the Mongols started in 1237, and by the end of the 14th century, the Turco-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane had captured Ani. However, the city was already in danger of disintegrating at this point.

Historic structures in Ani

Ancient City of Ani in Eastern Turkey : A Forgotten Ghost City

The cathedral is the biggest structure in Ani. The cathedral is a striking example of Armenian architecture, with a somewhat Gothic appearance and innovative elements like pointed arches and a dome that is no longer present.

Ancient City of Ani in Eastern Turkey : A Forgotten Ghost City

It was the first location in Anatolia where Muslims offered prayers after the Seljuks’ historic victory in the Battle of Manzikert (1071), which allowed the Turks access to Anatolia. Throughout history, it has changed hands several times, but its significance as a temple of God has been retained.

There are numerous historical mosques, churches, cathedrals, and cultural artifacts that have been maintained in Ani, which has been the home of at least 23 civilizations. All of the buildings in Ani were constructed from the local volcanic basalt because it is simple to carve, acts as a useful insulator, and comes in a variety of brilliant colors, including rosy red and jet black. The Cathedral of Ani is among the largest and most notable structures in the old city.

Then constant incursions

Unfortunately for the people of Ani, it wasn’t just the Byzantines that valued the thriving metropolis. The city was under siege for several centuries by the Byzantines, Ottoman Turks, wandering Kurds, Georgians, and Russians. In doing so, many of them were successful.

The city of Ani was repeatedly taken over starting in 1046, after Pahlavouni’s death, and continuing all the way up until the 18th century.

Still a secret treasure

Ancient City of Ani in Eastern Turkey : A Forgotten Ghost City

All four seasons are very beautiful in the city. It appears to be a long-lost frozen kingdom in the winter when it is blanketed in beautiful snow, and it appears mysterious and brooding in the fall when secrets are waiting to be revealed.

When the weather warms up, it virtually comes back to life, becoming more verdant with each raindrop and giving you a sense of adventure that is lacking from many popular historic places in Europe. You get this buzz when you enter the ruins because of their secluded location, which makes you feel like you’re the first people to (re)discover such profound antiquity in a long time.

Modern efforts to restore and maintain the ancient city

At the Ani ruins in Turkey, the main gate has a tower and surrounding walls. (Image Credit: Giulio Andreini/Ed Images/Ultimate Images Group/Getty Images )

People who romanticized the ruins increased migration to Armenia from Europe in the 19th century due to increasing interest in the city of Ani. But as the First World War got underway, recreational travel in the region came to an end, and the place was once more abandoned. The historic city was given public access by the Turkish Ministry of Culture in 2004, after which more than 34,000 people visit it each year.

Let’s all agree that just because something was discovered by a group of Europeans in the 19th century doesn’t mean you discovered it. Ani is still watching for you to realize it.

The UNESCO World Heritage List included the Ani Archaeological Site in 2016. Ani’s ruins serve as an outstanding illustration of the exceptional quality of Armenian stonework that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.

More to know :

What happened to the city of Ani?

Ani was abandoned by the 17th century after suffering a terrible earthquake in 1319 and, more significantly, because regional trade routes had changed.

Can you visit Ani?

Near the border between Turkey and Armenia lie the ruins of Ani. Northeastern Turkey’s Kars is the nearest large town. You may simply take a day excursion to Ani from Kars.

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