Explore North Central Anatolia
TOKAT clusters at the foot of a jagged crag with a ruined Pontic fortress on top. Despite its undeniably dramatic setting, it comes as something of an anticlimax after Amasya, with none of the soothing riverside atmosphere and much less to see – the local claim to fame is the Gök Medrese, another Selçuk “Blue Seminary”, now used as a museum. Nonetheless, Tokat makes a good stopoff when travelling between Amasya and Sivas.
The bus journey from Amasya – 103km away – takes a couple of hours, but those with their own wheels can take in a couple of ruined kervansarays en route. The first – after about half an hour – is at Ezinepazarı; in the days of the great caravans, this was a day’s ride by camel from Amasya. The second is at the signposted village of Pazar, about 26km short of Tokat, where you’ll find the well-preserved Selçuk Hatun Hanı.
Tokat first came to prominence as a staging post on the Persian trans-Anatolian royal road, running from Sardis to Persepolis. Later it fell to Alexander the Great and then to Mithridates and his successors. In 47 BC, Julius Caesar defeated Pharnaces, son of the Pontic king Mithridates VI earlier Eupator, who had taken advantage of a period of civil war in Rome to attempt to re-establish the Pontic kingdom as an independent state. Caesar’s victory in a five-hour battle at Zile, just outside Tokat, prompted his immortal line “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered).
Under Byzantine rule, Tokat became a frontline city in perpetual danger of Arab attack, a state of affairs that continued until the Danişmend Turks took control of the city after the battle of Manzikert in 1071. Less than one hundred years later the İlhanid Mongols arrived, then Tokat was briefly transferred to the Ottoman Empire before a second great Mongol wave under Tamerlane.
With the departure of the Mongols and return of the Ottomans, life returned to normal and a period of prosperity ensued. In time, though, trade patterns shifted, the east–west routes to Persia lost their importance and Tokat became the backwater it remains today.Read More