Asia Minor, or Anatolia, the peninsula in western Asia that is now occupied by Turkey. It is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the south by the Mediterranean, and on the west by the Aegean. There is no definite eastern boundary, but the base of the peninsula lies within eastern Turkey. Asia Minor is separated from Europe by the Sea of Marmara and the narrow straits known as the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.
Remains of some of mankind's earliest permanent communities, dating back to 7000 B.C., have been found in Asia Minor. Its peoples developed a high culture and built up a brisk trade with neighboring regions, but they did not invent a system of writing. The earliest written records come from Assyrian trading colonies established in Asia Minor in the 1700's B.C.
Peoples of the Indo-European language family began moving down into Asia Minor some time before 2000 B.C. One of these groups, the Hittites, formed a kingdom that largely dominated the region from 1800 to 1200 B.C. Hittite power did not extend to the Aegean coast, where Mycenaeans (Achaean Greeks) founded colonies and conquered Troy, which controlled passage to the Black Sea, in a 10-year war. An Indo-European invasion toppled the Hittite Empire, and inland Asia Minor was occupied by the Phrygians. Also, following a Dorian invasion of Greece, many Mycenaeans—mostly Ionians and Aeolians—fled and joined Mycenaean settlements on the Aegean coast. The southwest corner of the peninsula was settled by Dorians.
The next major inland kingdom, that of the Lydians, arose in the seventh century B.C. and fell in the sixth. The new conquerors were the Persians, who extended their empire to the Aegean. In 334 B.C. the Persians were driven from the peninsula by Alexander the Great, and Asia Minor passed into the Macedonian empire.
During the Hellenistic era (323 to the first century B.C.), Pergamum, in the west, was a great intellectual center and capital of a kingdom. The Black Sea coast belonged to the Antigonids of Macedonia, the southeast region to the Seleucids of Syria. In the third century B.C. the Celts, or Gauls, invaded the peninsula and were permitted to settle in upper Phrygia. Pergamum fell to Rome in 133 B.C., and by the beginning of the Christian Era all Asia Minor acknowledged Roman rule.
Within a few years after the death of Jesus, Christian missionaries, including Saul of Tarsus (Saint Paul), were preaching in the area. When the Roman Empire was divided in 395 A.D., Asia Minor became part of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire.
During the early Middle Ages Asia Minor was often the battleground for the opposing Byzantine and Persian empires. In the mid-seventh century Persia was conquered by the Muslim Arabs. For the next 400 years the Arabs made periodic attacks against the Byzantine territories, at times holding much or all of the peninsula.
In 1071 the Muslim Seljuk Turks, moving in from the east, defeated the Byzantine forces in the Battle of Manzikert and overran Asia Minor. The Turks were less tolerant of Christianity than were the Arabs. The result was the Christian Crusades to regain the Middle East. They began in 1096 and ended, in complete failure, in 1291. Meanwhile, the Mongols had invaded Asia Minor in 1243 and reduced the Seljuk sultanate to a vassal state. In 1302, the Mongols had the last Seljuk sultan put to death. Next to achieve power were the Ottoman Turks, and the further history of Asia Minor became the history of the Ottoman Empire and of Turkey.