Nevşehir (from the Persian compound نو شهر Naw-shahr meaning "new city"), formerly Neapolis and Muşkara, is a city and the capital district of Nevşehir Province in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. According to the 2010 census, the population of the district is 117,890 of which 85,634 live in the city of Nevşehir. The district covers an area of 535 km2 (207 sq mi), and the town lies at an elevation of 1,224 m (4,016 ft).
A settlement was founded on the slopes of Mount Kahveci in the valley of Kızılırmak (the ancient Halys) by the Hittites. The town along with the region came under the rule of the Assyrian Empire around the 8th century BC; it was subsequently ruled by the Medes and then by the Persians in the reign of emperor Cyrus the Great in 546 BC. In 333 BC, Alexander the Great defeated the Persians. After his death, Cappadocia came under the rule of the dynasty of Ariarathes with Mazaka (present-day Kayseri) as capital. The Cappadocian kingdom became part -as province- of the Roman empire in the reign of Emperor Tiberius. It was a probable seat of the bishopric of Nyssa (Cappadocia), but that may rather be Harmandalı, Ortaköy.
The underground shelters around Nevşehir and Göreme were originally built to escape persecution by the pagan Roman authorities. Many of the churches, hewn in the rocks, date from these early years of Christianity. Even when Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the empire, the caves offered protection for the local people during raids by the Sassanid Persians circa AD 604 and by the Islamic Caliphate from AD 647 onwards. When Iconoclasm became state policy in the Byzantine empire, again the caves of Nevşehir became shelters for those escaping persecution. The castle on the hill dates from the Byzantine period, when the region was on the frontline in the (holy) wars against the Islamic Caliphate.
At the Battle of Manzikert (present-day Malazgirt) in AD 1071, the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV was defeated by the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan. This led to the occupation of Anatolia by the Seljuks by 1074 and Nevşehir along with the rest of the region became part of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, then under the rule of the Karamanid dynasty in 1328 and finally under rule of the Ottoman Empire around 1487 AD and was renamed "Muşkara". It remained a relatively insignificant settlement until the early 18th century.
The present-day city owes its foundation to the grand vizier and son-in-law of the Sultan Ahmed III, Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha who was born in Muşkara and therefore took a great interest in its construction as a city. The small village with only 18 houses, formerly under the administration of the kaza of Ürgüp, was rapidly transformed with the building of mosques (the Kurṣunlu Mosque), fountains, schools, soup kitchens, inns and bath houses, and its name was changed from Muşkara to "Nevşehir" (meaning New City in Persian and Ottoman Turkish). According to the Ottoman General Census of 1881/82-1893, the kaza of Nevşehir had a total population of 39.822, consisting of 30.370 Muslims, 8.918 Greeks, 477 Armenians, 36 Catholics and 21 Protestants.
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