Samsun (Pontic Greek: Σαμψούντα, Sampsúnta; Ottoman Turkish: صامسون Ṣāmsūn) is a city on the north coast of Turkey with a population of around 1.4 million people. It is the provincial capital of Samsun Province and a major Black Sea port. The growing city has two universities, several hospitals, shopping malls, much light manufacturing industry, sports facilities and an opera.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk began the Turkish War of Independence here in 1919.
The present name of the city may come from its former Greek name of Amisós (Αμισός) by a reinterpretation of eís Amisón (meaning "to Amisós") and ounta (Greek suffix for place names) to [eí]s Am[p]s-únta (Σαμψούντα : Sampsúnta) and then Samsun (pronounced [samsun]).
The early Greek historian Hecataeus wrote that Amisos was formerly called Enete, the place mentioned in Homer's Iliad. In Book II, Homer says that the ἐνετοί (Enetoi) inhabited Paphlagonia on the southern coast of the Black Sea in the time of the Trojan War (c. 1200 BC). The Paphlagonians are listed among the allies of the Trojans in the war, where their king Pylaemenes and his son Harpalion perished. Strabo mentioned that the inhabitants had disappeared by his time. It has also been known as Peiraieos by Athenian settlers and even briefly as Pompeiopolis by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. The city was called Simisso by the Genoese and during the Ottoman Empire the present name was written in Ottoman Turkish: صامسون (Ṣāmsūn).
Paleolithic artifacts found in the Tekkeköy Caves can be seen in Samsun Archaeology Museum. The earliest layer excavated of the höyük of Dündartepe revealed a Chalcolithic settlement. Early Bronze Age and Hittite settlements were also found there and at Tekkeköy. Samsun (then known as Amisos, Greek Αμισός, alternative spelling Amisus) was settled in about 760–750 BC by Ionians from Miletus,who established a flourishing trade relationship with the ancient peoples of Anatolia. The city's ideal combination of fertile ground and shallow waters attracted numerous traders.
Amisus was settled by the Ionian Milesians in the 6th century BC, it is believed that there was significant Greek activity along the coast of the Black Sea, although the archaeological evidence for this is very fragmentary. The only archaeological evidence we have as early as the 6th century is a fragment of wild goat style Greek pottery, in the Louvre. The city was captured by the Persians in 550 BC and became part of Cappadocia (satrapy).In the 5th century BC, Amisus became a free state and one of the members of the Delian League led by the Athenians; it was then renamed Peiraeus under Pericles. Starting the 3rd century BC the city came under the control of Mithridates I, later founder of the Kingdom of Pontus. The Amisos treasure may have belonged to one of the kings. Tumuli, containing tombs dated between 300 BC and 30 BC, can be seen at Amisos Hill but unfortunately Toraman Tepe was mostly flattened during construction of the 20th century radar base.
The Romans conquered Amisus in 71 BC during the Third Mithridatic War. and Amisus became part of Bithynia et Pontus province. Around 46 BC, during the reign of Julius Caesar, Amisus became the capital of Roman Pontus. From the period of the Second Triumvirate up to Nero, Pontus was ruled by several client kings, as well as one client queen, Pythodorida of Pontus, a granddaughter of Marcus Antonius. From 62 CE it was directly ruled by Roman governors, most famously by Trajan's appointee Pliny. Pliny the Younger's address to the Emperor Trajan in the 1st century CE "By your indulgence, sir, they have the benefit of their own laws," is interpreted by John Boyle Orrery to indicate that the freedoms won for those in Pontus by the Romans was not pure freedom and depended on the generosity of the Roman emperor.
The estimated population of the city around 150 AD is between 20,000 and 25,000 people, classifying it as a relatively large city for that time.The city functioned as the commercial capital for the province of Pontus; beating its rival Sinope (now Sinop) due to its position at the head of the trans-Anatolia highway.
In Late Antiquity, the city became part of the Dioecesis Pontica within the eastern Roman Empire; later still it was part of the Armeniac Theme. Samsun Castle was built on the seaside in 1192, it was demolished between 1909 and 1918.
Though the roots of the city are Hellenistic, it was also one of the centers of an early Christian congregation. Its function as a commercial metropolis in northern Asia Minor was a contributing factor to enable the spread of Christian influence. As a large port city – the commercial capital of Pontus – travel to and from Christian hotbeds like Jerusalem was not uncommon. According to Josephus, there was large Jewish diaspora in Asia Minor. Given that the early evangelist Christians focused on Jewish diaspora communities, and that the Jewish diaspora in Amisus was a geographically accessible group with a mixed heritage group, it is not surprising that Amisus would be an appealing site for evangelist work. The author of 1 Peter 1:1 addresses the Jewish diaspora of the province of Pontus, along with four other provinces: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia." (Peter 1:1) As Amisus would have been the largest commercial port-city in the province, it is believed certain that the spread of Christianity in the region would have begun there. In the 1st century Pliny the Younger documents accounts of Christians in and around the cities of Pontus. His accounts center on his conflicts with the Christians when he served under the Emperor Trajan and describe early Christian communities, his condemnation of their refusal to renounce their religion, but also describes his tolerance for some Christian practices like Christian charitable societies. Many great early Christian figures had connections to Amisus, including Caesarea Mazaca, Gregory the Illuminator (raised as a Christian from 257 CE when he was brought to Amisus) and Basil the Great (Bishop of the city 330–379 CE).
Christian bishops of Amisus include Antonius, who took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451; Erythraeus, a signatory of the letter that the bishops of Helenopontus wrote to Emperor Leo I the Thracian after the killing of Patriarch Proterius of Alexandria; the late 6th-century bishop Florus, venerated as a saint in the Greek menologion; and Tiberius, who attended the Third Council of Constantinople (680), Leo, the Second Council of Nicaea (787), and Basilius, the Council of Constantinople of 879. The diocese is no longer mentioned in the Greek Notitiae Episcopatuum after the 15th century and thereafter the city was considered part of the see of Amasea. However, some Greek bishops of the 18th and 19th centuries bore the title of Amisus as titular bishops. In the 13th century the Franciscans had a convent at Amisus, which became a Latin bishopric some time before 1345, when its bishop Paulus was transferred to the recently conquered city of Smyrna and was replaced by the Dominican Benedict, who was followed by an Italian Armenian called Thomas. No longer a residential diocese, it is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.
Medieval and modern history
Samsun was part of the Seljuk Empire, the Sultanate of Rum, the Empire of Trebizond, and was one of the Genoese colonies. After the breakup of the Seljuk Empire into small principalities (beyliks) in the late 13th century, the city was ruled by one of them, the Isfendiyarids. It was captured from the Isfendiyarids at the end of the 14th century by the rival Ottoman beylik (later the Ottoman Empire) under sultan Bayezid I, but was lost again shortly afterwards. The Ottomans permanently conquered the town in the weeks following 11 August 1420.
In the later Ottoman period, it became part of the Sanjak of Canik (Turkish: Canik Sancağı), which was at first part of the Rûm Eyalet. The land around the town mainly produced tobacco, with its own type being grown in Samsun, the Samsun-Bafra, which the British described as having "small but very aromatic leaves", and commanding a "high price." The town was connected to the railway system in the second half of the 19th century, and tobacco trade boomed. There was a British consulate in the town from 1837 to 1863.
Samsun, then home to an Armenian community numbering over 5,000, was heavily affected during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 , the last Armenian Zoroastrians – the Arewordik or children of the sun lived there . According to local eyewitnesses, such as Hafiz Mehmet, many of the Samsun Armenians were drowned in the Black Sea. Others were deported from Samsun and ultimately massacred in provinces further south. After the Armenian Genocide, there remained eleven islamicized Armenians and two Armenian physicians. Armenian orphans who had survived were given to Turkish families.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk established the Turkish national movement against the Allies in Samsun on 19 May 1919, the date which traditionally marks the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. Atatürk, appointed by the Ottoman government as Inspector of the Ninth Army Troops Inspectorate of the Empire in eastern Anatolia, left Constantinople aboard the now-famous SS Bandırma 16 May for Samsun. Instead of obeying the orders of the Ottoman government, then under the control of the occupying Allies, he and a number of colleagues declared the beginning of the Turkish national movement. As a result of this, the Greek population of Samsun was subject to looting, massacre and deportation by Turkish irregular groups, as noted by representatives of the American Near East Relief. However these groups couldn't operate freely in Samsun as they did in adjacent region of Merzifon and Bafra due to the presence of the Allied fleet. Being alarmed due to the presence of Greek warships in the vicinity of Samsun the Turkish national movement undertook the deportation of 21,000 local Greeks to the interior of Anatolia. Later, in early June 1922, the city was bombarded by the Allied navy.
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