Copyright (c) 1999 Maney
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Turkey still has on the map -- of two continents, because the nation lies in both Europe and Asia -- some of the oldest placenames of the world. Turkey's history, with the rise and fall of a number of empires, including some named for individuals (such as the Selucid and Ottoman), has been the site of three of the greatest empires of the world. Consequently its placenames record and reveal the histories of a surprising number of peoples. Extraordinarily, Turkish nationalism in the present century has altered many of the placenames of classical and later times, so that Antioch, Smyrna, Hallicamassus, Adrianople, Constantinople and many other familiar names are no longer in use. At the same time, the nationalism has, at the instigation of Gazi Mustafa Kemal (known as Atatürk after he introduced surnames to Turkey), made the discussion of Turkish names of all sorts easier for the Westerner, for a modified Roman alphabet was imposed by fiat on a language that previously was written in Arabic script. More than half a century has passed since that notable reform was instituted and yet there is no adequate English treatment of the toponymy of Turkey. The purpose of this paper is to review that toponymy and to indicate the ways in which Turkish toponymy conforms to or significantly differs from what is familiar to students of placenames in the European tradition.