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By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Iznik is the city of Dionysus, God of Wine.

According to myth, Nicaea (daughter of River God Sangarios and Goddess Cybele) took an oath that she would never marry. She lived in a forest and liked hunting. One day she met a shepherd named Hymnus who fell in love with Nicaea upon seeing her. Nicaea, however, shot Hymnus with an arrow. The God of Love Eros was angered by her behavior and turned to the God of Wine Dionysus for help to punish her. But Dionysus also fell in love with Nicaea when he saw her bathing in the river. He feared that she would shoot him as well, so he added wine to the river from which Nicaea drank. When she was drunk he seduced her.

As soon as Nicaea realized she was pregnant she tried to commit suicide, but Dionysus convinced her to give birth to his child. Upon returning from India, Dionysus founded Nicaea (modern Iznik) after his beloved. The phrase Eis Ten Nikaeieon (Greek for To Nicaea) was truncated to Iznik in present times. Highlights of the city include Süleyman Pasa Madrasa.

~2500 BCMounds: Karadin, Çiçekli, Yügücek and Çakirca reveal Iznik's history begins at ~2500 BC.
HelikareThe settlement was known as Helikare before the arrival of Thracian immigrants.
Thracian Immigration7th Cent BC
Phrygian Renovation4th Cent BCThe settlement became known as Antigoneia following its renovation by the Phrygian Governor of the Macedonian Kingdom.
Lysimachus' CaptureAfter 332 BCAfter the death of Alexander the Great, Antigoneia was captured by Lysimachus, the ex-governor of Thrace, and its name was changed to Nicaea. The name Nicaea was ascribed to Lysimachus' wife Nike.
Bithynian Capture293 BCThe Bythinian Kingdom annexed Nicaea. Great architecture arose in the city and it became home to a gold coin mint, thus earning it the nickname of Golden City.
Earthquake123 ADAn earthquake devastated Nicaea.
Roman CaptureThe Romans battled the Bithynian Kingdom for many years before capturing the capital Nicaea and reconstructing it. The city at this point was surrounded by 4,970 kilometer city walls and had 4 main and 12 subordinate gates.
ChristianityThe Apostle St. Peter introduced Iznik to Christianity. Roman Emperor Constantine I abolished all prohibitions relating to Christianity.
1st Ecumenical Council325 ADThe 1st Ecumenical Council gathered in the palace at Iznik in the presence of Roman Emperor Constantine I. One of the subjects at hand was the debate between Alexandrian priest Arius' thesis and that of the bishops. Arius held that Jesus Christ was not eternal and was subordinate to God the Gather. The bishops' view was that Jesus Christ was one of substance with God the Father. After much debate the latter view was accepted and the Council formulated Nicene Creed and 20 canons as well as agreed on the date of Easter.
7th Ecumenical Council787 ADThe 7th Ecumenical Council was held in the Asasofya Church at Iznik.
Prohibitions Lifted8th Cent ADEmpress Irene lifts prohibitions on paintings and statues.
Ottoman Capture1331The Ottomans commanded by Orhan Gazi captured Iznik and it became an art, ceramic, tile, trade and culture hub. The Ottoman Period's first mosque, madrasa and soup kitchen were all constructed in Iznik in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Famous Sufis including Davud-u Kayseri, Ebul Fadil Musa and Esrefoglu Abdullah Rumi lived in Iznik.

Tourist Attractions in Iznik

Nilüfer Hatun Soup Kitchen
1388The Nilüfer Hatun Soup Kitchen was Built by Sultan Murat I in memory of his mother Nilüfer Hatun. It was the first soup kitchen built with a reverse T-shaped plan.
Late 19th CentEnd of Soup Kitchen
The Greek occupation largely destroyed the structure during the Independence War.
1960The structure was restored in 1960 and re-opened as a museum.
Ayasofya Museum
Constructed by the Emperor Justinian over the ruins of a former church dating back to the 4th century.
787 ADThe 7th Ecumenical Council was held here.
11th CentDemolished by an earthquake.
Rebuilt in the shape of a basilica with three naves.
1331After the Ottoman conquest of Iznik by Orhan Gazi, the basilica shaped church was made into a mosque.
Under the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the mosque was expanded with a minaret on the front and its walls were decorated by the famous architect Sinan.

Yesil (Green) Mosque
A single-domed mosque built 1378-1392 by the architect Haci Musa. Requested by Halil Hayrettin Pasha.

Haci Özbek Mosque (Çarsi Masjid)
Built in 1333, Haci Özbek Mosque is the oldest Ottoman mosque in Iznik. Built of hewn stone and brick with a square plan and no minaret, with a dome that is 8m in diameter and covered with roof tiles.

Mahmut Çelebi Mosque
Mahmut Çelebi, a grandson of Hayrettin Pasha, had Mahmut Çelebi Mosque built in the district centre in 1442. It has a single dome and a minaret. There is an inscription over the entry gate.

Yakup Çelebi Dervish Lodge and Tomb
Constructed in the 14th century by Yakup Çelebi, the younger brother of Yildirim Bayezid. There is a single domed tomb in the garden. The tomb of Takup Çelebi is not in this tomb but in the tomb of Murad I in Bursa.

Seyh Kudbetting Mosque and Tomb
Ibrahim Pasha, a vizier of Sultan Bayezi II, requested the construction of this mosque and tomb for Sheik Seyh Kudbettin in the 15th century AD. Only the minaret of the mosque survives.

Esref-i Rumî Mosque and Tomb

Kirgizlar Tomb

Sari Saltuk Tomb

Çandarli Hayrettin Pasa Tomb

Çandarli Ibrahim Pasa Tomb and Soup Kitchen

Çabdarku Halil Pasa Tomb

Huysuzlar Tomb

Ahiveyn Sultan Tomb

Abdülvahap Sancaktari Tomb

Iznik ceramics

In antiquity, Iznik was a settlement important for its prolific ceramics industry. In 1331 Iznik became part of the Ottoman Empire; from the mid-14th to the end of the 17th century it was the Turks most successful and vital ceramics production center in Anatolia. Iznik's earliest ceramics were produced under Seljuk influence, vessels of red clay and glazed with a single color. Tiles of the Seljuk period are decorated with mosaic, tinted glaze and compositions of yellow, turquoise, white rumi and palmetto on underglaze, usually with a dark blue background.

Miletus Ware
Late 14th - Early 15th century
Mainly plates and bowls from coarse red clay. Coloration is dark blue, turquoise, purple and cobalt blue on a white slip. Designs are simple, often radial lines, geometric design, vegetal motifs and/or animal figures. These vessels were erroneously titled Miletus Ware although their production was later traced to Iznik.

Blue and White Ware
Late 15th - Early 16th century
Tiles and vessels made of fine, hard, white clay and decorated in different shades of blue on transparent underglaze. Hexagonal form was used, particular in early tiles.

Golden Horn Ware
Variation of Blue and White Ware.

Blue and White Ware with Turquoise
Early-Mid 16th century
Turquoise used together with blue.

Damascus Ware
Green and purple use for the first time, together with cobalt blue and turquoise. Precursor to use of many colors.

Polychrome Ware
Mid 16th - End of 17th century
The longest and most successful period, Polychrome Ware was made of hard white clay with designs in soft green and coral red on a lustrous transparent underglaze.