The historic palette of Turkey is traced to the Stone Age settlements constructed in 7500 BC, and today, unforgettable names like Cyrus the Great, Homer, Alexander the Great, Troy and the Trojan War, the Holy Roman Empire and the Medieval Crusades leap from the pages of its ancient history. Many relics and ruins of same still stand for all to view.
As for the Trojan War, there's some debate as to whether it was an actual historical reality, or whether just a story passed down.
According to Greek mythology the Trojan War occurred in the 13th or 12th century BC after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband, Menelaus, king of Sparta. The end of the war came when a giant, hollow, wooden horse filled with soldiers and then led by Odysseus into the city of Troy. The Trojans mistakenly believed that the war was over, and were caught off guard as the Acheans entered the city, massacring the sleeping population.
In 1870 a German businessman and amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, discovered the ruins of Troy, and today numerous scholars have concluded that the Trojan War was indeed based on fact; however, few argue that the Homeric poems display any actual events of the war.
Considered among one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions, the Anatolian peninsula saw some of the earliest Neolithic settlements in the world. Along this coast, many of history's important cities were built, including Ephesus, Miletus, Smyrna, and Byzantium.
Oghuz Turks migrated into Anatolia during the 11th century AD, forming the Seljuq Empire, and remained until the Mongol invasion in 1243.
Under Mongol rule many Anatolian principalities (beyliks) were founded, including the powerful Karamanids and Germiyanids. Northwest of Anatolia, around the area of Sogut, a small, seemingly insignificant state was created called the Beylik of Ottoman Dynasty, which ultimately evolved into the Ottoman Empire, and spread throughout the Balkans.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire's power grew substantially, advancing through Central Europe, under the hand of Suleiman the Magnificent.
However, as with all major empires preceding it, the Ottoman's didn't last, and their decline began in 1699, with the Treaty of Karlowitz. The empire continued to slowly deteriorate through the next few hundred years, but it wasn't until the 1900's that the Ottoman's met their end.
As World War I began, the Ottoman Empire aligned with the Central Powers, and in 1914 the Young Turk government signed a secret treaty with Germany, forming the Ottoman-German Alliance. Although there were numerous victories in the early years of the war for the Ottomans, the Arab Revolt caused a major downfall within the empire at the Middle East front, and the empire began to crumble before finally collapsing in 1923.
The modern country of Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire by its national hero Mustafa Kemal, later honored with the title Ataturk, or "Father of the Turks."
Under the authoritarian (and rather effective) leadership of Mustafa, the country adopted wide-ranging social, legal, and political reforms.
Democratic elections were introduced by Ismet Inonu in the late 1940's, and in 1950, an experiment with multi-party politics led to an election victory of the opposition Democratic Party and the peaceful transfer of power.
Since then - as in many new democracies - there were periods of instability and intermittent military coups, which in each case resulted in the return of political power to civilians.
As a new nation, Turkey remained neutral during World War II; although, as a ceremonial gesture, entered in on the Allies side in 1945, becoming a charter member of the UN.
In 1952, Turkey joined NATO, after taking part in the Korean War along with United Nations forces, and became a barrier against Soviet expansion into the Mediterranean.
A military coup d'etat interfered with the Turkish democracy in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997; as well, The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), organized in 1984, continues to fight for autonomy against the Turkish government to this day.
Through it all, the unflappable spirit of the Turkish people has prevailed, and in recent years the government has undertaken many reforms to strengthen both its democracy and economy, so that it can eventually join the European Union.
Turkey is geographically, politically and officially part of two continents - Europe and Asia; the smaller northwestern portion of Turkey (Thrace) is part of Europe, while the larger portion (Anatolia) is part of Asia.
As exotic and riveting tourism destinations go, some say it has no peer. Why not find out for yourself?