Temporary Exhibitions / Antalya through the Eyes of Travellers

Antalya through the Eyes of Travellers


Starting with the ancient geographer Strabo, numerous travellers, particularly Europeans, visited Antalya through the beginning of the twentieth century. A selection from their detailed accounts and illustrations of Antalya comprises this exhibition.

Attaleia was founded in the mid-second century BC by order of the Pergamene King Attalos II who wished to found “an earthly paradise” named after himself. Today called Antalya, this city is located in the most fertile part of Anatolia where the ancient regions of Pamphylia, Lycia and Pisidia intersect. A strategic geographical location and natural setting, a favourable harbour on the East Mediterranean maritime network, local people’s 450-thousand-year-long story, and thus cultural richness rising it: all of these attracted the attention of travellers who mentioned the city under various names such as Attaleia, Attalia, Sathalia, Sattalia, Adalia, and Antaliya.

Among Western travellers who wrote about Antalya, the French, British, Germans and Austrians are the most prominent. The documentary quality of their accounts is determined not only by the travellers’ personal background but also by the titles under which they conducted their travels. Thus the accounts of a nobleman, an interpreter or cleric, merchant, scientist, independent traveller, officials, pilgrims – those who needed to report at the conclusion of their voyages – all differ from one another. Most of the time it is clearly evident which travellers provide accurate eyewitness narrations, while others display confusion when their imposed prejudices contradict their experiences. Some were required to write from the perspective of their commanding superiors. Various negative stereotypes of the Ottoman Empire that had grown out of the fear of Muslim expansion deep into Europe in the sixteenth century were gradually supplanted by more objective criteria. These include the modernisation of the Ottoman Empire by which it interacted more with Europe, improvements in transportation connections, and the increasing number of scientific and archaeological voyages in the nineteenth century.

Atatürk visited Antalya for the first time in 1930, and his comment is not too different from that of Attalos II some 2150 years earlier: “Antalya is surely the most beautiful place on Earth.”

This exhibition was hosted in the German cities of Nuremberg, Munich and Berlin as well as by various institutions in Antalya between 2008 and 2010.