History of Bodrum Castle

In 13th century, history of Bodrum Castle started in Halicarnassus where this ancient city was under the control of Byzantium Empire. 

Back on those days, Anatolian Beylik of Mentes was headquartered in Mylasa, today’s Milas, which was just 50 kilometres away from Halicarnassus. Mentes was not happy to be so close to such hostile forces which could threaten their capital anytime. They invaded this strategic port in the mid-13th century and constructed a castle on Zephyrion which is a small peninsula dividing Bodrum Bay into two parts.

Bodrum Castle on Zephyrion peninsulaOld Illustration Showing Bodrum Castle

Meanwhile, there was another important power in the history of the Mediterranean. They were Knights Hospitaller who are also known as Knights of St. John. Their base was in Rhodes but they had already constructed castles on strategic locations like Kos, Crete and Smyrna to gain better control over the area.

The beautiful Izmir of the modern Turkey was known as Smyrna back then. Timur’s army attacked this city and destroyed the order’s one of the most important castle in 1402. This was a milestone in the history of Bodrum Castle.

Knights Hospitaller in History of Bodrum Castle

Knights HospitallersKnights Hospitaller

The Knights had to build another castle to protect Carian coast facing Rhodes. They already had Narangia Castle in Kos and another one in Halicarnassus, right across the Aegean Sea, would serve pretty well to their cause.

Mehmet I - Mehmet Celebi – was in reign of the Ottoman Empire. Knights Hospitaller expressed their intention to construct a new castle over the old one to the Sultan and took the necessary permission. 

They had found a good spot and now they had to find funding and building materials.

Locations of Narangia and Bodrum CastlesBodrum and Narangia Castles Facing Each Other

The Papacy offered absolution for all the good Christians working in the construction. After Grand Master Philibert de Naillac received funding from Europe, the project started in 1415 under direction of German architect Heinrich Schlegelholt who was also one of the Knights of St. John and continued until 1513 with various interruptions.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - was also in Bodrum and it was greatly damaged in 14th century, probably by an earthquake. The Knights used remaining stones and archaeological fragments of the wonder in castle construction. Today, many of these fragments and the reliefs can be seen on the walls being as a part of history of Bodrum castle.

Castle of St. Peter was a refuge for Christians in Asia Minor. Faithful Catholics consist of 50 knights and 150 mercenaries were living in the castle. They neither attempted to occupy lands behind the castle walls nor connected with the local Turkish and Greek population. They were living by their own but the things were different now between the Knights and the Ottoman Empire.

Coat of Arms on English TowerCoat of Arms on the Walls

Ottoman Emperor Mehmet II attacked Halicarnassus. It was the same year he conquered Istanbul in 1453 but he failed. Years later, he tried it once more in 1480 and repelled by the Knights of the order again. His fleet of galleys could only damage English tower and the seafront walls.

First fortification in the Bodrum Castle history was carried out in 1494. The Mausoleum was once again the source of material. Technology had advanced and the cannons were getting more effective. The walls had to withstand against their attacks.

Kanuni Suleyman in Action

Suleyman the Magnificent came into reign in 1520. He was the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottomans. His ambition to expand the empire led Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller to order strengthening castle for one last time. Sadly, almost all remaining blocks, reliefs and fragments of The Mausoleum had been used for this purpose in 1522.

This time the Sultan was not directly targeting Bodrum. He laid siege to the Headquarter of the Knights in Rhodes with more than 200,000 soldiers in 1522. The Knights fell and one of the Suleyman’s terms of surrender was handing over the castles in Kos and Bodrum to the empire.

A Painting of Suleyman I at Bodrum CastleSultan Suleyman Painting on the Castle

History of Bodrum Castle shows us Bodrum was always popular but not always in a good way. During WWI, castle was bombed various times by passing warships. In 1915 French and English battleships gave serious damage to the walls. Bodrum resisted but the castle was evacuated. In 1919, determined Italian attacks paid back and they took the control over Bodrum.

As a result of Turkish War of Independence which was led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of Republic of Turkey, Italians withdrew their soldiers to Kos and Rhodes on 5th of July, 1921. From now on, Bodrum was a part of the young republic offering a brighter future. 

In the second half of the 20th century, archaeologists and travellers discovered something new about this small fishing town: Aegean Sea surrounding ancient Halicarnassus was keeping its own secrets. These secrets aligned history of Bodrum Castle with History of Museum of Underwater Archaeology

In 1962, restoration of Bodrum castle started and it has opened its doors to visitors as Museum of Underwater Archaeology in November 1964.

Related Pages about Bodrum Castle and Museum of Underwater Archaeology

§  Bodrum Castle

§  History of Bodrum Castle (this is where you are)

§  Museum of Underwater Archaeology

§  Sections and Layout Plan

§  Underwater Archaeology and Bodrum

§  Other Museums in Bodrum

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