The Carian Communities
The first settlements in the Muğla region are believed to be from the First Bronze Age (3,500-2,000 BC).
In ancient times a large part of what is now Muğla was known as the Caria region. The borders of Caria used to extend from the Büyük Menderes River in the north and ended at the banks of the Dalaman Stream in the south. In today’s Muğla region there are the Muğla city centre and towns of Kavaklıdere, Yatağan, Ula, Marmaris, Köyceğiz, Ortaca, Bodrum and Milas. The Caria region was bordered by Phyrgia to the east, Lydia to the north and Lycia to the southeast. The towns of Dalaman and Fethiye of the province of Muğla used to lie within Lycian territory in ancient times.
The Carian Communities
The name Caria comes from the community known as Carians. It is known that the local people of the region, the Luvis, settled in the area by 2,000 BC. In the Luvi language the word Car means peak, edge or end point, whereas Caria in the Hellenic language means “The Land of Peaks “. The Carians were believed to be Anatolian people. The written account of the region can be found in the works of the famous historian Herodotus, who has lived in Halikarnassos. According to Herodotus, the Carian people came from the Aegean islands and settled on this land and interfered with the local people, forming the Caria around 1,000 BC. The Lelegs that were based on the mountains of the Bodrum Peninsula were also a part of Carian people but were known for living on the high rocky plateaus. It is believed that the term Leleg indicates this characteristic of these people.
The Carian cities
The most important cities of Caria were Halikarnassos (Bodrum) and Knidos (Datça). Other cities on the Güllük Gulf were Bargylia (Asarlık), Iasos (Kıyıkışlacık); on western end of the Bodrum Peninsula, Myndos (Gümüşlük); on the inner part of the peninsula, Pisada and Theangela; and to the south of the Gulf of Gökova, Keramos (Ören) and Kedria (Sedir Island). There were other settlements inland at Mylasa (Milas); Labranda, which is linked to Mylasa by a 14 kms long road; to the north where there was Mylasa Euromos (Ayaklı); and Araphisar, which was close to the Alabanda Stream. In addition, there was Gerga; nearby Yatağan; Stratonikeia and Lagina; Kaunos (Dalyan) which used to be on the sea until the waterway silted up. To the east there was Afrodisias, now within the borders of the province of Aydın; Tralleis (Aydın); Nysa (Sultanhisar); and Akharakha (Salavatlı). The Lycia settlements of what is now Muğla were the ancient cities of Telmessos (Fethiye), Tlos, Pınara and Letoon.
In these regions, the development of cities, the interaction between civilisations, architecture and art, the regional economy were linked to the Menderes Valley, where figs, honey and olive oil were produced. Caria was not as developed a civilisation as Lycia and Ionia. Its architecture, arts, science and philosophy were behind those of its neighbours and were influenced by them. The most important architectural monument was the Mausoleum or the Tomb of King Mausolus in Halikarnassos. Under the reign of Mausolus II (377-353 BC) the capital was moved from Mylasa to Halikarnassos. This led to the further development in Halikarnassos. The Mausoleum is among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built by the wife and sister of King Mausolus Artemisia II in 350 BC. The mausoleum’s construction was influenced by the Lycian arts, while having the tomb chamber itself above ground showed an Ionian style. In excavations recently took place in Müsgebi (Ortakent-Bodrum), Knidos and Stratonikeia pieces of Mycean pottery dating from the 15th to 13th centuries BC have been found, showing the links with the Mycean culture in the region that spread from Rhodes and Cyprus all the way down to Syria. The Hellenic and Roman civilisations that took over Western Anatolia by the 4th century BC have left important traces in the Carian cities. There are remains of the Menteşe Kingdom to be seen in the Beçin Castle near Milas.
Semi dependent rule in Caria (satraps and tyrants)
The Carian cities came under the rule of Lydia in the 6th century BC. In 540 BC, the Persians gained control of the region, though their rule was determined by wars and uprisings that lasted for two centuries. Both under the reign of the Lydians and the Persians there was a relaxed form of autonomy. The region was ruled by satraps who were semi-dependent on the emperor of the ruling country. The cities were ruled by tyrants that were semi-dependent on that satrap and had a high level of autocracy.
In 334 BC, the Carian region was seized by Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Most of the cities, starting with Halikarnassos were destroyed and buried to the ground. In the 3rd century BC, after a short term of Egyptian rule, the area came under the Roman control.
In the era of Turkish kingdoms in Anatolia it was ruled by Menteşeoğulları for two centuries (1261-1451). Menteşoğulları had choosen Beçin Castle, near Milas, as their centre. In 1451, the Ottomans took over all of the area, barring the Bodrum region. In the 15th century, Halikarnassos had become a base for the Knights of St. John, who had their headquarters on Rhodes. Halikarnassos came into the Ottoman orbit during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent at the time of his capture of Rhodes. The region, which had a large Greek population, was a part of the township of Menteşe, within the province of Aydın in the 19th century. Between 11 May 1919, and 5 July 1921, the area was occupied by Italian forces. After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey Menteşe became a province named as Muğla.