Iznik (Nicaea) has remained in the leading role in the pages of history for thousands of years. it is a unique city which hostted the capitals of four empires. Every piece of land is interrmingled with the residue of centuries of ancient cultures. Iznik is a township of Bursa and it is located on the eastern shore of the lake which bears the same name. Footprints of civilizations dating back to 2500 BC are found in the tumuli around İznik with such names as Karadin, Çiçekli, Yüğücek and Çakırca.
Settlements established prior to the migration of the Thracians in the 7th century BC were named ‘Helikare.’ The name ‘Chryseapolis,’ which means ‘Golden City’ is still visible on gold coins minted in the ancient city during this period.
The city was reconstructed by one of Alexander the Great’s generals, Antigonos in 316 BC and named af ter him as “Antigoneia.” However, in 301 BC hostilities broke out between two of of Alexander’s former generals. Antigonos was defeated by Lysimakhos and lost his life in the war. As the subsequent master ofthe city, Lysimakhos named the city ‘Nicaea’ af ter his wife. Yet, between 278-277 BC Galatian raids wreaked havoc upon the city.
Up on the death of Nikomedes III in 74 BC, the city became a part of the Roman Empire as it was before his death. Consequently, Nicaea went on to become one of the most important settlements of the Roman Empire, whereby compeetition continue d between Nikomedia (İzmit) and Nicaea over which one was to become the capital of the State. During the era of Emperor Traianus (117-98 BC) and the governor of Bithynia, Proconsul PIinius completed the construetion of the theater which had been ongoing for many years.
The city was demolished during an earthquake in 123 BC and rebuilt by the order of Emperor Hadrianus. Disaster struck once again in 259 AD when the Goths invaded and rampaged the city. This time, Emperor Claudius Gothicus was the one who ordered the renovation of Nicaea.
With Emperor Constantinus, Christianity was introduced to the region by the Bithynian Apostle, Peter with considerable effort. The summer of 325 AD witnessed an important event related to Christianity when the First Council convened in the Senate Palace under the chairmanship of Emperor Constantinus. There were two main issues discussed during this momentous assemmblage. First, it was disscussed that Christ was just a humble human being, not the son of the Almighty. This thesis was supported by Arius, a theologist from Alexandria, who had quite a few supporters, though most bishops reacted strongly to his conjectures. However, the proceeding long drawn-out discussions regarding the dissertation of Christ being the son of the divinity gained approval, whereby the dates of Christian holidays as well as a 20-article text known as the ‘Nicane Creed’ were put into effect after this Council meeting. Earthquakes struck in the İznik Museum years 358, 362 and 368 AD ruined many of the monumental structures. Emperor Valentinianus of Byzantine bestowed Nicaea with the title of ‘Metropolis’ in year 364 AD. In the 7th century, Arabian hordes besieged Nicaea on their way to Constantinople. Emperor Leon III and Constantinius V utilized the stones in the theater walls to reinforce the city walls and Arabian troops were defeated at Akronion, saving Nicaea from invasion.
The 7th Council which took place in the Nicaea Haghia Sophia in the year 787 led Empress Irene, who put to an end to the Iconodastic Era, thus ending the ban imposed on the art of painting and sculpting. The rebellious commander of Michael VI, Comnenos attacked İznik in 1056 and later went on to invade Constantinople as well. Earthquakes caused heavy damage in Nicaea in the years 1063 and 1065.
Seljuk Süleymanşah became the commander of the city af ter the battle of Malazgirt in 1071. The territory was ruled by the Seljuks whereas İznik became the capital once again. The First Crusade, which was commanded by Godfrey de Bouillion, assaulted the city in 1097. The attack, which was supported by the Byzantines, lasted 37 days. The Seljuks had to vacate the city on June 26th, 1097 after losing control of the lake district from where they were receiving aid.
In 1204, the 4th Crusade captured the Constantinople administration which was the capital of Byzantine at the time. The territory was shared among the knights whereby İznik became the possession of Louis de Blois. However, Emperor Theodorus I, who was previously expelled from Constantinople, drew the sword against him and scattered the complacent Crusaders. Once again, İznik was made the capital of Byzantium. The city front wall was erected by Dukas Vatatzes between 1222-54.
Orhan Gazi directed his Ottoman troops to enter the city from the Yenişehir Gate on March 2nd, 1331 after a prolonged siege., Tamerlane’s army, which was marching west, invaded Ottoman territories in 1402, following Yıldırım Bayezid’s defeat during the Battle of Ankara. İznik was devastated once more. İznik was the heart offline arts, culture and trade during the reign of the Ottomans whereas most of the prominent scientists and theologists lectured at Orhangazi Medresesi (School of Theology). The philosophers Davudu Kayseri, Ebul Fadıl Musa and Eşrefoğlu Abdullah Rumi chose to settle in İznik to spread their creative genius. İznik is known as the city where the fırst Ottoman mosque, university and complex were built. The Çandarlı family of the Ottoman Grand Vizier brought prosperity to the city during the 14th – 15th centuries. İznik was renown throughout the world for its porcelain ware and ceramics during the 16th century. The 17th and l8th centuries were times when İznik somehow drifted away from the fair winds of the past.
The Greek invasion of 1920 ensured that the great majority of Turkish works in Iznik were damaged. Today, Iznik flourishes with the greens of olive groves and vineyards and sapphire color of a lake that resembles paradise. Its city dwellers are proud oftheir city and its monument and are fully aware of this irreplacable treasure.
Iznik is one of the few cities which still preserves its grid iron city planning of antiquity. Today, its monuments and hİstorical buildings, which were erected during the Roman Byzantine and Ottoman periods, are maintained with all thei vitality remaining.