The Taurus Mountains are a mountain system in southern Turkey. It includes several ranges, which bear the name Taurus with different definitions. The name Taurus (Toros) comes from the pre-Indo-European base “taur”, “tor” – mountain, elevation.
The Taurus Mountains stretch along the Turkish Mediterranean coast from the Aegean Sea to the border with Armenia, forming a succession of forested mountain ranges cut by river valleys. The southern slopes of the Taurus descend to the sea, in some places plunging almost sheer, and the northern slopes merge smoothly with the inner flat uplands of the Asia Minor Plateau.
Geologically, the Taurus is part of the Alpine-Himalayan fold belt (that is why there is high seismicity here), it consists of old Paleozoic sediments with Tertiary sediments. Taurus landscapes – steep slopes, narrow gorges, various karst forms – are created in limestone under the influence of water erosion. There are also traces of ancient glaciation – karas, trogs, moraines – but modern glaciation is insignificant: the Djilo-Sat Mountains in the Eastern Taurus are the only place in the Taurus Mountains chain where there are glaciers.
The peaks of the Taurus reach heights of 3000 to 3500 m in the east and 2000 to 3000 m in the west.
There are many rivers and lakes on the Taurus. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers originate in the Taurus Mountains, the interfluve of which was the birthplace of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The northern slopes descend to steppes and semi-deserts, while the southern slopes are the realm of evergreen forests and shrubs, which are replaced by coniferous forests and mountain meadows. The vegetation is represented by strawberry tree, laurel, myrtle, frankincense, cypress and Lebanese cedar. The rich flora of the southern Taurus is preserved in the Beydagları-Sahil, Beyshehir-Gelü and Nemrut National Parks.
The Taurus Mountains are divided primarily into the Western, Central and Eastern Taurus. In the east, the side chain Aladaglar, called Antitaurus by the ancients, separates from the main range of the Taurus; closing first the valley of the upper course of the Seigan River, it approaches the Kizil-Ir poppy, then turns to the north-east.
The foothills of the Taurus Mountains on the Mediterranean coast are the largest international resort. In the mountains themselves there are numerous deposits of iron ore, chromite, zinc, copper, silver and lignite.
Of great transport importance are the Cilician Gates (in Turkish – Külek-Bogazi) – a narrow mountain passage up to 40 meters wide in the Taurus between the Bolkar and Aladaglar ridges along the Chikyt River. The Cilician Gate connects the Anatolian plateau with the coastal Cilician lowland. The only railroad in the center of the Taurus connecting the cities of Kayseri and Adana, as well as the highway from Asia Minor to Syria and Mesopotamia are located here.
The most populated area in this region is the fertile coastal Cilician lowland. Here the Mediterranean climate prevails, favorable for cultivation of cereals, citrus fruits, olives, sugar cane. It is the main cotton-growing area of the country.
Nemrut-Dag is a mountain in the south-east of Turkey in the Taurus Mountains, famous for the tomb of Antiochus I of Commagene (69-38 BC), surrounded by statues up to 10 m high.
During the campaign of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) against Persia, an army of Greeks crossed the Taurus. The foothills of the Taurus became the scene of great battles during the Arab-Byzantine Wars between the Arab Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire in the 7th and 12th centuries. At first the advance of the Arabs was stopped by the rugged Taurus mountain range. In 804 a battle took place between the Muslims of Harun al-Rashid (763/766-809) and the Byzantine army of Emperor Nikephoros I (760-811). The Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat, losing 40,000 men, and also lost part of Asia Minor.
Some parts of the Taurus Mountains are considered impassable, and in the past, mountain tribes used to hide here, practicing robbery.
In ancient times – at the end of the first millennium B.C. and in the first millennium A.D. – the Cilician Armenians lived in the east of the Taurus, and the Greeks lived in the far west. Today, this territory is inhabited mainly by Turks and, in some places, by Kurds.
- Location: Asia Minor.
- Territorial affiliation: Turkey.
- Languages: Turkish – official, Kurdish.
- Ethnic composition: Turks, Kurds.
- Religion: Islam.
- Currency unit: Turkish lira.
- Major rivers: Euphrates, Seyhan, Yenice, Arake, Murat, Cikit.
- The largest lakes: Beyşehir, Hoyran, Suğla, Hazar.
- The largest nearest cities: Adana – 1,636,229 (2012), Konya – 1,073,791 (2011), Antalya – 994,890 (2011), Kayseri – 844,656 (2011).
- Nearest airport: Antalya.
- Area: 190,000 km2.
- Length: 1600 km.
- Width: up to 200 km.
- Highest point: Mount Demirkazik (Aladaglar Range, 3806 m).
Climate and weather
- Subtropical Mediterranean in the west, continental in the east.
- Average temperature in January: +5°C.
- Average temperature in July: +28°C.
- Average annual precipitation: from 400-500 mm on the northern slopes to 1800 mm on the southwestern slopes.
- Relative humidity: 50%.
- The largest international resort.
- Minerals: iron ore, chromites, zinc, copper, silver, lignite.
- Agriculture: plant growing (wheat, olives, grapes, apricots, sugar beets, cattle breeding (sheep, goats), floriculture (roses).
- Industry: light industry (textile), food industry.
- Services: tourism (resorts), transportation, hotels.
- Historical: tomb of Antiochus I of Commagene (Nemrut-Dag mountain).
- Natural: the sources of the Euphrates, glaciers (Djilo-Sat Mountains in Eastern Taurus), Beydagları-Sahil, Olympos, Beyshehir-Gelü and Nemrut National Parks, Cilician Gate, Adrasan Bay (Kemer), Gainyuk Canyon (Kemer), Kapuzbaşı Waterfalls (Aladaglar Range).
- Antalya city: the old part of Kaleici city, Hidirlik-Kulezi fortress (II c.), Kizik and Ivli minarets (first half of XIII c.), Kaaratay Palace, Murat Pasha Mosque (XVI c.), Tekeli-Mehmet Pasha Mosque (XVIII c.), Iskele Mosque (end of XIX c.), Hadrian’s Gate (130 AD).
- In 130 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138) visited the city of Antalya during his journey. This event is commemorated by a monumental arch built in his honor and named Hadrian’s Gate.
- The Taurus Mountains are the homeland of the bezoar goat. In the past, this animal was actively hunted and the cause was bezoar – mineralized deposits of food in the stomach or intestines. The bezoar was attributed magical medicinal properties that cured poisoning. Today, hunting of this goat is banned or severely restricted in many countries.
- In 1987, the archaeological sites at the top of Mount Nemrut-Dagh were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.