History of Aksaray Province
The name of Aksaray is thought to be “Nenessa (Nenossos), which was first mentioned in the ancient Hittite texts. Known as Shinakhatum-Shinukhtu in 1000 B.C. during the reign of King Kiakki, Aksaray was connected to the Cappadocia Kingdom in the Hellenistic period and its name Garsaura was changed to Arkhelais. Arkhelais was changed to Aksaray by Kılıçarslan II during the Seljuk period, and it served as a second capital. The bad people were not taken into the city, thus, it was named “Şehr-i Süleha”, which means the place where good people live.
Aksaray history begins with the establishment of the first village settlement of Central Anatolia in Aşıklı Höyük, 11 thousand years ago. Aksaray, which hosted different civilizations in the 11-thousand-year adventure that started in Âşıklı, took its place in history as the gateway of Cappadocia opening to the west on the Silk Road. After the ice age, about 11 thousand years ago (9000 B.C.), while people living in Central Anatolia started to adopt sedentary life, the first known village settlement was established in Aşıklı Höyük. While a permanent settlement was being established in Aşıklı Höyük, those who founded this village started agriculture for the first time, domesticated the animals and started to write the history of humanity in Central Anatolia with the obsidian technology they had developed. The operation of the oldest known brain surgery in the world to a woman of 20-25 years old in Aşıklı Höyük is an indication of how far the people of Aşıklı have gone in health.
Aksaray and its surroundings were inhabited in the Neolithic period, and ceramics of this period are found around the village of Böget. In the Chalcolithic age, we see that life continued uninterruptedly in Aksaray. The settlement on the foothill of Güvercinkayası mound and Yuksek Kilise bears the traces of this period. The people of Hatti lived in Anatolia between B.C. 3000-2000 and Assyrian merchants traded in the region during this period. The Acemhöyük settlement in Aksaray became an important commercial center.
After Hatties, Aksaray remained under the Hittite, Persian, Hellenistic Period (Alexander the Great), Roman and Byzantine domination. Since Christianity, which began to spread in Anatolia by St. Paul and his disciples in the 1st century A.C., caused great reaction of the polytheistic Roman proponents, the first Christians began to settle safer places for protection. Also, many clergymen who wanted to cloister preferred Aksaray and its surroundings. In this period, alongside the construction of a large number of underground cities within the borders of Güzelyurt and Gülağaç, the steep slopes in the valleys were carved and in-rock churches and dwellings were built.
Because of the expeditions of Muslim Arabs to Istanbul over Anatolia starting from the ends of 7th century, Christians took refuge to Ihlara and Manastır Valley surrounding. Due to the historical Silk Road passing through Aksaray, which came under the Seljuk domination in 1142, many Turkish and Islamıc arts such as madrasas, zawiyas and caravansaries were built in this period.
After the domination of states such as İlhanlı, Danişmentli and Karamanoğulları subsequent to Seljuks, İshak Pasha conquered Aksaray in 1470 and transferred some of the people to Istanbul upon the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The people of Aksaray were utilized in resettlement during the process of Turkification and Islamization of Istanbul, and they settled in Aksaray, Cağaloğlu (Coğlaki), Laleli, Kurtuluş, Ortaköy, Sofular and Ereğlikapı, many of which remain within the borders of Fatih district of Istanbul today, and those who went by resettlement gave their quarter names in Aksaray to their new settlements. The district where the residents of Aksaray lived during the resettlement, has survived until today with the name Kalanlar Quarter (Kalınlar). Again, some of the people of Aksaray were settled to Cyprus in 1571 after its conquest.
Since there was a strong Sufi life in the city, Evliya Çelebi expressed in his itinerary that it was a city where more than 7 thousand saints lived in. In this period, prominent Sufi scholars such as Taptuk Emre, Yunus Emre, Cemaleddini Aksarayi, Şeyh Hamideddini Aksarayi (Somuncu Baba), Yusuf Genuine Baba lived in Aksaray.
Aksaray, which was a sanjak subordinated to Konya until the republican period, became a province in 1920. In 1933, its province title was abolished and it was connected to Niğde as a district. Later on, it entered into a rapid development process by being a province again on June 15, 1989.