Updated:
7-nov-2011



I visited this castle in 2010.

Anavarza Castle, locally known as Anavarza Kalesi, lies on a mountain near the village of Dilekkaya in the province of Adana in Turkey.

Anavarza Castle was built on a 200 meter high majestic outcrop of limestone and has clear intervisibility with the castles of Yilan, Toprakkale, Amuda, Tumlu and Sis. The Sombaz Çay river flows past the east flank of the outcrop before joining with the Ceyhan River. The entire west flank of the outcrop consists of almost vertical cliffs. Below the west flank lies the site of the antique city of Anazarbus of which not much remains.

The first fortification at this site would have been the acropolis of Anazarbus. The city prospered during the 1st century. In later centuries it was renamed Justinopolis and later Justinianopolis. In the second half of the 7th century Arab invasions devastated the town and left it abandoned until it was resettled en masse by the Abbasids. In 796 A.D. the site was refortified by the Abbasid Caliph, Harun al-Rashid (who also built Haruniye Castle). During the 9th century the site was raided several times by the Byzantines. The raid in 855 A.D. caused so much devastation that the site had to be rebuilt by the Caliph al-Mutawakkil.

In 962 the city was brutally conquered by the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas. The Byzantines then repaired the defenses and a stationed a Byzantine garrison in the castle. In late 1097 or early 1098 Anavarza Castle was captured by the armies of the first Crusade and was later incorporated into Bohemond's I Principality of Antioch.

Around 1110 Anavarza Castle was taken by Thoros I, Lord of Armenian Cilicia and member of the Rubenid family. In 1114 the castle was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake. In 1137 the castle was taken after a siege of 37 days by the Byzantine Emperor John II Komnenos during a campaign in which he reoccupied Cilicia. During the following decades ownership of the castle changed hands between the Armenians and the Byzantines a couple of times.

At the end of the 12th century the castle finally remained an Armenian possession. The castle served as the administrative center of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. The keep was repaired around 1187/88 by Leo I, King of Armenia. Within a few years the administrative center of the Armenian Kingdom was moved north from Anavarza Castle to Sis Castle.

The first of the Mamluk raids on Anavarza Castle occurred in the 1270's. The Armenians were permanently removed from the castle in 1374. Through most of the 15th century a Mamluk garrison was stationed at the castle.

Anavarza Castle consist of 2 baileys; a large rectangular outer bailey at the south and a smaller and narrower inner bailey at the north. The entrance to the inner bailey is guarded by a square keep at the narrowest part of the outcrop.

Anavarza Castle is freely accessible. A fabulous castle ruin on a great location, recommended. If you are there you can also visit the sit of the antique city.

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