I visited this castle in 2010.

Silifke Castle, locally known as Silifke Kalesi, lies on a hill in the town with the same name in the province of Mersin in Turkey.

Silifke Castle crowns a large hill near the delta of the river Göksu (the medieval Calycadnus). Adjacent to and on the east flank of the castle outcrop is the modern town of Silifke and its ancient predecessor, Seleucia. The castle's elongated and somewhat symmetrical outcrop rises to almost 86 m above sea level at the southern entrance to the Göksu canyon. From the river's west bank this fortress commands the strategic coastal road.

The first fortification at this site was a fort constructed by the Byzantines, somewhere between the 7th and the 11th century, as a bulwark against the Arabs. Around 1100 Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos dispatched the royal eunuch Eustathius as an admiral and directed him to fortify Silifke and more northerly Korykos. The strategy was to defend it from any possible seizure by the Crusader Bohemund I de Guiscard. A large garrison was maintained at Silifke and Korykos under the command of a certain Strategus Strabo. Shortly before 1190 the fort passed into the possession of Baron Leo II (later to become King Leo I), never again to be under Byzantine control.

Silifke Castle was granted to several Armenian nobles by King Leo I until 1210 when he granted the castle to the Knights Hospitaller to defend his kingdom from the incursions of the Seljuks. From then on Guérin de Montaigu, Aimery de Pax (a former castellan of Margat Castle), and from 1214 Féraud de Barras assumed in turn command of the castle. They completely rebuilt the massive castle between 1210 and the early 1220's. In 1216/17 an attack on the castle, by the Sultan of Konya, was repelled.

In 1226, Philip of Antioch, was poisoned while imprisoned at Sis Castle. His distraught 12-year-old widow, Isabella I, Queen of Armenia, sought refuge in the castle. The regent for the Armenian kingdom, Constantine of Barbaron, arranged for his own son, Hethum, to marry Isabella and demanded that Bertrand de Thessy, the castellan of Silifke Castle, return her at once. The Hospitallers, who would not suffer the humiliation of surrendering Isabella, nor dare to fight the assembled troops of Constantine, eased their conscience by selling him the castle with Isabella in it.

In 1236 Silifke Castle was enlarged. In 1248 the Frankish commander of the castle was one Guiscard. In 1471 the castle was conquered by Gedik Ahmet Pasha and annexed to the Ottoman Empire. The large breach in the eastern wall is said to be linked to that conquest. Later historical info about the castle is lacking.

At present Silifke Castle can be visited freely. Its outer wall, circled by a dry moat, is still standing. Inside the castle almost everything is reduced to rubble. A very nice castle.

Back to top.