Over the years I’ve written plenty of stories ghost towns all around the world. More often than not, it’s not surprising why these towns were eventually abandoned. Usually, the town itself was only started because a mine of some kind was discovered. So when the mine runs dry, the people that live there leave in a hurry. But the story around the ghost town of Ani, Turkey is truly a spooky one.
Ani dates all the way back to the fifth century, when it was, at one point, a thriving city with a population of at least 100,000. But today, not a single person lives there. And all that remains are just that… remains. Long forgotten remains of a city forgotten. But why was it forgotten? How can a city that was once home to 100,000 people be completely left to rot? First, let’s look at the history of Ani.
Ani was comfortable situated along a number of popular trade routes in medieval times. It was even the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia when it was established in 884 AD. Thanks in large part to the thriving economy the fed off the many travelers that came through while on those very trade routes. But it saw it’s fair share of damage over the years too. Whether it was any number of natural disasters or the multiple wars that took place during its three-century life, Ani eventually became a broken and battered city.
The worst moment came when Turkish invaders took over the city. The murdered many of the people of Ani and enslaved the rest. When they had taken everything they wanted, they sold the city to the Kurdish dynasty known as the Shaddadids. But the trouble didn’t end there for the once great city. Twice Mongols invaded the city in an attempt to take it for themselves. And even though they were successful in their second attempt, somehow the city still remained.
In 1319, perhaps the final straw broke Ani’s back when the great Cathedral of Ani, a gorgeous brick building that had been standing since 1001, was destroyed by a devastating earthquake. This, along with other damage caused by the earthquake, left the city all but destroyed with only a small amount of residents remaining. From there, wars continued on, and natural disasters didn’t slow down either. By the mid-1700’s, the city’s last inhabitants finally left.
And just like that… the city was no longer a city. Only broken remains of a former marvel of civilization were left. To this day, despite efforts by both Armenia and Turkey to lay claim to the rights to Ani, the city remains the property of no one. But therein lies it’s beauty today. It is essentially open to the public! And it makes for an incredible adventure into the past for the curious traveler.
So next time you’re in the Turkey area, be sure to stop by the most amazing ghost town in all the world.