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Photos by Ziya Kaymakzade
The oldest residential area in Sille which is 8 km away to Konya is in Sizma Tumulus in the north. Ruins belonging to 8th-7th centuries B.C. from Phrygian civilization has been found here in some excavations. Sille was called Sylata or Sylla in ancient times, had also some population in Roman period, according to the stone works of the ancient architecture of the city. Probably during this period, it was a wayside station near Konya over the King Road coming from Ephesus to the east. In the same century, Saint Paul had to visit Sille on his way to Konya.
In the 4th century A.D. Ephesus had lost its importance, the capital of Byzantine, Istanbul had gained importance. Konya which is over the road from Istanbul to Jerusalem, had kept its importance and become a wayside station for the pilgrims of Jerusalem. According to the epigraph of the Aya Elenia Church, the structure was built by Helene, the mother of Constantine the Great in this period. Helene who was the first Christian aristocrat, during her life, had tried to find the holy cross of Jesus, visited Jerusalem many times and built many churches on her way. Aya Elenia Church points us clearly that Sille was over this route.
In historical bibliographies of Byzantium period, we can not read the name of Sille. It was attacked by Arabs between 7th and 10th centuries A.D. like many other cities. Because of the Kevele Castle which is a vital strategic point, the city had become a clear target in this period and had been attacked at various times. After the Arab raids had stopped, the city had become an important religious center. The many cave churches and Ak Monastery shows us this importance very clearly.
Sille had gained an incredible importance after 1071, when Seljuks captured Konya and made it the capital city. Turkish hegemony in Konya had caused the emigration of some non-muslims to places out of the city. Probably many of the emigrants, in this period, had gone to Sille which is very close to Konya.
Sultan Kilic Arslan I, in 3 july 1097, had evacuated the town and moved the people to mountains, because of the attacks of 1st Crusader’s attack to Konya. Crusaders had arrived to the region and after a while they had occupied Konya and Sille.
According to the resources of the time, we can learn that many Greeks had returned to İstanbul with Byzantium Army, after the attack to Konya by Alexios I between 1116-1118. So the non-muslim population had become a little less after this.
In 1146, Byzantine’s Emperor Manuel had sieged Konya after he defeated Sultan Mesud of Seljuk in Philomelion (Aksehir); then he fought against Seljuks again in front of Kevele Castle. Ioannes Kinnamos specifies that Byzantine Army had burned down the suburbs of Konya.
Besides wars, the population had suffered a lot because of natural disasters. Plague outbreak which happened in Konya in 1153 was one of these disasters.
In 1226, Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat I, had transferred a group of Christian Pechenek Turk citizens to Konya, Sille while returning from his campaign to Armenia. Konya and its districts was captured by Karamanogullari Sultanate after Anatolian Seljuks. And after the war between Karamanogullari and Ottomans around Kevele Castle, the region had become Ottoman land.
Sille was a town of Konya District during the periods of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, Beyazid II., Yavuz Sultan Selim, Suleyman the Magnificent and Murad III. After 17th century, Sille’s administrative situation was not clearly determined. The main means of existence were wheat, barley and animal husbandry and the Muslim population had increased in time. Charles Texier who visited the region in the second half of 19th century states that there are summer houses of Armenians and Greeks in the region. According to the records of the Treasury and Land Registery of the beginning of 20th century, the 56 percent of the population of Sille were Muslim, while the 44 percent of the population were non-muslim…
Bela Horvath who visited Konya in 1913, states that there were summer houses with private churches owned by Greeks in the region and there were around sixty churches in the town. After the exchange of populations in 1923, Christian population of Sille had migrated to Greece.
Sille was connected to Selcuklu District with its two neighborhoods in 1989. In 1995, the southern region where there are churches, monastery and graveyards was declared as prior archeological protected area and the main residential area was declared as urban protected area by the Association of the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage of Konya.
Today, Sille is an important cultural and tourism center of Konya. Author: Selcuklu Municipal – Sille Village
Short films about Sille
TRT – Out of the path – Sille Village (turkish)