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Lighthouses    EN


*Professor of 19 Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey

The invasions of the Ottomans towards the Black Sea shore confined the non- Muslims beyond the fortified walls of the cities that were difficult to capture, and a shore where stong stone piers had been constructed, until ultimately the Genovese fell in the 1430s. So, the memory of a shore whose land structure gave permission to the movement of cavalry remained with Ottomann leaders. The fortified market in Bafra, one of the strongholds of the Norman troops that had joined the Crusade, became one of the first goals of the Danishmend’s Sultan Emir Arslan. As far as the Ottoman existence on the Black Sea is concerned, it was introduced by the construction of mosques on the coastline[1]. These mosques, built on the seaside operated on a parallel level as lantern signs for the sailing ships due to their high minarets. A candle in the minarets during the night time gave a kind of a land indication to the sea vessels.

Samsun, having had longtime troubles in the sea trade and the sea transportations, was not among the preferred ports in the Black Sea, as was Sinop and Trabzon. The Genovese colonists, who dwelled behind walls built during the Roman period surrounding Amisos, had a small port which was their only commercial and transportation outlet. The church located at the hill above the port, called Isa Baba nowadays, and its lighting functioned as a lighthouse for the sailors. Due to the fact that the trade at the sea shore took place on Kızıl river and Yeshil river, the lighting to the entrance of the rivers became much more important. Thus, the port of Unye became a shelter for the sea trade and the ships preferred it instead of the port of Samsun for many years.

Samsun port started to draw attention by being one of the main supply points during the Crimean war of 1853-1856. Although the report of the British consuls places the foundation of the Samsun lighthouse in 1859, Ottoman official registers prove that the lighthouse was built even before 1853-54[2]. However, the technical details of the lighthouse, provided by the British consulates in 1886, are worthy of mention in that all of the lighthouses required similar building techniques and equipment. According to the British Trabzon consular reports of 1886, the lighthouse on the Black Sea shore is described as having an elevation of 98 feet and a range of 16 miles, with a flashing light between 1 to 10 seconds[3]. We could argue that the lighthouse repaired in 1855, which is located at Galleon Foreland (Kalyon Burnu), had been built a few years before[4]. We can also understand that there was a discussion about the construction of a dock near the lighthouse between 1861-1864[5]. The increasing ship traffic, particularly, due to the Caucasian migration after 1864, enhanced the importance of the lighthouse. It is known that the lighthouse had a white light illumination, which could be seen from a few nautical miles afar. Apart from the lighthouse in Samsun, the lighthouse in Bafra, which was destroyed by Greeks in 1922, had maintained its importance until then. According to a document dated in 1892, the control and management of the lighthouses of Samsun and Bafra were in the hands of a European, by the name of Polinis de Karavel[6]. So, all supplies for the lighting of the lighthouse and its materials were brought from abroad and the technical staff was also employed from Europe. According to the available information, the lighthouse began to be managed by a Turk, Lütfi Efendi, in 1923.

We assume that the lighthouse in Samsun was the last sight in memory for the Ottoman-Greeks who departed from the Samsun port to Greece. Particularly, the exemption of tax collecting for the Greek boat used for this departure showed that the transportation of immigrants took place at nights.


[1] Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “Lodges of Dervishes, Monastic Complexes and Shaping of Social Groups in the ottoman Canik District (1800-1860)”, Dinamiche di Sociabilita nel Mondo Euro-Mediteraneo Gruppi, Associazioni, Arti, Confraternite E Compagnie, Quaderni della Casa Romena di Venezia, no. 4/2006, , Bucarest-Venezia, 2006, p.91-107.

[2] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents 1830-11914, Vol. III, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p. 1168.

[3] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents 1830-11914, Vol. III, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.1098.

[4] BOA (Prime ministerial Archive in Istanbul)., A.MKT.MHM., Dosya No. 76, Gömlek No. 54, 20 Muharrem 1272.

[5] BOA., MVL., Dosya No. 672, Gömlek No. 39, 28 şevval 1280.

[6] BOA., DH.MKT., Dosya No.1903, Gömlek No.112, 20 ca 1309.