|• Mayor||Mehmet Kadri Aydınlı (AKP)|
|• Kaymakam||Kazım Tekin|
|• District||972.24 km2 (375.38 sq mi)|
|Elevation||750 m (2,460 ft)|
|• District density||72/km2 (190/sq mi)|
Merzifon (Ancient Persian: Merzban and Ancient Greek: Μυρσυφων, Mersyphòn) is a town and district in Amasya Province in the central Black Sea region of Turkey. It covers an area of 970 km², and the population (2010) is 69,237 of which 52,947 live in the town of Merzifon, the remainder spread throughout the surrounding countryside. The mayor is Mehmet Kadri Aydınlı (AKP).
Former variants of its name include Marzifūn, Mersivan, Marsovan, Marsiwān, Mersuvan, Merzpond and Merzban. The name apparently comes from Marzban, the Persian title for a "march lord" or a district governor, although the exact connection is not clear. Scholar Özhan Öztürk claims that original terms Marsıvan (Mers "border" in Persian + van "town" in Armenian) and it means "Border town"
Standing on a plain, watered by a river, Merzifon is on the road between the capital city of Ankara and Samsun on the Black Sea coast, 109km from Samsun, 325km from Ankara and 40km west of the city of Amasya. The weather is cold in winter, hot in summer.
Archaeological evidence (hundreds of burial mounds höyük) indicate settlement of this well-watered farmland since the stone age at least 5500 BC. The first fortifications were built by the Hittites, who were pushed out around 1200BC by invaders coming in from the nearby Black Sea. From 700BC the fortifications were rebuilt by the Phrygians, who left a number of burial mounds and other architecture. From 600BC the Phrygians were pushed out by more invasions from the east, this time Cimmerians from over the Caucasus mountains; graves from this period have been excavated and their contents displayed in the museum in Amasya. Merzifon then became a trading post of the kings of Pontus, whose ruled the Black Sea coast from their capital in Amasya.
Rome and Byzantium
The district of Amasya was destroyed during civil wars of the Romans and, including Merzifon, was restored by command of the emperor Hadrian. Remains of Roman temples from Merzifon are also on display in Amasya today. The city grew in importance under Roman rule as walls and fortifications were strengthened, and remained strong under Byzantine rule (following the division of the Roman empire in 395), although it was held briefly by Arab armies during the 8th century expansion of Islam. Following which the castle of Bulak was built as a defence.
Islam was finally established by the Danishmend lords in the 11th century and the Byzantines never regained control. The Danishmend were followed by Seljuk Turks, Ilkhan, and from 1393 onwards the Ottomans. Merzifon remained an important city for the Ottomans, because of its proximity to Amasya (where Ottoman princes were raised and schooled for the throne). Evliya Çelebi records a well-fortified trading city.
Merzifon became a center of European trading and missionary activity by the 19th century. American missionaries established a seminary in 1862. In 1886, a boarding school, Anatolia College in Merzifon was founded (and expanded to also serve girls in 1893). By the 1920s, the schools had over 200 boarding students, mostly ethnic Greeks and Armenians. The complex also had one of the largest hospitals in Asia Minor, and an orphanage housed 2000 children.
However, the town also became a focal point for both Armenian nationalism (Armenians comprised half of the population of what they called Marsovan in 1915) and anti-Western sentiment. It suffered at least two riots in the 1890s, but the damage was rebuilt. In 1916, over 11,000 Armenians were deported from the city (which had approximately 30,000 inhabitants the previous year); others were killed and their property confiscated and sold to Turkish insiders, supposedly to benefit the Ottoman war effort, as documented by missionary George E. White. The American school was soon closed and White expelled from the county.
The Turkish Republic
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, unrest continued. British troops deployed in formerly Ottoman lands to ensure the terms of surrender; some arrived in Merzifon in 1919 as American missionary White returned and reopened the college and orphanage, as well as a new "baby house" for displaced Armenian mothers and infants. However, the British troops soon withdrew and unrest continued in Merzifon.
Merzifon is now a typical large but quiet Anatolian town providing schools, hospitals, courts and other important infrastructure in dull concrete buildings, but offering few cultural amenities. Few travellers stop here, preferring to press on to reach the Black Sea coast. The best-known dish is the boiled wheat, chick-pea and meat stew called keşkek; there are also a number of well-known kebab houses and a famous köfte restaurant called Ciloşoğlu. And at weekends there is plenty of attractive countryside around for a picnic or other escapes.
There is a large airbase nearby. Merzifon is twinned with the city of Pleasant Hill, California.
- Kara Mustafa Pasha (1634–1683) Ottoman grand vizierr held responsible for the failure to conquer Vienna. The report of this failure was received by the sultan, who ordered Kara Mustafa Pasha to have himself strangled. Being the obedient servant of the Ottoman Empire, he complied, and was garotted with a silk cord in Belgrade on Christmas Day 1683.
- "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
- "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
- Özhan Öztürk. Pontus: Antik Çağ’dan Günümüze Karadeniz’in Etnik ve Siyasi Tarihi. Genesis Yayınları. Ankara, 2011. p.440. ISBN 978-605-54-1017-9.