Sinop, Turkey

Last Updated on May 7, 2019

Medieval Sinop is a walled city perched on a promontory overlooking the dark, chill waters of theBlack Sea (map).

Founded by colonists from the Aegean port of Miletus in the 800s BC, Sinop (SEE-nohp, pop. 38,000) became a major port because of its fine natural harbor. Today it’s still a port, and the capital of the province of the same name.

Besides its medieval city walls, Sinop offers the Alaettin Mosque (1267) and its medrese (seminary); the ruined Balatlar Kilisesi, a Roman temple converted into a Byzantine church; and the Cezayirli Ali Pasha Mosque (1297).

A few remains of an ancient Temple of Serapis stand beside the Sinop Museum.

On November 30, 1853, the Imperial Russian Navycrossed the Black Sea to Sinop, attacked the Ottomanfleet which was in port there, and utterly destroyed it. The Russian bombardment went on long past when it was clear the Ottomans were defeated, killing many Ottoman sailors who were no longer combatants.

The “massacre of Sinope” was one of the events precipitating the Crimean War (1853-1854) in which Great Britain and France fought with the Ottoman Empireagainst the Russian Empire.

By the harbor in Sinop you’ll see a small monumentbuilt to commemorate the deaths of the Ottoman sailors, paid for with the coins collected from the pockets of the fallen.

Sinop has a few beaches, though the Black Sea water is chilly except on the hottest days.

Diogenes (c. 412-323 BC), the Cynic philosopher who carried around a lantern “looking for a good man” (and not finding one), was born in Sinop. He later moved to Athens, where he sought to live the simplest life possible, even throwing away his only possession—his drinking cup—when he realized he could drink from his cupped hands.

Alexander the Great met the famous philosopher and wanted to reward him:

“What can I do for you?” the emperor asked.

“Stand aside. You’re blocking my sunlight,” Diogenes replied.

Sinope, daughter of the river god Asopus, outwitted Zeus. He wanted to marry her, and promised she could have “anything she wanted.” She requested eternal virginity, and Zeus, outwitted, allowed her to enjoy it here on this promontory—or so the legend says—giving the town its name.

—by Tom Brosnahan

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