Before the mass tourism of the 1980s, Marmaris was an idyllic fishing port set as it is in a natural harbour between two mountain ranges on the southwest Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Now, built on tourism, it is a thriving city whose local population of less than 30,000 peaks during the summer months as high as 400,000, it is easy to understand why the majority of people are employed in the tourist industry.
It still retains its links with the sea though as a major centre for sailing, hosting a yachting festival each summer. It also has several marinas used in winter by the Mediterranean wannabees, and is a regular port of call for cruise ships, and the ferry service to the Greek island of Rhodes.
As with most areas of Asia Minor, if you are willing to embrace the local culture, you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and its hectic nightlife. In the shady quiet backstreets of the old town, and the sunny squares there are plenty of good restaurants serving local delicacies, and of course Turkish baths where a massage can work wonders.
The archaeology of Marmaris is not great for Anatolia, even though historians in antiquity claim there has been a fortress here since 3000 BCE. Written evidence states that, known as Physkos, the city existed as part of Caria, and was besieged by Alexander the Great when he moved into Asia. The townsfolk however, realising their days were numbered, chose to flee from the castle into the mountains, leaving the burning castle behind them. Alexander did leave a small garrison of Greek soldiers in the castle, which was partially repaired but although it guarded the harbour it did not play a major role in the area.
It was not until Sultan Mehmet II united the tribes during the Ottoman Turkish Empire's expansion and conquest of Anatolia that Marmaris came into its own. During the 16th century war broke out between the Turks and the Knights of the Order of St John, who occupied several of the Dodecanese Islands which lay just off the Anatolian coastline.
The Knights headquarters in Rhodes lay directly opposite Marmaris, therefore the unsuccessful Turkish onslaughts which the Knights repulsed that were made by Mehmet II were launched from Marmaris.
When Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent took over the Ottoman army in 1522, he had Marmaris Castle rebuilt and used it as a base to launch his successfully campaign against the Knights.