WATER: LIFE SOURCE
Water is not a detail in history, but the base of history. Water was always a reason for clashes, not only when humans sought places to migrate, but also when they sought permanent settlements. Communities fought with each other for water, and they fought with water itself.
No matter to what degree they may be associated in social, racial or religious terms, two tribes, two villages, two neighborhoods living on the banks of a stream will soon start fighting with each other. The reason for this is that the one that lives on the upper banks of the stream will always be the one that pollutes it. This is one of the reasons why first aqueducts emerged in Rome; Rome, what with its population increasing rapidly, lost many of its members not only because of wars but also because of epidemics. Therefore, l’Acquadotto was one of the most important architectural structures in Roman life. The first aqueduct built in order to bring water that springs from the mountain to the city center, and then to each home without getting it polluted, was l’Acqua Appia, built in 312 B.C.
Today, humanity experiences differences of all types, and there appear many reasons for wars. Yet, today humanity is divided into two major groups on the basis of water. One the one side are those who, because of scarcity of water resources or because of industrial pollution, lose about 3 to 5 thousand children each day and cannot find enough water; on the other side, there are those who live in places whose resources include plenty of water – clean water.
The Kelkit Irmağı (Kelkit River) is one of the streams in the world whose water is still clean. Today Kelkit Havzası (Kelkit Basin) is called “clean” not only because it still possesses water that has not been polluted by industrial or domestic wastes, but also because it lies within a location that is rare. What makes there vast plateaus and basin still clean are vast forest ecosystems which feature pine trees, spruce trees, fir trees, oak trees, beech trees and junipers that grow in the region where Anatolian and the Black Sea climates merge, and various animal species that still live in these forests.
THE KELKİT RIVER
Valleys that the Kelkit River forms extend from highlands of the Vavuk Dağları (Vavuk Mountains) and Çimen Dağı (Çimen Mountain) in the southwest to the northeast direction. These valleys merge somewhere near Kelkit. Kelkit Basin narrows around Söğütlü, merges with steep and narrow Şiran Vadisi (Şiran Valley) and creates another steep and narrow formation, Şiran Boğazı (Şiran Pass).
The Kelkit River, which gives the central and eastern sections of the Black Sea regions their characteristic features, feeds on streams from Vavuk, Pulur, Sipikör and Gümüşhane mountains. Known as the Lycos in ancient times, the Kelkit River, with a length of 373 kilometers, is the longest branch of the Yeşilırmak.
The Kelkit River flows through the western section of a tectonic valley which separates coastal mountains of the Eastern Black Sea mountain range from inland mountains and which is called Çoruh Kelkit Oluğu (Çoruh Kelkit Groove).
The Kelkit River runs through five cities and a total of 16 administrative districts of these cities: Köse, Kelkit, Şiran (Gümüşhane); Refahiye (Erzincan); Çamoluk, Şebinkarahisar, Alucra (Giresun); Gölova, Akıncılar, Suşehri, Koyulhisar (Sivas); Reşadiye, Almus, Başçiftlik, Niksar, Erbaa (Tokat).
After it leaves Kelkit, the Kelkit River reaches the north of Suşehri (Endires) plain, a region that the Hittites called “Dahara”.
After Suşehri plain, the river flows through the south of Koyulhisar and Reşadiye. In this region, Kelkit Basin is very rough. The basin separates the Canik Dağları (Canik Mountains) and a second mountain range that lies in the central region of the city. The basin is narrow until it reaches Reşadiye; here, it widens and forms Reşadiye plain surrounded by forests covered extraordinarily beautiful forests.
The river basin, reaching an elevation of more than 1,000 meters above sea level on its uppermost point, lies at an elevation of 800 meters around Koyulhisar; it then runs between Koyulhisar and Niksar through a thin line. In this region, the river runs parallel to the Yeşilırmak; in Niksar, Niksar Çayı (Niksar Stream, also known as Çanakçı Suyu) merges with the river. The river basin widens between Niksar and Erbaa and its elevation falls further. It runs from the north of Erbaa, merges with İnbat Deresi (İnbat Brook) from the south, and joins Yeşilırmak near Kızılçubuk village.
Physically, Kelkit Basin ends in this region; yet, the valley, of a tectonic origin, joins the Kızılırmak arch through Ladik Gölü (Ladik Lake) in the northwest and maintains its existence under the name of Gökırmak Vadisi (Gökırmak Valley).
WHERE HISTORY LIES
Settlements and structures in tumuli and historical cities on Kelkit Basin and archeological findings including writings, art pieces, religious items and war material frequently point to a date: 3000 B.C. This result suggests that settlements in the region date back to pre-Hittite periods. Foundations for today’s settlements in Kelkit River Basin were laid down by great civilizations of the Early Bronze Age, peoples from Anatolia or Sea Peoples.
According to historical sources on Kelkit, where the river rises, “Kelkit is the same place as Suissa and Khalkhaiou”. The Assyrians, Hittites, Azzi-Ayaşa, and Muşki, Tabal and Tibaren, both destroyers and descendants of the Azzi-Ayaşa, the Khaldi that formed the western wing of the Urartians, the Cimmerian tribes and the Scythians, the Phrygians, the Medes, the Persians, and Roman and Byzantine that followed the route set by Alexander the Great – sovereignty of all these civilizations prove that this river and its basin has always a source of history or life. Following Seljuk and Ottoman rules, Turkish sovereignty has inherited this cultural mixture.
Offering life, the Kelkit River leaves deep traces on the region it rises and the lands it flows through.
Kelkit River Basin is an important part of a terrain which provides connections to the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. It is one of the main routes in the history of trace that once meant caravan trade. In order to understand a section of these routes better, we need to examine the setup of the Antique City of Satala.
Sadak village, consisting of 120 houses, stands on the eastern outskirts of a hill called “Meşeiçi”, 17 kilometers southeast of Kelkit. There is extensive evidence to suggest that Sadak village was an important settlement by the name Satala in ancient times.
On some pieces of bricks found in Sadak village has been traced the coat of arms of Legion Apolilinares XV. This piece is today in Istanbul Archeological Museum. This piece proves that this village was the antique military settlement of Satala, where the troops of Legion Apolilinares XV were based.
Satala was an important part of trade and military roads that ran through Asia Minor and mountains and reached the sea. During the reign of Emperor Dominiatus (81-96) and Marcus Cocceius Nerva (96-98) of the Cappadocian Empire, the importance of these routes increased. One of the eastern routes ran from Satala under the commandment of Legion XV into Melitene (former name of Malatya; this also was a Roman military settlement), and extended to Samosata (Samsat in Adıyaman) and Syria. Other connections of this route during sovereignty of the Cappadocian Kingdom were as follows: Lycos/Kelkit Basin narrows to the east of Çamoluk and it widens once again in a small river basin between Ka and Hayduruk/Akçalı. Here, one of the routes from Satala was connected to Arauraka (Araukara was the third important pilgrimage after Euchaita / Çorak in Çorum and Neokaisareia / Niksar). This route was then connected to Nikopolis / Suşehri.
Satala was situated at an extremely important military crossroads closely related with Trabzon-Samosata military route. For example, Satala made it possible to control Eriza / Azirir (Erzincan) situated on elevated valleys of the Euphrates and the Acamsis (Çoruh). The River Lycos (Kelkit), on the other hand, prevented foreign intrusion.
ORGANIC FARMING AND THE KELKİT BASIN
Thirty years ago, there was no such thing as “organic farming”, because all farming was organic. Yet, today, many people prefer “organic farming”, “organic milk” and “natural water” because we keep polluting soil and underground waters with artificial fertilizers and pesticides. When we add fruit and vegetables with growth hormones that are arguably harmful for health, importance of organic farming becomes more obvious.
It this respect, Kelkit Basin is a region which has the potential to become an outstanding organic farming land in Turkey an in the world. Scientists define this region as “the least damaged the widest plain in Turkey.”
Today, in certain sections of the river basin agriculture of grains, raspberry blackberry and eglantine free from synthetic additives, organic fodder for milk producing animals, and production of organic milk has already started; this is an indicative of the fact that the importance of organic farming is beginning to gain ground.
Those who tend to view the world as a giant industrial enterprise value city and other settlements in Kelkit Basin as “places in poverty and need”. Yet, it would not be wrong to argue that, with the introduction of organic farming to the region, noteworthy opportunities that have emerged. When organic farming develops, environment-friendly and clean tourism will develop and this will not only help increase local people’s income but also mean that there will be experiences to share in this field.