A natural forck formation on the southwest edge of the city of Manisa is identified with the legend of Niobe, the mother who must weep for all eternity because Apollo and Artemis killed her twelwe children. The profile of her face can be imagined from the road, but from close up her features become only large, rough stones.
Two stone reliefs in the Manisa area are Hittite work, evidence of their infuence on the Aegean coast. One, the Taş Suret, probably the seated Mother Goddess, was incorrectly identified with the Niobe legend for a long time. It is on the eastern edge of city on the road to Turgutlu. The second relief is at the Karabel pass where a stone warrior defends the road. Perhaps a similar soldier was once stationed on the other side of the road.
The old name of Manisa was Magnesiad-Sipylus. The high iron contect of the stone of Mt. Sipylus (Manisa Dağı) which rises above Manisa makes it magnetic. This property was common knowledge to the Greeks and Romans who called it the Magnesian stone from which the English word “magnet” is derived.
Alexander the Great came through Magnesia in 333 BC. The city was held by the Selçuks in the 1th century, their Prince Saruhan is remembered in the name of a neighboring town. Manisa was the provincial capital in Ottoman times, and several of the Ottoman sultans served as governors here when they were the heirsapparent.
Sultan Süleyman built the Valide Complex (1522) to honor his mother who had lived here with him when he was governor of the province. Included in the complex is Manisa’s largest mosque, the Sultan Camii. In the square in front of it a local festival of spicy candy, the Mesir Bayramı, has been celebrated the last Sunday of April since the 16th century. The candy is concocted from fortyone different spices; local people say it is like the ambrosia of the gods. They also hint it might be an aphrodisiac.
The Muradiye Camii (1586) was built by Sultan Murat III. It is thought by some to have been planned by the architect Sinan. Next to it is the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum located in the old imaret (soup kitchen) and medrese (school) of the mosque. Mosaics from Sardis are displayed here, along with items that date back to the Bronze Age.
On the slopes part way up the mountain is the 14th century Ulu Cami. Judging from the Byzantine capitals on its columns, the mosque apparently incorporates parts of an earlier church.