The Best Of Bodrum
Portrait of Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli.

The Fisherman of Halicarnassus

Cevat Sakir, or the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, was a writer, a traveller, and a historian. He was the one who planted the seeds which had transformed a small fishing town to a tourism and entertainment brand in the beginning of the 20th century.

Name: Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli
Pen Name: The Fisherman of Halicarnassus
Father: Mehmet Sakir Pasha
Mother: Sare Ismet Hanim
Occupation: Writer, journalist, painter, poet, researcher, guide
Born: April 17, 1786, in Crete
Died: October 13, 1973, in Izmir
Read more on Wikipedia

For me, he was a real-life hero. If I have decided to learn more about the Aegean region and Bodrum, it is because of his works telling the difficult lives of the locals, their habits, and cultures in the beginning of the 20th century.

He did not just write things, he actively sought new ways to make things better for the region. He travelled along the Aegean coast, planted thousands of trees with his bare hands, found new ways to generate income for the natives, investigated the history that shaped culture and defined the world-famous blue cruises.

A Bodrumian’s pride and love for The Fisherman of Halicarnassus is a must see. His name is everywhere; on the streets, on giant trees, at Aegean gullets, on bars and on the most impressive books written about the town and its surroundings. When someone says “The Fisherman”, people know it is Cevat Sakir.

It is a shame that Bodrum doesn’t have a museum dedicated to his name yet. Instead, some of his personal items are on display at Bodrum Maritime Museum. While giving the credit to the creators of the museum, I believe one of the houses he lived should have been turned into a museum where his memory will live forever.

You can consider this as a humble request from the authorities…

Life of Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli

Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli was born on April 17th, 1890, in Crete. His father was Mehmet Sakir Pasha who was assigned as a governor and the ambassador in Athens and Crete. His mother was a Cretan lady, Sare Ismet Hanim. Kabaagacli was named after his uncle, Cevat Sakir Pasha who was the grand vizier of Abdulhamit II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

He spent his childhood in Athens where his father was tasked as the Ottoman Ambassador. At the school age, he moved to Istanbul and graduated from high school in 1907. This was also the year when his first article was published in a newspaper.

Bust of Cevat Sakir at the Bodrum Castle entrance.
Bust of Cevat Sakir at the Bodrum Castle entrance.

His dream was to study seafaring in England, but his father sent him to Oxford University to study history. In 1913, he married an Italian lady and settled in Italy.

After a short while, he came back to Istanbul and started to work for newspapers as a columnist. In 1914, his family went into financial troubles and moved to their family farm in Afyon. During a family argument, his father was accidentally shot with a bullet from the fisherman’s gun and fell dead.

There are some rumours on streets whispering that it might not have been an accident. Some say the argument arose from his father’s emotional and insistent affinity to the Fisherman’s wife, not because of the financial issues. Yet, Bodrum is a small town, and some people love to talk about others. Better not to give any credit and stick to what we have in official records.

He sentences for murdering his father was 15 years in prison. When he got tuberculosis there, he had paid only 7 years of his sentence. Authorities released him prematurely.

Years in Exile in Bodrum

Cevat Sakir had to work, and he started to write stories and essays on various newspapers in Istanbul. One of his articles about death sentences put him on a trial once again in 1925: a censorship that changed his life and Bodrum’s future.

Cevat Sakir was found guilty. His sentence was an exile in an isolated fishing and sponge diving town for three years. Guess where we are talking about!

Two books: one of them is The Fisherman of Halicarnassus by Roger Williams, the other is the Fisherman’s one of the most well-known books, Aganta Burina Burinata.
A book about The Fisherman by Roger Williams and one of his popular works: Aganta Burina Burinata.

He served half of his sentence in Bodrum and was sent back to Istanbul for the rest. But a year and a half were more than enough for him falling in love with this small village. After released, he moved back to his prison, this time with his own will, and stayed there for 25 years.

He started to write novels and stories about the culture and daily lives of indigenous people of the Aegean in 1926. He told how sea can change people’s lives in a small village where economy depends on only fishing and sponge diving.

While searching new stories along the coastline from north to the south on old fishing boats, the Fisherman of Halicarnassus realized that there is something special and unique on the combination of turquoise waters and the green mountains. After this point, he started to extensively use this beauty in his books.

The Farewell

He passed away from cancer in 1973 and buried in Bodrum as his last will. His coffin was placed on a boat named “Halikarnaslim” which can be translated as “My Halicarnassian”.

A wooden model of the boat which carried the coffin of the Fisherman.
The wooden model of Halikarnaslim at Bodrum Maritime Museum.

In the Bodrum Maritime Museum, right next to a wooden model of this boat, his daughter’s words about the funeral of the Fisherman are written on a plate:

My father’s coffin was placed on the boat “Halikarnaslim” and became seaborne for a while. The Fisherman of Halicarnassus was able to say farewell to his beloved Karaada and Salmakis. The boat carried the coffin all around the bay, and then rounded the castle where it was brought ashore. There was a call in the harbour: “Only the fishermen should come forth” and thus my father’s coffin was entrusted to them.

Ismet Noonan Kabaagacli, October 1973

Final Words on Fisherman of Halicarnassus

The Fisherman of Halicarnassus has more than 30 novels and much more stories. He has also published some books in English like the first touristic guide for Ephesus, Halicarnassus Guide, The Mediterranean Civilization, Asia Minor and An Outline of the History of Turkiye.

And the Wikipedia entry ends with the following words;

He is largely credited for bringing the formerly sleepy fishing and sponge-diving town of Bodrum, as well as the entire shoreline of the Blue Cruise, to the attention of the Turkish intelligentsia and the reading public first, and by extension, for paving the way towards the formation of international tourist attraction to the region became.

Cevat Sakir had a deep impact on the evolution of intellectual ideas in Turkiye during the 20th century. An erudite and colourful person, he remains a figure of reverence.

To the Fisherman, with respects…

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My name is Akinsal, and I created The Best of Bodrum, a travel blog to help you to get most out of your time in Bodrum and the Aegean Region.

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