VAN. (I) The chief town of a vilayet of the same name in Asiatic Turkey; altitude, 5,400 ft. Pop. (1927) 22,549. It is sit uated about a mile from the eastern shore of Lake Van, and built along the south side of the citadel rock, an isolated rocky ridge 1,300 yd. long, rising 36o ft. out of a plain which extends up to the sharply defined rocky mass of the Varak range, 8 m. distant. On the gently sloping ground east of the citadel are the Gardens, covering an area of 5 m. by 3, and containing several suburbs and detached houses, along central avenues fringed with trees, and having channels of running water by the sides for irrigation.
The town itself is a poor place with flat-roofed mud houses, narrow winding streets, and surrounded by a ruinous mud wall; but it still contains the business quarter, the government offices and the principal bazaars. Water comes from karez or under ground channels and streams from Varak, fed from the Sikhe Lake, an ancient reservoir which preserves the snow waters on the summit of the mountain. For the southern quarter there is the Shemiram Canal, also of very ancient construction, which derives its supply from a large spring 19 m distant, near Meshin gird. The climate is generally healthy, extremely cold in winter, with 2 to 3 ft. of snow from December to March, while the sum mer heat is not excessive. The Persian trade of Van has declined European goods, with which the bazaars are fairly well supplied, come from Trebizond through Erzerum. There is a fair local trade in wheat and agricultural produce, also sheep and cattle, wool, hides and furs for export.
The cuneiform inscriptions of Van are very numerous, the town having been the capital of the Vannic kingdom of the Assyrian period, for which see URARTU.
In the sixth century B.C. Van passed into the hands of the Persians, and shortly before it fell to Alexander the Great it was rebuilt, according to Armenian historians, by a native prince called Van. In 149 B.C. Valarsaces or Vagharshag, the first Ar menian king of the Arsacidae, rebuilt the town, and a colony of Jews was settled in it by Tigranes (94-56 B.c.). In the middle of the 4th century A.D. it was taken by Sapor (Shapur) II., and became the capital of an autonomous province of the Sassanian Empire, until it fell into the hands of the Arabs (c. 640), under whom it regained its autonomy. About 908 the governor of Van or Vaspuragan was crowned king by the caliph Moktadir, and in 1021 his descendant Senekherim was persuaded- by Basil II. to exchange his kingdom for the viceroyalty of the Sebasteian theme. After having formed part of the possessions of the Seljuks, Mon gols, Tatars and Persians, Van passed in 1514, after the defeat of Shah Ismail by Selim I. at the battle of Kalderan, to the Osmanlis, who only occupied the town in 1543. In 1636 it was taken by the Persians, but soon recovered. In 1845 the town was held for a time by the Kurd chief Khan Mahmud.
(2) The vilayet of Van lies along the Persian frontier between the vilayets of Bayazid and Hekkiari. The mineral wealth of the vilayet has never been fully explored, but is believed to be great.