Few places in modern Turkey easily roll off the American tongue. Sure, Istanbul is clear enough, but when we get to Gaziantep or Ayvalık we start getting into trouble. But one of the few places in Turkey that captures the imagination, and doesn’t startle the tongue, are the Toros Mountains - originating from the Greek word Taurus, the bull. (It’s not a coincidence that toros in Spanish are bulls.) Toros is easy enough to say - which was a good starting point for our brand - but what are they?
The Toros Mountain Range, the massive forested range in southern Turkey that divides the Anatolian heartland from the southern coast and Syria, extends from the Aegean Sea to Armenia.
Ancient priests sacrificed bulls on the mountaintops, for in those parts, the bull was sacred. Taurus (or Toros) ascended from the earth, becoming the zodiac Taurus in the sky.
From those ancient sacrifices on, the Sacred Bull lived in the mythos of the many peoples of the area. From the Hittites to the Greeks, many civilizations lay claim to the region, all sharing in the legends of the bull.
Taurus is said to be the bull that Zeus transformed into to win the affections of the Phonecian princess Europa in Greek mythology.
In the Mideastern epic of Gilgamesh, the sacred bull is represented as Gugalanna, the husband of Ereshkigal, the Goddess of the Underworld. He is sent to kill Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu after Gilgamesh refuses to marry the goddess Inanna.
There are many more examples of these myths and cults that employ the bull in the region.
What does the bull symbolize? Why did it come up so often?
The bull, in the mind of psychologist Carl Jung, is a mythic symbol of the animal nature within humanity that must be conquered. Every sacrifice, every story, every sighting of the bull in the skies, is a reminder of animalistic tendencies within us all that must be reckoned with. It is in the conflict and struggle that we can ascend to our higher purpose.
This spirit of struggle itself, and the beauty of the struggle, is symbolized by the rugged Toros Mountains themselves.
It was here that the Cicillian Gates, the narrow pass through the mountains that people as ancient as the Hittites to as modern as German train engineers in Ottoman times, struggled to go through.
It was here that the Akseki peoples, the Oguz Turkic tribes, settled, living a semi-nomadic trading life - far away from their Central Asian roots.
It was here that Alexander the Great defeated the Persians, and then the Achaemenids led by Darius III in the Battle of Issus - defeating him after being pushed to the brink.
While in these days, it is a land of enchantment, with beautiful beach resorts in Antalya to the south, and wondrous forests in the mountains themselves, the struggle with nature and the mythic battle that the bull represented was always close at hand.
Our founder, Kerem Siral, comes from those Akseki peoples in the Toros mountains, from a town called Ormana. In Ormana, his family were fruit and nut traders who were of great repute - or at least his grandmother’s side. His grandfather, to live up to the expectation of his wife’s regal trading family, moved to Istanbul to make his fortune in steel, investing in the growing city.
But the legacy of trading the renowned pistachios and almonds of Toros never left Kerem’s heart. Moving away from potential careers in investment banking, he chose instead to connect Istanbulites to their rural roots. (Many of them had also followed his family’s path to the great city in the past.)
He created Aradolu.com in 2013, intending to make the treasures that his family once bought and sold become again appealing to Westernizing urbanites. With success, and with a beautiful struggle along the way, he made Aradolu a respected trading company in Turkey, never letting his roots die.
But the Toros Mountains, where his family hails from, and where his wares come from, was a crossroads of the world. And it only made sense to share that legacy abroad, and bring together the Turkish Delight, the well-known dessert (to key people in to where we are from), with the Toros Mountains, to create Toros Delights.
The magic of Toros Delights is that not only are they the finest in Turkey, they also come from the same spirit of struggle and conquest inherent within the bull. Because to eat well means to live well, and commit ourselves to higher-minded pursuits, reflection, and companionship. This is the essence of the Turkish Way of Life.