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Antioch of Pisidia

Antioch in Pisidia – alternatively Antiochia in Pisidia or Pisidian Antioch and in Roman Empire, Latin: Antiochia Caesareia or Antiochia Colonia Caesarea – is a city in the Turkish Lakes Region, which is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia. The site lies approximately 1 km northeast of Yalvaç, the modern town of Isparta Province. The city is on a hill with its highest point of 1236 m in the north.

The city is surrounded by, on the east the deep ravine of the Anthius River which flows into Lake Eğirdir, with the Sultan Mountains to the northeast, Mount Karakuş to the north, Kızıldağ (Red Mountain) to the southeast, Kirişli Mountain and the northern shore of Lake Eğirdir to the southwest.

Although very close to the Mediterranean on a map, the warm climate of the south cannot pass the height of the Taurus Mountains. Owing to the climate, there is no timberland but crop plants grow in areas provided with water from the Sultan Mountains, whose annual average rainfall is c. 1000 mm on the peaks and 500 mm on the slopes. This water feeds the plateau and Antioch. The other Pisidian cities Neapolis, Tyriacum, Laodiceia Katakekaumene and Philomelium founded on the slopes, benefited from this fertility.

The acropolis has an area of 460,000 square metres (115 acres) and is surrounded by fortified defence walls. The Territorium of the settlement can be seen from the Temple of Men in the sanctuary of Men Askaenos on a hill to the southeast. The Territorium of the city is estimated to have been approximately 1,400 km² in ancient times. According to the 1950 census, there were 40 villages with 50,000 people living in the area. The population during the Roman period must have been a little more than this.

The constantly irrigated fertile soil of the land is very suitable for growing fruits and for husbandry. For the veterans (retired Roman legionaries) who came from poorer parts of Italy during the Roman period, agriculture must have been the driving force for integration of the colonies into the area. The modern town of Yalvaç is the second biggest in Isparta province with an area of 14,000 km² The population in the centre is 35,000, the total is c. 100,000. The town is 230 km from Antalya, 180 km from Konya, 105 km from Isparta and 50 km from Akşehir, via the main road.

According to tradition the city dates back to the 3rd century BCE, founded by the Seleucid Dynasty, one of the Hellenistic kingdoms. But the history of the city cannot be separated from the history of the Lakes Region and of Pisidia. Research done in the area has shown habitation since the Paleolithic age.

Excavations and surveys made by D.M. Robinson and the University of Michigan around Yalvaç in 1924 uncovered artifacts from surrounding mounds that date back to the 3rd millennium BC.

In Antioch itself, no finds have emerged from the Proto-Hittite, Hittite, Phrygian or Lydian civilisations, but we know from Hittite records that the region was named "Arzawa" and that independent communities flourished in the region. These people did not come under the yoke of the Hittites, but fought beside them against the Egyptians in the Battle of Kadesh.

Over the ages, people were able to live independently in the Pisidian region because of its strategic position. Even the Persians, who conquered Anatolia in the 6th century BCE and attempted to rule the area by dividing it into satrapies, were unable to cope with constant uprisings and turmoil.

The approach of some researchers who would like to connect the cult of Men Askaenos with the cult of the Phrygian Mother Goddess Cybele is controversial. The worship of Cybele, traces of which can be seen in Antioch, is not a result of Phrygian influence: the idea of a Mother Goddess dates back to the Neolithic age as is shown by idols and figurines exhibited in Yalvaç Museum.

After the death of Alexander the Great, Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Seleucid Dynasty, took control of Pisidia. Captured places were Hellenised and, in order to protect the population, fortified cities were founded at strategically important places, usually on an acropolis. Seleucus I Nicator founded nearly 60 cities and gave to 16 of them the name of his father Antiochos. Colonists were brought from Magnesia on the Maeander to people the city of Pisidian Antioch (the Land of Antiochus).

Meanwhile, fights for the sharing of Anatolia continued, complicated by the arrival of Galatians from Europe. The self-interested Hellenistic dynasties could not expel the Galatians from the interior, but Antiochus I Soter fought against them in 270 BCE in the Taurus Mountains and defeated them by the help of elephants, which the Galatians had never seen before. The historian Lucian reported the comment of Antiochos: "It's a great shame that we owe our liberation to 16 elephants". Anyway, Antiochos celebrated his victory when he returned to Syria and was given the title of "Soter" (Saviour).

The most reasonable approach is that Antioch was founded by Antiochus I Soter as a military base to control the Galatian attacks, because it was on the border of the regions of Pisidia and Phrygia. The foundation of Antioch indicates a date of the last quarter of the 3rd century BCE, but archeological finds at the Sanctuary of Men Askaenos in the northeast date back to the 4th century. This indicates that there had been earlier classical cultures in the area.

While the Hellenistic Kingdoms (the inheritors of Alexander the Great) were fighting each other and the Galatians, Rome became the most powerful state in Europe and started to follow a policy of expansion to the east. The Romans invaded Macedon, Thrace, and the Dardanelles, reaching Phrygia via Magnesia and Pisidia. They cowed the Galatians and according to the treaty, signed in 188 BCE in Apamea, after they got the land of Pisidia from Antiochos III, they gave it to their ally, the Kingdom of Pergamon, the dominant power in the region. Attalos III, the last king of Pergamon, bequeathed his kingdom to Rome on his death in 133 BC. When Aristonikos, a usurper who claimed the throne of Pergamon shortly after, was defeated in 129, Rome annexed and populated Western Anatolia with its well-developed, creative culture, lasting for centuries.

Although Anatolia was dominated by the Roman Empire as the province of Asia, Pisidia was given to the Kingdom of Cappadocia, which was an ally of Rome. During the ensuing years, the authority gap remained in these kingdoms so remote from central control, which led to the rise of powerful pirate kingdoms, especially in Cilicia and Pisidia. The Romans were disturbed by these kingdoms and fought against them. By 102 BCE, Cilicia, Pamphylia, Phrygia and Pisida had been freed from pirates and Roman rule was restored.

The geographical and strategic position of the region made it difficult to control the area and maintain constant peace. The Homonadesians settled in the Taurus Mountains between Attaleia and Ikonion, which caused problems for Rome. Marcus Antonius, who had to control the roads connecting Pisidia to Pamphylia, charged his allied king Amyntas, King of Pisidia, to fight against Homonadesians, but Amyntas was killed during the struggle.

That is when Rome started to colonize using retired legions as a solution to the failure of the locally appointed governors. The Province of Galatia was established in 25 BCE, and Antioch became a part of it. To support the struggle against the Homonadesians logistically, the construction of a road called the Via Sebaste, the centre of which was Antioch, was started by the governor of the Province of Galatia, Cornutus Arrutius Aquila. The Via Sebaste was separated into two and directed to the southwest and southeast to surround the Homonadesians. Secondary connecting roads were built between these two roads. Rome by means of the Via Sebaste P.Sulpicius Quirinius brought an end to the Homonadesians problem in 3 BCE, relocating survivors in different surrounding locations.

During the reign of Augustus, among the eight colonies established in Pisidia, only Antioch was honoured with the title of Caesarea and given the right of the Ius Italicum, maybe because of its strategic position. The city became an important Roman colony. It rose to the position of a capital city with the name of "Colonia Caesarea".

Hellenisation became Latinization during the Roman period, and it was succeeded best in Antioch. The city was divided into seven districts called "vici" each of which was founded on one of the city's seven hills like the seven hills of Rome. The formal language was Latin until the end of the 3rd century. The fertility of the land and the peace brought by Augustus (Pax Romana: Roman Peace) made it easier for the veterans as colonists in the area to have good relations and integration with the natives.

One of the three surviving copies of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, the famous inscription recording the noble deeds of the Emperor Augustus, was found in front of the Augusteum in Antioch. The original was carved on bronze tablets and exhibited in front of the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome, but unfortunately has not survived. The Antioch copy was inscribed in stone in Latin, a sign of the importance of the city as a military and cultural base of Rome in Asia. (One of the copies, in Greek and Latin, is in Ankara, the other, in Greek, in Apollonia -Uluborlu).


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