Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1

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Hello Everyone, this post is going to be a little different from the informative posts I usually write because I am excited! Not long now and I am off on my next archaeological dig, this time to Turkey!!!

Friends keep telling me to blog as I go so I guess I will, so welcome to a series of posts focused on my archaeological adventures in Turkey. My 7th international dig in the last 6 years.

Post 1: Where on earth am I going this time!?!

Truth be told I don’t know much about Turkey/Anatolia. My area of research is generally Greece but with the progression of my PhD into unknown realms, I’m taking the opportunity to go and partake in some research and data collection and at the same time increase my archaeological skills in Cilicia in Southern Turkey.

I warn you, this post is going to be quite long so get your cup of tea now!

So here is an opportunity for some preliminary research and to create a post on the ancient sites of Cilicia.


Political map of Asia Minor in 500 BC
Political map of Asia Minor in 500 BC

The region of Cilicia is located in the southern part of Anatolia and was officially founded by Antiochis IV in the first century AD though it has a complex history before this time. Located on an active Mediterranean trade route, Cilicia is generally associated with its area of native rebellion and piracy. Cilician pirates particularly dominated between 133 and 67 BC when they were defeated by Pompey the Great. Pompey revolutionised warfare at this time by offering the pirates a peaceful chance to surrender and receive leniency.

Cilicia is surrounded by a natural fortress provided by the Taurus Mountains to the North and East and the Mediterranean on the South with a coast full of ideal hiding places for pirates. Archaeological features in many areas include mooring, construction of buildings and shore access, stairs, defensive walls, fortresses, submerged columns, anchor remains and shipping jars, indicative of a coastal culture. Within Cilicia are two sub-regions known as Flat/Smooth Cilicia or Cilicia Pedias (the Eastern region), and Rough Cilicia or Cilicia Tracheia.  Evidence from the 13th century BC indicates that the region was originally called Kedi/Kode before the fall of the Assyrian Empire in the 7th century BC when it became an independent region ruled by the Syennesis dynasty of kings and then being absorbed into the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great.

The pirate attacks in Cilicia appear to originally have been directed against Seleucid Kings involving slave and wine trade before they became more indiscriminate at the end of the 2nd century BC and defensive walls were built. Rome thus implemented an official ban of pirate interactions in 102-100 BC and created the Roman province of Cilicia to legitimise these laws. The general M.Antonius was commissioned to curb the pirate menace while the pirates allied themselves to the King of Pontus, Mithridates, to fight against Roman dominance. Eventually they were defeated by Pompey and Mithridates committed suicide in 63 BC. With this the Pontic kingdom also became a Roman province attached to Bithynia. The death of Julius Caesar saw some minor pirate wars in succeeding years but these were easily curbed.

At one point Cilicia was gifted to Cleopatra VII by Anthony but with their deaths it was again split up and handed over in part to Antiochis IV of Commagene. While older tribes such as the Cetae, Lalasseis and Cennatae stayed settled in certain areas of Cilicia, Cilicia then became two Byzantine provinces; Cilicia Prima and Secunda.


Ruins of Iotape in Rough Cilicia

Iotape, also known as Aytap, is a port city about 30km east of Alanya. The first archaeological evidence for human settlement comes from the first century AD though there is a concensus that it was earlier inhabited by tribes. It was originally founded by Antiochis IV in 52AD after he took control of Cilicia. Antiochis named the city for his wife Iotapa and it became Iotape (η Ιωτάπη).

The city is in an excellent place because of its natural harbour for trade and agriculture and its higher plateau where the settlement is protected from the sea and invasions from the coast. The natural harbour is made up of two bays measuring around 100m. Archaeological survey and excavation has uncovered ruins of an Acropolis with huge walls built around it to provide defense. Coins have been found indicating that Iotape included a mint which produced coins from the reign of Trajan to Valerian. There are also remains of Roman sewers, a necropolis and monumental tombs and sculptures, Roman baths, inscriptions and a rectangular Basilica to the East of the Acropolis. Temple ruins have also been excavated with surviving frescos within the city centre of the modern city.


Coin of Faustina II from Selinus, Cilicia with a veiled Demeter and Kore on the reverse

Selinus is now located in the area of modern Gazipasa and has settlement evidence from as far back as the Hittites in 2000 BC. Selinus was established on the River Kestros and is now called Hacimusa and was incorporated into Cilicia in 628 BC. It is located about 180 km to the East of Antalya on the Southern coast of Anatolia.

Selinus became part of the Roman Empire in 197 BC and became particularly famous in the first century AD when the Emperor Trajan died there. As a consequence, for some time Selinus was known as Traianapolis. Selinus later became part of the Byzantine Empire alongside the rest of Cilicia before falling into the hands of the Turks in 1225 AD. It is listed among the castles of Gazipasa alongside Iotape, Lamus, Nephelis and Antiochia ad Cragum and is still subject to archaeological research by a team from Florida State University. The archaeological artefacts from Selinus are now mostly housed in the museum of Alanya.


Public Bath House Remains at Anemurium

Anemurium is now the modern city of Anamur located at the most southern part of Anatolia closest to Cyprus. Archaeological evidence at the site reveals Roman occupation through the ruins of theatres, tombs and walls which are in part still visible today. The modern excavations at the site are being undertaken by the University of British Colombia though former excavations have been undertaken by the University of Toronto in the 1960s and by English Naval explorers in the 19th century.

The tombs at Anemurium appear to date back to the 1st century AD until the Arab invasions of the 650s AD. In addition to the theatre complex, excavations have turned up an odeon and several bath complexes with Mosaic floors, four early Christian churches, a basilica and aqueducts. Numismatic evidence also shows that the city had a mint which produced coins from the first to the third centuries AD when it was eventually captured by the Sassanians.


Tarsus is located inland from the Mediterranean by about 20km in the area of Cilicia. The city is located on a major trade route which increased its prosperity over its 2000 years of known historical contribution. It was an important point of intersection between the land and sea routes making it a significant place of commerce. At one point it was the accepted capital of Cilicia in the Roman Empire and held fame for being the meeting place of Anthony and Cleopatra as well as being the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

Ancient Road in Tarsus from Roman Period

Excavations at Tarsus reveal that occupation dates back to the Neolithic period and continues throughout the Chalcolithic and Early Bronza Age. Excavations of the ancient city have been limited due to the placement of the modern city but much of the history of the city is known through literary accounts. Tarsus is mentioned in the campaigns of Esarhaddon and in the records of Shalmaneser I and Sennacherib. The foundation of the city itself is unclear but legends spring up in the Roman period and the geographer Strabo asserts that it was founded by explorers from Argos. At first it appears that Tarsus was ruled by the Hittites before falling into the hands of the Assyrians and the Persian Empire. It was a Persian satrapy from around 400 BC and is mentioned by Xenophon in his record of the march of Cyrus the Younger.

The patron god of Tarsus was Sandon throughout the majority of its established history down to the third century AD. And further fame was accorded to Tarsus as it was affected by the passing through of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. Tarsus was also famed for its schools and a library which were said to rival Athens and Alexandria. Around this time Tarsus was also known as Antiochia on the Cydnus. When Pompey defeated the pirates in Cilicia, Tarsus became subject to Rome and took the name Juliopolis. Subsequent to this and the birth of Paul the Apostle, Tarsus held a long and prosperous ecclesiastical association and history.


Claudiopolis, or Ninica as the area was formerly called, was a colony founded by Clausius Caesar and mentioned in Ammianus alongside Silifke in his list of the cities of Cilicia. It is located between the two Taurus mountains in the basin of the Calycadnus which was drained by the Calycadnus. Claudiopolis is often associated with the Calycadnus river’s Northern and Western branches and the passes over the mountains from Laranda. While Pliny and Ptolemy both mention cities by the names of Claudiopolis, only Ammianus’ reference refers definitely to the Claudiopolis of Cilicia. Not much else about Claudiopolis is known.


Besikil Cave Monument at Seleucia

Silifke is also known as Seleucia of Seleukeia and is located on the coast of Southern Anatolia on the banks of the Goksu River which flows from the Taurus mountains. It was founded by Seleucus I Nicator in the 3rd century BC as one of several cities he named after himself. Earlier occupation layers suggest that there was already a settlement on the site, possibly the twoens of Olbia and Hyria which were united under the establishment of Seleucia. The nearby settlement of Holmi was also incorporated into Seleucia in later years as Holmi became vulnerable to pirate attacks so that it was safer in incorporation. Seleucia rivalled Tarsus in commerce and trade.

In the second century BC, the city became an important religious centre surrounding the temple of Jupiter. It received further fame as the site of famous schools of literature and philosophy and as the birthplaces of Athenaeus and Xenarchus. Later additions were added to the city by L.Octavius Memor in 77AD who constructed the stone bridge among other buildings and in 300 AD Seleucia became the capital of the Byzantine state of Isauria. Following this Seleucia was a prosperous area of Christianity and councils were held there by the early Christian bishopd in 325, 359 and 410 AD. It also is the resting place of the famous tomb of the virgin saint Thecla of Iconium who was converted by Saint Paul. The tomb was celebrated and restored many times over the years, most notably by the Emperor Zeno in the 5th century.


Colonnaded Street in Diocaesarea

Diocaesarea is the Roman name of the modern city of Uzuncaburç. Its history spans from the Seleucid period and the majority of the archaeology comes from the Roman peiord. Among the archaeology we find the ruins of the temple of Tyche dating to the reign of Vespasian or Domitian in the 1st century AD. The worship of Tyche though is thought to date back to the Seleucid period because Tyche was venerated in all the cities founded by Seleucus. Remains also remain of the city walls and gates which reveal inscriptional evidence indicating that the gate was erected at the end of the fourth century AD by the emperor Arcadius. The fortifications are believed to have been to cull the threat of mountain dwellers in Cilicia who were believed to be a permanent threat to Roman interests.

Monumental arches mark the start of colonnaded streets towards the temple of Tyche which would have once been fenced by numerous statues. There are also the remains of a nymphaeum, a fountain house, and an aqueduct spanning a good twenty km and which still functions as the water supply for many modern villages. A Roman theatre complete with inscriptions and fortification towers are also still visible from the third century BC and a mausoleum


Port Remains from 3000 BC at Sydra

Syedra is located near the modern town of Seki about 17km southeast of Coracesium. Ancient literature mentions it in Lucian in the first century BC after a phase of complex power struggles which placed Syedra in the province of Pamphylia in the time of Tiberius in the first century AD. Archaeological remains of Syedra include well preserved baths and a theatre, cisterns and city walls on the site of a rounded mountain top near the coast line.

Archaeological evidence for a port at Syedra also exist dating far earlier to the Bronze age period. The monumental door still marks the the entrance to the Roman city of Syedra and painted frescos remain within carved niches in the stone of caves. One of these caves is famously known as a baptising cave. The bath building is located to the east of the town with mosaic floors and columned street remains can be found to the west of the bath complex. The excavations thus far have been conducted mostly by the Directorate of the Alanya Museum where much of the material evidence is now housed. The oldest ruins and inscriptions appear to date to the thirteenth century AD with the earliest dating to the eight or seventh century BC.


Remains of the Laertes Fortress in Cilicia

For information on Laertes I turn to Strabo who tells us that Laertes was a fortress situated upon the crest of a hill, of a pap-like form. It is located east of Syedra and Northwest of Coracesium. The route up to the fortress is defended by two spaced towers and by a stretch of wall. Underneath the fortress is an underground building consisting of three vaulted passages which could have functioned as a storehouse. Additionally on the North side are the remains of a long paved street which would have been originally lined by statues supposedly of Roman emperors. On the south side of the street are the remains of a building approached by steps which is believed to be a council house and numerous statues. To the west are the remains of an agora bordered by a long pavement, an exedra and a large apsed building comprising of complex halls. Other remains of houses and buildings are spread throughout the area with the main necropolis on the mountain slope to the south of the city.

Well I told you it would be a long post, so I have decided to split it. Continue on to PART 2 (Which is currently being written)

In PART 2 we look at:


Cilicia Campestris



Antiochia ad Cragum





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In the Beginning: Biblical Creation Myths vs. Others Around the Mediterranean

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We often read ‘In the beginning…’ but there are actually several beginnings told throughout the Bible, many of which have interesting relationships to other Mediterranean creation myths from Greece, Egypt and the Ancient Near East. So I want to explore some of those relation, the comparisons and contrasts. Frankly this could, and I’m sure does somewhere, make up an entire book series. So lets look at some of the basics.

The Old Testament contains at least a dozen creation “stories”.  Two of these stories are told in Genesis 1 and 2, in addition to the creation story in Job 38 and the fragment in Job 26:7-13 among others. These stories are not always consistent with each other, so some will hold similarities to contemporary creation myths, while others contain contrasts.

One major point of comparison between Biblical creation myths and other creation myths is the idea of separation as a key component in the creation process.  The idea of separation is seen several times throughout Genesis.  Genesis 1:4 reads, “God saw light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness,”[1] indicating the creation of night and day.  The idea is also in Genesis 1:6, “God said, let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”[2]

Separation of Sky from Earth in Egyptian Creation Mythology

Egyptian mythology also has separation themes; telling of the separation of the god of the earth and of the sky as a major part of the creation process.[4]  Though these creation aspects are represented as deities in Egyptian mythology, the idea remains; the separation of the earth and the heavens to create a place in between, to be inhabited.[5]  The idea of separation is also seen in the Mesopotamian creation myth the Enuma Elish. The god Marduk ‘separates’ Tiamat (primeval waters), splitting her in half, placing one half above the other, forming heaven and earth..[6]  As in the Biblical myths, the act of separation is used as a key aspect of creation.  Hesiod’s Theogony illustrates this idea was also an accepted part of Greek creation mythology.  Hesiod explains that Gaia (Earth) was ‘separated’ from Ouranos (sky) through a scheme resulting in Ouranos detaching from Gaia, separating earth from the heavens.[7]

Another similarity is the idea of chaotic water being a primal substance.[8]  The first account of Genesis refers to chaotic water being present at the time of creation.  Genesis 1:2 states “…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”[9] This idea of chaotic water is witnessed in the Enuma Elish as Tiamat and Apsu both represent forms of chaotic water, and it is out of them that creation results.  In all accounts of Egyptian creation the idea of chaotic water is apparent.  The Heliopolis version of Egyptian mythology tells of the primeval matter ‘Nun’, the watery chaos from which all is created.[10] In contrast, the creation myth of Job 38 is almost methodical: “Who marked off [Earth’s] dimensions? … who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set…?”

Greek mythology doesn’t seem to directly refer to water as the primal substance, but Hesiod explains the first god was ‘Chaos’, resembling the watery chaos of the other myths, representing the same ideas of a void from which all was created.  Hesiod’s understanding of Chaos contrasts however Ovid’s, who defines it as an “anarchic dark matter that preceded the formation of the universe.”[11]

The creation myths of Genesis share another common feature of Near Eastern, Egyptian and Greek accounts: they have a cyclical theme.  Boadt indicates that this cyclical theme can be seen in Genesis as each of the first three days of creation parallels the next three days.[12]  Genesis’ Priestly account shows the creation of light and darkness on the first day is parallel to that of day and night on the fourth day.[13]  Whereas, the creation of waters and sky on the second day parallels the creation of sealife and life of the air on the fifth.[14]  This pattern is continued in with the third and sixth days.[15]

Tiamat, the Watery Chaos, on Babylonian Seal

This cyclical theme is seen in the Enuma Elish and Greek creation.  However, the cyclical acts of these mythologies are based more on the violent processes which do not appear in the Genesis. This is a point of uniqueness.  The Enuma Elish shows a cyclical theme in the overthrowing of Apsu by Ea in parallel to the overthrowing of Tiamat by Marduk.[16]  Hesiod also expresses this theme in Greek creation with the overthrowing of Ouranos by his son Kronos and then the defeat of Kronos by Zeus.[17]  The cyclical theme is also seen in Egyptian accounts as they believed in the idea of the first occasion and that life was part of a continuous process.  For example, the rising and falling of the sun was imagined as a cyclical process repeating every day, rising and returning to Nun.[18] However, the account in Job 38 is not cyclical; instead it is more of a process.

Biblical creation can also be compared and contrasted in relation to the formation of the god/s and the elements of nature.  Genesis indicates that creation resulted from the divine word of a monotheistic god. Sproul asserts that this form of creation is not completely reflected in other mythologies.[19]  Hesiod explains that Greeks believed the first acts of creation were the result of sexual procreation by the gods Chaos and Gaia.[20]  Sexual procreation as a primary means of creation is also seen in the Memphite versions of Egyptian mythology, though the gods are the product of  both asexual reproduction (Shu and Tefnut) and divine word in some accounts such as the Heliopolis (Re rising out of Nun).[21]  Near Eastern mythology also includes sexual procreation in creation, “…from Apsu and Tiamat in the waters gods were created.”[22]  From these accounts we see  Biblical creation as fairly unique as it never includes an act of procreation within Genesis, however, Egyptian accounts do share a relation in including creation by divine word.  Job, while not including procreation, does parallel it in 38:8 where it reads: “Who shut up the sea behind doors, when it burst forth from the womb.”

All four cultures’ accounts can be viewed as nature myths as they share a reaction to the power of nature and the creation of human life, even though humans have a limited role in Egyptian mythology.  The Biblical accounts and the Enuma Elish both have cultic functions.  The Enuma Elish displays cultic functions of kingship, and the Biblical Priestly cults feature the day of rest, both corresponding with ritual theories.[23]  Harris and Platzner explain Etiological theories of myths are attempts to explain origins.[24] This theory, seen in all of these mythologies, shows Biblical creation is not unique as a prescientific attempt to justify the creation process.[25]

Enuma Elish on Tablet

Biblical and other creation myths show contrasts in relation to the role and creation of humans.  The creation of humans in Biblical myth is more important in the J account than the Priestly account.  In both, humans are created in the image of god, whereas in Near Eastern myth they are created to serve the gods, but are divinely related as they are moulded from divine blood, “blood to bone I form, an original thing, its name is Man.”[26]  Hesiod’s accounts don’t include human creation, but Aristophanes relates that males were created from the sun and females from the earth.[27]  Some versions of Egyptian myth recount human creation by Khumn from clay, as do Near Eastern myth with the creation of man by Nintu from clay and blood.[28]  Greek, Egyptian and Near Eastern accounts are similar to the J version of Genesis as  all refer to creation of man from the earth/clay.

Genesis is in part different because it saw creation not as the act of divine slaughter and violence, but as the divine word of god.  Harris and Platzner assess that this is unlike Mesopotamian and Greek creation mythology which “features violent conflict between different generations of gods.”[29] Hesiod describes the conflicts between the generations of gods creating order from chaos.  The same idea appears in the Enuma Elish as the violence between generations creates  ultimate order to chaos. Genesis, however, refers to a creation of divine word alone, reshaping older myths of “a primordial watery chaos to fit a monotheistic concept.”[30]  It would be wrong to say that Biblical accounts are purely non-violent. In Job 26:12-13, ‘By his power he churned up the sea, by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces, by his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.’

We also see that the Biblical myth is different because it contains the only creation myths encompassing monotheism.  All other creation accounts are based on polytheism. The Egyptian creation myths start with one god of many, such as Nun (the primeval waters), [31] Ptah in the Memphite versions and Atum in the Heliopolis versions.[32] Greek and Mesopotamian creation myths recount creation in polytheistic terms as the result of several generations of gods, each representing a creation component. Biblical myths do, however, include the trinity within creation. In John1:1-4, ‘In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made.’

The Biblical creation myths then do not stand out generally as unique. They contain themes that run through numerous creation myths from civilisations in direct contact and under similar influences to the Biblical cultures. And that my friends is ancient history for you! It is very difficult to be unique when it has all been done before. Any PhD student knows…

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[1] Holy Bible: New International Version, Hodder and Stroughton (London, 1996), Genesis 1.3, p.3

[2] Ibid., Genesis 1.6, p.3

[4] Pinch, G., Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt (Oxford, 2004), p.65

[5] Allen, J. P., Genesis in Egypt (Connecticut, 1988), p.9

[6] The Enuma Elish in Sproul, B. C., Primal Myths (New York, 1979), p.92

[7] Hesiod, Theogony in Harris, S.L., and Plarzner, G., Classical Mythology: Images and InsightFourth Edition (New York, 2004), p.89, lines 160-190

[8] Harris, S.L., and Plarzner, G., Classical Mythology: Images and InsightFourth Edition (New York, 2004), p.66

[9] Holy Bible, op.cit., Genesis 1.2, p.3

[10] Sproul, B. C., Primal Myths (New York, 1979), p.80

[11] Harris and Platzner, op.cit., p.68

[12] Boadt, L., Reading the Old Testament (New York, 1984),  p.111

[13] Holy Bible, op.cit., Genesis 1

[14] Ibid., Genesis 1

[15] Ibid., Genesis 1

[16] Sproul, B. C., Primal Myths (New York, 1979), p.123

[17] Hesiod, op.cit., lines 160-190

[18] Pinch, G., op.cit., p.68

[19] Sproul, B. C., op.cit., p.123

[20] Hesiod, op.cit., lines 110-120

[21] Shaw, I., and Nicholson, P., The British Museum: Dictionary of Ancient Egypt (London, 2003), p.284

[22] Enuma Elish, op.cit., p.92, lines 1-10

[23] Sproul, op.cit., p.91 – The Enuma Elish’s main purpose was to praise Marduk’s divine supremacy and to honourBabylon.

[24] Harris and Platzner, op.cit., p.40

[25] Greek, Egyptian, Near Eastern and Biblical myths are all an attempt to explain creation in a non-scientific way (Eg. The sky, sea, earth and life itself) which reflects the primitive understanding of the world and its creation.

[26] Sproul, op.cit., p.104

[27] Arisphanes in Plato’s Symposium

[28] Sproul, op.cit., p.114

[29] Platzner and Harris, op.cit., p.70

[30] Ibid., p.70

[31] Pinch, op.cit., p.58 – explanation of the first god rising out of Nun, the primeval waters, due to differing accounts this god is ascribed as being Amun, Ra or Ptah depending on the version understudy

[32] Shabako Stone, king sha-bak, 700BC, 25Dyn