Cappadocia is the ancient
name of a large region in the center of Anatolia, although
when we speak of Cappadocia today we refer specifically
to the valleys of Goreme and Urgup, with their natural
pinnacles and rock churches. In this survey of Cappadocia’s
historical geography, the region will be examined in
Ancient Anatolia or Asia Minor, the large peninsula
where modern Turkey is located, consists of several
regions. One of the most important was Cappadocia.
Originally this region encompassed today’s provinces
of Kirsehir, Nevsehir, Aksaray, Nigde, Kayseri, Malatya,
the eastern part of Ankara, the southern parts of Yozgat
and Sivas, and the northern part of Adana.
Cappadocia was neighbor to the Commagene to the southeast,
Armenia to the east, Galatia to the northwest, Pontus
to the north, Cilicia to the south, and Phrygia and
Lycaonia to the west. According to the geographer Strabo
(STRABO 539), who was born in Amasya and lived about
63 BC, Cappadocia measured 1800
stadia ( 332 kilometers ) north to south, from Pontus
to the Taurus mountains, and 3000 stadia ( 552 kilometers
) west to east from Lycaonia and Phrygia to the Euphrates.
In other words, the region was demarcated geographically
by the Black Sea to the north, the Taurus Mountains
to the south, the Kizilirmak River to the west and the
Euphrates to the east. The Tatta (Tuz Golu, Salt Lake)
to the southwest marked the border between Phrygia and
HISTORY OF CAPPADOCIA
ASIKLI HOYUK ACERAMIC NEOLITHIC PHASE. 5900 –
The best representative of the Aceramic Neolithic culture
in the region is Asikli Hoyuk, in which excavations
have been conducted since 1989. Asikli is a medium-sized
settlement on the banks of the Melendiz River, which
emerges from the slopes between the Hasan Dagi and Mt.
Melendiz and makes its way northwest where carving
out the famous canyon-shaped Ihlara Valley. At the
present day, Asikli and its vicinity enjoy a continental
climate. The economy of the region is based mainly on
the cultivation of cereal crops, market gardening, viniculture
and dairy products.
CAPPADOCIAN TABLETS OF KULTEPE / MOUND OF ASHES 1900
The settlement mound here, known as Kultepe, is one
of the largest in Central Anatolia, measuring 550 *
450 meters and 20 meters in height. The first excavation
of Kultepe mound was carried out by the French scholar
E. Chantre, using the methods of his time. This was
followed by the excavations made in 1906 and 1925. Apart
from 1952, these excavations have continued every summer
up to the present day, and until 1980 were financed
by Turkish Historical Society. The exciting finds uncovered
here have thrown remarkable light on ancient Anatolian
History and have been one of the focal points of world
archaeological literature ever since.
PERIOD OF THE ASSYRIAN COLONIES 1900 B.C
Mesopotamia exerted economic and political power over
central Anatolia before the arrival of the Assyrians.
During the third millennium BC the Arkadian King Sargon
from Mesopotamia advanced into the heart of Anatolia
to protect merchants from his country.
The beginning of the second millennium was a prosperous
time for Anatolia. The Assyrians had learned of this
region's riches and subsequently established trade centers
called karums, meaning "port" or administrative
center. Eventually at least thirteen karums were established
as part of the Assyrians' extensive network of commercial
activities, which spread from the Aegean Sea to the
Indus valley. Trade between the people of Anatolia and
the Assyrian merchants continued for about 150 years.
The "Cappadocian tablets" reveal that the
Assyrians were experienced traders who maintained daily
business correspondence with their capital, Asur. Other
documents such as trade agreements, receipts, wills,
and marriage contracts were also found among the clay
Kultepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh, was the most
important karum. Before the karum was fully developed
houses identical in plan to those later built in the
karum were built on the eastern edges of Kanesh.
The karum was a separate town outside and below the
walled city itself, which overlooked it from its hilltop
site. Two archaeological levels (Kanesh karum I b and
II) have been found in this densely occupied site. They
have been subjected to close scientific examination,
with the result that the architecture, materials and
fittings of these houses are known in detail. The second
level of the karum covered a wide area and consisted
of building complexes closely spaced together.
THE HITTITES 18th to 12th CENTURIES B.C.
The entry of the Hittites into the sphere of scholarship
and archaeological literature dates from the late nineteenth
century when the Akkadian tablets at Tel-el-Amar in
Egypt were deciphered, and when A.H. Sayce set about
deciphering the pictographic inscriptions on stone discovered
at Hama in Syria and identified them as the work of
the Hittites, before the existence of Hittite remains
in Anatolia was even guessed at Scholars and travelers
extended their searches and discovered similar pictographic
inscriptions. They made a deep impression on Cappadocia
to whose ancient history knowing Hittite civilization
and art is the key. The fascinating culture of the Hittites
is at least as colorful as the rock churches of Cappadocia.
TABAL KINGDOM 11th CENTURY B.C.
In the mid-eight century BC the name Tabal begins to
occur more frequently in Assyrian documents. The Tabalian
rulers evidently tried to resist the Assyrians, but
with little success. The exact extent of the powerful
Tabalian kingdom which the Assyrians of the reign of
Sargon II knew is unknown. Its inscriptions are largely
located near Kayseri and Nevsehir, the most famous being
the Sivasa, Topada, Kululu and Sultanhani inscriptions.
PERSIANS IN CAPPADOCIA 6th to 4th CENTURIES B.C.
Unlike Lycia, Lydia and many of the other ancient countries
of Anatolia, Cappadocia was not named after a people.
The name is thought to have derived from the ancient
Persian word tukha or dukha, and to mean the Land of
Beautiful Horses. The form Katpatuka appears in an inscription
listing the countries which paid tribute to Persia under
Darius I (522 – 486 BC) carved on the Behistun
cliffs at the end of the sixth century BC. The horses
of Cappadocia were indeed famous, and the both Assyrians
and Persian empires received horses and mules in tribute
ALEXANDER THE GREAT IN CAPPADOCIA MID-4th CENTURY B.C.
In the course of his campaign against the Persians,
Alexander the Great advanced from Ankyra towards Cappadocia
and, after conquering the territory south of the Halys
(Kizilirmak), he appointed a Persian by the name of
Sabiktas satrap of Cappadocia. After the death of Ariarathes,
Cappadocia was ruled for some twenty years by Macedonian
satraps. When, soon after this, Antigonus was defeated
in the battle of Ipsus (301 BC), his territories in
Asia Minor became subject to Lysimachus, but in a battle
fought at Curupedion ( 281 BC ) the 80 year old Lysimachus
was defeated by the 77 year old Seleucus Nicator, thus
ending the Macedonnian rule in Cappadocia and establishing
the Seleucid rule..
INDEPENDENT KINGDOM OF CAPPADOCIA 4th CENTURY B.C. to
After the death of Alexander an independent Cappadocian
kingdom was established. During this period the history
of the region was turbulent and characterized by numerous
intrigues. The Ariarathes dynasty traditionally sought
political alliances through marriages between powerful
families and provincial kings. Cappadocia became a battleground
for local power struggles as well as conflicts between
the kingdom of Pontus (Black Sea) and the Roman Empire.
This period in the history of the Cappadocian kingdom
was marked by a confused struggle power. The death of
Ariarathes VIII left two candidates for the throne.
One was Mithridates’ candidate. When Mithritade
resorted to force to place his own candidate on the
throne this aroused great discontent among the people
of Cappadocia whereupon the Roman Senate intervened
in opposition to both candidates, declaring that the
administration of Cappadocia should be placed in the
hands of the people. The struggle for political dominance
in the region continued until Cappadocia became a Roman
province in A.D. 17.
ROMANS IN CAPPADOCIA A.D. 17 to 4th CENTURY
In 20 BC Augustus transferred Armenia minor and Rough
Ciliciato Archelaus. According to Strabo, Archelaus
spent most of his time on the island of Elaiussa (Ayas,
Erdemli) in Rough Cilicia. Here he founded the city
of Elaiussa, which allowed him to use the epithet “Ktistes”
(founder) on his coins. As an expression of his gratitude
to Augustus he changed the name of the city to Sebaste,
the Greek form of Augustus which possessed the additional
meaning of “sacred”. Archelaus also founded
a city bearing his own name (Archelais) (after the conversion
of Cappadocia into a province Claudius transformed this
city into a Roman colony). On the king’s death
very shortly afterwards the kingdom of Cappadocia was
officially transformed into a Roman province (Provincia
Cappadocia) (17 AD). On assuming the status of a Roman
province, Cappadocia began to be ruled by a governor
(procurator) chosen from the Equestrian order.
After over three centuries of Roman rule over Cappadocia
the region was inherited by the Eastern Roman Empire,
which came into being with the partition of the empire
in 395. Constantinus I (Constantine the Great) had declared
Byzantium to be the eastern capital in 330, and the
Western imperial line ended in 476, leaving the Eastern
Roman Empire to outlive the West by nearly thousands
years. This was what came to be known in modern times
at the Byzantine Empire.
BYZANTINE PERIOD 4th to 15th CENTURIES
In 363 the Persians took the region east of the Euphrates,
and in the fifth century incursions by the Huns and
Isaurians caused havoc. Under the emperors Anastasius
and Justinian walls were constructed around many towns
in the region and existing walls repaired. Caesarea
was completely rebuilt and the fortified cities of Mokissos
and Kamuliani were founded, so creating a formidable
The Byzantine emperors and the local inhabitants decided
to take measures against sudden attacks and thus devised
a system of defense comprised of several elements: governing
by "themes" an "optic warning system”,
the construction of additional forts, a good network
of military and trade roads, and underground cities.
The system of governing by "themes" provided
for the distribution of land to generals, who were directly
responsible to the emperor for protecting each "theme,"
one of which was Cappadocia. The land remained under
the control of a general who could act independently
with regard to recruiting, commanding, and choosing
appropriate defensive strategy. The "optic warning
system" was established by placing fires and lanterns
on the tops of designated hills and mountains in the
provinces. This system relayed messages all the way
to the Great Lighthouse in Constantinople so that the
capital would be informed about the exact moment of
the enemy's attack. Many forts, castles, and watchtowers
were placed at strategic positions such as passes and
sources of water, and also linked the main towns. In
addition to these defensive measures, the local inhabitants
carved underground cities for their protection.
SELJUK'S IN CAPPADOCIA 9th to 13th CENTURIES
From the 9th century Anatolia witnessed the arrival
of nomadic Turkish tribes from Central Asia, which originated
in the Ural-Altai region and dispersed over vast areas
from China to Europe.
Byzantines in the region, and relative security prevailed
for the next fifty years during the period of Konstantinos
Porphyrogennetos (945 – 959) and Konstantinos
Doukas (900 – 1070). The overthrow of the iconoclasts
with the help of the Cappadocian monasteries, which
defended their icons with fierce desperation, played
its part in maintaining peace. From the second half
of the ninth century until 1071, Byzantine Cappadocia
enjoyed a golden age, and most of the churches and frescoes
of the region are from this period.
Then came the Seljuk Turks, pressing westwards from
their empire in Iran. In 1057 the Turks attacked Malatya,
and in 1059 Sivas, razing both cities. When they razed
Kayseri in 1067 the Byzantine emperor Romanus the 4th
made a last bid to save Cappadocia. In 1071 he arrived
at the head of a huge army and marched eastwards to
confront the Seljuk army at Malazgirt that same year.
The Byzantines were defeated with heavy losses, and
Cappadocia overrun by the Turks, never to be regained.
In 1071 during the battle of Malazgirt, which occurred
in the eastern part of modern-day Turkey, the Selcuk
leader Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantines, and thereafter
the Selcuks gained undisputed control of Anatolian soil.
The Seljuk Turks soon established their own centers
During the 11th century the Seljuks chose Iznik as their
first capital but later moved to Konya after the Crusaders
captured Iznik and gave the city to the Byzantines.
During the next centuries Anatolia became a battleground
for Seljuks, Crusaders on their way to the Holy Lands,
and Byzantine armies.
During the reigns of Keyhusrev and Aladdin Keykubad
in the 13th century, the Seljuks enjoyed a golden-age
during which they reached both the Mediterranean and
Black Seas where they built shipyards. They also constructed
magnificent caravanserais, medreses (schools), and mosques
throughout the empire. By the mid-13th century the Mongols
started attacking various parts of the empire, and eventually
they invaded all of Anatolia. Kayseri was captured and
looted by the Mongols, under whose domination the Seljuks
remained until 1302.
The Seljuk Empire was the first Turkish empire established
on Anatolian soil. Although its rise and fall occurred
in less than two centuries, this empire laid the foundations
of Ottoman culture and art. The Seljuks brought with
them unmistakable influences of the nomadic cultures
of Central Asia and enriched and enhanced the history
of central Anatolia.