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In ancient geography, Cilicia ("Ki-LIK-ya") formed a district on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), north of Cyprus. Cilicia extended along the Aegean coast east from Pamphylia, to Mount Amanus (Giaour Dagh), which separated it from Syria. North of Cilicia lie the rugged Taurus Mountains that separate it from the high central plateau of Anatolia, which are pierced by a narrow gorge, called since Antiquity the Cilician Gates. Ancient Cilicia was naturally divided into Cilicia Trachea and Cilicia Pedias divided by the Lamas Su. Salamis, the city on the east coast of Cyprus, was included in its administrative jurisdiction. Cilicia was given an eponymous founder in the mythic Cilix, but the historic founder of the dynasty that ruled Cilicia Pedias was Mopsus, identifiable in Phoenician sources as Mp, the founder of Mospsuestia and protector of an oracle nearby.
Cilicia Trachea (rugged Cilicia), the Assyrian Khilakku from which we get "Cilicia," is a rugged mountain district formed by the spurs of Taurus, which often terminate in rocky headlands with small sheltered harbours, a feature which, in classical times, made the coast a string of havens for pirates, but which in the Middle Ages led to its occupation by Genoese and Venetian traders. The district is watered by the Calycadnus and was covered in ancient times by forests that supplied timber to Phoenicia and Egypt. Cilicia lacked large cities.
Cilicia Pedias (flat Cilicia; Assyrian Kue), to the east, included the rugged spurs of Taurus and a large coastal plain, with rich loamy soil, now filled with cotton, grain, olives and oranges. Many of its high places were fortified. The plain is watered by the Cydnus (Tarsus Chai), the Sarus (Sihun) and the Pyramus (Jihun) rivers, each of which brings down much silt. The Sarus now enters the sea almost due south of Tarsus, but there are clear indications that at one period it joined the Pyramus, and that the united rivers ran to the sea west of Kara-tash. Through the rich plain of Issus ran the great highway that linked east and west on which stood the cities of Tarsus (Tarsa) on the Cydnus, Adana (Adanija) on the Sarus, and Mopsuestia (Missis) on the Pyramus.
The Persian Royal Road
The great highway from the west existed before Cyrus conquered Cilicia. On its long rough descent from the Anatolian plateau to Tarsus, it ran through the narrow pass between walls of rock called the Cilician Gate (Ghulek Boghaz). After crossing the low hills east of the Pyramus it passed through a masonry (Cilician) gate, Demir Kapu, and entered the plain of Issus. From that plain one road ran southward through another masonry (Syrian) gate to Alexandretta, and thence crossed Mt. Amanus by the Syrian Gate, Beilan Pass, eventually to Antioch and Syria; and another ran northwards through a masonry (Amanian) gate, south of Toprak Kaleh, and crossed Mt. Amanus by the Amanian Gate, Baghche Pass, to northern Syria and the Euphrates. By the last pass, which was apparently unknown to Alexander, Darius crossed the mountains prior to the battle of Issus. Both passes are short and easy, and connect Cilicia Pedias geographically and politically with Syria rather than with Asia Minor.
Early history and Roman Cilicia
The Cilicians appear as Khilikku in Assyrian inscriptions, and in the early part of the 1st millennium BC were one of the four chief powers of western Asia. It is generally assumed that they had previously been subject to the Syro-Cappadocian empire; but, up to 1909 at all events, Hittite monuments had not been found in Cilicia; and we must infer that the Hittite civilizations which flourished in Cappadocia and northern Syria, communicated with each other by passes east of Amanus and not by the Cilician Gates. Under the Persian empire Cilicia was apparently governed by tributary native kings, who bore a Hellenized name or title of "Syennesis"; but it was officially included in the fourth satrapy by Darius. Xenophon found a queen in power, and no opposition was offered to the march of Cyrus. Similarly Alexander found the Gates open, when he came down from the plateau in 333 BC; and from these facts it may be inferred that the great pass was not under direct Persian control, but under that of a vassal power always ready to turn against its suzerain.
After Alexander's death it was long a battleground of rival marshals and kings, and for a time fell under Ptolemaic dominion, but finally under that of the Seleucids, who, however, never held effectually more than the eastern half.
Cilicia Trachea became the haunt of pirates, who were subdued by Pompey in 66 BC, and Tarsus was made the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. Cilicia Pedias had become Roman territory in 103 BC, and the whole was organized by Pompey, 64 BC, into a province which, for a short time, extended to and included part of Phrygia. It was reorganized by Julius Caesar, 47 BC, and about 27 BC became part of the province Syria-Cilicia Phoenice. At first the western district was left independent under native kings or priest-dynasts, and a small kingdom, under Tarkondimotus , was left in the east; but these were finally united to the province by Vespasian, A.D. 74. Under Diocletian (circa 297), Cilicia, with the Syrian and Egyptian provinces, formed the Diocesis Orientis. In the 7th century it was invaded by the Arabs, who held the country until it was reoccupied by Nicephorus II in 965.
Cilicia became a province of the Roman Empire. In Roman times Cilicia exported the goats-hair cloth, Cilicium, of which tents were made.
During the time of the Crusades the area was controlled by the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. The Seljuk invasion of Armenia was followed by an exodus of Armenians southwards, and in 1080, Rhupen , a relative of the last king of Ani, founded in the heart of the Cilician Taurus a small principality, which gradually expanded into the kingdom of Lesser Armenia or Armenia Minor. This Christian kingdom situated in the midst of Moslem states, hostile to the Byzantines, giving valuable support to the crusaders, and trading with the great commercial cities of Italy had a stormy existence of about 300 years. Gosdantin (1095-1100) assisted the crusaders on their march to Antioch, and was created knight and marquis. Thoros I (1100-1123), in alliance with the Christian princes of Syria, waged successful war against the Byzantines and Seljuk Turks. Levond II (Leo the Great (1185-1219)), extended the kingdom beyond Mount Taurus and established the capital at Sis. He assisted the crusaders, was crowned king by the archbishop of Mainz, and married one of the Lusignans of Cyprus. Haithon I (1224-1269) made an alliance with the Mongols, who, before their adoption of Islam, protected his kingdom from the Mamelukes of Egypt. When Levond V died (1342), John of Lusignan was crowned king as Gosdantin IV; but he and his successors alienated the Armenians by attempting to make them conform to the Roman Church, and by giving all posts of honor to Latins, and at last the kingdom, a prey to internal dissensions, succumbed (1375) to the attacks of the Egyptian mamelukes. Cilicia Trachea was conquered by the Ottomans in the 15th century, but Cilicia Pedias remained independent until 1515.
Ottoman and modern Turkish Cilicia
According to the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920, Cilicia was to be a part of French Syria but was given to the Republic of Turkey in 1921. The modern Turkish provinces Mersin, Adana, and Osmaniye are located in former Cilicia.
See also: Anazarbus
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