Archaeology of Asia Minor
mi’-ner, ar’-ke-ol’-o-ji ov: At the present stage of our information it is difficult to write with acceptance on the archaeology of Asia Minor. Views unquestioned only a few years ago are already passing out of date, while the modern archaeologist, enthusiastically excavating old sites, laboriously deciphering worn inscriptions, and patiently collating documentary evidence, has by no means completed his task. But it is now clear that an archaeological field, worthy to be compared with those in the valleys of the Euphrates and the Nile, invites development in Asia Minor.
1. Earliest Influences from Mesopotamia:
In the Contemporary Review for August, 1907, Professor Sayce reminded his readers that the Greek geographers called Cappadox the son of Ninyas, thereby tracing the origin of Cappadocian culture to Nineveh, and similarly they derived the Merm had Dynasty of Lydia from Ninos the son of Belos, or from Babylonia through Assyria. Actual history is probably at the back of these legends, and the
Dr. David Robinson in his Ancient Sinope (145 ff), argues that "the early foundations of Sinope are probably Assyrian," though established history cannot describe in detail what lay back of the Milesian settlement of this the northern point and the best harbor of the peninsula. Neither could Strabo go back of the Milesian colonists for the foundation of Samsoun, the ancient Amisus, an important commercial city east of Sinope, but the accompanying illustration (Fig. 1) seems clearly to show the influence of Assyria. The original is a terra cotta figure of gray clay found recently in Old Samsoun. Mesopotamian religious and cultural influences thus appear to have tinged Asia Minor, at least at certain points, as far as the coast of the Black Sea, and indeed the great peninsula has been what its shape suggests, a friendly hand stretching out from the continent of Asia toward the continent of Europe.
2. Third Millennium BC:
Professor Sayce’s article referred to above was based upon the evidence furnished by cuneiform tablets from Kara Eyuk, the "Black Mound," an ancient site just within the ox-bows of the Halys River near Caesarea Mazaca. These tablets, as deciphered by himself and Professor Pinches, were of the period of Abraham, or of Hammurabi, about 2250 BC, and were written in a dialect of Assyrian. The settlers were soldier colonists from the Assyrian section of the Babylonian empire, engaged in mining and in trade. Silver, copper and perhaps iron were the metals sought. "Time was reckoned as in Assyria by means of officials called limmi, who gave their name to the year." The colonists had a temple with its priests, where financial transactions were carried on under the sanctity of religion. There were roads, mail carriers whose pouches were filled with cuneiform bricks, and commercial travelers who made a speciality of fine clothing. This makes quite natural the finding of a goodly Babylonian mantle by Achan at the pillage of Ai (
3. Second Millennium BC:
The earliest native inhabitants to be distinguished in Asia Minor are the Hittites (see Hittites). Ever since 1872, when Dr. Wright suggested that the strange hieroglyphics on four black basalt stones which he had discovered at Hamath were perhaps the work of Hittite art, there has been an ever-growing volume of material for scholars to work upon. There are sculptures of the same general style, representing figures of men, women, gods, lions and other animals, eagles with double heads, sphinxes, musical instruments, winged discs and other symbols, all of which can be understood only in part. These are accompanied by hieroglyphic writing, undeciphered as yet, and the inscriptions read "boustrophedon," that is from right to left and back again, as the oxen go in plowing an oriental field. There have also been discovered great castles with connecting walls and ramparts, gates, tunnels, moats, palaces, temples and other sanctuaries and buildings. More than this, occasional fragments of cuneiform tablets picked up on the surface of the ground led to the belief that written documents of value might be found buried in the soil. Malatia, Marash, Sinjirli, Sakje Geuzi, Gurun, Boghaz-keuy, Eyuk, Karabel, not to mention perhaps a hundred other sites, have offered important Hittite remains. Carchemish and Kedesh on the Orontes were capital cities in northern Syria. The Hittites of the Holy Land, whether in the days of Abraham or in those of David and Solomon, were an offshoot from the main stem of the nation. Asia Minor was the true home of the Hittites.
Boghaz-keuy has become within the last decade the best known Hittite site in Asia Minor, and may be described as typical. It lies in northern Cappadocia, fifty muleteer hours South of Sinope. Yasilikaya, the "written" or "sculptured" rocks, is a suburb, and Eyuk with its sphinx-guarded temple is but 15 miles to the North. It was the good fortune of Professor Hugo Winckler of the University of Berlin to secure the funds, obtain permission from the Turkish government, and, in the summer of 1906 to unearth over 3,000 more or less fragmentary tablets written in the cuneiform character and the Hittite language. This is the first considerable store of the yet undeciphered Hittite literature for scholars to work upon. These tablets are of clay, written on both sides, and baked hard and red. Often the writing is in ruled columns. The cuneiform character, like the Latin alphabet in modern times, was used far from its original home, and that for thousands of years. The language of a few Boghaz-keuy tablets is Babylonian, notably a copy of the treaty between Rameses II of Egypt and Khita-sar, king of the Hittites in central Asia Minor. The scribes adopted not only the Babylonian characters but certain ideographs, and it is these ideographs which have furnished the key to provisional vocabularies of several hundred words which have been published by Professors Pinches and Sayce. When Professor Winckler and his German collaborators publish the tablets they have deposited in the Constantinople museum, we may listen to the voice of some Hittite Homer speaking from amid the dusty bricks written in the period of Moses. Beside Boghaz-keuy the beetling towers of lofty Troy sink to the proportions of a fortified hamlet.
Hittite sculptures show a very marked type of men, with squat figures, slant eyes, prominent noses and Mongoloid features. We suppose they were of Turanian or Mongolian blood; certainly not Semitic and probably not Aryan. As they occupied various important inland centers in Asia Minor before, during and after the whole of the second millennium BC, it is probable that they occupied much or most of the intervening territory (see Records of the Past for December, 1908). A great capital like Boghaz-keuy, with its heavy fortifications, would require extensive provinces to support it, and would extend its sway so as to leave no enemy within striking distance. The "Amazons" are now generally regarded as the armed Hittite priestesses of a goddess whose cult spread throughout Asia Minor. The "Amazon Mountains," still known locally by the old name, run parallel with the coast of the Black Sea near the Iris River, and tradition current there now holds that the women are stronger than the men, work harder, live longer and are better at a quarrel! A comparative study of the decorated pottery, so abundant on the old sites of the country, makes it more than possible that the artificial mounds, which are so common a feature of the Anatolian landscape, and the many rockhewn tombs, of which the most famous are probably those at Amasia, were the work of Hittite hands.
The Hittite sculptures are strikingly suggestive of religious rather than political or military themes. The people were pagans with many gods and goddesses, of whom one, or one couple, received recognition as at the head of the pantheon. Such titles as Sutekh of Carchemish, Sutekh of Kadesh, Sutekh of the land of the Hittites, show that the chief god was localized in various places, perhaps with varying attributes. A companion goddess was named Antarata. She was the great Mother Goddess of Asia Minor, who came to outrank her male counterpart. She is represented in the sculptures with a youthful male figure, as a consort, probably illustrating the legend of Tammuz for whom the erring Hebrew women wept (
The worship of the Hittites of the era of the Exodus is still seen pictured on the rocks at Yasilikaya. This spot was the sanctuary of the metropolis. There are two hypaethral rock galleries, the larger of which has a double procession of about 80 figures carved on the natural rock walls, which have been smoothed for the purpose, and meeting at the inmost recess of the gallery. The figures nearest the entrance are about half life-size. As the processions advance the height of the figures increases, until the two persons at the head, the chief priest and priestess or the king and queen, are quite above life-size. These persons advance curious symbols toward each other, each is followed by a retinue of his or her own sex, and each is supported--the priest-king upon the heads of two subjects or captives, and the priestess-queen upon a leopard. The latter figure is followed by her consort son.
The ruins at Eyuk are compact, and consist of a small temple, its sphinx-guarded door, and a double procession of approaching worshippers to the number of about 40. The main room of the sanctuary is only 7 yds. by 8 in measurement. This may be compared with the
Professor Garstang in The Land of the Hittites shows that the power which had been waning after about 1200 BC enjoyed a period of recrudescence in the 10th and 9th centuries. He ascribes to this period the monuments of Sakje Geuzi, which the professor himself excavated, together with other Hittite remains in Asia Minor. The Vannic power known as Urartu, akin to the Hittites but separate, arose in the Northeast; the Phrygians began to dominate in the West; the Assyrians pressed upon the Southeast. The overthrow of the Hittites was completed by the bursting in of the desolating Cimmerian hordes, and after 717, when Carchemish was taken by the Assyrians, the Hittites fade from the archaeological records of their home land. See ASIA MINOR, II, 1.
4. First Millennium BC:
Before the Hittites disappeared from the interior of Asia Minor, sundry Aryan peoples, more or less closely related to the Greeks, were established at various points around the coast. Schliemann, of Trojan fame, was the pioneer archaeologist in this field, and his boundless enthusiasm, optimism and resourcefulness recovered the treasures of Priam’s city, and made real again the story of days when the world was young. Among the most valuable collections in the wonderful Constantinople Museum is that from Troy, which contains bronze axes and lance heads, implements in copper, talents of silver, diadems, earrings and bracelets of gold, bone bodkins and needles, spindle whorls done in baked clay, numbers of idols or votive offerings, and other objects found in the Troad, at the modern Hissarlik. Phrygian, Thracian and subsequently Galatian immigrants from the Northwest had been filtering across the Hellespont, and wedging themselves in among the earlier inhabitants. There were some points in common between the Cretan or Aegean civilization and that of Asia Minor, but Professor Hogarth in his Ionia and the East urges that these resemblances were few. It was otherwise with the Greeks proper. Herodotus gave the names of twelve Aeolian, twelve Ionian and six Dorian cities on the west coast, founded by colonists who came across the Aegean Sea, and who leavened, led and intermarried with the native population they found settled there. One of these Asiatic Greek colonies, Miletus, was sufficiently populous and vigorous to send out from 60 to 80 colonies of its own, the successive swarms of adventurers moving North and East, up the coast of the Aegean, through the Bosphorus and along the south shore of the Black Sea. In due season Xenophon and the Ten Thousand, and then Alexander with his Macedonians, scattered yet more widely the seeds of Hellenic culture upon a soil already prepared for its reception. The inscriptions, sculptures, temples, tombs, palaces, castles, theaters, jewelry, figurines in bronze or terra cotta, coins of silver or copper and other objects remaining from this period exhibit a style of art, culture and religion which may best be named Anatolian, but which are akin to those of Greece proper. The excavations at Ephesus, Pergamus, Sardis and other important sites show the same grafting of Greek scions upon the local stock.
One marked feature survived as a legacy from Hittite days in the worship of a great Mother Goddess. Whether known as Ma, or Cybele, or Anaitis, or Diana, or designated by some other title, it was the female not the male that headed the pantheon of gods. With the Greek culture came also the city-state organization of government. The ruder and earlier native communities were organized on the village plan. Usually each village had its shrine, in charge of priests or perhaps more often priestesses; the land belonged to the god, or goddess; it paid tithes to the shrine; sacrifices and gifts were offered at the sacred center; this was often on a high hill, under a sacred tree, and beside a holy fountain; there was little of education, law or government except as guiding oracles were proclaimed from the temple.
In the early part of this millennium the Phrygians became a power of commanding importance in the western part of the peninsula, and Professor Hogarth says of the region of the Midas Tomb, "There is no region of ancient monument’s which would be better worth examination" by excavators. Then came Lydia, whose capital, Sardis, is now in process of excavation by Professor Butler and his American associates. Sardis was taken and Croesus dethroned by the Persians about 546 BC, and for two centuries, until Alexander, Persian authority overshadowed Asia Minor, but permanent influences were scanty.
5. The Romans in Asia Minor:
By about the year 200 BC the Romans began to become entangled in the politics of the four principal kingdoms that then occupied Asia Minor, namely Bithynia, Pergamus, Pontus and Cappadocia. By slow degrees their influence and their arms advanced under such leaders civil and military as Sulla, Lucullus, Pompey, Cicero and Julius Caesar, while Attalus of Pergamus and Prusias of Bithynia bequeathed their uneasy domains to the steady power arising from the West. In 133 BC the Romans proceeded to organize the province of Asia, taking the name from a Lydian district included in the province. Step by step the Roman frontiers were pushed farther to the East. Mithridates VI, king of Pontus, was called "the most formidable enemy the republic ever had to contend with," but he went down before the conquering arms of Rome. See Pontus. Caesar chastised the unfortunate Pharnaces at Zile in central Asia Minor, and coolly announced his success in the memorable message of three words, "veni, vidi, vici." Ultimately all of this fair peninsula passed under the iron sway, and the Roman rule lasted more than 500 years, until in 395 AD Theodosius divided the empire between his sons, giving the East to Arcadius and the West to Honorius, and the was cleft in twain. True to their customs elsewhere the Romans built roads well paved with stone between the chief cities of their eastern provinces. The archaeologist or common traveler often comes upon sections of these roads, sometimes in the thickest forests, as sound and as rough as when Roman chariots rumbled over them. Milestones were erected to mark the distances, usually inscribed in both Latin and Greek, and the decipherment of these milestone records contributes to the recovery of the lost history. Bridges over the important streams have been rebuilt and repaired by successive generations of men, but in certain cases the Roman character of the original stands clearly forth. The Romans were a building people, and government houses, aqueducts, baths, theaters, temples and other structures confront the archaeologist or await the labor of the spade. Epigraphical studies such as those of Professor Sterrett indicate what a wealth of inscriptions is yet to be recovered, in Latin as well as in Greek.
It was during the Roman period that Christianity made its advent in the peninsula. Christian disciples as well as Roman legions and governors used the roads, bridges and public buildings. Old church buildings and other religious foundations have their stories to tell. It is very interesting to read on Greek tombstones of the 1st or 2nd century AD such inscriptions as, "Here lies the servant of God, Daniel," "Here lies the handmaid of God, Maria." Our great authority for this period is Sir William M. Ramsay, whose Historical Geography of Asia Minor and other works must be read by anyone who would familiarize himself with this rich field.
6. The Byzantine Period:
By almost imperceptible degrees the Roman era was merged into the Byzantine. We are passing so rapidly now from the sphere of archaeology to that of history proper that we must be brief. For a thousand years after the fall of Rome the Eastern Empire lived on, a Greek body pervaded with lingering Roman influences and with Constantinople as the pulsating heart. The character of the times was nothing if not religious, yet the prevailing Christianity was a syncretistic compound including much from the nature worship of earlier Anatolia. The first great councils of the Christian church convened upon the soil of Asia Minor, the fourth being held at Ephesus in 431, and at this council the phrase "Mother of God" was adopted. We have seen that for fifty generations or more the people of Asia Minor had worshipped a great mother goddess, often with her consort son. It was at Ephesus, the center of the worship of Diana, that ecclesiastics, many of whom had but a slight training in Christianity, adopted this article into their statement of religious faith.
7. The Seljukian Turks:
Again the government of the country, the dominant race, the religion, language and culture, all are changed--this time with the invasions of the Seljukian Turks. This tribe was the precursor of the Ottoman Turks and later became absorbed among them. These Seljukians entered Asia Minor, coming up out of the recesses of central Asia, about the time that the Normans were settling along the coasts of western Europe. Their place in history is measurably clear, but they deserve mention in archaeology by reason of their remarkable architecture. Theirs was a branch of the Saracenic or Moorish architecture, and many examples remain in Asia Minor Mosques, schools, government buildings, khans, fortifications, fountains and other structures remain in great numbers and in a state of more or less satisfactory preservation, and they are buildings remarkably massive, yet ornate in delicacy and variety of tracery. The Ottoman Turks, cousins of the Seljukians, came up out of the central Asian hive later, and took Constantinople by a memorable siege in 1453. With this event the archaeology of Asia Minor may be said to close, and history to cover the field instead.
George E. White