Cappadocia (also Capadocia; Ancient and Modern Greek: Καππαδοκία, romanized: Kappadokía, from Old Persian: ??????, romanized: Katpatuka, Armenian: Կապադովկիա, Գամիրք, romanized: Kapadovkia, Gamirk’, Turkish: Kapadokya) is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in the Nevşehir, Kayseri, Aksaray, Kırşehir, Malatya, Sivas and Niğde provinces in Turkey.
Since the late 300s BC, the name Cappadocia came to be restricted to the inland province (sometimes called Great Cappadocia), Upper Cappadocia, which alone will be the focus of this article.
According to Herodotus, in the time of the Ionian Revolt (499 BC), the Cappadocians were reported as occupying a region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine (Black Sea). Cappadocia, in this sense, was bounded in the south by the chain of the Taurus Mountains that separated it from Cilicia to the east by the upper Euphrates, to the north by Pontus, and to the north the west by Lycaonia and eastern Galatia.
The name, traditionally used in Christian sources throughout history, continues as an international tourism concept to define a region of exceptional natural wonders, particularly characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage.
Etymology of Cappadocia
The earliest record of the name of Cappadocia dates from the late 6th century BC when it appears in the trilingual inscriptions of two early Achaemenid kings, Darius I and Xerxes, as one of the countries (Old Persian dahyu-) of the Persian Empire. In these lists of countries, the Old Persian name is Katpatuka. It was proposed that Kat-patuka came from the Luwian language, meaning “Low Country”.
Subsequent research suggests that the adverb katta meaning ‘down, below’ is exclusively Hittite, while its Luwian equivalent is zanta. Therefore, the recent modification of this proposal operates with the Hittite katta peda-, literally “place below” as a starting point for the development of the toponym Cappadocia. The earlier derivation from Iranian Hu-aspa-dahyu ‘Land of good horses’ can hardly be reconciled with the phonetic shape of Kat-patuka. Several other etymologies have also been offered in the past.
Herodotus tells us that the name of the Cappadocians was applied to them by the Persians, while they were termed by the Greeks “White Syrians” (Leucosyri), who were most probably descendants of the Hittites. One of the Cappadocian tribes he mentions is the Moschoi, associated by Flavius Josephus with the biblical figure Meshech, son of Japheth: “and the Mosocheni were founded by Mosoch; now they are Cappadocians”. AotJ I:6.
Cappadocia appears in the biblical account given in the book of Acts 2:9. The Cappadocians were named as one group hearing the Gospel account from Galileans in their own language on the day of Pentecost shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:5 seems to suggest that the Cappadocians in this account were “God-fearing Jews”. See Acts of the Apostles.
The region is also mentioned in the Jewish Mishnah, in Ketubot 13:11, and several places in the Talmud, including Yevamot 121a.
Under the later kings of the Persian Empire, the Cappadocians were divided into two satrapies, or governments, with one comprising the central and inland portion. The name of Cappadocia continued to be applied by Greek geographers, while the other was called Pontus.
This division had already come about before the time of Xenophon. As after the fall of the Persian government the two provinces continued to be separate, the distinction was perpetuated, and the name Cappadocia came to be restricted to the inland province (sometimes called Great Cappadocia), which alone will be the focus of this article.
The kingdom of Cappadocia still existed in the time of Strabo (c. 64 BC – c. AD 24 ) as a nominally independent state. Cilicia was the name given to the district in which Caesarea, the capital of the whole country, was situated. The only two cities of Cappadocia considered by Strabo to deserve that appellation were Caesarea (originally known as Mazaca) and Tyana, not far from the foot of the Taurus.
Geography and climate on Cappadocia
Cappadocia lies in central Anatolia, in the heartland of what is now Turkey. The relief consists of a high plateau over 1000 m in altitude that is pierced by volcanic peaks, with Mount Erciyes (ancient Argaeus) near Kayseri (ancient Caesarea) being the tallest at 3916 m.
The boundaries of historical Cappadocia are vague, particularly towards the west. To the south, the Taurus Mountains form the boundary with Cilicia and separate Cappadocia from the Mediterranean Sea. To the west, Cappadocia is bounded by the historical regions of Lycaonia to the southwest, and Galatia to the northwest. Due to its inland location and high altitude, Cappadocia has a markedly continental climate, with hot dry summers and cold snowy winters. Rainfall is sparse and the region is largely semi-arid.
Cappadocia contained the sources of the Sarus and Pyramus rivers with their higher affluents, and also the middle course of the Halys, and the whole course of the tributary of the Euphrates later called Tokhma Su. But as no one of these rivers was navigable or served to fertilize the lands along its course, none has much importance in the history of the province.
History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia was known as Hatti in the late Bronze Age and was the homeland of the Hittite power centered at Hattusa. After the fall of the Hittite Empire, with the decline of the Syro-Cappadocians (Mushki) after their defeat by the Lydian king Croesus in the 6th century BC, Cappadocia was ruled by a sort of feudal aristocracy, dwelling in strong castles and keeping the peasants in a servile condition, which later made them apt to foreign slavery.
It was included in the third Persian satrapy in the division established by Darius but continued to be governed by rulers of its own, none supreme over the whole country and all more or fewer tributaries of the Great King.
Kingdom of Cappadocia
After ending the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great tried to rule the area through one of his military commanders. But Ariarathes, previously satrap of the region, declared himself king of the Cappadocians. As Ariarathes I (332–322 BC), he was a successful ruler, and he extended the borders of the Cappadocian Kingdom as far as to the Black Sea.
The kingdom of Cappadocia lived in peace until the death of Alexander. The previous empire was then divided into many parts, and Cappadocia fell to Eumenes. His claims were made good in 322 BC by the regent Perdiccas, who crucified Ariarathes; but in the dissensions which brought about Eumenes’s death, Ariarathes II, the adopted son of Ariarathes I, recovered his inheritance and left it to a line of successors, who mostly bore the name of the founder of the dynasty.
Persian colonists in the Cappadocian kingdom, cut off from their co-religionists in Iran proper, continued to practice Zoroastrianism. Strabo, observing them in the first century BC, records (XV.3.15) that these “fire kindlers” possessed many “holy places of the Persian Gods”, as well as fire temples.
Strabo furthermore relates, were “noteworthy enclosures; and in their midst, there is an altar, on which there is a large number of ashes and where the magi keep the fire ever burning.” According to Strabo, who wrote during the time of Augustus (r. 63 BC–14 AD), almost three hundred years after the fall of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, there remained only traces of Persians in western Asia Minor; however, he considered Cappadocia “almost a living part of Persia”.
Under Ariarathes IV, Cappadocia came into relations with Rome, first as a foe espousing the cause of Antiochus the Great, then as an ally against Perseus of Macedon. The kings henceforward threw in their lot with the Republic as against the Seleucids, to whom they had been from time to time tributary.
Ariarathes V marched with the Roman proconsul Publius Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus against Aristonicus, a claimant to the throne of Pergamon, and their forces were annihilated (130 BC). The imbroglio which followed his death ultimately led to interference by the rising power of Pontus and the intrigues and wars which failed the dynasty.
Roman and Byzantine province
The Cappadocians, supported by Rome against Mithridates VI of Pontus, elected a native lord, Ariobarzanes, to succeed (93 BC); but in the same year, Armenian troops under Tigranes the Great entered Cappadocia, dethroned king Ariobarzanes, and crowned Gordios as the new client-king of Cappadocia, thus creating a buffer zone against the encroaching Romans.
It was not until Rome had deposed the Pontic and Armenian kings that the rule of Ariobarzanes was established (63 BC). In the civil wars Cappadocia was first for Pompey, then for Caesar, then for Antony, and finally, Octavian. The Ariobarzanes dynasty came to an end, a Cappadocian nobleman Archelaus was given the throne, by favor first of Antony and then of Octavian, and maintained tributary independence until AD 17, when the emperor Tiberius, whom he had angered, summoned him to Rome and reduced Cappadocia to a Roman province.
In 70 AD, Vespasian joined Armenia Minor to Cappadocia and made the combined province a frontier bulwark. It remained, under various provincial redistributions, part of the Eastern Empire for centuries.
Cappadocia contains several underground cities (see Kaymaklı Underground City). The underground cities have vast defense networks of traps throughout their many levels. These traps are very creative, including such devices as large round stones to block doors and holes in the ceiling through which the defenders may drop spears.