1902 Encyclopedia > Cilicia

Cilicia




CILICIA, one of the most important provinces in the ancient division of Asia Minor, partly represented by the modern province of Adana. It comprised a large part of the southern coast of that country, extending from Pamphylia on the W. to Mount Amanus and the frontiers of Syria on the E. Throughout this extent it was bounded by the central ridge of Mount Taurus on the N. and by the Mediterranean on the S., so that its form was long and narrow, having a length in a direct line of nearly 270 English miles, while its breadth hardly anywhere exceeds 68 miles. It is divided by nature into two portions of a very different character;—the westernmost, known in ancient times as Cilicia Trachea or Tracheotis (the modern Itsch Hi), the Bugged Cilicia, a well-deserved epithet, as almost the whole region is occupied by a rugged mountain tract, formed by the branches and offshoots of Mount Taurus, which descend for the most part quite to the sea, while the interior is furrowed by deep and narrow valleys, leaving but scanty spaces fit for cultivation; the eastern-most, on the contrary, called Cilicia Pedias, or " of the Plains," presenting a broad expanse of level alluvial plains round which the lofty chain of Mount Taurus sweeps in a semicircle, forming a great mountain barrier that encloses it like a wall on the north and east, and separates it from the extensive upland plains of Lycaonia and Cappadocia.

Towards the west the limit between Cilicia and Pamphylia was an arbitrary one; the first place that is assigned by Strabo to Cilicia being Coracesium, a remarkable fortress on a projecting rocky headland, now called Alaja. The whole of this rugged mountain district indeed abounds in such projecting headlands, with small sheltered coves or harbours beneath them,—a character that has peculiarly fitted it, both in ancient and in modern times, for affording shelter to pirates. At the same time the difficulty of com-munication with the interior has prevented any of the towns on the coast from rising into important centres of trade. Notwithstanding these disadvantages there were in ancient times a considerable number of towns surrounding the coasts of Cilicia Trachea; among which may be mentioned (proceeding from W. to E.) Selinus, afterwards called Trajauopolis; Anemurium, near the promontory of the same name, which is the southernmost point of Asia Minor ; Celenderis, still called Kelenderi, and used as a place of passage to the Island of Cyprus, though now a poor decayed village; andSeleucia, termed for distinction's sake Seleucia ad Calycadnum, from its position at the mouth of the river of that name. The Calycadnus, now known as the Giik Su, or " Blue Biver," is indeed the only river of any importance in Cilicia Trachea, which it traverses nearly through its whole length, rising but a short distance from the sea, and flowing through a very winding valley, but with a general direction from W. to E. The only towns in the interior of this western part of Cilicia—Mout, which occupies the site of Claudiopolis, and Ermenek (Germani-copolis)—are situated in the valley of the Calycadnus, but they are places of little importance. The whole of this mountain tract is still covered with extensive forests, which in ancient times supplied timber for the navies of the Egyptian and Syrian kings, but are now almost entirely neglected.

The small river Lamus still called Lamas Su was considered by ancient geographers as constituting the limit between the two different provinces of Cilicia. From that point the mountains begin to recede from the coast, and leave a narrow strip of alluvial plain between them and the sea, which, beyond Soli to the east, opens out into the broad lovel expanse that gave name to Cilicia Pedias. The whole of this extensive plain, spreading out in some parts to more than 30 miles in width, is composed of alluvial deposits brought down by the rivers that intersect it. It has consequently a soil of great natural fertility, and would be capable of the richest cultivation ; but it is for the most part a desolate uncultivated tract, in which the towns of Tarsus and Adana, with their surrounding gardens and fruit-trees, appear like oases in the midst of a desert. The surrounding plains are the abode in winter of numerous hordes of Turcomans and Kurds, who wander over them freely with their flocks and herds; while in summer they are rendered pestilential by the noxious miasmata produced by the marshes formed by the rivers that flow through the a, so that at this season they are almost wholly uninhabited.





The plains of eastern Cilicia are traversed by three con-siderable rivers. Of these the Cydnus, which flows by Tarsus, though much the most celebrated in ancient times, is the least considerable. It is formed by the junction of three streams, all of which rise on the southern slope of the Bulghardagh, as the portion of Mount Taurus imme-diately north of Tarsus is called ; and it has consequently but a short course from thence to the sea. But it is a deep and rapid stream, and was celebrated in antiquity for the coolness and clearness of its waters, a bath in which nearly cost Alexander the Great his life. The other two rivers, the Sarus and Pyramus, now known as the Sihun and Jihun, are much more important. Both of these take their rise in the upland plains of Cappadocia, beyond the range of Mount Taurus, through which they force their way to the Cilician plains below. On arriving in these they spread out into stagnant pools and marshes, through which the main streams are continually changing their courses, and cutting out for themselves new channels. These changes have caused much confusion in reconciling the accounts given by ancient writers with the present geography of the country. It appears certain that in ancient times the Sarus joined the Pyramus near its mouth, and both together fell into the sea immediately to the west of the small rocky headland called Karatasch Burun, near the site of the ancient city of Mallus; but at the present day the Sihun holds a separate course from Adana towards the south-west, flowing into the sea within a few miles of the mouth of the Cydnus, while the Jihun, as it approaches the sea, takes a sudden turn to the east, and flows into the Gulf of Scanderoon, between the site of Mallus and that of the ancient Agse, now known as Aias.

Imperfectly as the plains of this part of Cilicia are cultivated, they produce cotton, wheat, barley, tobacco, and sesame in sufficient quantities to show of what they would be capable if properly drained and tilled ; while the gardens around the towns of Tarsus and Adana are planted with palms, orange-trees, figs, and other fruit trees, which flourish with the utmost luxuriance. The climate in summer is intensely hot; and the plains at that season are burnt up and parched ; but the abundant means of irrigation at hand, if properly utilized, would effectually remedy that disadvantage. These extensive plains are frequented by numbers of gazelles and jerboas, as well as bustards, francolins, and other game. Buffaloes also abound in the marshy tracts near the sea. In the ranges of Mount Taurus leopards, for which the province was noted in the time of Cicero, are still found not unfrequently.

Besides Tarsus and Adana, which retain their ancient names as well as sites, there were in ancient times several other important cities in the eastern portion of Cilicia. Among these Soli (afterwards called Pompeiopolis, from its having been repeopled and rebuilt by Pompey the Great) was situated at the western extremity of the great plain, a few miles west of Mersina, the modern port of Tarsus ; while Mallus occupied the promontory now called Karatasch Burun, at its eastern extremity. In the interior were Mopsuestia (now Missis) on the River Pyramus, and Anazarbus (still called Ai'n Zarba) higher up the valley of the same river, which, under the Roman and Byzantine empires, became one of the most flourishing cities of Cilicia. In modern times Adana, which is the capital of the pashalic or vilayet that comprises all Cilicia, is much the most important town in the province, and is estimated to contain 18,000 inhabitants, while Tarsus does not possess more than 7000 or 8000.

Mersina, the port of Tarsus, though still but a small place, is gradually becoming the seat of a considerable trade, being the only outlet for the productions of the interior.

Cilicia is bounded on the east (as already stated) by Mount Amanus, one of the most considerable of the branches or offshoots of Mount Taurus. But the range to which this name was given by ancient geographers is in fact a double one, which forks into two branches about midway between Marasch and the sea, and sends down two arms,—the one in a south-west direction, ending in the Cilician plain before reaching the sea ; the other running nearly due south till it curves round the Gulf of Scanderoon, and ends in the lofty mountain promontory of Ras el Khanzin, the Rossicus Scopulus of Ptolemy. Between these two ranges lies the deep bay or inlet called in ancient times the Gulf of Issus, and now known as the Gulf of Scanderoon, from the seaport of that name ; this is above 50 miles long and about 20 miles wide at its entrance. On its shores were situated in ancient times the towns of Mgsd (now Aias) on the western side, and Issus, Myriandrus, and Rhosus on the eastern; but after the foundation of Alexandria on the same side of the gulf, these last towns sank into comparative insignificance. Alexandria still survives under the name of Alexandretta, or Iskendertm (commonly corrupted into Scanderoon) as it is called by the Turks, and is a place of considerable trade.





The southern branch of Mount Amanus unquestionably constitutes the natural limit of Cilicia, and hence Strabo correctly assigns all the towns north of the promontory of Rhosus to Cilicia, and those on the other side of it to Pieria in Syria. But for political purposes the limit was fixed at a point some miles north of Alexandria, where there was a fortified pass called the Syrian Gates. The name of Pylae Syriae or Syrian Gates was also given, however, to the mountain pass across the range of Mount Amanus, now known as the Pass of Beilan, which has in all ages formed the direct route from Asia Minor into Syria. It was to it's command of these passes, as well as that called the Cilician Gates on the north, leading directly across the chain of Mount Taurus, that Cilicia owed much of its importance in a military and political point of view.

History.—Though the boundaries of Cilicia, as above defined, were generally recognized in ancient times, the people of that name appears to have been in early days much more widely spread, and occupied a considerable extent of country north of Mount Taurus, as well as in the mountain regions extending towards Armenia. Thus Herodotus extends the name of Cilicia to the Euphrates, and must have comprised a large portion of Cappadocia under that appellation. There can be no doubt that the Cilicians, as well as the Cappadocians, were of Semitic or Aramaic descent, and belonged to the same stock as the Syrians, from whom, however, they were from a very early period politically separate. Cilicia appears as an indepen-dent kingdom under a monarch named Syennesis, in the time of Alyattes, king of Lydia, 610 B.C. (Herod., i. 74), and even after it passed under the Persian empire it con-tinued to be governed by its own kings, all of whom appear to have borne the name, or rather appellation, of Syennesis. From its position Cilicia attracted much attention during the expedition of the younger Cyrus (401 B.C.), as well as in that of Alexander, whose first great victory over the Persian king was fought at Issus, in the narrow pass between Mount Amanus and the sea (333 B.C.)

Cilicia now passed under the Macedonian rule, and was subject to the Seleucidan kings of Syria. But owing to the feeble and unsettled character of the government under the later monarchs of that dynasty, the western portion of the country, or Cilicia Trachea, became the stronghold of numerous pirates, who carried their depredations to such an extent as to compel the Romans to wage regular war upon them. It was not till 66 B.C that they were finally subdued by Pompey, and Cilicia was regularly constituted as a Roman province, which, however, comprised, in addition to Cilicia properly so called, Pamphylia, Pisidia, Isauria, Lycaonia, and a large part of Phrygia. This was the extent of the province when it was governed by Cicero as proconsul (51-50 B.C), who obtained some successes against the mountain tribes of Mount Amanus, of which he was im-moderately proud.

Under the Roman empire Cilicia was again reduced to its natural limits, but did not receive its final constitution as a province till the time of Vespasian. It retained its condition as such under the Roman and Byzantine empires till it fell, with the rest of Asia Minor, under the Seljukian Turks in the 11th century. After the break-up of the Turkish monarchy Cilicia was seized by the Armenians, who from the mountain districts of Mount Amanus and Taurus gradually made themselves masters of the whole country, of which they retained possession, notwithstanding frequent struggles with the Lusignans—the lords of the neighbouring island of Cyprus— till both were expelled by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. From that period Cilicia has continued to form part of the Turkish empire, with the exception of the brief interval from 1833 to 1840, during which it was annexed to his dominions by Mehemet Ali, viceroy of Egypt; but after the defeat of that ruler by the allied powers he was compelled to evacuate Cilicia, which was reunited as before with the Ottoman empire.

The ancient geography of Cilicia is well described by Strabo (bk. xiv. ch. 5). Its coasts were first visited and were described in detail by Captain Beaufort in his Karamania, 8vo, bond., 1818. A more complete examination of the whole country was made by M. Langlois in 1852-58 (Voyage dans la Cilicie et dans les Montagnes du Taurus, 8vo. Paris, 1861). (B. H. B.)




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