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Cappadocia

The central Asian province known as Cappadocia was rich in history, being the original home of the ancient Hittite culture.

It was an inland territory, bordering several eastern provinces such as Armenia in the east, Mesopotamia, Cilicia and Syria to the south, Galatia to the west and Pontus to the north.

The eastern region was largely mountainous, heavily influenced by volcanic activity, and consisted of flatter plains in the west, though situated on high plateaus.

After the fall of the Hittite empire around 1750 BC, Cappadocia was ruled by various invading factions, such as the Phyrgians and Cimmerians.

The Persians came to power in the mid 6th century BC and ruled for over 200 years, establishing a more permanent government system, entrusting it mostly to local nobles. The Persians also allowed the Cappadocians more freedom in cultural practice, allowing them to worship their fire god and hold the volcanoes of the region as sacred.

It was the Persian word Katpatuka or "land of the well bred horses" that eventually came to identify the region, but they allowed the locals to practice their own languages freely. The enmity between the Macedonian king Alexander the Great and the Persian King Darius would eventually unravel eastern control of the territory, as Alexander spread Hellenistic control. Alexander never visited Cappadocia in any official capacity, satisfied with tributary allegiance and free to continue his eastern march.

After the death of Alexander in 323 BC, administration of Cappadocia fell to the dynasty of Ariarathes. His family line would rule the kingdom until 93 BC, and were responsible for the establishment of positive relations with Rome. Under Ariarathes IV, Cappadocia supported Rome in the early 2nd century BC against Perseus of Macedonia, son of Philip V. Having won the faith of the growing power of Rome, the Cappadocians remained on favorable terms with independent status for the next two centuries.

They aided Rome against the Seleucids of Syria and later took part in a great defeat against Aristonicus of Pergamum. Instability in the region, and the rise of Mithridates of Pontus, brought war to the entire Asian world, and the Cappadocians fought valiantly in defense of their own independence. Pompey's final victory established new independence for Cappadocia in 63 BC under a new dynastic King, started by Ariobarzanes.

In the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic, the Cappadocians played a dangerous game with the powers that were in Rome. At first, they understandably supported their benefactor Pompey against Caesar. After his victory at Pharsalus, they switched sides in support of Caesar and maintained their own autonomy. In the civil war that erupted between Caesar's assassins, Antony and Octavian, they first supported Brutus and Cassius who held firm control of the eastern provinces. After their defeat, their allegiance went over to Antony and finally to Octavian after he came to dominant the entire Roman world. Cappadocia maintained independence as a client state until 17 AD, when the Emperor Tiberius formally incorporated it into an official province of the Empire.

During the course of the Roman Imperial period, Cappadocia maintained itself as a largely peaceful and uneventful place on the interior, but also served as an important border with eastern enemies. Under Vespasian and continuing well into the Byzantine years, Legio XII Fulminata was garrisoned at Melitene, which became an early bastion of Christianity. Legio XV Apollinaris was stationed at Satala along the border with Armenia and Legio XVI Flamia Firma guarded Samosata on the border with Mesopotamia and the Euphrates River.

Also of military importance in the province was the presence of the eastern Black Sea naval base at Trapezus. Though smaller in stature than other Imperial naval bases, this one formed the eastern most facility of note in the Empire.









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Cappadocia - Related Topic: Macedonian Wars


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