Amasia

Amasia (Greek Ἀμάσεια): ancient town in Anatolia, capital of the kingdom of Pontus.

Amasia: the citadel, the royal tombs, and a bridge resting on ancient piers

Amasia is situated at the place where the Green River (Turkish Yeşil Irmak, ancient Iris) breaks through a mountain range, which means that the city is situated in a valley. The geographer Strabo, who was born in Amasia, mentions the military advantage of the mountains.

It is an admirably devised city, since it can at the same time afford the advantage of both a city and a fortress; for it is a high and precipitous rock, which descends abruptly to the river, and has on one side the wall on the edge of the river where the city is settled and on the other the wall that runs up on either side to the peaks.note

It comes as no surprise that a defendable place with access to water, has been occupied for ages. From archaeological research, we know that people were living in Amasia as early as the Bronze and Iron Ages. The town must have belonged to the various kingdoms that ruled this area: the Hittites in the Bronze Age, the Achaemenid Persians after the mid-sixth century. Iranian influence was more than superficial.

Part of the Hellenistic wall

After Alexander the Great, who campaigned more to the south, it may briefly have belonged to Cappadocia, but between 281 and 183 BCE it served as the capital of an independent kingdom named Pontus, “Sea”. The wall surrounding the palaces and royal tombs is remarkably well-preserved. It retained its Iranian nature, with an originally Persian aristocracy and Iranian cults. The five rock tombs of the kings of Pontus and twelve priestly tombs would not have been out of place in Persis.

During the Third Mithridatic War (73-63 BCE), the city was conquered by the Roman armies of Lucullus and it became later, when Pontus was converted to a Roman province, the administrative center of Bithynia-Pontus, although it was transferred to Galatia in the year 2 or 3 and later, in about 112, to Cappadocia. It was recognized as a metropolis in the second century: an honorific title that meant a lot to Roman citizens. Strabo offers a brief description of the city and its southern territory:

Inside Royal Tomb 5
The rock also has reservoirs of water inside it, a water-supply of which the city cannot be deprived, since two tube-like channels have been hewn out, one towards the river and the other towards the neck. And two bridges have been built over the river, one from the city to the suburbs and the other from the suburbs to the outside territory; for it is at this bridge that the mountain which lies above the rock terminates. And there is a valley extending from the river which at first is not altogether wide, but it later widens out and forms the plain called Chiliocomum; and then comes the Diacopene and Pimolisene country, all of which is fertile, extending to the Halys River.note

According to Christian sources, a Christian named Theodore set fire to the local temple of Cybele, was arrested, and burned alive. He would become one of the great saints of the Eastern Church.

Amasia boasts two authors whose works have survived: the above-mentioned Strabo, the early Roman author of a very important book on geography, and the Christian bishop Asterius, whose sermons date to about 400 CE.

The city remained part of the Byzantine Empire until the Turks conquered Anatolia in the late eleventh century.

This page was created in 2017; last modified on 16 May 2017.