Thursday, May 8, 2014


Michael C. Hoff, Rhys F. Townsend (ed.), Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches. Proceedings of an international conference held at Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2007. Oxford; Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2013. Pp. xii, 315. ISBN 9781842175187. $130.00.

Reviewed by Georgy Kantor, St John's College, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Archaeological work on Turkey's southern shore in antiquity, and particularly on Rough Cilicia, has advanced considerably in recent years (in addition to the excavations and surveys mentioned in the volume under review we can note e.g. the ongoing Turkish work at Özköy or important German work at Olba/Diokaisareia in 1999–2006).1 The need for new synthetic work putting historical questions to the new data is clear,2 and this conference volume provides some necessary groundwork in that direction.

The conference, reflecting the international nature of research on the ground, brought together scholars from Turkey itself, Austria, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the UK and the US, discussing (not quite in chronological order) topics from the Neo-Hittite to early Byzantine periods, though with a marked preponderance of the papers dealing with the Roman age. This is not an attempt to integrate all types of evidence, however: while literary and archaeological sources are discussed extensively, if usually in separate chapters, epigraphic evidence (with the exception of chapter 8) is not directly dealt with, and limited use is made of the numismatic material.

After a brief introduction surveying earlier research in the area and laying out the contents of the volume, chapters 2 and 3 deal with the Bronze Age and with early Greek colonisation, with Remzi Yağci in chapter 2 making the interesting argument that recent finds of architectural terracottas at Soloi confirm the predominantly Greek building culture of that settlement.

The next big block (chapters 4–7) addresses Cilician piracy, a phenomenon for which Cilicia is, with somewhat distorting consequences, best known in general histories of antiquity (Chapter 6 is a posthumous publication of a paper by the lamented Kurt Tomaschitz). Philip de Souza uses his expertise in ancient naval warfare to deconstruct in an efficient manner the orthodox narrative of the rise of piracy and bring salutary doubt to the conventional estimate of Pompey's achievements (chapter 5); his analysis here is more questioning than the treatment of Cilician piracy in his 1999 monograph.3 Traces of piracy in the archaeological record, however, inevitably remain elusive: as Nicholas Rauh, Matthew Dillon and Richard Rothaus recognize in chapter 7, the presence of Italian amphorae from Delos or evidence for early fortification of minor settlements is ambiguous. The evidence of anchor finds and ship decorations is even less conclusive (regardless of its date, if the Pegasus figure from Antiochia ad Cragum is closely reminiscent of Caligula's ships on Lake Nemi, it suggests a ceremonial rather than a pirate vessel). The authors nonetheless provide a very valuable account of Hellenistic fortification patterns in the region. Emanuela Borgia's study in chapter 8 concentrates on a single inscription from the reign of Antiochus IV of Commagene (SEG LIII 1730) and offering a reassessment of other evidence about his rule. She rightly stresses the similarities between his royal titulature in Cilicia as attested in the inscription and that of the Bosporan kings, emphasizing important parallels in the situation of these kingdoms on the fringes of the Roman imperium.

Chapters 9–13 deal with aspects of Cilician architecture in the Roman period, concentrating on the search for Roman influence and distinctive regional characteristics. Marcello Spanu surveys architectural decoration, Chiara Giobbe temples of the Roman period, and Michael Hoff (one of the volume editors) bath buildings, while two chapters – Rhys Townsend on the bouleuterion at Asar Tepe and Claudia Winterstein on a Roman monument at Selinus-Traianopolis – zoom in on particular buildings. The conclusions are of a preliminary nature—e.g. Michael Hoff both stresses 'a widespread acceptance of the very Roman institution of bathing' and accepts, with commendable caution, that 'evidence does not preclude the possibility of a bath type born out of native tradition' (p. 154)—but many valuable data are assembled in an accessible way. I am unconvinced by the argument tentatively identifying the Selinus monument as a cenotaph to Trajan; looking at it as an imperial cult temple seems more secure, if more mundane. LuAnn Wandsnider in chapter 14 argues for an approach to public buildings and civic benefactions through 'signalling theory', contending that contributions by the benefactors may have been superfluous to civic needs and not particularly onerous for the benefactors themselves; in this she follows the recent approach of Arjan Zuiderhoek.4 The figures adduced by Zuiderhoek remain highly contentious, however,5 and the discussion of the Rough Cilicia evidence itself in this chapter is very brief and only suggests possible approaches to the material. The acute questions raised at the end of her chapter concerning the sources of the wealth of the Cilician elite will repay further study.

Chapters 15-17 offer case studies in the economy of the Roman period, presenting important evidence from Seleucia ad Calycadnum (Günder Varinlioğlu) and Elaiussa Sebaste (Adele Federica Ferrazzoli and Marco Ricci); the most significant is a study of ceramic evidence for trade between Cyprus and Cilicia by John Lund, which shows the existence of two distinct contact zones: between Rough Cilicia and North-Western Cyprus and between Smooth Cilicia, Eastern Cyprus and Syria. This seems to go rather against the view that piracy had any significant impact on trade routes in the area.6 Comparable studies for overland routes across the Taurus remain a major desideratum for a fuller understanding of the region.7

With chapters 18–21 we move to the spread of Christianity and to the Byzantine period: Mark Jackson deals with Byzantine settlement in the Göksu valley, Hugh Elton surveys the evidence for late Roman churches, and two further chapters deal with narrative evidence for early Christianity. Sevim Canevello and Murat Ozyildirim in chapter 20 seem, surprisingly, to treat the story of St Paul's interactions with Thecla as historical and make a puzzling suggestion that Seleucia ad Calycadnum was represented at the council of Nicaea by more than one bishop. They seem to assume that the other bishops remain unrecorded because they did not sign the acts of the council. Linda Honey in chapter 21 provides a much more sophisticated study of the Miracles of Thecla and makes important suggestions concerning the Christian sacred geography of this part of Asia Minor.

Gerhard Huber's memoir on architectural research in the region (chapter 22) forms a coda to the volume and usefully supplements Michael Hoff's treatment of bathhouses in chapter 12.

The book is richly and usefully illustrated and the maps in most cases provide an idea of the relief, which is all-important in the study of this region.

All in all, plenty of useful new archaeological data are usefully presented and some interesting methodological suggestions made. Any student of Rough Cilicia will need to consult this volume, but there is no interpretative breakthrough and the quality of contributions is somewhat uneven: precisely what one would expect from a decent conference volume.


1.   For an accessible short presentation of archaeological results from one site in the region, see now E.E. Schneider (ed.), Elaiussa Sebaste: A Port City between East and West (Istanbul 2008), based on the work of Italian team directed by the author, more fully presented in Elaiussa Sebaste I–III (Rome 1999–2003; Istanbul 2010).
2.   For important strictures on the most recent attempt at synthesis, see C. Foss, Speculum 65 (1990), 170–2.
3.   Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge 1999), 97–178.
4.   The Politics of Munificence in the Roman Empire: Citizens, Elites and Benefactors in Asia Minor (Cambridge 2009).
5.   A. Kalinowski, AHB Online Reviews 1 (2011), 148–52; Y. Lafond, BMCR 2010.10.23. By way of comparison, the total of just one of the texts listing Opramoas's (admittedly atypical) benefactions in neighbouring Lycia was at least 548,000 denarii (TAM II 905) vs. the 100,000 denarii estimate for the total annual provincial customs revenue (SEG LVII 1666).
6.   For a striking comparandum, see J. Russell, 'Anemourion', in A.E. Laiou (ed.), The Economic History of Byzantium, vol. 1 (Dumbarton Oaks 2002), 225.
7.   See already W.M. Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (London 1890), 361.

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