Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Hadrien Bru, Guy Labarre (ed.), L'Anatolie des peuples, des cités et des cultures. (IIe millénaire av. J.-C. - Ve siècle ap. J.-C.). Colloque international de Besançon - 26-27 novembre 2010 (2 vols.). Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2014. Pp. 240; 374. ISBN 9782848674735. €60.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Charles Gates, Bilkent University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This handsomely printed two-volume set contains the proceedings from a conference, held in Besançon in 2010, heralding a new project for a historical and archaeological atlas of Asia Minor. It follows an earlier symposium, held in Tours in 2005, that similarly explored issues of historical geography although with less emphasis on material remains revealed through archaeological field work.1 The 2005 participants were almost entirely French, or at least Francophone; the current symposium, in contrast, includes papers in English (13), German (2), and Italian (1) as well as French (20), by contributors from several countries active in research in ancient Turkey.2 The focus is on classical antiquity; a smaller number of essays treat the Late Bronze Age, the Iron Age, late antiquity, or technical matters.

The excuse for the symposium was the launching of the atlas. In his opening essay, Hadrien Bru describes the aim of this project. Forerunners are noted, but their shortcomings that led to this new initiative are not sufficiently explained. The new atlas, covering the 2nd millennium BC through the 5th century AD, aims to be comprehensive: syntheses of history, geography, cultures, and archaeology; bibliographies and archives; and detailed maps (including digital and interactive) with databases, with publication primarily in English, but also in French, German, and Italian, with Turkish summaries. One hundred contributors have been signed up. The first 5-year period, 2013-2017, is designed to launch the research teams, secure financial support, and begin publication. All this sounds admirable, of course, but as I write (June, 2015), results are yet to be seen.

The other 35 papers offer diverse perspectives on the mission of the atlas. After all, when you cast your net as wide as this symposium does, you are bound to pull in a great variety of fish. The first volume is entitled "Autour d'un projet d'atlas historique et archéologique de l'Asie Mineure. Méthodologie et prospective." Indeed, "autour" is the operative word here, for few papers comment directly on the atlas project. Volume 2, "Approches locales et régionale," abandons any close link with the atlas and instead presents reports on archaeological and text-based (including epigraphical) research into the antiquity of Asia Minor. Although all such case studies merit a place in this atlas project, the diversity can be off-putting. Without a strong unifying theme, an archaeologist or historian is unlikely to read the work in its entirety, but instead will pick articles that might relate to particular interests. To help the reader navigate through the regions, periods, themes, and approaches, a brief guide is offered here.

Most papers deal with western, central, and northern Turkey. A few discuss remains from the southwest and south (including Cilicia). Despite the intention of the atlas project to cover territory from the Aegean to the Caucasus, in these proceedings the eastern half of Turkey (excepting eastern Paphlagonia) is conspicuously absent, apart from Anthony Comfort's paper on late Roman bridges of the southeast. One clue to this imbalance is given by Sylvain Destephen in a study of the locations of bishoprics in the 4th-6th centuries; indicators of towns, the bishoprics are clustered in the western half of today's Turkey. In earlier centuries, settlements must have predominated in the west and center, too – and attracted in modern times greater interest from classical-minded researchers.

Evidence from archaeological surveys and excavations is well represented. Let us begin in central Anatolia, where Julie Patrier provides a comprehensive inventory of MB and LB sites. The second millennium BC is the subject as well of a survey in Afyon province by Özdemir Koçak, who notes a decrease in settlements from MB into LB. In contrast, textual evidence is the basis of Massimo Forlanini's study of certain details of the historical geography of Hittite Cappadocia and Pontus. The survival of toponyms into the first millennium BC is evaluated. Had maps been included, the uninitiated reader would no doubt have followed the arguments with greater ease.

Geoffrey Summers considers two themes of key interest for an atlas project: routes and settlement patterns. The period that concerns him is the LBA and IA; his geographical focus is Kerkenes Dağ, the hilltop town in the Hittite heartland near modern Yozgat where he and Françoise Summers directed excavations from 1993 to 2011. He posits a Hittite road from Hattusa to Kerkenes (73 km), then eastward to Çadır Höyük (10 km) and Alişar (10 km further). Settlements in the vicinity of Kerkenes are abundant in the EBA, much fewer in the LBA. A closer look at the IA follows, with the settlement at Kerkenes discussed in its historical context (late 7th-mid 6th c. BC). In a separate paper, G. and F. Summers report on mapping the site, using both remote sensing and excavation; their work set a high standard, a model to which others can aspire. Technical topics are also taken up by C. Schäfer and W. Spickermann, who discuss the role of interactive digital maps in the atlas project.

At the southern edge of the central plateau, directly south of Kerkenes as the crow flies even if quite a distance away, lies Porsuk, a multi-period höyük on the western approach to the Cilician Gates. Isabelle Chalier and Stéphane Lebreton focus on its Hellenistic and Roman levels. Although the town is unidentified in classical sources, its strategic location on the route from the plateau to Cilicia suggests it must have had some importance. The authors evaluate the site in the context of known settlements of the region, such as Tyana. Tyana and Mazaca-Caesarea, especially in the late antique, are in fact the subjects of another paper by Lebreton.

South of the Taurus Mountains lies Cilicia. Three papers consider the historical geography of Cilicia, Rough (west) and Smooth (east). Hamdi Şahin samples the architectural, geological, and epigraphic evidence for rural settlement in Rough Cilicia; Emmanuelle Goussé examines place names and ethnic attributions to assess origins of people in Rough Cilicia and migrations; and Mustafa Hamdi Sayar sketches (without references, oddly) the history of cities and harbors.

In contrast with Kerkenes Dağ, Pessinus (a two-hour drive west of Ankara) has a long history of settlement, including a Phrygian occupation contemporary with that at Kerkenes. Excavated by teams from Ghent University from 1967 to1974 and 1987 to2008, the project passed to Melbourne University in 2009. Gocha Tsetskhladze gives a full and useful assessment of the state of research at Pessinus and environs in his first years as director of the project. Roman and Byzantine remains are abundant, even if the urban history is unclear, but earlier periods, Hellenistic and especially Phrygian, remain poorly known.

North central Turkey is well represented in these volumes. Dominique Kassab-Tezgör gives a concise review of archaeological research along Turkey's Black Sea coast. Claire Barat reconstructs the culture history of Paphlagonia, including the central Black Sea coast, from the Hittite (LBA) through the Roman period, based on often fragmentary archaeological and textual evidence. Survey work in the Zile district in Tokat province is described by Mehmet Özsait and Nesrin Özsait; periods represented are MB, LB, Iron Age, and Hellenistic-Roman. Nearby, at Sulusaray / Tokat, Markus Kohl started a survey only in 2009 and so reports especially on future plans. Pompeiopolis, an important Paphlagonian city of the Roman period, is discussed by Latife Summerer and Alexander von Kienlin. Founded by Pompey in 65/64 BC and inhabited until the later 7th century, the site has been under investigation since 2006. Geomagnetic prospecting at Pompeiopolis has revealed generous sections of the city plan; research projects include testing the geoprospecting results through excavation, and searching for the earliest habitation and for later Byzantine settlements in the region. From Hadrianopolis, a Roman city in west Paphlagonia, a group of 43 inscriptions is (with one exception, a new find) republished by Eva Christof and Ergün Laflı.

Discussions of sites and settlements from western Turkey rely more heavily on textual evidence than do those treating central Anatolia, even if archaeological evidence is frequently utilized. As Emmanuelle Goussé did for Cilicia, Alexander Avram checks personal names in inscriptions such as tombstones to see which ethnic groups were living in Thrace. Migrant Paphlagonians and Bithynians are of particular interest. Mustafa Hamdi Sayar offers an overview of Thracian cities and harbors; as for his paper on Cilicia, references are lacking. A quite specific text-based study of the city of Byzantium ca. 300 BC, as it faced wars with the Thracians and Celts amidst the activities of Lysimachos, is presented by Adrian George Dumitru. A short survey of archaeological investigations of sites in the area of the Straits – the Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, and Dardanelles – comes from Franck Préteux. Just to the south, Gilles Courtieu engagingly addresses a minor problem, the identification of an Asklepieion founded in the Troad by Lysimachos. Mentioned by Strabo, the site was located in the mid 19th century by Pierre de Tchihatcheff, a "Russo-Parisian explorer, an adventurer worthy of Jules Verne." Courtieu ties together textual information, surviving ruins, and epigraphy to provide an answer.

Proceeding southward along the Aegean coast, two papers deal with Lydian epigraphy. J. Schäfer and P. Probst report on the Hamburg Epigraphic Database for Ancient Asia Minor, which has already completed work on Lydia and, as of this symposium, was well underway in Phrygia. In a broader history of archaeological and epigraphic research in Lydia, Marijana Ricl notes that she, too, has actively collected inscriptions in Lydia in epigraphic survey.

Like Forlanini, René Lebrun, a Hittitologist, is concerned with identifying places mentioned in Hittite texts. His attention turns here to locating a mountain (Arinnanda) and a town (Puranda), both in western Anatolia, mentioned during the reign of Mursili I (1318-1290 BC). Kenan Eren provides a short archaeological survey of Archaic cities in Ionia. A concentrated urbanism is not attested; instead, districts of a town seem loosely connected. Better plans would have helped the argument. Inland, the ever-intriguing city of Dinar (modern name), located at the cusp of the Aegean coastal zone and the interior plateau, at the source of the Meander and Marsyas Rivers, is discussed by Alexander von Kienlin, Latife Summerer, and Askold Ivantchik. In the Persian period, this city was called Kelainai; an Achaemenid center, its historical connections are significant. A survey project began in 2008; this article presents the initial results.

Three papers give insight into the outskirts of Pamphylia. Nevzat Çelik and Isabelle Pimouguet-Pédarros explore two satellite cities of Termessos, Kelbessos and Kitanaura, both located on hilltops in eastern Lycia. The latter has an impressive surviving monument, the Heroon or Temple-tomb of Trokondas, erected in the 1st century BC – 1st century AD. This tomb is discussed in detail, never before having been closely examined. Also noteworthy are the two papers concerning research in Pisidia. The first presents survey work in the upper valley of the Eurymedon River (by Guy Labarre and Mehmet Özsait), while the second focuses on Roman-period inscriptions in the Pisidian language, from the same region (Claude Brixhe and Mehmet Özsait).

The final two papers are unusual and of exceptional interest. Both address issues of historical geography, but transcend the basic needs of an atlas, even one as ambitious as that proposed here. Anca Dan examines the rock formations at the north end of the Bosporus at the entry into the Black Sea: how they were presented in Greek mythology and poetry and in Greco-Roman and medieval historical writing, and the modern efforts to identify them. In their varying spiritual, literary, and historical contexts, these rocks have different realities. Dan offers us a sort of post-modern geography quite different from the other contributions in these volumes. The second paper is an extensive study of the water supply at Hierapolis (at modern Pamukkale). Lorenzo Campagna and Giuseppe Scardozzi contrast the drinking water brought by aqueduct from springs 6 and 13 km distant with the thermal springs inside the city, used for baths and for irrigation. Two nymphaea are examined, and lead to a quite unexpected set of reflections on the ideology of water and its role in the city's self-identification.

These symposium proceedings give a good sampling of the variety of historical geographical research currently being done in Turkey. They also make clear how daunting the task is to assemble a historical and archaeological atlas for this very large country. Let's wish the editors of the atlas best of luck!


1.   Bru, Hadrien, Kirbihler, François and Stéphane Lebreton (eds), L'Asie Mineure dans l'Antiquité. Échanges, populations et territoires. Rennes, 2009. Reviewed by Marie Beatrice Bittarello in BMCR 2009.10.33
2.   A few of the English-language articles could have benefited from careful proofreading.

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