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The peninsular mass that the Asiatic continent projects westward of an imaginary line running from the Gulf of Alexandretta (Issus) on the Mediterranean to the vicinity of Trebizond (Trapezus) on the Black Sea. It is washed by three great seas, the Euxine (Black Sea) on the north, the Mediterranean on the south, and the Ægean on the west. It is located between 36°-42° north latitude and 26°-40° east longitude. The extreme length is about 720 miles and the extreme breadth about 420, though the average is 650 and 300 miles respectivelly. At its extreme western limit it almost touches the European mainland, from which it is separated for several miles by the narrow straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (Hellespont) and by the small Sea of Marmora (Propontis) through which connecting waters the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are brought into mutual contact.
In remote antiquity it had no common designation, being known variously after the races or kingdoms that it included. The term "Asia" was soon popularized by the Romans for whom it meant only the populous and cultivated western sea-board, organized by them into a province, together with neighbouring territory (Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Phrygia) more or less civilized after the Græco-Roman ideas. The first writer to use the term Asia Minor is the Christian Orosius (Hist., I, 2, 10), about the year 400. The early Byzantine writers often refer to it as ‘e mikrà ’Asía, "Little Asia ". In Byzantine administration it came soon to be known under the somewhat elastic name of ’Anatolé or "rising sun", i.e. "the East". It was, politically speaking, "the Anatolic theme", one of the twenty-nine provinces of the Byzantine empire from the seventh century to the eleventh century, when it became a Turkish land. Since then it has become officially known as Anatolia (Anadoli, Natolia, Nadolia), and as such constitutes an important part of Asiatic Turkey, is in fact the chief political and religious mainstay of the present Moslem constitution as far as it is based on Constantinople. Asia Minor is also known as "the Levant", a Western (Italian and French) equivalent for Anatolia. This term, however, applies chiefly to the commercail and industrial centres of the southern and western coasts, though in ecclesiastical language and history it often includes both Egypt and the Holy Land. It was only gradually, and in response to divers influences and agencies, that under the name of Asia Minor were included the remote semi-Oriental territories of Cappadocia and Pontus, Cilicia and Lesser Armenia. Outside of Roman law and administration, their only element of earnest unity was in the Christian religion, and it is not at all insignificant that the first expression of a sense of close and solid relationship should come from a Christian philosopher historian, and precisely at the moment when the new religion had finally borne down in town and country all forms of opposition and apathy, and filled with a new spirit the exhausted races and now lifeless culture of past ages.
It is an elevated plateau, ranging in its surfaces from two to five thousand feet above the sea level, from which rise great mountain chains that run east and west with a certain regularity, while minor groups of mountains and isolated peaks of savage grandeur are widely scattered over the immense table-land. In extent Asia Minor covers about 270,000 square miles and is about the size of France, while in its main physical features it has often been compared with Spain. The mountains of the northern coast, or Pontic range, rise abruptly from the sea for a long distance, are broken by no good harbours, and fall gradually away towards the Bosphorus. Those of the southern or Taurus range run in an irregular line not far from the Mediterranean and form a natural barrier between the central highlands and the southern sea, broken only by the coastal plains of Pamphylia and Cilicia. Inland, the Anti-Taurus range and isolated peaks lift their huge walls from seven to ten thousand feet and render difficult the intercommunication of the inhabitants. Some of these peaks, like Mt. Argæus in Cappadocia (13,100) are of volcanic origin, and smaller cones with well-preserved craters are numerous. There are but few passes, usually at a great height, the most notable of them being the famous Gates of Cilicia (Pylæ Ciliciæ) at the easternmost extremity, a narrow gorge (3,300) between two lofty mountains, the only entrance from the plains of Syria, and therefore at all times the road followed by the Eastern conquerors of Asia Minor. At the extreme west the mountains descend gradually to the sea which they pierce with numberless headlands and projections that give rise to the system of bays and inlets in which Asia Minor has at all times found its chief resources and its most attractive charm.
Asia Minor is a rich field for the geologist. The immense central mass of Mt. Argæus in Cappadocia is largely cretaceous limestone, and elsewhere, south and west, calcareous rocks abound. The rivers carry off enormous quantities of this material which, as it hardens to travertine, forces them to shift their beds, petrifies vegetation, and sterilizes the surroundings. Igneous rocks are frequent, and there is still abundance of the Proconnesian and Phrygian marbles that once tempted the sculptors and builders of Pergamus and Rhodes. The mineral wealth is very great, but much neglected. The rivers are numerous and fall mostly into the Black Sea or the Mediterranean. But they are all sinuous and narrow, and as a rule very shallow. Moreover, falling from great interior heights, they become regularly torrential floods that carry away vast masses of alluvial matter, which they deposit in the sea, thereby filling up good harbours, converting into lakes ports once open, and pushing their deltas so far seaward that they become a menace to navigation. The lack of navigable rivers reaching well into the interior has always been a source of political and economic weakness for Asia Minor, and is perhaps the chief reason why in antiquity it never took on the character of a great united state. In later times this was much more deplorable, owing to the ruin of the once excellent system of Roman roads, the suspicions and unprogressive attitude of the Turkish authorities, and the decay of all the land-improvements made by the original native races, the Greeks of the coast and coastal valleys, the Romans of the imperial period, and the Byzantine population. The interior plateau has an average altitude of 3,500 feet, and stretches north-east by south-west a distance of 250 miles in length by 160 in breadth. Much of it is a treeless and barren waste covered with salt lakes or brackish pools, and with a stunted growth of saline brush, wormwood, sage, and fern. Yet it supports many nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of Turcomans and Yuruks, who wander at will over these lonely wastes and undulating downs in search of pasturage and water for their vast flocks of sheep and goats, though in the hot summer months they seek the higher levels for purer air and the welfare of their flocks.
There are twenty-six lakes on this great plateau, some of which compare favourably with the great lakes of Switzerland, both for size and beauty. Hot medicinal springs are very numerous and form one of the distinctive features of the land. In general the climate is colder than that of the European peninsula within the same degrees of latitude, and is subject to greater extremes of temperature. One cause of the great extremes of cold and heat is the general lack of moisture; that of the clouds is intercepted by the tall mountains, north and south, while the discharge of all the rivers is only about one-third of the united volume of the rivers of France. The northern coast, between Constantinople and Sinope, is exposed to the cold blasts of unimpeded polar winds and to sultry summer heats; on the other hand, to the north-east the lofty peaks of the Caucasus intercept the cold winds from the steppes of Russia and permit the growth of magnificent forests and of wild fruit-trees in abundance. The western coast has a temperature somewhat lower than that of Greece, owing to the atmospheric currents developed by the countless headlands and inlets of the Ionian coast. The southern coast, sheltered from the north winds by the Taurus range, enjoys a warm and genial climate comparable to that of southern France, though its summer is very dry. On the central plateau the climate is affected by the elevation and aspect of the land, but chiefly by the scanty rainfall; in some places the blue sky remains for six or seven months unflecked by a single cloud. As a rule, the summer is exceedingly hot and the winter equally cold. Even on the coast malaria is endemic, owing to the stagnant pools, swamps, and marshy tracts formed by the shifting of river beds, inundations, and the formation of deltas. Moreover, the deforestation of the interior permits the contaminated air of the low-lying pestilential plains to be wafted freely over the central plateau. In respect to climate Asia Minor has greatly deteriorated since Roman antiquity, owing chiefly to the low-grade civilization of its Turkish population and its inefficiency of the civil administration.
The flora of Asia Minor is very varied, apart from the scanty vegetation of the inland plateau. The oak is found there in fifty-two varieties, half of which occur nowhere else. On the northern slopes of the central plateau grow the walnut, box, beech, ash, and other trees; the great forest of Ajakh-Dagh (Sea of Trees) is 120 miles long by 40 broad, and its trees exhibit generally a much larger growth than those of other lands under the same latitude. There are also great forests on all the northern slopes of the Black Sea ranges. On the southern slope of the Taurus, to an altitude of 6,000 feet, noble cedar groves grow and tower above the pines, firs, and junipers, while below them, gradually dropping to the sea, are broad belts of palm groves and aloes and other sub-tropical growths. In the eastern Pontic region and elsewhere the apple, pear, plum, and cherry grow wild; indeed, Asia Minor is said to be the native home of these fruit-trees, usually looked on as of Western origin. Oriental plane and cypress, quasi-sacred symbols of domestic comfort and of human sorrow, are found everywhere. In the sheltered southern valleys the vine, fig, orange, lemon, and citron grow amid the rich aromatic shrubbery, and lend to the landscape the aspect of Sicily or the more favoured districts of southern France.
Several animal species, once indigenous to Asia Minor, have disappeared with the destruction of the inland forests. It is thought that like our domestic varieties of fruit trees, the sheep and the goat are also a gift of Asia Minor. The Angora goat, famous for its silky hair of which the mohair or so-called "cashmere" shawls are woven, is a Turkish importation of the eleventh or twelfth century (Tchihatcheff) and seems to have been unknown to the ancients. It is limited to the district of that name in Galatia, and the flocks, 400,000 to 500,000 head, are very difficult to acclimatize elsewhere than on these high plateaux; at any other place the quality of the fleece quickly deteriorates. The horses for which Asia Minor, particularly Cappadocia, was once famous have either disappeared or given way to another race, graceful, active, and hardy, but inferior to the present stock of Syria or Arabia ; there are no longer any large cattle of fine breed. The one-humped camel is the chief means of transportation, especially on the uplands and in the remote eastern districts. Here he associates peaceably with the horse, and can bear with ease and security a pack of 250 pounds over the passes and rocky terraces. The introduction of the camel probably dates from the twelfth century and symbolizes the thorough substitution of Oriental life for the civilization of the West. A small debased breed of asses abounds, quite inferior to the fine donkeys of Syria or Egypt. Mules are also numerous, as pack-animals and means of transportation; according to an Homeric tradition the peninsula is the original home of the mule. [For a fuller account of the geography of Asia Minor see the classic work of Vivien de Saint Martin, quoted below, and Reclus-Keane, The Earth and its Inhabitants (New York, 1895), Asia Minor (Anatolia), IV, 241-343.]
From time immemorial Asia Minor has been the highway of nations crossing from east to west, and occasionally reversing their course. At the dawn of history, dimly seen Chalybes are working the iron ores of the Caucasus on the Black Sea, and close by are Iberians, Colchians and other tribes. At the other extremity Thracian tribes are flowing backward to their original haunts in Phrygia and Bithynia, while Semitic peoples begin the historical life of Cappadocia. From 1500 to 1000 B. C. the Hittites overran the land as far as the Halys and even as far as Smyrna and Ephesus; sculptures and rock-sanctuaries (Boghaz-Keuï in Cappadocia) still attest their presence. Before them Turanian peoples may have been long settled on the land. Inscribed and sculptured rock-surfaces and tombs in Lydia still puzzle the archeologist, historian, and philologist. From all such data it is impracticable to reconstruct, except in the broadest outline, "the periods of formation through which Asia Minor must have passed before it stands out in the full light of history with its division into numerous more or less independent states, its mixed population, its complicated combination of religions and cultures as different ast he races which originated them" (Ragozin). The fable of the Amazon state in the Thermodon valley seems to have originated in the female priesthood of the Hittite nature-goddess, Mâ, that the Greeks of the western coast eventually changed into Artemis (Diana of Ephesus). The modern discoveries of Schliemann and Dörpfeld at Hissarlik, on the site of ancient Troy, go far to confirm the reality of the main incidents in Homer and the traditional date (1200-1100 B. C. ) of the siege and capture of the city of Priam. But it was not the Argives of Agamemnon who were destined to conquer Asia Minor for the ideas of Hellas. About the year 1100 B. C., numerous Greeks, fleeing before the Dorian invasion from the uplands of Epirus and Thessaly, began to move southward. Driven by these rude warlike invaders, they soon took to the open sea, and so eventually settled in the islands of the Archipelago and along the southern coast of Asia Minor wherever the river-mouths or the plains offered tempting sites for trade and enterprise. They found before them the kingdoms of Lydia and Caria with whose history Herodotus (I, 7-14) begins his account of the wars of the Greeks and Persians ; for Asia, he says, with all the barbarian tribes that inhabit it, is regarded by the Persians as their own (ibid., I, 4). Thenceforth, from the ninth to the sixth century B. C., it is a long procession of Greeks (Ionians, Æolians, Dorians) who descend regularly on the shores of Asia Minor as traders, colonists, adventurers; above all, men of Ionian race. They build their city and sanctuary of Miletus near the shrine of the Lydian sun-god; they adopt other local deities, intermarry with the natives and establish soon an over-sea Greece whose development is the first great chapter in the history of the Western mind. (Sayce, The Ancient Empires of the East, London, 1884; Grote, History of Greece.) The earliest known coins (square-punched, electron) are of Lydian origin, belong to the seventh century B. C., and are perhaps a result of the mercantile intercourse of Greeks and natives. The oracle of Delphi now attracted the Lydian kings, "the first of the barbarians", says Herodotus, "to send presents to that Greek temple", and so along the lines of a common religion there sprang up an ever closer intercourse of both races.
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About the middle of the sixth century B. C., a certain hegemony over most of the peninsula was established by Crœsus, King of Lydia, but this petted child of antique fortune was soon overthrown (548-546 B. C. ) by the Persian Cyrus, after which for two centuries the entire land was an outlying province of Persia. In those days the exactions of the "Great King" fitted in with the ambition and patriotism of the Greeks of the mainland to bring about sympathetic wars in defence of the Asiatic Greeks and then in defence of the Hellenic fatherland (500-449 B. C. ). These immortal efforts of the Greeks arrested forever the repeated overflow of Oriental arrogance and oppression, and made ready the way for the career of Alexander the Great who was destined to revenge on the Orient all the wrongs, supposed or real, of the Greeks of Asia Minor, and to open the career of European grandeur and progress. An uneasy and disturbed period followed, during which the Seleucid successors of Alexander pretended to dominate from Antioch the rich and easy prey of Asia Minor that had fallen to Alexander after the battles of the Granicus and of Issus (334-333 B. C. ), fought respectively at either end of the peninsula. In this time arose the new kingdoms of Pontus, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Pergamus, and Cilicia partly Greek and partly native, also the interesting Celtic kingdom of Galatia founded (280 B. C. ) by warlike adventurers from Gaul, and so organized by them that for the next six or seven centuries it bore the stamp of many peculiar Celtic institutions of their distant fatherland. Greek art, that had already flourished admirably in the Ionian islands and mainland centres of the south and south-west, now took on a fresh development forever connected with the little mountainous kingdom of Pergamus and its Greek rulers known as the Attalids, from Attalus, a favourite name of its kings. Then came the wars with republican Rome (190-63 B. C. ), ending in the latter year with the defeat and death of the great Mithradates VI, "the Oriental defender of Greek liberties", whereby Pontus and Bithynia, i.e. the shores of the Black Sea, were for a long time freed from the peril of Oriental domination. In general the first three centuries of Roman imperial administration were a period of peace and progress for Asia Minor. From the fourth to the seventh century the last long conflict of Eastern Rome with Persia went on, the vicissitudes of which were of no little importance to the great province across which the imperial armies and the warriors of Persia moved to and fro. The annihilation of Persian ambition by Emperor Heraclius ( A. D. 610-641) only shifted the source of danger; henceforth the Arab and his successor, the Turk, take up the continuous challenge of the Orient, and finally make it good. Predatory Arab invasions from 672 to 717 were repelled with vigour from Constantinople, after which for over three centuries the land remained subject to the hereditary Byzantine rule, though during this period almost endless conflict with the Arab dynasties made the Christian buffer-state of Armenia a scene of unutterable woe, and even Asia Minor was constantly menaced by the children of the Prophet. In the end the bravery and military skill of the Macedonian emperors (867-1057) availed not against the continuous pressure of fresh hordes from the far East, and the middle of the eleventh century saw two fatal events, almost contemporaneous and intimately connected, the final separation of the Greek and Latin churches (1040), and the conquest of Asia Minor by Malek Shah and his Seljuk Turks (1058-71). After the death of Malek (1092) his children disputed and divided the splendid inheritance left by him. But Asia Minor, henceforth Rûm (i.e. Rome, the Turkish name of all Byzantine territory), did not pass from their control; they set up their thrones at Nicæa, Nicomedia, and eventually (1097) at Iconium (Koniah). The crusaders of the twelfth century usually took the great highway over Asia Minor, either entirely into Syria, or partly, to embark at ports on the southern coast. Here and there they set up a temporary rule, but could not sustain it against the inexhaustible multitude of the Turkish hordes and the treachery of the Greek emperors. For more than a century the Seljuks ruled Asia Minor, until the appearance of the Mongol hordes (1235). The over-lordship of the latter lasted for some sixty years, until about 1294, when the rule of the Ottoman Turk was inaugurated by the victories of Othman I, and the successful reigns of his three sons, Urkhan, Murad I, and Bajazet I. A ray of hope shone for the Christian Byzantines during the thirteenth century when the Empire of Nicæa (1204-1330) held Bithynia, Lydia, a part of Phrygia and the islands of the Archipelago, i.e. the western region of Asia Minor, and again in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when the Empire of Trebizond (1204-1461) on the Black Sea nourished feebly the hopes of Greek Christians for a return of independence under the cross. But Nicæa fell and became an outpost of Ottoman conquest, and Trebizond scarcely survived the fall of Constantinople (1453). Both weak states had arisen as a protest against the Latin conquest of Constantinople (1204), and though they made the coast line Christian for three centuries, they were unable to loosen the grip of the Turkish hordes of "the Black Sheep" and others on the table-land of the interior. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Genoese and Venetians established a commercial supremacy along the coasts of Asia Minor and in many of the islands. They left permanent memorials in military architecture (since then the Turks call ruins indiscriminately "Djenovessi kalessi" or Genoese castles), and especially in the commercial and maritime law, in business relations and methods, and in the class known henceforth as "Levantines". But the mutual jealousies and rivalries of the Italian commercial republics, and their predominating secular aims, prevented any serious attempt to oust the Seljuk Turk from the high table-lands and eastern border. Ottoman rule and life spread rapidly, threatened only for a brief while by a new Mongol invasion under Tamerlane (1386-1402), and by the disastrous battle of Angora in the latter year (Creasy, History of the Ottoman Empire , new ed., London, 1882). In the end, however, Turkish fortune and courage prevailed, and permanent dominion over the peninsula was secured to the Osmanli by the capture of Constantinople in 1453, since which time save for a partial occupation by the Egyptian Mohammed Ali (1831-39) the Turk has held in peace this richest jewel of Mediterranean empire. As a rule, the inland Turk has cared only for fresh pasturage for his flocks. Ever moving from place to place with his countless sheep and goats, he has despised agriculture and the life of towns. Heedless of the future he has ruined all cultivation of the land, allowed its once perfect development to decay completely, and driven the Christian peasant of the Byzantine age to the mountains or the sea, when he has not induced him to adopt, with the normal life, the law of the Koran. It is the low-grade civilization of the steppes of Turkestan made permanent on the former site of supreme Hellenic refinement of life and of Christian sublimity of teaching and virtue. And it is universally admitted that only a recolonization from Europe can restore its original felicitous conditions. (Vivien de Saint Martin, "Déscription historique et géographique de l'Asie Mineure", Paris, 1852; Heyd, "Geschichte des Levantenhandels", Stuttgart, 1879, tr. into French by Reynaud, Paris, 1880-86).
The Roman Province. –Under the Roman rule, republican and early imperial, the numerous political entities that had sprung up in Asia Minor after the death of Alexander the Great disappeared rapidly and made way for a unity and efficiency of administration, a peace and prosperity, hitherto unknown. The little Greek kingdoms of Pergamus and Bithynia were left to Rome by the wills of their last kings; Cilicia, freed by Pompey from the pirates that infested its waters, was only too grateful for imperial protection; Pontus alone was won from Mithradates VI in a memorable war during which the Celts of Galatia sided with victorious Rome and reaped the reward of their good fortune in governmental favour. With their kings Deiotadrus and Amyntas, the line of Celtic rulers of Asia Minor closed; after the death of Amyntas (25 B. C. ) Galatia became a Roman province. The last king of Cappadocia died in the reign of Tiberius, and the land was forthwith annexed. In this way a practical uniformity of government was introduced over the entire peninsula. Without doing violence to local customs or traditions, the imperial government assured to the provincials an administration at once responsible and equitable, of swift and thorough justice, of continuous peace, easy communication, protection to life and property and the fruits of honest industry. The wool-grower and the weaver of Ancyra, the gold-embroiderer of Attalia, and the sculptor of Diana statuettes in Ephesus were henceforth assured of permanent prosperity, and with them all the other callings and occupations of the most highly civilized part of the Mediterranean world. Manufactures and industries increased, and before the end of the second century Asia Minor had touched the scene of temporal felicity. Taxation, as everywhere in the empire, was close and minute, but not intolerable. Occasionally the taxes were remitted and in periods of public calamity (earthquakes, inundations) the public treasury came to aid the unhappy provincials. The revenues of the peninsula, deeply impaired by republican misgovernment, the Mithradatic wars, and the campaigns against the pirates, increased with rapidity; the fertile islands of the archipelago together with Crete and Cyprus, centuries ago hellenized in polity, tongue and civilized institutions, were bee-hives of industry. Rhodes, e.g., was the great workshop of Greek sculptors who continued, though in a decadent way, the glorious traditions of the Ionian and Pergamene ages. Every available piece of ground on the coast was intensely cultivated, as the pitiful wreckage of agricultural engineering yet shows, while in the interior the plains of Galatia were covered with goats and sheep, and those of Cappadocia with the finest breed of horses known to the ancients. That all the industrial virtues were highly cultivated is shown by a list of occupations drawn from Christian inscriptions of the fifth century (Cumont). They exhibit among other callings oil-dealers, scribes, greengrocers, potters, coppersmiths, skinners, mariners, money-changers, and goldsmiths. In the imperial period few new cities were added to the five hundred busy urban hives of the western coast, but Greek civilization went hand in hand with Roman law through the interior and was welcomed, e.g. in the mountains of uncouth Cappadocia and of rugged warlike Issauria where the Attalids and Seleucids had never been able to acclimatize it. For the better administration of justice the land was divided into a certain number of judicial districts ( conventus juridici ) and assizes were regularly held in the chief towns of the same.school_1
A certain unity of religion was reached in the worship of Rome and Augustus, i.e. of the dead and later of the living emperors, to whom temples were built in the metropolitan cities (Augusteum, Cæsareum), and in the celebration of whose festivals the Asiatic provincial proclaimed his gratitude, exercised his new Roman patriotism, and felt himself drawn nearer, if not to his fellow-Asiatics, at least to the marvellous darling of fortune enthroned upon the distant Tiber. The man of Asia Minor had long been subject to Persia without revolt, and then to the children of the brilliant marshals of Alexander; submission was natural to him, and this time it brought in its train all that was needed to make life perfect in so favoured a land, i.e. peace and prosperity. As high-priest of the provincial department of the imperial religion of Rome and Augustus his influence over all religious matters was great. The office seems at times to have been closely identified with that of the president of the emperor's festival, and was the formal source of much of the persecution directed against the Christians of the province, especially during the annual festival, when the deputies of the provincial cities met at the metropolis and manifested their patriotism, among other ways, by denouncing the followers of Jesus for refusing to adore the divinity ( numen, genius ) of the emperor. An ideal picture of the office, affected, however, by Christian institutions and experience, is given by Julian the Apostate in his famous letter to the Galatarch (Ep., xlix; cf. Eus., Hist. Eccl., VIII, xiv, 9). With the honour of president of the annual festival of the emperor went other distinctions, a special title (Asiarch, Bithyniarch, Galatarch), in addition to various marks of honour. Only the rich could pretend to merit it, for the office carried with it the right and the duty to defray the expense of such festivals. But there were many to claim it, for provincial pride was strong in Asia Minor, and the rivalry of the metropolitan cities was very keen. The new worship of Rome and Augustus was not unlike a religion established by law, though it never interfered with the other forms of Greek or Oriental worship, or the numerous miraculous asylums, or even such individual careers as those of Apollonius of Tyana or Alexander of Abonoteichos. To the cities was left their ancient liberty of internal administration, the repartition of imperial assessments, and the preservation of local order. Only the wealthy could vote for the magistrates, and the time was yet far off when their descendants would try in vain to rid themselves of an hereditary dignity that in the end carried with it the heaviest of financial burdens. Occasionally the imperial government looked into the municipal book-keeping and even controlled the municipal decrees ; more frequently it exercised a certain surveillance over the nomination of the chief of police ( eirenarch ). The public safety was assured in the early imperial times by a small army of 5,000 auxiliary troops in Galatia, and by the Black Sea fleet of forty ships stationed at Trebizond. In the time of Vespasian two legions were quartered in Cappadocia and along the upper waters of the Euphrates. A few soldiers scattererd here and there through the provinces served the Roman magistrates as messengers, sheriffs, bailiffs, and the like. Asia Minor, in which both the senate and the emperor exercised, in theory at least, a co-ordinate jurisdiction until the end of the third century, was too contented and loyal to call for other troops than were necessary for protection from the foreign enemy, or to repress brigandage. The latter was, unhappily, never quite suppressed in a land well fitted for the flight and concealment of the lawless. Up to the time of Justinian certain parts of Isauria and Cilicia were the home of bold freebooters, despite the ever tightening military cordons, the increase of civilization, and the growing influence of Christian principles. There were often in municipal life lack of integrity, corruption, and waste, coupled with intrigues, rivalries, and factions, but this is no more than might be expected amid such unexampled prosperity, in a land where no large political life existed, and where climate and the narrow municipal horizon conspired to diminish energy and magnify local and temporary interests. "The calm sea" says Mommsen, "easily becomes a swamp, and the lack of the great pulsation of general interest is clearly discernible also in Asia Minor".
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A complete description of the cities of Asia Minor in the best days of the empire, their splendour and magnificence, partly inherited and partly to the credit of Rome, sounds to modern ears like exaggeration. Their ruins, however, are convincingly eloquent. Marble and granite, exquisitely and solidly worked, were the building materials of the countless temples, baths, assembly-rooms, gymnasia, deep-pillared porticoes and colonnades that graced even the smallest of its cities, and were very often the gifts of private individuals, who exhibited thus in their little "fatherland" (as the Christian Bishop Abercius calls his native city Hierapolis), a power of self-sacrifice and affection for the public weal for which no larger stage was open. Countless art-works in marble and bronze often replicas of incomparable Greek originals carried away in the republican period, decorated the public buildings and the open squares; even these copies seem at last to have been confiscated by Constantine for his new city by the Golden Horn. Aqueducts and reservoirs, embankments and levees, saved and controlled the useful waters that are now the ruin of the land. Terraces built with skill and art multiplied the productive power of the fertile soil. From the city gates there radiated numerous long lines of sculptured tombs, whose broken inscriptions now throw light on the rich and varied life of the antique world. In the fine arts the correct sense of the Greeks was the guide, but in commercial and industrial life the Roman seems to have been dominant. Latin mercantile words are often transliterated into Greek, and there are numerous other evidences of close commercial intercourse with Italy. Famous Greek teachers and physicians frequented the Italian cities (Tac., Ann., XII, 61, 67) somewhat as the Byzantine humanists frequented those of Northern Italy. The great municipal families and those well established on the vast estates of the central table-land seem to have clung to the ancestral soil with more fidelity than was shown elsewhere in the Orient. Education of the purely literary type was universal, and to some extent provided for by the cities and even by the imperial government. We read of principals and inspectors of schools, of teachers of writing and music, of masters of boxing, archery, and spear-throwing, of special privileges for teachers of rhetoric and grammar; in a word the ideal education of the Greek mainland as crystallized in the classic writers and in the still vigorous school of Athens, was in a large measure reproduced in Asia Minor. Homer and the Greek classics were the school books. The chief result of it all was a race of remarkable public orators known as sophists or rhetoricians, wandering academic lecturers on the glories of the past or on commonplaces of philosophy, poetry, and history. Often bilingual, they were admired by the provincials, whose favour they held by flattery and sympathy, and by careful attention to the mise en scene –voice, gesture, dress, attitude. Some of them, like Dio Chrysostom, exhibit genuine native patriotism, but in all of them there echoes a hollow declamatory note, the best evidence of the hopeless character of Greek paganism, of which they were now the chief theologians and philosophers. Their literary influence was deep and lasting, and though they were inimical to the Christian religion, this influence may yet be traced in not a few of the Greek Christian writers of their own and later times. Apart from this class the pagan society of Asia Minor seems to have contributed but a few great names to the annals of science and literature. Two of them come from Bithynia, the above-mentioned rhetorician Dio Chrysostom, moralist and philosopher, and Arrian of Nicomedia, historian of Alexander the Great and popularizer of Epictetus. Pergamus boasts the name of the learned physician Galen, like his earlier fellow-Asiatic, Xenophon of Cos, a man of scientific attainments in his own department, and also of general philosophic culture, but a stern enemy of the Christian religion. Nevertheless, just as Roman Asia Minor boasts of no first-class cities like Alexandria or Antioch, but only of a great many second and third class centres of population, so in literature the great names are wanting, while general literary culture and refinement, both of speech and taste, are widespread, and, in the near western section, universal. The cosmopolitan character of imperial administration, the diffusion of education, the facility of travel, and the free use of the two great civilized tongues, made the man of Asia Minor, in a certain sense, a citizen of the world and fitted him peculiarly to play an important part from the fourth century on in the spread of Christianity and the adaptation of its ideas to Græco-Roman society. Indeed, without some knowledge of the civilization that moulded their youth, the Basils and the Gregorys [of Nyssa and Nazianzus -- Ed. ] lose half their interest for us. (Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire, New York, 1887, II, 345-97; Ramsay, The Historical Geography of the Roman Empire, London, 1890.)Christianity in Asia Minor
As everywhere in the Roman empire, so in Asia Minor it was the numerous Jewries in which the Christian religion found its first aderents. In the last three pre-Christian centuries the Seleucid kings of Syria had transplanted from Palestine to Asia Minor thousands of Jewish families whose descendants were soon scattered along all the coasts and throughout a great part of the interior. On Pentecost day at Jerusalem ( Acts 2:5, 9, 10 ) there were present among the disciples " Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven ", also representatives of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. On his several missionary journeys, St. Paul visited many parts of Asia Minor and established there the first Christian churches ; in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Acts there is a vivid and circumstantial description of all the chief phases of his Apostolic activity. His conversion of the Galatians, in particular, has a perennial interest for Western Christians, since at least a large portion of that province was composed of descendants of those Celts of Gaul who had settled there in the third century B. C. and in St. Paul's time, and for centuries afterwards, still retained their Celtic speech and many Celtic institutions (Lightfoot, Commentary on Galatians, London, 1896, 1-15; Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire before A. D. 170, New York, 1893, 97-111; Idem, St. Paul, the Traveller and Roman Citizen, New York, 1898, 130-151). Asia Minor was the principal scene of the labours of St. John; he wrote his Apocalypse on the desolate island of Patmos, and his Gospel probably at Ephesus. He established firmly in the latter city a famous centre of Christian life, and an ancient tradition, as old as the Council of Ephesus (431), says that the Blessed Virgin spent her last years in the vicinity of Ephesus, and passed thence to her reward. From Ephesus St. John travelled much throughout Asia Minor and has always been credited with the first establishment of many of its episcopal sees ; the story of the re-conversion of the young robber, touchingly told in the "Quis Dives" of Clement of Alexandria exhibits the popular concept of St. John in the mind of the average Christian of Asia Minor about the year 200. In the "Acts of Thecla" it is now recognized that we have a fragment of a life of St. Paul in Asia Minor, written about the middle of the second century, though without ecclesiastical approval, which throws no little light on several phases of the great Apostle's career but slightly touched on in the Acts and the Pauline Epistles. St. Peter, too, preached the Christian Faith in Asia Minor. His First Epistle, written from Rome (v, 13), is addressed "to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia", i.e. in northern, western, and central Asia Minor. That the new religion spread rapidly is proved by the famous passage in the letter of Pliny (Ep. x, 97), Roman governor of Bithynia, addressed to the Emperor Trajan about 112, in which he says that the whole province is overrun with the contagion of Christianity, the temples are abandoned and the meat of the victims unsaleable, persons of every age, rank, and condition are joining the new religion. At this period also the Church History of Eusebius shows us the admirable figure of St. Ignatius of Antioch, of whose seven letters five are addressed to Christian churches of Asia Minor (Philadelphia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Tralles, Magnesia ) and reveal an advanced stage of Christian growth. It was at this time that St. Polycarp of Smyrna and St. Irenæus of Lyons were born in Asia Minor, both prominent Christian figures of the second century, the latter being the foremost ecclesiastical writer of his period.
It is in Asia Minor that synods, or frequent assemblies of Christian bishops , first meet us as a working ecclesiastical institution; even in remote and uncouth Cappadocia they were not infrequent in the third century. It was therefore fitting that when the first general council of the Catholic Church was held (525) it should be called together at Nicæa (Isnik) in western Asia Minor, amid a population long stanchly Christian. Of the (traditional) 318 bishops who attended that council about one hundred were from Asia Minor; the semi-barbarous Isauria sent fourteen city bishops and four rural bishops ( chorepiscopi ), while remote Cilicia sent nine city bishops and one rural bishop. Indeed, the episcopal system of Asia Minor seems to have been almost completed by this time. (Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Asia Minor, in Histor. Geogr. of Asia Minor, London, 1890, 104-426.) In any case, there were in that territory in the fifth century some 450 Catholic episcopal sees. The institution of rural bishops ( chorepiscopi ) appears first in Asia Minor (Council of Ancyra, 314) and seems to be the origin of the later parochial system. It is in Asia Minor that arose, or were fought out, nearly all the great ecclesiastical conflicts of the early Christian period. The Church History of Eusebius, first published before 325, exhibits the Christian bishops of Asia Minor during the second and third centuries in conflict with semi-Oriental philosophic heresies like Gnosticism, that developed under the leadership of keen critical rationalists like Marcion of Sinope on the Black Sea, while the germs of the great christological heresies, e.g. Sabellianism, were first nourished on the same soil. Here, too, met the famous councils that overthrew these heresies (Nicæa in 325, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451). Internal reform of the Christian Church was first undertaken from Asia Minor, where Montanus, a native of Phrygia, began the rigorist movement known as Montanism, and denounced the growing laxity of Christian life and the moral apathy of the religious chiefs of the society. He claimed for himself and certain female disciples the survival of the early Christian prophetic gifts, or personal religious inspiration, which seems to have been more frequent and to have survived longer in Asia Minor than elsewhere (Harnack, Mission und Ausbreitung, 287, 402). The immediate cause of the last great persecution, that of Diocletian (284-305), seems to have been the rapid growth of Christianity in all Asia Minor, particularly in the imperial capital, then located at Nicomedia (Ismid). Maximus Daza,a the sympathetic colleague in Egypt of the persecuting Galerius (305-311), admitted ( Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., IX, ix) that nearly all the Orient had become Christian, and in this he was merely the echo of the dying words of the contemporary Christian scholar and martyr, Lucian of Antioch , who asserted (Rufin., Hist. Eccl., IX, vi) that in his time the greater part of the Roman world had become Christian, even entire cities. Such a Christian city of Phrygia, Eusebius tells us (Hist. Eccl., VIII, xi, 1), was given to the flames by the pagans in the persecution of Diocletian ; the inhabitants perished to a man with the name of Christ upon their lips. Apropos of this, Harnack recalls (op. cit., p. 466) the fact that eighty years earlier Thyatira in the same province was an entirely Christian city, though intensely Montanist in religious temper. The city of Apaneia in the same province seems to have become quite Christian before 250. The work of Cumont (Inscriptions Chrétiennes de l'Asie Mineure, Rome, 1895) exhibits undeniable epigraphic evidence that Phrygia was widely Christianized long before the conversion of Constantine (312). The words of Renan (Origines du Christianisme, III, 363, 364) are therefore eminently true : "Thenceforward (from A. D. 112) for three hundred years Phrygia was essentially a Christian land. There began the public profession of Christianity ; there are found, from the third century, on monuments exposed to the public gaze, the terms Chrestianos or Christianos ; there the formulas of epitaphs convey veiled references to Christian dogmas ; there, from the days of Septimus Severus, great cities adopt biblical symbols for their coins, or rather adapt their old traditions to biblical narrations. A great number of the Christians of Ephesus and Rome came from Phrygia. The names most frequently met with on the monuments of Phrygia are the antique Christian names (Trophimus, Tychicus, Tryphenus, Papias, etc.), the names special to the apostolic times, and of which the martylrologies are full". The Acts of the Christian Bishop, Pionius of Smyrna, a martyr of the time of Decius (249-251), portray that city as largely Christian, and (with exception of the Jews ) entirely devoted to its rhetorician-bishop. In the fourth century Gregory of Nyssa relates, apropos of Gregory of Cæsarea (c. 213-275), that during the thirty-five or forty years of his episcopal activity he had Christianized nearly all Pontus. It is an unfair exaggeration (Harnack, 475-476) to attribute his success to toleration of heathen customs, amusements, etc. So good a Christian theologian as Gregory of Nyssa could relate this condescension of the Wonder-worker without perceiving any real sacrifice of Christian principles in faith or morals ; some concessions there must always be when it is question of conversions in bulk. His "Epistola Canonica" (P. G., X, 1019-48), one of the earliest and most venerable documents of diocesan legislation, presupposes many well-established Christian communities, whose captive ecclesiastics and citizens (c. 260) spread the first germs of Christianity among the piratical
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