Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Cilicians

While the Cilicians are a significant and interesting people, certain gaps in my knowledge leave me unable to advise on creating a Classical Cilician "kit."  I don't know the name in Old Persian, and can't find any art that unambiguously shows Cilician clothing or arms.

Geographical definition
Cilicia lay on the southern coast of Anatolia, along the top edge of a corner of the Mediterranean north of Syria.  It is surrounded on the northwest by the Taurus Mountains (modern Turkish Toros Dağları), the north by the Antitaurus (Aladağlar) and the east by the Nur Dağları, which separates this part of Turkey from the Middle East.  Greek writers referred to the western region dominated by the Taurus as Kilikia Tracheia ("rugged Cilicia") and the eastern plains as Kilikia Pedias ("flat Cilicia"), which Xenophon described as "a large and beautiful plain, well-watered and full of trees of all sorts and vines; in produces an abundance of sesame, millet, panic, wheat and barley..." (Anabasis, I.2).  These two areas roughly correspond to the ancient kingdoms of Khilakku or Hilakku and Quwê.

Khilakku and Quwê were Neo-Hittite kingdoms formed after the collapse of the Hittite empire in the late Bronze Age.  Quwê was twice conquered by the Assyrians in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, and Khilakku submitted to them in the mid-7th century in exchange for protection from the Cimmerians.  The two Cilician kingdoms were reunited under Khilakku after the end of the Assyrian empire.  The new kingdom's capital was Tarsus (Tarša), which in Xenophon's day was a large and wealthy city.  Its kings were called suuannassai ("belonging to the dog"...  huh?), which the Greeks rendered syennesis.  Herodotus uses Syennesis as the proper name of the Cilician king who, together with Labynetus of Babylon (probably an anachronistic placement of the later king Nabonidus), brokered the treaty between the Lydians and Medes which drew the famous dividing line between the two empires at the Halys River in 585.

While the peoples of Kilikia Tracheia and Pedias were all Luwian-speakers, Lendering notes that the differing lifestyles of mountain herdsmen and plains agriculturalists (as well as that all of Cilicia's major cities were in Pedias) seems to have caused a rift between the two regions, and there are records of fights from the 4th century that probably continue a state of conflict from centuries earlier.

It is not known when Cilicia became part of the Persian empire, but it probably occurred during Cyrus' campaigns in the 540s, or around the same time he conquered Lydia.  Initially, the syennesis was retained as a vassal king   Herodotus says that Cilicia gave the empire 360 horses and 500 talents of silver in tribute.

The Persians maintained military bases along the coast.  In the Histories, the Cilicians are said to have sent 100 ships to Xerxes' invasion of Greece, though Herodotus has Mardonius accuse the Cilicians, along with the other seafolk in Xerxes' forces (for the Persians, being landlocked, had no ships) of doing "less than brave men should" at the disaster of Salamis (VIII.100).  The syennesis at the time (named as a "Syennesis son of Oromedon") acted as a commander in the Persian navy, and gave his daughter's hand in marriage to Pixodarus, a Carian noble (not to be confused with the later Hecatomnid Pixodarus).

The last-known syennesis (again known as "Syennesis" in Greek history) was in 401 BC pressured by Cyrus the Younger and his massive personal army to join his insurrection against his brother Artaxerxes II.  According to Xenophon, this Syennesis' wife Epyaxa traveled with Cyrus for part of his march and it was rumored that the two had an affair before he arrived in Tarsus, from where the syennesis and all the city's inhabitants had temporarily retreated until Cyrus could convince him to join.  Cyrus' defeat seems to have led to the great king dethroning the native Cilician royal line and replacing them with appointed satraps. 

The second-to-last of these satraps was Mazaeus, who reigned from 361-336.  In 333, Alexander the Great entered Cilicia and stayed in Tarsus while recovering from an illness.  Evidently he found the mountain Cilicians troublesome, and launched a raid in the Taurus.  That November he faced and defeated Darius III at the Battle of Issus in eastern Cilicia near the feet of the Nur Dağları.  About 23 miles south of the site, he founded Alexandria or Alexandretta, modern Iskenderun.  He appointed a new satrap, Balacrus, who remained under orders to attack the mountainfolk.

Cilicia was fought over by the Seleucids and Ptolemies for two centuries, during which the land became mostly Hellenized.  Like many other nations, Cilicia began to disappear except as a traditional placename, though the mountain people, still maintaining a degree of independence, would turn to maritime piracy until finally conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC.

Cilicians spoke Luwian, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian family widespread in western Anatolia since the late Bronze Age.  By the turn of the 2nd century BC it had been mostly replaced by Greek.

Cilicians followed various religious customs.  At Castabala, a shrine was maintained to Cybele, the mother goddess of many Anatolian religions, while at Mallus on the coast was an oracle that the Greeks said had been founded by the mythical Greek seer Amphilochus, one of the Epigoni.

Herodotus simply describes their clothing as "woolen tunics."  The same image from the Persepolis Apadana that Nirupars identifies with Syrians (which I have gone over in my article on the Assyrians) is sometimes identified as Cilicians - some sources incorrectly identify these as Sogdians, but Sogdians were Eastern Iranians and wore equestrian clothing.  It is, of course, possible that Cilicians dressed in a similar manner to their neighbors to the south.

Herodotus describes the Cilicians' equipment as "their native helmets,...  bucklers of raw oxhide for shields...  two javelins and a sword very close in style to the knives of Egypt" (VII.91, tr. Godley; the word he translates as "bucklers" is a declension of aspis, generic for "shield").  Not much to go by, although it does indicate that shields should be rawhide, not tanned leather.  A sheathed Egyptian longsword may be seen on the tomb of Darius the Great, with its pommel shaped like a ring missing the top, a short grip, apparently a long point and a flared chape.

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