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Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches. Proceedings of an International Conference Held at Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2007

Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches. Proceedings of an International Conference Held at Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2007

Edited by Michael C. Hoff and Rhys F. Townsend. Pp. xii + 315, figs. 259, tables 8. Oxbow Books, Oxford 2013. $130. ISBN 978-1-84217-518-7 (cloth).

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“As for Tracheia, its coast is narrow and has no level ground, or scarcely any; and, besides that, it lies at the foot of the Taurus, which affords a poor livelihood” (H.L. Jones, trans., The Geography of Strabo. Vol. 6. Loeb Classical Library 223 [Cambridge, Mass. 1929] 327). Thus, Strabo described Κιλικία Τραχεἶα, or Rough Cilicia (a region of coast and mountainous hinterland located today approximately between the southern Turkish cities of Antalya and Mersin), and it is this description, along with Cilicia’s infamous pirate heritage, that has often influenced scholars’ perspectives on the region’s history, despite growing archaeological evidence for distinct forms of sociocultural development.

Yet, with the publication of Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches—the results of a conference held at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 2007—Hoff and Townsend have done an excellent job of editing a diverse array of studies that contribute to the region’s reappraisal as a unique cultural locale. The present reviewer, who works in nearby Cyprus, particularly welcomed this volume’s intention to summon “the expertise of those scholars who have conducted important research in Rough Cilicia in order to assess the state of knowledge regarding the region” (vii). By assembling a diachronic overview of archaeological evidence, this volume promotes comparative analyses between Rough Cilicia and other regional archaeologies that are too often explored in isolation. Moreover, although several publications have appeared on Cilician archaeology in recent years (e.g., those produced by the Research Center for Cilician Archaeology [KAAM] at the University of Mersin, or Varia Anatolica 13), few of these studies have appeared exclusively in English, and so this volume helps to fill this void. Its timely chapters also illustrate that a great deal of important research is occurring in this often overlooked region that should be better known to archaeologists.

The book consists of 22 illustrated chapters that cumulatively interpret the region’s development from the second millennium B.C.E. until the seventh century C.E. Following an editorial preface describing Rough Cilicia’s reputation as an archaeological terra incognita (vii), the volume begins with an introductory chapter by Durugönül, a doyen of Cilician archaeology. Drawing on her extensive experience, Durugönül provides a concise history of Cilician epigraphy, excavation, and survey, discusses the volume’s importance for disseminating new data and collating bibliography, and outlines future research avenues concerning excavation, epigraphy, numismatics, and early Byzantine studies.

Since the volume is organized chronologically, the first eras examined are the Bronze and Iron Ages. In chapter 2, Yağzı surveys the archaeological evidence for Greek colonization at Cilician Soli and illustrates how recent discoveries (esp. of architectural terracottas) have added to existing historical and ceramic evidence to suggest a settled East Greek presence by at least the sixth century B.C.E. Next, Jasink and Bombardieri’s study of ceramic evidence from the Göksu River Valley shows that because of its mountainous surroundings, connection to the Mediterranean, and changing political relationships, the valley was exposed to diverse cultural influences that often differed from those in the nearby Çukurova Plain.

For all readers who have developed a stereotypical view of Cilician piracy by reading Plutarch’s Life of Pompey, the next four chapters offer a timely reassessment of the evidence. Tempesta’s chapter establishes a pre-Roman context by examining historical sources, inscriptions, coins, and architecture to show that the Persians, Seleucids, Ptolemies, the priesthood at Olba, and the pirates all played interacting roles in developing settlement and political practices. De Souza’s reassessment of the ancient political and literary contexts for descriptions of Cilician piracy is one of the volume’s most insightful studies because it deconstructs the sources to show that piracy was a typical military enterprise that was only later transformed into an excuse for Roman imperialism. In short, de Souza proves that, lacking Cilician narratives, scholars’ reliance on Roman sources has created a biased image of the Cilician as anti-Roman “pirate.” Tomaschitz’s posthumous chapter considers de Souza’s research, as well as that of Pohl and Rauh, to illustrate the continuing elusiveness of data for the pirate phenomenon and the need for archaeological evidence to provide further insights.

Luckily, some of this evidence is provided in the following chapter by Rauh, Dillon, and Rothaus, who analyze imported Italian amphoras (likely exchanged for slaves at Delos) and date defensive architecture from Hellenistic fortresses (e.g., at Coracesium) to offer what is likely some of the first material proof for a pirate presence.

The next eight chapters primarily investigate Early Roman–era architectural evidence. Borgia explores Antiochus IV of Commagene’s involvement in local euergetism via the study of a monumental inscription from Elaiussa Sebaste. Spanu shows how Cilicia’s architectural decor (e.g., two-part capitals, entablatures with linear motifs) was different than that of other regions because local limestone influenced compositional choices. Townsend then convincingly identifies a public building from Asar Tepe as a “council-chamber” or bouleuterion and employs signaling theory—an anthropological approach to understanding the sociopolitical signals emitted by objects (and hence social groups via buildings)—to suggest that the building illustrated elites’ admiration for Rome while also convincing the lower classes that it reflected civic pride. Giobbe’s study of temples evaluates both epigraphic and architectural remains to show that a variety of Roman-style temples (primarily dedicated to the imperial cult) were constructed throughout the region.

Next, Hoff’s overview of Rough Cilicia’s bath complexes discusses understudied exempla from Selinus, Lamus, Asar Tepe, and Göçük Asarı and reaffirms baths’ local popularity (vs. the lack of theaters) while revealing a Lycian architectural influence. Winterstein’s chapter provides a detailed study of the so-called Şekerhane Köşkü from Selinus, which she interprets as a monumental temple-cenotaph dedicated to Trajan, who died in the city. Wandsnider’s study of civic euergetism also uses signaling theory to consider the role public buildings played as signals that conveyed social information to a range of agents in order to reaffirm the political and economic status quo. Then, in a brief departure from architectural analysis, Lund examines how distribution patterns for sigillata wares and pinched-handle amphoras in Cyprus and Cilicia reveal two possible zones of product circulation.      

The final chapters cover the history and archaeology of the Early Byzantine era with a focus on the development of Christianity. Varinlioğlu’s chapter, based on an extensive architectural survey in the hinterland of Seleucia ad Calycadnum, stresses a settlement increase for the Early Byzantine period and shows how larger villages were formed through the expansion of hamlets. Ferrazzoli and Ricci’s diachronic analysis of ceramics from Elaiussa Sebaste indicates that the port city was heavily involved in the wine and olive oil trade, especially during the Early Byzantine period, when Late Roman 1 amphoras were extensively produced to export local wines. Jackson’s chapter sheds light on rural life by examining the “vernacular” structures at the Göksu River site of Kilise Tepe and these buildings’ relationship to the site’s “monumental” basilica. Elton then shows how the Göksu Archaeological Project (GAP) revealed evidence for 19—previously unknown—churches, which, according to Elton, do not necessarily indicate a rise in regional prosperity but rather hint at the religious fervor that spurred church construction.

The two penultimate chapters treat Cilicia’s role in Early Christian history. Canevello and Ozyildirim’s contribution concentrates on Early Christian Seleucia ad Calycadnum with a focus on St. Thecla’s cult and the roles played by the city’s elites in Christological debates. Honey then skillfully scrutinizes early texts about St. Thecla’s life vis-à-vis concepts of divine assignment in order to recreate a sacred geographical chora for the saint’s evangelical realm. To provide a retrospective, a final chapter presents the architectural insights of one of Cilicia’s most experienced investigators, Huber, by presenting the work methods and strategies he developed for interpreting bath complexes.

This volume represents a significant contribution to the history and archaeology of the eastern Mediterranean because it offers an overview of the Cilician past that can serve as the basis for future studies. Hoff and Townsend should be commended for skillfully organizing these diverse chapters into a unified work that helps to reassess Cilicia’s “pirate haven” image and to communicate the contours of a unique Cilician culture shaped by geography and regional interaction. The volume warrants few critiques because it is well edited, cross-referenced, and organized; however, a few ancillary elements might have proved useful to readers. For example, the volume might have benefited from an introductory overview of Rough Cilicia’s historical timeline, languages, geography, and resources to serve as a guide for the neophyte. Moreover, the publication of a few detailed maps in an appendix might have served as a better reference than each chapter’s specialized maps. Since the majority of the chapters concentrate on the Roman and Byzantine studies, a few more studies on pre-Roman society, Isaurian culture, or Cilicia’s resources might have provided some topical balance. Lastly, although the chapters by Durugönül, Tomashitz, and Huber all offer experienced viewpoints, the lack of a contribution from James Russell (who helped organize the conference and edit the papers [viii]) on his important work at Anemurium stands out. Such omissions aside, the book’s significance as a revelatory overview of recent research should not be disputed, and the volume should serve as a valuable resource for Near Eastern, Roman, and Byzantine archaeologists for many years to come.

Jody Michael Gordon
Department of Humanities and Social Science
Wentworth Institute of Technology

Book Review of Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches. Proceedings of an International Conference Held at Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2007, edited by Michael C. Hoff and Rhys F. Townsend

Reviewed by Jody Michael Gordon

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 120, No. 1 (January 2016)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1201.Gordon

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