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AMASEIA (Amasya) Pontus, Turkey.

A natural fortress at the W margin of the Pontic mountains, 82 km inland as the crow flies but 136 km by road on the ancient trade route to Samsun (Amisos) formerly known as the Baghdad Road. Amaseia was capital of the Hellenistic kingdom of Pontus from its foundation ca. 300 B.C. by Mithridates I Ktistes until shortly after the fall of Sinope to Pharnakes I in 183 B.C. After that date it continued to be important to the royal house, being close to the Sanctuary of Zeus Stratios (invoked by Mithridates VI Eupator in 82 and 73 B.C.) and itself the site of memorials to the early Mithridatic kings. Amaseia was captured by Lucullus in 70 B.C., assigned a large and fertile territory in Pompey's new province of Bithynia and Pontus (64 B.C.), put in the hands of an unknown dynast by Antony, and annexed to Galatia in 3-2 B.C., becoming metropolis of the minor district Pontus Galaticus. When this was transferred to Cappadocia by Trajan and incorporated in Pontus Mediterraneus (with metropolis Neocaesarea), Amaseia retained the honorary title of metropolis. In the reorganization of Diocletian and Constantine, Amaseia became metropolis of Diospontus/Helenopontus.

Amaseia was the birthplace of the geographer Strabo, whose proud description of it (12.561) is still one of the best. The original city grew up on a restricted site of great strength on the W bank of the Yelil Irmak (Iris fl.). At its back rises a lofty crag (Harsene Kalesi), now carrying mediaeval fortifications as well as a tower and several lengths of wall of Hellenistic date. Beneath the twin summits cliffs plunge 250 m to the river, closing off the city on both sides. At the foot of the crag a terrace retained by Hellenistic masonry marks the site of the royal palace. Rock-cut steps gave access to the fortress above and to the five “memorials” of the earlier Pontic kings, which take the form of freestanding heroa carved out of the living rock, one (that of Pharnakes I?) left unfinished. Within the fortress two rock-cut monumental stairways descend through tunnels into the heart of the crag; a third stairway, apparently unknown to Strabo, is found farther down the slope. They belong to a class of monument, probably designed for ritual use, found from Phrygia to Commagene; whatever the original purpose, those at Amaseia were used in Late Hellenistic times to obtain water in time of siege. A bridge (Alçakköprü) connected the city to its suburbs on the E bank, where the modern town lies; Roman arches support a post-Roman superstructure. About 1 km S of Amasya are remains of an aqueduct-channel beside the main road, cut into the rock of Ferhatkaya. Some 2 km downstream is the rock-cut tomb of the high priest Tes, similar in type to the royal memorials but better finished. Other rock-cut tombs are common in and around Amasya.


F. & E. Cumont, Studia Pontica II (1906) 146-71; J.G.C. Anderson et al., Studia Pontica III.1 (1910) 109-48; G. de Jerphanion, MélUSJ 13 (1928) 5-14, 41I; G. E. Bean, “Inscriptions from Pontus,” Belleten 17 (1953) 167-72.


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