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ISSUS (Ἰσσός and Ἰσσοί, Xen. Anab. 1.2.24, and 1.4.1), a town of Cilicia, on the gulf of Issus (Ἰσσικὸς κόλπος). Herodotus calls the gulf of Issus the gulf of Myriandros (4.38), from the town of Myriandros, which was on it.

The gulf of Issus is now named the gulf of Iskenderun or Scanderoon, from the town of Scanderoon, formerly Alexandria ad Issum, on the east side. It is the only large gulf on the southern side of Asia Minor and on the Syrian coast, and it is an important place in the systems of the Greek geographers. This gulf runs in a NE. direction into the land to the distance of 47 miles, measured nearly at right angles to a line drawn from the promontory Megarsus (Cape Karadash), on the Cilician coast, to the Rhosicus Scopulus (Rás-el-Khánzir, or Hynzyr, as it has sometimes been written), on the Syrian coast; for these two capes are respectively the limits of the gulf on the west and east, and 25 miles from one another. The width immediately north of the capes is somewhat less than 25 miles, but it does not diminish much till we approach the northern extremity of the gulf. It seems certain that the ancient outlet of the Pyramus was west of and close to Cape Karadash, where Beaufort supposes it to have been; and this is consistent with the old prophecy [Vol. I. p. 620], that the alluvium of the Pyramus would some time reach to the shore of Cyprus; for if the river had entered the gulf where it does now, 23 miles further east, the prophecy would have been that it would fill up the gulf of Issus. For the earth that the river formerly discharged into the sea is now sent into the gulf, where it “has produced a plain of sand along the side of the gulf, somewhat similar in shape, and equal in size, to that formed by the Ghiuk Sooyoo [CALYCADNITS, Vol. I. p. 483] ; but the elbow where the current that sets round the gulf quits it, is obtuse and without any shoals. Perhaps the disappearance of the Serrepolis of Ptolemy from the coast, may be accounted for by the progressive advance of the shore into the gulf, which has left the ruins of that town some miles inland” (Beaufort, Caramania, p. 296). Ptolemy's Serraepolis. (Σερραίπολις), which he calls a small place (κώμη), is between Mallus, which is a little east of Cape Megarsus, and Aegae or Ayaz. [AEGAE] The next city to Aegae on the coast is Issus, and this is the remotest city in this part of Cilicia which Ptolemy mentions. Xenophon also speaks of it as the last city of Cilicia on the road to Syria.

The mountains which bound the gulf of Issus are described in the article AMANUS The bold Rhosicus Scopulus (5400 feet high), where the Syrian Amanus terminates on the coast, may be distinctly seen. by the sailor when he is abreast of Seleuceia (Selefkeh), at the mouth of the Calycadnus, a distance of 85 geographical miles (Beaufort). A small stream flows into the head of the gulf of Issus, and a few from the Amanus enter the east side, one of which, the Pinarus, is the Deli Tschai; and the other, the Carsus of Xenophon, is the Merkes. The Amanus which descends to the Rhosicus Scopulus, and the other branch of the Amanus which shuts in the gulf of Issus on the [p. 2.70]NW. and forms Strabo's Amanides Pylae, unite in the interior, as Strabo says (p. 535); and our modern maps represent it so. There is a plain at the head of the gulf. Strabo gives a greater extent to the Issic gulf than we do to the gulf of Scanderoon, for he makes it extend along the Cilician coast as far as Cilicia Trachea, and certainly to Soli (pp. 534, 664). In another passage (p. 125) he shows what extent he gives to the gulf of Issus, by placing Cyprus in the Pamphylian sea and in the gulf of Issus,--the west part of the island being in the Pamphylian, and the east in the Issie gulf. The gulf of Iskenderun was surveyed by Lt. Murphy in the Euphrates expedition under the command of Colonel Chesney.

The ancient geographers did not agree about the position of the isthmus of the country which we call Asia Minor; by which isthmus. they meant the shortest distance across the eastern part of the peninsula from the Euxine to the Mediterranean. Strabo (p. 673) makes this shortest distance lie along a line joining Amisus and Tarsus. If he had said Amisus and the head of the gulf of Issus, he would have been quite right. He was nearly correct as to. the longitude of the head of the gulf of Issus, which he places in the meridian of Amisus and Themiscyra (p. 126); and in another passage he says that the head of the gulf of Issus is a little more east than Amisus, or not at all more east (p. 519). Amisus is, in fact, a little further east than the most eastern part of the gulf of Issus. The longest direction of the inhabited world, according to Strabo's system (p. 118), from west to east, is measured on a line drawn through the Stelae (Straits of Gibraltar), and the Sicilian strait (Straits of Messina), to Rhodus and the gulf of Issus, whence it follows the Taurus, which divides Asia into two parts, and terminates on the eastern sea. Those ancient geographers who made the isthmus of the Asiatic peninsula extend from Issus to the Euxine, considered the shortest line across the isthmus to be a meridian line, and the dispute was whether it ran. to Sinope or Amisus (Strab. p. 678). The choice of Issus as the point on the Mediterranean to reckon from, shows that Issus was the limit, or most eastern point, on the south coast of the peninsula, and that it was not on that part of the bay of Issus where the coast runs south. Consequently Issus was on or near the head of the gulf. Herodotus (4.38) makes the southern side of this peninsula, or Acte, as he calls it, extend from the Myriandric gulf (gulf of Issus) to the Triopian promontory, which is quite correct. On the north side he makes it extend from the mouth of the Phasis to the promontory Sigeum, which is correct as to the promontory; but he carries the neck too far east, when he makes it begin at the Phasis. This mistake, however, shows that he knew something of the position of the mouth of the Phasis, for he intends to make the Acte begin at that part where the coast of the Euxine begins to lie west and east; and though the mouth of the Phasis is not exactly at this point, it was the best known river of any near it. In another passage (1.72), which, like many others in his history, is obscurely expressed, he describes the neck (αὐχήν) of this Acte as nearly cut through by the river Halys; and he makes its width from the sea opposite to Cyprus to the Euxine to be five days' journey for an active man,--an estimate very much short of the truth, even if we allow Greek activity to walk 30 miles a day through a rough country. Strabo's report from hearsay (vol. i. p. 538), that the bay of Issus can be seen from the summit of Argaeus [ARGAEUS], is very improbable.

Xenophon says that Cyrus marched 15 parasangs from the Pyramus (Jaihan) “to Issi, the uttermost city of Cilicia, on the sea, great and prosperous.” From Issus to the Pylae of Cilicia and Syria, the boundary between Syria and Cilicia, was five parasangs, and here. was the river Carsus (Xen. Anab. 1.4. 4). The next stage was five parasangs to Myriandrus, a town in Syria on the sea, occupied by Phoenicians, a trading place (ἐμπόριον), where many merchant ships were lying. Carsten Niebuhr, who went through the Pylae Ciliciae to Tar'sus, has some remarks on the probable site of Issus, but they lead to no conclusion (vol. i. p. 116), except that we cannot certainly determine the site of Issus from Xenophon; and yet he would give us, the best means of determining it, if we knew where he crossed the Pyramus, and if we were also certain that the numbers in the Greek text are correct.

The nearest road to Susa from Sardis was through the Cilician plains. The difficulties were the passage into the plains by the Ciliciae Pylae or pass [Vol. 1. p. 619], and the way out of the plains along the gulf of Issus into Syria. The great road to Susa which Herodotus describes (v.. 49, 52), went north of the Taurus to the Euphrates, The land forces in the expedition of Datis and Artaphernes, B.C. 490, crossed the Syrian Amanus, and went as far as the Aleian plain in Cilicia; and there they embarked. (Hdt. 6.95.) They did not march by land through the Cilician Pylae over the Taurus into the interior of the peninsula; but Mardonius (Hdt. 6.43), in the previous expedition had led his troops into Cilicia, and sent them on by land to the Hellespontus, while he took ship and sailed to lonia. The land force of Mardonius must have passed out of Cilicia by the difficult pass in the Taurus. [Vol. I. p. 619.]

Shortly before the battle of Issus (B.C. 333) Alexander was at Mallos, when he heard that Darius with all his force was at Sochi in Assyria; which place was distant two marches from the Assyrian Pylae. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 2.6.) “Assyria” and “Assyrian” here mean “Syria” and “Syrian.” Darius had crossed the Euphrates, probably at Thapsacus, and was encamped in an open country in Syria, which was well suited for his cavalry. The place Sochi is unknown: but it may be the place which Curtius calls Unchae. (Q. Curt. 4.1.) Arrian says that Alexander left Mallos, and on the second day he passed through the Pylae and reached Myriandrus : he does not mention Issus on this march. Now the shortest distance that Alexander could march from Mallos to Scanderoon is at least 70 miles, and if Myriandrus was south of Scanderoon, it was more than 70 miles. This statement of Arrian as to time is therefore false. Curtius (3.8) says that Alexander only reached Castabalum [CASTABALITM] on the second day from Mallos ; that he went through Issus, and there deliberated whether he should go on or halt. Darius crossed the Amanus, which separates Syria from the bay of Issus, by a pass called the Amanicae Pylae (Arrian, 2.7), and advancing to Issus, was in the rear of Alexander, who had passed through the Cilician and Syrian Pylae. Darius came to the pass in the Amanus, says Curtius, on the same night that Alexander came to the pass (fauces) by, which Syria is entered. The place where Darius crossed the Amanus was [p. 2.71]so situated that he came to Issus first, where he shamefully treated the sick of the Macedonians who had been left there. The next day he moved from Issus to pursue Alexander (Artian; Curtius, 3.8); that is, he moved towards the Pylae, and he came to the banks of the river Pinarus, where he halted. Issus was, therefore, north of the Pinarus, and some little distance from it. Kiepert's map of Asia Minor marks a pass in the range of the Syrian Amanus, which is north of the pass that leads over the same mountains from the east to Baiae (Bayas), and nearly due east of the head of the gulf of Issus. He calls it Pylae Amranides, by which he means the Pylae Amanicae of Arrian, not the Amanides of Strabo; and he takes it to be the pass by which Darius crossed the Syrian Amanus and came down upon the gulf. This may have been his route, and it would bring him to Issus at the head of the gulf, which he came to before turning south to the Pinarus (Deli Tseha). It is certain that Darius crossed by some pass which brought him to Issus before he reached the Pinarus. Yet Kiepert has placed Issus south of the Pinarus, or rather between the two branches of this river, which he represents as uniting near the coast. Kiepert also marks a road which passes over the junction of the two branches of the Amanus [AMANUS Vol. L p. 114] and runs to Marash, which he supposes to be Germanicia. This is the dotted road marked as running north from the head of the gulf of Issus in the plan [Vol. I. p. 115]; but even if there be such a road, it was not the road of Darius, which must have been the pass above mentioned, in the latitude of the head of the gulf of Issus ; which is not marked in the above plan, but ought to be, This pass is probably the Amanicae Pylae of Ptolemy, which he places 5‘ further south than Issus, and 10‘ east of Issus.

Alexander, hearing that the Persians were in his rear, turned back to the Pylae, Which lie reached at midnight, and halted till daybreak, when he moved on. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 2.8.) So long as the road was narrow, he led his army in column, but as the pass widened, he extended his column into line, part towards the mountain and part on the left towards the sea. When he came to the wide part (εὐρυχωρία), he arranged his army in order of battle, which Arrian describes very particularly. Darius was posted on the north side of the Pinarus. It is plain, from this description, that Alexander did not march very far from the Pylae before he reached the wider part of the valley, and the river. As the sea was on his left, and the mountains on his right, the river was a stream which ran down from the Syrian Amanus; and it can be no other than the Deli Tschai, which is about 13 miles north of the Carsus (Merkes), direct distance. Polybius (12.17), who criticises Callisthenes's description of the battle, states, on his authority, that Darius descended into Cilicia through: the Pylae Amanides, and encamped on the Pinarus, at a place where the distance between the mountains and the sea was not more than 14 stadia; and that the river ran across this place into the sea, and that in its course through the level part “it had abrupt and difficult eminences (λόφους).” This is explained by what Arrian says of the banks of the river being steep in many parts on the north side. (Anab. 2.10.) Callisthenes further said, that when Alexander, after having passed the defile (τὰ στένα), heard of Darius being in Cilicia, he was 100 stadia from him, and, accordingly, he marched back: through the defile. It is not clear, from the extract in Polybius, whether the 100 stadia are to be reckoned to Issus or to the Pinarus. According to Arrian, when Alexander heard of Darius being behind him, he sent some men in a galley back to Issuse to see if it was so; and it is most consistent with the narrative to suppose that the men saw the Persians at. Issus before they had advanced to the river; but this is not quite certain. The Persian army was visible, being near the coast, as it would be, if it were seen at Issus.

Strabo (p. 676), following the historians of Alexander, adds nothing to what Arrian has got from them. Alexander, he says, led his infantry from Soli along the coast and through the Mallotis to Issus and the forces of Darius; an expression which might mislead, if we had no other narrative. He also says, after Mallus is Aegae, a small town with a harbour, then the Amanides Pylae [AMANUIDES PYLAE], where there is a harbour; and after Aegae is Issus, a small town with a harbour, and the river Pinarus, where the fight was between Alexander and Darius. Accordingly he places Issus north of the Pinarus. Cicero, during his proconsulship of Cilicia, led his forces against the mountaineers of the Amanus and he was saluted as imperator at Issus, “where,” he says, “as I have often heard from you, Clitarchus told you that Darius was defeated by Alexander.” There is nothing to be got from this. (Ad Farm. 2.10.) In another passage, he says that he occupied for a few days the same camp that Alexander had occupied at Issus against Darius. (Ad Att. 5.20.) And again (ad Farn. 14.20); he says that, “he encamped for four days at the roots of the Amanus, at the Arae Alexandri.” If this is the same fact that he mentions in his letter to Atticus, the Arae were at Issus, and Issus was near the foot of the Amanus.

The battle between Septimius Severus and Niger was fought (A.D. 194) somewhere about Issus; but nothing can be collected from the. description of Herodian (3.12), except that the battle was hot fought on the same ground as Alexander's, though it was fought on the gulf of Issus. Stephanus (s. v. Ἰσσός) describes it as “a city between Syria and Cilicia, where Alexander defeated Darius, which was called, for this season, Nicopolis by him; and there is the bay of Issus; and there, also, is a river named Pinarus.” Strabo, after speaking of Issus, mentions, on the Issic gulf, Rhosus, and Myriandrus, and Alexandria, and Nicopolisi and Mopsuestia, in which description he proceeds from the Syrian side of the gulf, and terminates with Mopsuestia on the Pyramus. According to this enumeration, Nicopolis would be between Alexandria (Scanderoon) and Mopsuestia; and it may be near Issus, or it may not, Ptolemy (5.8.7, 15.2) places Nicopolis exactly one degree north of Alexandria and 50‘ north of Issus. He places Issus and Rhosus in the same longitude, and Nicopolis, Alexandria, arid Myriandrus 10‘ further east than Issus. The absolute truth of his numbers is immaterial. A map constructed according to Ptolemy would place Issus at the head of the gulf, and Nicopolis inland. Nicopolis is one of the cities which he enumerates among the inland cities of Cilicia Proper.

Issus, then, being at the head of the gulf, and! Tarsus being a fixed point in the march of Cyrus, we may now see how the matter stands with Xenophon's distances. Cyrus marched 10 parasangs: from Tarsus to the river Psarus (Sarus), Sihun, and crossed at a place where it was 300 feet wide [p. 2.72]From the Sarus the army marched 5 parasangs to the Pyramus, which was crossed where it was 600 Greek feet wide; and the march from the Pyramus to Issus was 15 parasangs. Accordingly, the whole distance marched from Tarsus to lssus was 30 parasangs. The direct distance from Tarsus to the head of the gulf is about 56 geographical miles; and these two points are very nearly in the same latitude. The modern road from Tarsus, through Adana on the Sarus, and Mopsuestia on the Pyramus, to the head of the gulf, has a general direction from W. to E. The length of Cyrus's march, from Tarsus to the Sarus, exceeds the direct distance on the map very much, if we reckon the parasang at 3 geographical miles; for 10 parasangs are 30 geographical miles; and the direct distance to Adana is not more than 16 miles. Mr. Ainsworth informs us that the Sarus is not fordable at Adana; and Cyrus probably crossed at some other place. The march from the Sarus to the Pyramus was 5 parasangs, or 15 geographical miles; and this appears to be very nearly the direct distance from Adana to Mopsuestia (Misis). But Cyrus may have crossed some distance below Mopsuestia, without lengthening his march from the Sarus to the Pyramus; and he may have done this even if he had to go lower down the Sarus than Adana to find a ford. If he did not go higher up the Pyramus to seek a ford, for the reasons which Mr. Ainsworth mentions, he must have crossed lower down than Mopsuestia. The distance from the point where the supposed old bed begins to turn to the south, to the NE. end of the gulf of Issus, is 40 geographical miles; and thus the distance of 15 parasangs from the passage of the Pyramus to Issus, is more easily reconciled with the real distance than the measurement from Tarsus to the Sarus.

The places not absolutely determined on or near the gulf of Issus, are: Myriandrus, Nicopolis, Epiphaneia [EPIPHANEIA], Arae Alexandri, and Issus, though we know that Issus, must have been at the head of the gulf and on it. The following extract from Colonel Chesney contains the latest information on these sites:--“About 7 miles south-eastward from the borders of Syria are the remains of a considerable city, probably those of Issus or Nicopolis, with the ruins of a temple, a part of the Acropolis, an extensive aqueduct, generally with a double row of arches, running ESE. and WNW. These, in addition to the walls of the city itself, are entirely built of lava, and still exist in considerable perfection. Nearly 14 miles southward from thence, the Dell Chí quits the foot of the Amanus in two branches, which, after traversing the Issic plain, unite at the foot of the mountain just previously to entering the sea. The principal of these branches makes a deep curve towards the NE., so that a body of troops occupying one side might.see behind and outflank those posted on the opposite side, in which, as well as in other respects, the stream appears to answer to the Pinarus of Alexander's historians. A little southward of this river are the castle, khń, bźŕ, baths, and other ruins of Býś, once Baiae, with the three villages of Kuretur in the neighbourhood, situated in the midst of groves of orange and palm trees. Again, 5 miles southward, is the pass, above noticed, of Súik[qacute]l-tútán, and at nearly the same distance onward, the fine bay and anchorage of Iskenderfin, with an open but convenient landing-place on a bold beach; but, in consequence of the accumulation of the sand by which the mouths of the streams descending from this part of the Amanus are choked, a pestilential swamp extends from the very edge of the sea almost to the foot of the mountain. In the marsh towards the latter are some trifling ruins, which may possibly be the site of ancient Myriandrus; and within a mile of the shore are the remains of a castle and bridge constructed by Godfrey of Bouillon.” (Expedition for the Survey of the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris, vol. i. p. 408.)

There is no direct proof here that these remains are those of Issus. The aqueduct probably belongs to the Roman period. It seems most likely that the remains are those of Nicopolis, and that Issus on the coast has disappeared. Colonel Chesney's description of the bend of one of the branches of the Deli Tschai corresponds to Arrian's (2.2.10), who says, “Darius placed at the foot of the mountain, which was on the Persian left and opposite to Alexander's right, about 20,000 men; and some of them were on the rear of Alexander's army. For the mountain where they were posted in one place opened to some depth, and so a part became of the form of a bay on the sea. Darius then, by advancing further to the bend, brought the men who were posted at the foot of the mountain, in the rear of the right wing of Alexander.”

There still seems some doubt about the site of Myriandrus, which Mr. Ainsworth (Travels in the Track of the Ten Thousand, &c. p. 60) places about half way between Scanderoon and Rhosus (Arsus); and lie has the authority of Strabo, in his enumeration of the placeson this coast, and that of Ptolemy, who places Myriandrus 15‘ south of Alexandria ad Issum. As to Arsus, he observes,--“there are many ruins, and especially a long aqueduct leading from the foot of the mountains.”


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.38
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.43
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.95
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.4.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 12.17
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 2.6
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 2.8
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 3.8
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 4.1
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