previous next

SAMOSATA (Sainsat) SW Anatolia.

The city is cited in a Latin inscription as Samosate (CIL VI, 1409). On the coins from the time of Hadrian to that of Philippos (244-49) it appears as Samosateon. The ruins are located 140 km S of modern Malatya and on the W bank of the Euphrates (Ptol. Bell. 1.17.22f). The city was at the crossroads of five important routes going to Melentenis (Melitene), Comana, Heracome, Tarsa, and Zeugma. Today the Euphrates passes some 500 m from the city as it has changed its course.

Founded on a plain bordered by high mountains at the NW and the Euphrates at the SE, it controlled Euphrates traffic. It is divided into two parts, the lower city and the acropolis (Lucian De Hist. Conscrib. 24), which is somewhat conical in shape, 45 m above the level of the plain. In both parts of the settlement, remains of the city walls, of different heights, can still be seen. The acropolis (approximately 250 x 150 m) is situated in the S part of the city. Little was to be seen before the excavations. The necropolis, in the N and NE part of the city, was covered with alluvial deposits of the river. In some parts of the city walls Roman opus reticulatum, which is very rare in this area, can clearly be seen.

For the earlier phases of the settlement we have little information, but a stele from the Hittite period and the pottery collected from the surface indicate earlier habitation than Roman. Samosata was the capital of Commagene, which is cited as the Land of Qummuh in Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions. Lucullus in 69 ac. and Ventidius in 38 B.C. occupied the province, but it is not known whether Samosata was also occupied at these times. In A.D. 17 Samosata became a Roman province and Caligula appointed Antiochos IV as king of Commagene and perpetuator of the native dynasty. Later, in the time Vespasian, L. Caesennius Paetus, consul of Syria, with the permission of the emperor, attacked Commagene; and Antiochos left Samosata. Vespasian then stationed the 16th Legio Flavia in the city (Cass. Dio 55.24.3; Ptol. 5.14.8). Samosata was mentioned once again, during Trajan's (A.D. 114) Parthian raid, and in A.D. 120 was the birthplace of the famous satirist Lucian. For a short time after Diocletian, the region was called Euphratesia (Amm. Marc. 14.8.7 Eufratensis). At the time of Justinian the Arabs attacked and occupied the area extending from Samosata and its environs to Edessa. After the 7th c. Commagene became a province of the Islamic world.

In 1964 soundings were made at the city gate called Urfa Kapisi, SE of the modern village and on the S end of the acropolis. Excavations were carried out in 1967 and 1970, and at the top a typical fortress settlement composed of magazines, halls, kitchens, baths, and several rooms were cleaned out. On the mound Roman terra sigillata have been found.


Moltke, Briefe (1841) 224ff; W. F. Ainsworth, A Personal Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition (1888) I 195f; Humann-Puchstein, Reisen in Kleinasien und Nordsyrien (1890) 181ff; Weissbach, RE Ia (1920); M. Mellink 74 AJA (1970) p. 280 no. 3.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: