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Region of Cappadocia

Visit Cappadocia

The region known during classical times as Cappadocia, stretched, before the Persian invasion, from the Black Sea to the Taurus Mountains and from the Euphrates to Salt Lake. During the Persian era the region was divided into two, with Pontus Cappadocia to the north and Cappadocia Major to the south.

The name comes from the Persian “Katpatuka”, meaning “land of fine horses”. Horses were bred there from as early as the mid-second millenium B.C., and throughout the classical period. Cappadocia was renowned for its stables, and paying tribute with horses became a tradition in the area.

A mountainous area in the main, the region possesses a hars, continental climate. It is watered by the Kızılırmak (Halys) to the north, the Euphrates to the east and the Seyhan and Ceyhan rivers to the south. Mount Erciyes (Argaios), Anatolia’s highest peak, rises from the Develi plains near Kayseri to a height of 3916 m. Of this mountain the historian Strabo said: “Argaios, the highest of mountains whose peak is constantly covered with snow” adding that ” Whoever climbs this peak-there being very few- it is said that they will see both seas, both the Pontus and the Issikos seas, given fair weather.” Mount Erciyes is the only volcano in Anatolia known to have been active in historical times. For centuries it was a dominant feature of local belief. The original peak was much higher but repeated eruptions reduced it to its present level before the volcano became extinct. Mount Argaios is surrounded by forests in a region notable for its paucity of trees. Animal husbandary, accoring to Strabo, was a major feature of the region’s economy, as was crop farming. It is a region whose inhabitants’ origins are extremely complex, inevitable result of a constant influx of migrants from very different backgrounds, many simply passing through but all leaving their mark on the region. The ancients referred to the Cappadocians as “white Syrians”.

Gregorius of Naziansos claimed that “In Cappadocia not only are fine horses bred, but a race of fine people”, while a fourth century writer lists a number of Cappadocians renowned for their knowledge, adding that the women of Cappadocia were as beautiful as goddesses.

A renowned red ochre dye was produced in Cappadocia and exported widely from Sinop before the Ephesian merchants reached the region. From the 1st century B.C. onwards it was transported to Ephesus for export, mainly to Greece and Italy.

Other notable products of the region are alabaster, which creamy white stone has long been quarried around Koçhisar and Ürgüp and rock salt and marsh salt, which are mentioned both by Strabo and Pliny. Sumerian texts refer to silver, iron, agate and amber as being among the products of the region.

A series of tablets known as the Cappadocia tablets are of considerable historical importance. They are the earliest known written documents of the history of Anatolia and were found at Kanesh-Kültepe near Kayseri.

Over a thousand of these tablets were excavated by the Czech archeologist Hrozny in 1925. these are now kept in museums in Kayseri, Istanbul and Ankara alongside other finds from the site of Kültepe made durring excavations by the Turkish Historical Society. The clay tablets, 3-5 cm. wide and 5-10 cms. long are mainly trade and legal documents inscribed in cuneiform in the old Assyrian dialect.

A definitive type of pottery first seen in Anatolia in the early Bronze Age-vessels decorated with geometric motifs over red or brown slip- has been given the title Cappadocian pottery, as it originated primarily from the region of Argaios. Examples of such ware were found at Alişar, Boğazköy and Kültepe.

There is also a definitive Cappadocia school of painting, related to a somewhat later period and the frescos and paintings of the Byzantine monasteries and churches of Cappadocia, on the domes, pillers and walls of churches in the region of Ürgüp, where the volcanic tuff rock has been carved out, somewhat unevenly, to make churches are covered with inaccurate inscriptions and faded paintings. There is also a considerable amount of folk art, sometimes rather crude. The art of the region, on the whole, is oriental in origin, with some regional contributions to style. A certain nobility and animation of expression is, discernable in the figures of Cappadocia.