Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A two-month project to excavate the city of Soli (near Mersin, Turkey)

The news has been announced about mid-July 2015. For years, all one could see here were two rows of columns running on each side of what seems to be the main street of the Roman city. Tourists had no access to the site and I hope this will change after said excavations have been carried out.

This year’s team will work on the restoration of the columns, most of which still have their Corinthian capitals, and investigate the continuation of the street as well as the Roman shops established alongside. Last year they unearthed a very active harbor, including part of the wall dating from the period between the first century BC and the first century AD.

Soli has my interest because it is one of those Cilician cities where Alexander installed a garrison in 333 BC after having demanded a fine of 200 talents of silver for supporting the Persians against him. This fine is quite a remarkable sum if one considers, for instance, that the yearly income of Athens in 431 BC was estimated at 1,000 talents. From Soli, Alexander marched against the Cilicians holding the hills behind the city. Some were driven off, others surrendered, and within a week he was back in Soli – a short incursion it seems.

It is here that Alexander received the long-awaited news that Halicarnassus had finally fallen! Ptolemy and Asander had stayed behind in 334 BC to besiege the city and to evict the Persian commander Orontobates. With the fall of Halicarnassus, the towns of Myndos, Caunos, Thera and Callipolis came in Macedonian hands, together with Cos and Triopium (Cape Crio in southwestern Turkey). This victory called for a celebration and Alexander is said to have offered sacrifices to Asclepius – no doubt to thank the god for his recovery from the fever he caught in Tarsus. He also held a ceremonial parade of his troops, followed by a torch race and games with music and poetic contests as well as athletics.

Whatever the situation, Soli was allowed to retain its own popular government. After the Battle of Issus in November 333 BC, Arrian tells us that Alexander cancelled the debt of fifty talents Soli still owed and returned their hostages. This kindness was reciprocated to Alexander when he was laying siege on Tyre a year later and three ships from Soli joined the reinforcement fleet of eighty Phoenician vessels and several others.

I doubt there will be much if anything left to testify from Alexander’s day since reference is generally made to the Roman and Byzantine occupation, with a faint hint towards the Seleucids who were Alexander’s successors in Cilicia.

The first to colonize the area were the Greeks from Rhodes in about 700 BC and they named the city Soli which eventually flourished especially when the Persians ruled Asia Minor. After Alexander, Soli gradually lost its importance with the decline of the Seleucids in the first and second centuries BC, but gained again in prosperity with the arrival of the Roman general Pompey. He took advantage of Soli’s naval base while campaigning against the pirates who pillaged the cities of the eastern Mediterranean. From those days onward, the city was renamed Pompeiopolis in honor of their leader and liberator. New defensive walls and several public buildings and roads were built, and after Hadrian’s visit and sponsoring in 130 AD the harbor was expanded. Pompeiopolis/Soli successfully withstood the Persian attack of 260 AD and the city’s importance kept on growing, even through the Byzantine period when it became a bishopric. However, the powerful earthquake that hit the region in 525 AD completely devastated the city that was abandoned.

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