Friends and Neighbours


Local tradition recorded by Diodorus claims that the Persian satraps of Cappadocia were descended not only from one of the "seven" who helped Darius become Great King in 522 BC, but also from Cyrus himself. True or not - and probably not - Cappadocia certainly identified very strongly with the Achaemenids: interestingly a similar genealogy was later claimed by Mithradates VI of Pontus.


"Fairy Chimneys" in Cappadocia. Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination in Turkey, because of its strange geology, underground cities, and rock-carved churches and monasteries.

At any rate, by around 305 BC, there was certainly an independent kingdom of Cappadocia defying the Macedonian empire of the Seleucids, and whose rulers did indeed claim kinship with the Achaemenids. Strabo, who was born in Pontus just to the north, writing around the time of Augustus, notes Persian religious customs surviving in his own time (c. 63 BC - c. AD 24).

In Cappadocia...the Persians have also certain large shrines, called Pyrotheia [ie places where fires are lit, fire-temples].In the middle of these is an altar, on which is a great quantity of ashes, where the Magi maintain an unextinguished fire... These we have seen ourselves.

The kings - most of them called Ariarathes, tried to back winners in the struggle between Rome and the Seleucids: when they finally chose Rome it ended in disaster in 130 BC, leaving Cappadocia exposed to the expansion of Pontus under Mithradates VI, and after his defeat, the expansion of Armenia under Tigranes. Pompey restored king Ariobarzanes (63 BC), but received no loyalty in return, with Cappadocia once again trying to pick the winner in the Roman civil wars. Allowed to remain independent by Augustus, it was finally made a Roman province in AD 17, when Tiberius summoned Archelaus, the Cappadocian king for 55 years and accused him of plotting revolt.

Cappadocia became a convenient buffer against the Parthians and also helped keep an eye on Armenia, with three legions stationed there permanently. Right through the early Byzantine period the peace was kept - but Cappadocia fell to Khusrau II in AD 604, until the Byzantine counter-attack in AD 622.