CILICIA (3rd-cent. CE Mid. Pers. klkyʾy, Parth. kylkyʾ), the southeastern portion of the present Turkish coast, a satrapy of the Achaemenid empire (6th-4th centuries BCE), subsequently incorporated into the Macedonian and Roman empires.

There is no connected narrative of Achaemenid Cilicia. Strabo (14.5) provided a cursory description of both coast and interior in the 4th century BCE Xenophon’s survey (Anabasis 1.2-4) is the most detailed extant.

The Achaemenid administrative structure. Cilicia resembled other western satrapies of the Achaemenid empire: There were a satrap (governor), who possessed an estate with a palace; a series of lesser officers, most of them possessing estates and villages, others being priests of sanctuaries; a variety of fortified strongholds protect­ing the agricultural land and population; native and Per­sian urban centers; and peoples organized into tribes led by native chieftains.

Initially the satrap was a native dynast, the syennesis, whose office predated the empire (Herodotus, 1.28, 1.74; Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.4.2, 8.8.6). The satrapal capi­tal, residence (basileia), and estate were at Tarsus, a large and prosperous city in Achaemenid times (Anabasis 1.2.23; cf. 1.2.2, 1.2.27, 1.3.14, for agriculture). The uncertain loyalty of the syennesis during the rebellion of Cyrus the Younger in 401 BCE led Artaxerxes II (405-359) to abolish the office of syennesis and re­place it with a centrally appointed satrap (cf. Xenophon, Anabasis 1.2.20-21; Hellenica 3.1.1; Diodorus 14.20; Ctesias, in Jacoby Fragmente, no. 688 fr. 16.63). The satrap, whose influence extended as far west as Aspendus (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.2.12), was responsible for main­taining peace in his territory in order to facilitate agricul­tural activity and the production of tribute. High places and mountain passes were to be kept in friendly hands (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.2.22-24; cf. Cousin; Treidler). Cilicia provided the crown with 360 horses and 140 talents of silver for such defensive purposes (Herodotus, 3.90). The region also served as a mustering point for land and sea forces, to which the satrapy contributed (Herodotus, 6.43, 6.95, 7.77; Diodorus, 15.2-4; Nepos, Datames 3.5; for the satrap’s participation, cf. Herodotus, 7.98; Aeschylus, Persae 326ff.; Diodorus, 16.42).

The activities of lesser officials are documented only sporadically. The administrative history of Cilicia sug­gests that there were landed nobles, priests in charge of temple estates, and other, lesser functionaries, all subor­dinate to the satrap. The agricultural productivity of the region observed by Xenophon (Anabasis 1.2), like the capacity for large military concentrations, presupposes a stable and competent administration. That Darius I (Herodotus, 3.90) expected 500 talents of silver as tribute suggests that Cilicia was well enough administered to generate more than nugatory revenue, even if the quota was not actually met. Among those lesser officers who owned estates in the 390s and later were Camisares and his son Datames (Nepos, Datames 1-2). Archeo­logical remains that parallel those found in other western satrapies suggest the existence of a Persian and Persianized nobility, for example, reliefs from Silifke (i.e., Seleucia on the Calycadnus), from Adana, and from Korykos (i.e., Kızakalesi; Borchardt; Hermary).

Temple estates, better documented in the Hellenistic age but already in existence before the period of Achaemenid control, are known to have existed at Olbe in the interior of Cilicia Tracheia, north of Hellenistic Seleucia on the Calycadnus, and at Castabala in upper Cilicia Pedias. The high priests of the temple of Zeus at Olbe controlled the surrounding area; through surviving Greek inscriptions it is possible to trace the extension of their power after the fall of the Achaemenid empire and evidence of their subsequent Hellenization (e.g., the shift of a name from Tarkyaris to Teucros; see Magie, p. 269). At the sanctuary of Artemis Perasia (see Magie, II, pp. 1151-52; Strabo, 12.2.7 mentions only priestesses) in Castabala, too, the chief priest, a dynast, adopted Greek culture in the Hellenistic period. It is thus possible to trace clearly the influence of Seleucid administrative practice (OGI, no. 754; cf. nos. 752-53; Strabo, 14.5.16-19; Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares 15.1). The survival of these ancient temple estates into Hellenistic times suggests that during the Achaemenid period they were at least not viewed as inimical to satrapal control.

Little is recorded in the classical sources about the larger urban centers of the Achaemenids, save for notices about the Macedonian conquest (e.g., Arrian, Anabasis 2.4-5). Tarsus and Soloi minted coinage used in Achaemenid campaigns against Cyprus and Egypt. Of greater interest to the Greco-Roman writers were the series of passes through which movement from Anatolia into Syria could be controlled (Strabo, 12.2.8-9; Xenophon, Anabasis 1.2, 1.4; cf. Treidler). Tribal peoples in the hills (Arrian, Anabasis 2.6) probably escaped complete control by the satrapal administration at Tarsus (cf. Isocrates 4.161) and are mentioned as the objects of policing actions (cf. Diodorus, 18.22; Strabo, 12.6.5). Fortified sites like Cyinda (see Bing; Simpson) and Meydanjık helped to protect the resources of the satrapy.

History. In the wars between Cyrus and Croesus of Lydia independent Cilicia sided with the Persians (Herodotus, 1.28). The syennesis thus became part of the Achaemenid administrative hierarchy (cf. Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.4.2, 8.8.6). Although Cilicia and Cilicians are not mentioned in the surviving Old Persian lists of peoples ruled by the Achaemenids, they are attested in Western sources; for example, the name or the title of the ruling syennesis is noted in conjunction with military operations (e.g., Herodotus, 5.118). During the reigns of Darius I and his successors Cilicia was the assembly point for Achaemenid forces massing for western campaigns (Herodotus, 6.43: Mardonius’s campaign against Eu­rope; 6.95: Datis’s and Artaphernes’s campaigns against the Aegean and European Greeks). Cilicia provided both men and ships for Xerxes’s pacification of the Aegean area (480-79 BCE; Herodotus, 7.77, 7.91, 7.98); the ships were led by the ruling syennesis, who died in battle (Aeschylus, Persae 326ff.). His successor, named as a reward for service without reference to any former con­nection with Cilicia, was Xeinagoras of Halicarnassus (Herodotus, 9.107). By that time the dynastic family had already intermarried with Carian notables (Herodotus, 5.118). Competent administration continued until the revolt of Cyrus the Younger, and Cilician forces fought in Anatolia (Diodorus, 11.60.5), Egypt (Diodorus, 11.75, 11.77), and Cyprus (Thucydides, 1.112; Plutarch, Cimon 18.5-6; Diodorus, 12.3).

Once the revolt had been put down, Cilicia once again became the mustering point for Achaemenid forces and a source of recruits, particularly for operations in the Aegean in 396-95 BCE (Diodorus, 14.79.8; Hellenica Oxyrhynchia 4.2) and against Cyprus in the 380s (Diodorus, 15.2-4). During the 390s-60s BCE the family of Camisares and Datames was prominent. Datames even­tually ruled a satrapy encompassing both Cilicia and Cappadocia. As a result of family strife and satrapal infighting he was the object of a punitive campaign (ca. 369-68) and a successful assassination plot (ca. 361; Nepos, Datames 7-11).

The next officers attested by name are Mazaeus and Arsames. The former was satrap in the 340s, but his sphere was extended to include Syria (with Phoenicia), a reward for his service in a campaign against Egypt (cf. Arrian, Anabasis 3.8, 3.16.4-10; for a discussion of liter­ary and numismatic evidence, see Weiskopf; Bosworth; Betlyon). Arsames, though he defended Cilicia against the Macedonians (Arrian, Anabasis 2.4.5-6; Quintus Curtius, 3.4.3; cf. Itinerarium Alexandri 27, 19, 49), was probably a lesser officer from northwestern Anatolia who had fled south to set up new lines of resistance.

The Persian impact. The name Oromedon, borne by the father of the syennesis who ruled Cilicia in the 480s, has been taken by J. M. Cook (p. 149; cf. Herodotus, 7.98) as evidence for recognition, in that province, of Ahura Mazdā. Archeological remains suggest a Persian pres­ence in Cilicia somewhat parallel to that in other Achaemenid satrapies in the west (the Silifke frieze, the Adana procession). The remains at Meydanjık include Aramaic funerary inscriptions and what appears to be a foundation text. Images of Semitic deities accompany an Aramaic funerary inscription from Kesecek Köyü north­east of Tarsus (see Hanson). Coins minted at Tarsus and Soli include Persian, modified Persian (e.g., images of satraps, the Great King, Arethusa; for illustrations, see, e.g., Head; Moysey, pls. 1-5), and non-Persian types, as well as both Greek and Aramaic inscriptions. They reflect the cultural diversity of the satrapy. For example, on one type Baal of Tarsus is paired with the Achaemenid winged disk; on another Semitic Nergal appears in Persian garb, perhaps reflecting an attempt to identify him with Mithra (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 271-73). Obviously 200 years of Persian rule had left traces even after the fall of the Achaemenid empire.

Ancient Cilicia was never again in Persian hands (cf. Strabo, 14.5.2), save during raids and transitory conquests resulting as much from western weakness as from Persian strength (e.g., in 51 BCE; Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares 15.1-4). During the Hellenistic era (Bagnall; Bevan) one administrator of possible Persian descent is attested: the Seleucid officer Aribazus, in about 246 BCE (Jacoby, Fragmente, no. 160).

Finally, in the third campaign of the Sasanian emperor Šāpūr I, against Carrhae and Edessa in 259 or 260, he faced an army of the Roman emperor Valerian that included troops from Cilicia (Maricq, pp. 310-11). Vale­rian was defeated, and Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia were burned and pillaged and a number of their cities conquered (Maricq, pp. 312-13). At the same time Šāpūr’s high priest Kartīr (Kirdēr) boasted of fire altars and magi at Tarsus and in Cilicia, though their presence was more likely a survival from earlier Achaemenid rule than the result of his own efforts (for inscriptions at Naqš-­e Rostam and Sar Mašhad, see Back, pp. 423-25; Gignoux).


M. Back, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège, 1978.

R. Bagnall, The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside Egypt, Leiden,1976.

J. W. Betlyon, The Coinage and Mints of Phoinicia. The Pre-Alexandrine Period, Harvard Semitic Monographs 26, Chico, Calif., 1982.

E. Bevan, The House of Seleucus, London, 1902.

J. D. Bing, “A Further Note on Cyinda/Kundi,” Historia 22, 1973, pp. 346-50.

J. Borchhardt, “Epichorische, gräko-persisch beeinflusste Reliefs im Kilikien,” Istanbuler Mitteilungen 18, 1968, pp. 161­-211.

A. B. Bosworth, A Historical Commentary on Arrian’s History of Alexander I, Oxford, 1980.

J. M. Cook, The Persian Empire, New York, 1983.

G. Cousin, Kyros le Jeune en Asie Mineure, Paris, 1905.

P. Gignoux, “La liste des provinces de l’Ērān dans les inscriptions de Šābuhr et de Kirdīr,” Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 19, 1971, pp. 83­-94.

R. S. Hanson, “Aramaic Funerary and Boundary Inscriptions from Asia Minor,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 192, 1968, pp. 3-11.

B. V. Head, Historia Nummorum, Oxford, 1911; repr. Chicago, 1967.

A. Hermary, “Un nouveau relief "gréco-perse" en Cilicie,” Revue archéologique, 1984, pp. 289­-300.

E. Herzfeld, The Persian Empire, ed. G. Walser, Wiesbaden, 1968.

P. Krumbholz, De Asiae Minoris Satrapis Persicis, Leipzig, 1883.

E. Laroche and A. Davesne, “Les fouilles de Meydandjik près de Gulnar (Turquie) et le trésor monétaire hellénistique,” Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 1981, pp. 356-70.

D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century after Christ, 2 vols., Princeton, N.J., 1950 (still the best general introduc­tion).

A. Maricq, “Classica et Orientalia 5. Res Gestae Divi Saporis,” Syria 35, 1958, pp. 295-360; repr. in Classica et Orientalia, Paris, 1965.

R. A. Moysey, “The Silver Stater Issues of Pharnabazos and Datames from the Mints of Tarsus in Cilicia,” American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 31, 1986, pp. 7-61.

R. H. Simpson, “A Note on Cyinda,” Historia 6, 1957, pp. 503-04.

Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, Leiden, 1923-.

H. Treidler, “Pylai Kilikiai,” in Pauly-Wissowa IX, cols. 1352-66.

M. Weiskopf, Achaemenid Systems of Governing in Anatolia, Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1982.

(Michael Weiskopf)

Originally Published: December 15, 1991

Last Updated: October 20, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 6, pp. 561-563

Cite this entry:

Michael Weiskopf, “CILICIA,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, V/6, pp. 561-563, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).