Caria – Iron Age crossroads culture

Western Anatolia played a rhythmic role at the fringes of great civilizations, settler waves and horde invasions for thousands of years. 


Caria was a kingdom in the sixth century BCE in southwest present day Turkey that grew from an age-old regional Luwian identity.  Western Anatolia played a rhythmic role at the fringes of great civilizations, settler waves and horde invasions for thousands of years.

The region was never fully swallowed into any of the many social tsunami that washed around the mountainous region.  It kept apart by its remoteness, its decentralized city-state power structure, and its openness to newcomers.

Over centuries and millennia of cultural tides, the land drew in and kept memory of the passing eons without being completely war-ravaged.  A library of  influence on the passing civilizations allowed southern Anatolia to be viewed as ancestral family relation to all regional powers.

To know Caria is to understand the ancient tapestry from which it came, and the rich legacy in which it participated.

Pre-historic (aka Mythical) Anatolia (10,000 – 6000 BCE)

Anatolia was home to some of humanity’s earliest known cultures, as evidenced by the spiritual acropolis, Göbekli Tepe (10,000 BCE) and pre-agricultural city, Çatalhöyük (7500 – 5600 BCE) among other sites sprinkled through the Taurus mountains. (discussed in blog entry Chalcolithic Age – Dawn of cultures)  

These sites on the high plateau coincide in time to an dramatic event in the Black Sea basin, the Flood.  Studies show up to the eighth millennium BCE, a smaller, fresh water Black Sea had a long standing geological barrier to the sea waters of the Mediterranean.


The earliest wheat species, the Einkorn originates from eastern Anatolia around this time, and directly links Anatolia with the earliest grain cultivation cultures. Its believed that early agriculture and settlements would have spread around the Black Sea’s shores during this period before the innundation.

Some date the flood to be around 5600 BCE.  A major earthquake was likely responsible for opening the Bosphorus chasm between the two bodies of water, allowing salty sea water to gush into the Black Sea basin at a rate of 200 Niagara Falls flooding 140,000 square kilometers, raising the water levels 90-200 meters, in as little as a year.

This huge inundation permanently changed life and human habitation around the Black Sea basin.  Rising water over such a large fertile area forced neolithic communities and families to abandon farmsteads and settlements.  To the North and West, the shoreline will move hundreds of kilometres.

The lost land could include mythical Atlantis.  It certainly caused a diaspora of different peoples migrating away.The flood and waves of escaping tribes were responsible for bringing farmers and agriculture to northern and western Europe.

The rising water did give warning.  News of the Bosphorus torrent surely travelled to residents all over the Black Sea basin.  Some may have prepared for the coming flood by building barges to load family, farm animals, tools and provisions, family arks that could ride the water, until it found its new higher shoreline.  This early cataclysm certainly survived in the memory of many cultures as the Flood story.

Cultural Waves – Cultural Ark

The last two millennia BCE were pivotal in establishing enduring civilizations from the Altantic to the Caspian sea. The mountainous coastal regions of southern Anatolia gives the geography an unusual position of being both central to the great early Western civilizations and yet remain moderately remote and largely left to itself.

Each wave of conquest and settler was slowed by the rough terrain and ancient cultural tapastry. None was ever able to fully erase the native flavour of the region.  In time, passing cultures left behind cultural sediment.  In doing so, the region retained older culture and continuity.

An ancient pan-Antolian culture known as the Luwian culture (2800 – 600 BCE) spread westward from south central Asia Minor.  They spread northward toward the Troad, to the shores of the ancient Hellespont, aka the Dardanelles.  This movement also pushed towards the Dodecanese islands off the southwest coast, ultimately Crete. 

From these Anatolian migrations, the earliest Minoans became a seafaring culture.  They spread from Asia Minor and set up in Crete, Thera, Rhodos.  Here they meshed with the  Cycladic culture (c.3200–c.1050).  

But the earliest Minoan roots on the mainland are represented by the importance of Miletus and the fertile Meader river basin to the Minoans by 1900 BCE, an area also significant to Mycenaeans from 1450 to 1100 BCE, and later it was the most important city for the Ionians from 1000 – 500 BCE.

It is said the area had previously belonged to the Leleges, an Anatolian people a cousin people to Carians, both descendants of Luwian culture.  The populations had usually friendly relations with one another which significantly boosted them in trade, riches, and culture for millenia.

The northern Anatolian region was largely taken into Hittite empire (1600 BCE) but mostly as an administrative region.  The empire extended a brethren association to culturally refined Luwian regions to the south and west and were largely left to rule as allies.

Southwest Anatolia is thought of as one point of origin for the mysterious ‘sea-faring peoples’, one named tribe being the Lukka, a fierce, wild Luwian people.  These ancient pirates raided weakened near-east civilizations including Egypt,  Hittite, Mycenaean Greek, Phoenicia, leading to the late Bronze Age collapse (1280 BCE) and the subsequent dark ages.

The region saw the invasion of Thracian Phyrgians (1160 BCE) to northwestern Anatolia. It became part of the Phoenician Trade Network (1200 – 600 BCE), which included the Greek derivation of the Phoenician alphabet. They suffered the Cimmerian invasion as part of their destruction of Phyrgia (710 BCE) and multiple Ionian cites. They saw the Persian conquests of Xerces (546 BCE), later, Alexander the Great (334 BCE), Ptolemies rule (300 BCE), Roman  conquest of the region in 192 BCE.

Caria was an early Hellenistic hybrid kingdom of newer Greek colonies and the older Luwian city-state culture.  Caria and the Carians are first mentioned in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, i.e., between c.1800 and 1200 BCE. The country was called Karkissa.

Caria was incorporated in c.545 BCE into the ancient Achaemenid empire (Cyrus’ Persia) as the satrapy (province) Karkâ. Its capital was Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum), which had been originally been founded by Ionian Greeks.

During the 6th century BCE, Ionia became the focus of the intellectual life of Greece, a period known as the “Ionian awakening”, a name for the initial phase of classical Greek civilization.

Aspects of southwestern Anatolia’s ancient, independent nature carry forward into the Iron Age culture. Local Bronze Age cultures helped keep the region of Caria and its neighbours distinct from the larger civilizations that bordered it.


Luwian (2500 BCE – 300 BCE)

Luwians are first found in the 3rd millenium BCE in the region between the Hatti and the Mediterranean Sea, in southeastern Anatolia. It is thought to have religious and language connections to Indo-European culture.  The proto-Indo-Europeans were in existence by the sixth millennium BCE, in a homeland located on the steppe above the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.   This age-old lineage links them in time with survivors of the great Black Sea flood.

Luwian arrival in Anatolia – c.2300 BCE

Over the centuries, Luwians spread to western Anatolia. (Luwian Studies). For thousands of years, different Luwian kingdoms rose in this geography grew, such as Arzawa, Wilusa, Teucria, Lukka, Tarhuntassa, Mysia, Lydia, Lycia, and Caria.

Luwian is now understood as an important pan-empire culture blending the crossroads of Minoan, Ionian, Mycenaean Greek and Hittite empires and geographies. By remaining a loose diaspora of smaller states, clans and fiefdoms, spanning a large geographical area, Luwians were able to retain distinct cultural identity for the entire Bronze Age, nearly two thousand years.


Anatolia c.1450 BC – Arzawa controlled lands in green, disputed in hatched


Arzawa, a kingdom (1440 – 1250 BCE) in Southwest Anatolia and the kingdom of Kizzuwatna in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia are the largest groups in the Luwian hegemony in the second millenia BCE. Tarhuntassa (Kode) was calved from Arzawa about 1350 BCE. Arzawa is thought to be the origin of the name Asia. After Arzawa, the region became Lydia (1200 – 546 BCE), a contemporary neighbour to Caria.

On the western coast was the sea-faring nation of Ahhiyawa (1380 – 1220 BCE).  This notably large and fierce kingdom usually got along well with the Hittites, until the reign of Tudhaliyas IV (c. 1250–20 BC) Attarissiyas led attacks on Hittite vassals and cities, a name which some associate with Atreus, the father of Agamemnon.  These Luwian people were associated to the Achaeans, the Homeric term for the Greeks of this period.

This coastal region later became known as Caria, inhabited by Carians, Greeks and Leleges.  By the time of the Ionian Awakening and the Carian golden era, these groups became synonymous.  The father of history Herodetus (484–425 BCE) considered himself Carian, although his contribution is considered Greek.

Further south was the Lukka lands, a region that was a confederation of fierce tribes or minor states, that never were totally dominated by the Hittite or Mycenaean.  This region became Lycia around 500 BCE.

Luwians were a familial buffer between Hittite and Greek cultures, a role that culturally links Anatolia, the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. This opens the way for later empires to borrow and from the proto-Hellenistic cultural legacy of the Luwians. The impact of late-Luwian Caria and its neighbours would extend from Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE) and the Diadochi , which describes the immediate successors of Alexander (305 – 30 BCE) to Romans (27 BCE – 395 AD) and the Byzantine Empire (330–1450 AD).

Early Anatolian Writing System

inscription from Chamber 2 in Hattuša

The consensus among scholars is that the Luwian language was spoken – to varying degrees – across a large portion of western Anatolia in the 2nd and 1st millennium BCE, across multiple, often adversarial kingdoms and regions.

Luwian hieroglyphic script appears to be an independently developed writing system.  It can be tracked back to at least 2000 BCE when its symbols appeared on a seal found at the archaeological site of Beycesultan and used up to 600 BCE. The spread of their language and its writing system was key to the long standing, independent Luwian culture.


Ancient Greek Influence in Asia Minor (2500 – 190 BCE)

The western Aegean region of Anatolia was central to many of the major Minoan, archaic and classic Greek cultures with which indigenous Anatolian populations were, usually, on close terms.  Hellenization in Asia Minor was a key feature in the far-reaching success of Greek culture.

The indigenous, proto-Carian people, the Leleges as well as other Luwian descendant groups interacted with Greek influence for tens of centuries, from early Minoan colonies around Miletus in the late 3rd millennium BCE, the change-over from Minoan to Mycenaean in the Greek colonies around 1450 BCE, the Bronze Age collapse (1280 BCE).  This was followed by the First Greek colonization (1000 BCE), with Aeolic Greek on the northern Aegean, the Ionian migrations to the middle Aegean coast, and the Doric Greeks to the south Aegean coast of Asia Minor and the Ioning Awaking (550 BCE), conquest by Alexander the Great and Roman rule (192 BCE).



Greek interests were focused on coastal regions where trade was a central interest.  The inland communities were open to the influence and wealth such neighbours brought with them.

Caria had an early golden age around the time of the Ionian Awakening (c. 600-500 BCE), a burst of intellect and achievement in Asia Minor.  Together they created, bringing many elements into hellenization of the ancient world. Stone decorative structures, irrigation system, waste disposal, roads, harbours, markets, workshops, supply chains, mosaics.

Luwian & Minoan (2600 – 1400 BCE)

Early Luwian culture coincides in time and geography with the southern Anatolian start point of early (and later) Minoan colonization of Crete, the south Aegean islands and coastal Asia Minor.  The Minoan and Greek city-state structure and diaspora is similar and compatible to Luwian extended influence across a large geography stretching across Anatolia to the eastern Mediterranean.

Luwian culture spanned western Anatolia and the region is the origin of settlers arriving on Crete, the Dodecanese islands and southern Cyclades during the Early Minoan Period (c.2600 – 2000 BCE). This link between Luwians and early Minoan suggests that they shared some cultural traits.

The Early Minoan period was defined by its priests, rather than military might. There were no grand statues depicting powerful kings, and women in society seemed to be highly prominent and liberal, even taking the role of powerful priestesses who organised a faith that saw one or more mother goddesses in command of the island’s elemental forces.

Minoan cities didn’t have defensive walls and wealth tended to be evenly distributed in their trade-based economy. Minoan palaces may not even have been palaces, but perhaps business structures for the leading figures of the day to use as ‘office space’, or venues dedicated to the island’s fertility, to be packed with offerings after a successful harvest.

A common heritage may have bound the Luwians with the Minoans, in language, trade, culture, religion and war. There is evidence of Anatolian invasion around 1700 BCE. when palaces in half a dozen cities are destroyed. In about 1470 BCE, the Minoan trading island of Thera (modern Santorini) is destroyed by intense volcanic activity and Crete is devastated by the resulting tidal wave and ash cloud. From that point forward until 1200 BCE, Mycenaean Greece dominates and finally takes over Crete, southern islands and the Asia Minor coastal areas.

It is acknowledge that Mycenaean culture grew under Minoan influence, and leveraged this legacy as it grew in influence. The Luwian regions and culture of western Asia Minor would continue to have contact with the Mycenaeans, although they would already have been quite distinct societies.

Luwian & Hittite (1700 – 1200 BCE)

At about the same time in north central Anatolia, the fortified city of Hattusa, in northcentral Anatolia is considered to have been founded by the Hatti (an aboriginal tribe of Anatolia) in 2500 BCE, on a settlement from as far back as the 6th millenia BC. The Hatti fended off attacks until the sacking of Hattusa by the Hittite King Anitta of the eastern bordering kingdom of Kussara in 1700 BCE.

The Hittite empire pushed west into Luwian lands, but never entirely, nor for very long. Because Luwians were not unified into a single, dominated kingdom, their cultural identity and influence in the region continued for most of the Bronze Age (3000 – 1200 BCE), while the Hittite empire lasted 400 years to 1200 BCE.

It is possible that the Hittite empire was a dynastic, aristocratic structure that administered an empire of treaties, assimilation, and war over cultures such the Hatti, the Pala to the North, and the extensive Luwian culture to the south and west.

The Hittite borrowed from the Luwian culture, to the point where the Luwian language become the langua franca in the Empire by 1400 BCE. It is noted that Hittite royalty included powerful queens, reflecting a matrilineal system that once prevailed in western Anatolia, and Hittite gods were often absorbed from the other cultures.

Luwians and the Seafaring People (1280 – 1150 BCE)

The western Luwians of the 13th century BCE became know collectively as the Seafaring People, written into texts by the Egyptians. The groups included the Ekwesh (from Ahhiyawa), the Danya, the Lukka, and the Tjekker (Teucria / Wilusa).


In mythology, this is the time of the war of Troy.  Agamemnon united the early Greek Acheans from many Greek city-states to siege Troy on Anatolia’s Troad and its allies various Luwian kingdoms, including Caria, with a thousand ships and tens of thousand of warriors and equipment. A lengthy ten-year siege was a resource-heavy burden for all regional and Greeks city states involved to sustain.

The fractious end to a long and costly war was the demise of both civilizations.  Hardened Trojan and Greek solders having escaped the end destruction would no longer have had the command structure they’d served previously.  The Greek and Luwian city-states would suddenly be left in isolation, or have war-veterans returning from a decade-long absence.  Soldiers would easily turn to piracy and pillage in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, war-taxed regions that no longer had ability to defend themselves.

Homer spoke about how both victor and vanquished were cursed with misfortune and never to settle back to their previous lives.  The victor king, Agamemnon was said to be murdered by his wife upon his return home, while Homer’s Odyssey recounts Odysseus’ 10 year sea journey home with his men. Such a lengthy war would have changed the power dynamics in many of the Greek states as leaderships were contested and civic strife would lead to conflict.

Archaeological evidence suggests the Mycenaean world disintegrated through “feuding clans of the great royal families, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. Mycenaean Greek culture and power declined as part of the late Bronze Age collapse.

Marauders, both Greek and Luwian, also organized attacks east into the last of the Hittite Empire, and south into rich Egypt, which destabilized them, and caused them to decline.

The Seafaring People are credited for a significant role in the fall of the major late Bronze Age empires (Hittite, Egyptian, Mycenaean Greek, Kassite – lower Babylonia, Palaic – Black Sea Anatolia) known as Late Bronze Age collapse (1208 – 1150 BC).  The battle for Troy is seen by some historians as the flashpoint for this decline of empires, and is sometimes referred to as the first World War (WW0).

The Dorian Invasions / Migrations during the Greek Dark Ages that follow the Bronze Age collapse are also thought to move new populations into southern Greece, the Aegean islands and coastal Asia Minor.  At the beginning in the 6th century BC., came the Ionian Enlightenment, wherein the Greek city of Miletus was the birthplace of Greek philosophy and Western scientific thought.  This golden age was shared with the Carian, who had become inter-meshed with the Greek.   Herodotus, the “Father of History” was born in 5th century Halicarnassus, considered himself to be both Greek and Carian.

Cimmerian and Scythian pressure (720 – 515 BCE)

Herodotus wrote that the wandering Scythians once dwelt in Asia, to the East of the Caspian Sea, and there warred with the Massagetae tribal confederation, but with ill success.  They therefore crossed to the regions above the Crimea and entered the land of Cimmeria.

It is believed that the Cimmerians were living on the northern and eastern shore regions of the Black Sea from the 12th – 7th centuries BCE.  The pressure by the Scythians caused Cimmerians to displace to the south around the Black Sea.  Some Cimmerian tribes went to the west and settled in Thrace, while others followed the eastern Black Sea coast southward.  The Thracian incursion to the West is to a pre-literate culture so there is little knowledge of how this front unfolded, while eastern Cimmerians encountered and jostles with multiple kingdoms and empires, including the Assyrians.

An interesting account from Herodotus is that the Cimmerians, when they fled into Asia to escape the Scyths, made a settlement in the peninsula where the Greek city of Sinope was afterwards built. The Scyths pursued them, but Cimmerians took the Darial Pass through the centre of the Caucus Mountains.  The Scythians instead took the coastal route near the Caspian Sea, and poured south into the region of Media, 300 kilometres to the East of where the Cimmerians crossed. The Cimmerians turned west, which led back along the south Black Seas shore, the  and into Anatolia, while the Scyths held the Caucasus upon their right, came upon Medes (Old Persia), and the Assyrians.

Historically Greeks appreciated that Scythians fought against Persians, a common enemy, which left Greeks and Scythians on friendly terms.  The Scythian culture (8th – 4th century BCE) was prosperous on the Black Sea, especially around the Crimean penninsula where the Greek traders set up many outposts and towns for trade.

The first historical record of the Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BCE. in a letter sent from Nabu le’i, Sargon’s daughter in Tabal to her brother, the crown prince Sennacherib.    It describe how a people termed the Gimirri repulsed an attack by Rusa of Uratu which helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu.

The Assyrians recorded the migrations of the Cimmerians into the Pontus and Cappadocia regions south of the Black Sea, pushing into an area inhabited by a post-Hittite culture known as the Mushki.   The great Assyrian king Sargon II is thought to have been killed in battle against them in 705 BCE in a campaign against Tabal, a southeastern Luwian, neo-Hittite kingdom.


The Cimmerians were subsequently recorded as having conquered Phrygia in 696-695 BCE, prompting the Phrygian king Midas to take poison rather than face capture.

In 679 BCE during the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria (681 – 669 BCE), Cimmerians attacked Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa. The grandson of Sargon and youngest son of Sennacherib and the West Semitic queen Naqi’a (Zakitu), Esarhaddon  defeated them near Hubushna.

Cimmerians seems to have moved to Cappadocia in the west, from where they attacked the new kingdom Lydia (c.665 BCE). They were repelled by king Gyges, but twenty years later, they were back and in 644 BCE, they defeated the Lydians during the reign of Gyges’ son Ardys II and looted their capital Sardis.  Some say Gyges was killed by the Cimmerian leader Lygdamis (Dugdammê).

The fall of Sardis was a major shock to the powers of the region; the Greek poets Callinus and Archilochus recorded the fear that it inspired in the Greek colonies of Ionia, some of which were attacked by Cimmerian and Treres raiders.

Battle scene from a sarcophagus from the Ionian city of Clazomenae

The Cimmerian occupation of Lydia was brief, however, possibly due to an outbreak of plague. Between 637 and 626 BC, they were beaten back by Alyattes II of Lydia. This defeat marked the effective end of Cimmerian power.

The term Gimirri was used about a century later in the Behistun inscription (ca. 515 BC) as a Babylonian equivalent of Persian Saka (Scythians). Otherwise Cimmerians disappeared from western Asian historical accounts, and their fate was unknown. It has been speculated that they settled in Cappadocia.

Cimmerian Timeline

  • 721-715 BC – Sargon II mentions a land of Gamirr near to Urartu.
  • 714 – suicide of Rusas I of Urartu, after defeat by both the Assyrians and Cimmerians.
  • 705 – Sargon II of Assyria dies on an expedition against the Kulummu.
  • 679/678 – Gimirri under a ruler called Teushpa invade Assyria from Hubuschna(Cappadocia?). Esarhaddon of Assyria defeats them in battle.
  • 676-674 – Cimmerians invade and destroy Phrygia, and reach Paphlagonia.
  • 654 or 652 – Gyges of Lydia dies in battle against the Cimmerians. Sack of Sardis; Cimmerians and Treres plunder Ionian colonies.
  • 644 – Cimmerians occupy Sardis, but withdraw soon afterwards, possibly due to the outbreak of plague.
  • 637-626 – Cimmerians defeated by Alyattes II, father of Croesus, a famed Lydian ruler.
  • ca. 515 – Last historical record of Cimmerians, in the Behistun inscription of Darius.

Caria as the Luwian legacy (1800 – 300 BCE)

Caria and the Carians are first mentioned in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, i.e., between c.1800 and 1200 BCE. The country was called Karkissa.

After a gap of some four centuries Carians are next mentioned by Homer. In the Catalogue of ships, he tells that they lived in Miletus, on the Mycale peninsula, and along the river Meander.


Model of the Roman port of Miletus (

In the Trojan War, they had, according to the poet, sided with the Trojans (Homer, Iliad, 2.867ff). This is a remarkable piece of information, because in Homer’s days, Miletus was considered a Greek town; the fact that it is called Carian indicates that the catalogue of ships contains some very old information.

In the fifth century, the Greeks thought that the Carians had arrived in Caria from the islands of the Ionian Sea, whereas the Carians claimed to be indigenous. Homer confirms their story.

It is also confirmed by modern linguistics: the Carian language belongs to the Hittite-Luwian subfamily of the Indo-European languages. It is related to Lycian and Lydian, the languages spoken to the southeast and north of Caria. Had the Carians arrived in their country from the west, their language would have been closer to Greek.

Various Greek tribes settled on the coast in the dark ages between c.1200 BCE and c.800 BCE, where they and the Carians mixed (cf. Vitruvius, On architecture, 4.1.4-5). According to the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fifth century BCE), the inhabitants of Miletus spoke Greek with a Carian accent (Histories 1.142).

Herodotus himself is also a good example of the close ties between the Carians and Greeks: his father is called Lyxes, which is the Greek rendering of a good Carian name, Lukhsu. Because of his descent and birth place, Herodotus is one of our most important sources.

Caria is a mountainous country with isolated verdant valleys and pockets of resources, as is Greece. Villages, cities and regions were distanced from one another, making a fragmented cultural geography. This is in contrast to Egypt and Babylonia, where the landscape is a fertile alluvial plain , easily connected by merchants and armies. Caria was viewed a backward country by the empires of the East.

Hilltops were fortified and there were several villages in the valleys, but there were few cities. Because of their disparate country, the Carians were divided; every valley had its dialect and leadership.

Carian gods

Carian Zeus

What united the Carians, however, was their religion. One of their ritual centers was Mylasa, where they venerated a male supreme god, called ‘the Carian Zeus’ by Herodotus. Unlike his Greek colleague, this Zeus was an army god.

Image result                  Image result for ephesus sculpture greek


One of the Carian goddesses was Hecate, who was responsible for road crossings and became notorious in Greece as the source of witchcraft. Herodotus calls her Athena and tells that her priestess got a beard when a disaster was appending (Histories 8.104).


On mount Latmos near Miletus, the Carians venerated Endymion, who had been the lover of the Moon and had procreated as many children as there are days in the year. Endymion was sleeping eternally, a story that the Greeks told about Zeus’ father Kronos.

Marble figure of Endymion sleeping on Mount Latmos

Leleges – companion culture of Western Anatolia

Following the Bronze Age collapse in about 1280 BCE, Homer discusses semi-mythical people, the Leleges as a distinct Anatolian culture from the Carians, in the early and middle 1st millennium BCE. This suggests a geographical link between Bronze Age ( to 1280 BCE) Luwian culture, and the early Iron Age (1100 – 300 BCE) Leleges, inhabiting nearly all of western Anatolia. There are different historical reports of Lelegeans coming from and going to live in many areas of Greece.

In his work Politics Aristotle mentions Lelegeans led a wandering life, not only in Carian cities. Lelegeans are believed to have lived near the coast in villages built on coastal high hills which they surrounded with walls. This craggy strategy speaks to the loose connection between villages, and the danger of sea mauraders and pirates.  This is distinct from the more settled, Hellenization that comes to the region later, under the protection of kings or vassals of empires and their armies.

Strabo writes that in the territory of Miletus, certain settlements are called settlements of the Leleges, and why, in many places in Caria, tombs of the Leleges and deserted forts, known as “Lelegean forts.”

It is widely held that the Leleges were largely absorbed into the Carian culture before the rise of King Mausolus (c. 350 BCE). His treatment of the Leleges in Myndos was noteworthy, as he did not incorporate this settlement into the new capital city Halicarnasus, only 20 km distant.

Mausolus built Mydnos into a Hellenic western port. He either moved or combined an existing Lelege village from a local hilltop named Kocadağ a few kilometers distant with the fresh coastal Myndos. This combines a knowledge of the geographical strategical position with a semi-autonomous nod to what may have been the ancestral home and role Leleges play in Carian culture.


Myndos Legegian wall

Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484-425 B.C.), wrote about mixed Carian and Leleges, giving them a historical definition :’’The Carians crossed to the mainland from the islands, and while they still lived in part on the islands they were called Lelegans and were ruled by King Minos’’, who ruled Phrygia in the late 8th century BC.

Pherecydes of Leros (ca 480 BCE) attributed to the Leleges the coast land of Caria, from Ephesus to Phocaea, with the islands of Samos and Chios, placing the true Carians farther south from Ephesus to Miletus.

Philippus of Theangela (a 4th century BCE historian) referred to Leleges still surviving as serfs of the “true Carians“, and even later Strabo attributes to the Leleges a distinctive group of deserted forts and tombs in Caria that were still known in his day as “Lelegean forts”.

Although little archeological evidence remains, the Leleges are spoken of in history as being associated with cities in the Troad region, in the northwest of Anatolia. Homer speak of a king, Altes, and a city Pedasus which was sacked by Achilles. Gargara in the Troad was counted as Lelegian. Alcaeus (7th or 6th century BCE) calls the city Antandrus in the Troad “Lelegian”.

Other writers from the 4th century CE onwards claimed to discover them in Boeotia, west Acarnania (Leucas), and later again in different parts of mainland Greece; Thessaly, Euboea, Megara, Lacedaemon and Messenia. In Messenia, they were reputed to have been immigrant founders of Pylos, and were connected with the seafaring Taphians and Teleboans, and distinguished from the Pelasgians. However, in Lacedaemon and in Leucas they were believed to be aboriginal and Dionysius of Halicarnassus mentions that Leleges is the old name for the later Locrians.

These European Leleges must be interpreted in connection with the recurrence of place names like Pedasus, Physcus, Larymna and Abae, both in Caria, and in these “Lelegian” parts of Greece. Perhaps this is the result of some early migration; perhaps it is also the cause of these Lelegian theories; perhaps there was a widespread pre-Indo-European culture that loosely linked these regions, a possibility on which much modern hypothesis has been constructed.

K. W. Deimling. Die Leleger (Leipzig, 1862), places their origins in southwest Asia Minor, and brings them thence to Greece, essentially repeating the classical Greek view.

Pythagoras was born in Samos a Greek island, between 580-570 BC . His father Mnesarchos was a successful and wealthy merchant was descended from one of the aristocratic families which formed the court of the famous tyrrant of Samos Polycrates. Pythagoras was accompanying his father in his mercantile trips having thus the opportunity to meet and learn about new cultures like the Phoenician and the Egyptian. In Tyrinth he attended astronomy lessons by Babylonian priests. Later he was taught Geometry and Astrology by Thales and Anaximader. However the biggest influence in Pythagoras’ education was Pherecydes. Pherecydes was the first Greek to adopt the eastern views of immortality of soul and second life which he conveyed to his student Pythagoras.Although some historians claim that Pythagoras’ views on the immortality of soul were influenced by Egyptian priests.

The ahmes papyrus
After the death of Pherecydes Pythagoras was impelled by Thales to turn towards the mystical Egyptian priests.Carrying with him a written recommendation by Polycrates to Pharaoh Amasis, Pythagoras achieved to be accepted as a student of the priests in Thebes. There he was initiated in all the Egyptian rituals and learned the Egyptian views about life and death. The Egyptians believed that many animals were sacred and their diet was as we would call it nowadays a vegeterian’s diet.According to some historians Pythagoras had the chance to study the Achmes papyrus which dated back to the second millenium BC. This papyrus revealed through a mystical language some complex and perfectly developed mathematical theories which were unknown for the rest of the world.
After finishing his studies in Egypt he wandered all around the known world.At some point he became a student of Chaldean priests of Babylon who were masters of mysticism and astronomy.
Carrying knowledge from all around the known world Pythagoras returned to Samos and became the teacher of Polycrates’ son. However very soon their relations were worsened and Pythagoras left for Italy.

also read The Carians

Pharaoh’s mercenaries

Like the Swiss, the Gurkha’s, and other mountain people, the Carians were forced to become mercenaries. Their country was too poor to maintain a large population, and younger sons went overseas to build a new future. They were military specialists and it is no coincidence that Herodotus writes that the Greeks had been indebted to the Carians for three military inventions: making shields with handles, putting devices on shields, and fitting crests on helmets (Histories 1.175). Because of this last invention, the Persians called the Carians ‘cocks’.

The first reference to Carian mercenaries can be found in the Bible: in 2 Kings 11.4, we read about Carians in Judah. (This may look strange, but it fits the picture: according to 2 Samuel 8.18, king David had a guard of Cretans.) The books of Kings were probably composed in the sixth century, but the information stems from older sources; this is the only mentioning of the Carians in the dark ages.

The Carians, however, were especially famous because they served the Egyptian pharaoh. Our main source is, again, Herodotus. He tells us that the first to employ these men was pharaoh Psammetichus I (664-610; Histories 2.152), probably at the beginning of his reign. Some circumstantial evidence supports Herodotus’ words, because archaeologists have discovered several settlements in the western part of the delta of the Nile that were founded by people from the Aegean. These settlements can be dated in the seventh century.

The Carians remained active in Egyptian service. They are known to have fought against the Nubians (in modern Sudan) in c.593 BCE; on their return, they visited Assuan and left inscriptions. According to an Egyptian stela now in Cairo, they played an important role during the coup d’etat of Amasis (570 BCE), who gave the Carians a new base near the Egyptian capital Memphis.

When the Persian king Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BCE, the Carian contingents were still there, serving king Psammetichus III. According to Herodotus (Histories 3.11), they sacrificed children before they offered battle against the invaders.

They managed to switch sides, however. (They were not the only ones: even the commander of Egyptian navy, Wedjahor-Resne, deserted his king.) In Egyptian sources from the Persian age, we still find Carians, now serving a new lord. One of the latest examples is an Aramaic papyrus dated to 411 BCE. Seven years later, the Egyptians became independent again; this time, the Carians were unable to switch sides. The collaborators must have been dismissed.

Caria and the Persian period

The Carians, like the Lycians and Lydians, are considered indigenous peoples of Anatolia. The Carian script has not yet been deciphered, and it has not been possible to determine to which group of languages it belongs. They were neighbors of the Lydians and are also thought to have been seafaring people. The Greeks captured the Carian cities of Halicarnassus, Cnidus, and Barygylia. Halicarnassus, today’s Bodrum located on a peninsula jutting into the Aegean on the southwestern coast of Anatolia, was the principle center of Caria.

The most famous of the Carian leaders was King Mausolus (377-353 BCE). Under the Persian rule, Mausolus first held the office of Satrap (Persian governor). He soon was able to break Caria away from the Persian influence by aligning himself with the Greek islands lying off the western coasts of Anatolia.

He organised the cities of Caria, following the Greek model, into what came to be known as the Carian Empire. King Mausolus took the populations of six of the eight early cities into his capital at Halicarnassus. These were Termera, Side, not to be confused with the town of Side located further east of Bodrum on the Mediterranean Sea, Madnasa, Pedasa, Uranium and Telmissus.

The remaining two cities were Syangela, east of the capital, and Myndos. The others were grouped to the north and northwest of Halicarnassus. The residents of the six cities were brought to the capitai, abandoning their homes, while the sites of Myndos and Syarrgela were moved from their original locations and rebuilt in the fourth century BCE according to the plan of King Mausolus for a more impressive Caria.

The Mausoleum, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was built in his honor at Halicarnassus in 353 BCE. Today in many languages the word “mausoleum” is frequently used to mean “monumental tomb”. Herodotus, one of the most well-known historians of antiquity, lived in Caria during the 5th century BCE. He finished his famous work “History” in 430 BCE.

It was destroyed by successive earthquakes from the 12th to the 15th century AD.  Little remains from the magnificent tomb of Mausolus today, as stones were taken from the site to build, among other things, the crusader castle. an impressive and extremely well-preserved castle, built in 1402 by the famous Knights of Rhodes. Today it houses the Underwater Archeological museum with its fine collection of antiquities lifted from the sea floor around the coast of Caria.


Coins were minted very early in Caria, and a common type was the Carian Family design. Zeus was represented holding the Carian double-bladed axe or labrys on one side of the coin and a lion on the other side.

Caria after Alexander the Great

Caria was taken by Alexander the Great during his sweeping campaign to conquer the world.  Queen Ada of Caria, sister of Mausolus, had married her brother Idrieus, who succeeded their sister Artemisia in 351 BCE and died in 344 BCE.  At that point she became the satrap/governor of Caria.

Although popular with the population, she was deposed by her younger brother,  Pixodarus of Caria in 340 BCE.  She escaped to a fortress named Alinda.  In 344 BCE she surrendered the fort city to Alexander the Great.  In turn he let her lead Alexander’s campaign against Hallicarnasus and Memnon of Rhodes, who served the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Following the siege, Alexander made Ada ruler of Caria, and she in turn adopted Alexander, ensuring Caria would pass to him and his lineage.  Freed from the Persians, the Carians and Greeks were strong supporters of Ada and Alexander, and were allowed to live with a great deal of freedom and independence.

With the death of Alexander, one of his generals, “one eyed” Antigonous Monophthalmus became the ruler of the area in 313 BCE.

In 301 BCE Caria became part of the Lysimachus Empire, then a province of the Ptolemaic Empire, and later it is annexed by the Seleucid Empire.

In 188 BC Pergamum6 Kingdom in alliance with the Romans defeated the Seleucids and Caria became part of the Pergamum Kingdom.

Finally Caria became part of the Asian province of the Roman Empire with the rest of the Pergamum Kingdom in 133 BCE when Attalus III (170-133 BCE) bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans.

Caria became part of the Roman administrative region of Asia.  In the forth century CE, Caria became a province under the Diocese of Asia, until it was abolished by Justinian I two hundred years later, in 435 CE.  The region corresponding to ancient Caria was captured by the Turks under the Menteşe Dynasty in the early 13th century.  With this, the region passed to the Turkish era, with only 1-10% of the population listed as Greek, with a smattering of Jewish in area around Milas.  There was no designation for Carian, Lelegian or Luwians.  They had primarily become synonymous with cultural Greeks.

Caria had played its role, and people had become a legacy.  Only recently, with less politicized study and more modern archaeological methods is the role of this western Anatolian culture coming to light.

Aroh Wendelin



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