Tyana (Kemerhisar)

Tyana was an ancient city in southern Cappadocia, at the modern village of Kemerhisar, Niğde. Because of its location on a strategic trade route, Tyana was a vital Cappadocian city in Greco-Roman times, second in importance only to the capital Caesarea (Kayseri). Today the city is known for its long, arched Roman aqueduct that still stands. Few tourists visit the impressive ruins.

Roman aqueduct at Tyana

History


The city first appears in Hittite sources around 1600 BC as Tuwanuwa, an important trade town and independent city. Around 800 BC, Tuwanuwa became the capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom based in southern Cappadocia at Köşk Höyük. Around 400 BC, the Persians mention Dana as a great and prosperous city.

Roman pool at the base of Köşk Höyük

In 330, Alexander the Great passed through Tyana just before his army marched through the Cilician Gates to confront the Persian empire. During the Hellenistic period, the city was known as Tyana (and, sometimes, Eusebia of Tarsus). In Greek and Roman times, the city remained important because of its location at the base of the Taurus Mountains and Cilician Gates.


In the 1C AD, the famous Apollonius (of Tyana) was born and raised in Tyana. He became famous among Roman leaders because he predicted that Vespasian would become emperor. Apollonius was remembered as a famous miracle-worker, philosopher, and teacher. For this reason, modern historians have compared his life to that of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. In later centuries, as paganism declined in the Roman Empire, pagan apologists upheld Apollonius as a hero.


In 372 AD, the Roman Emperor Valens divided Cappadocia into two provinces and made Tyana the capital of “Cappadocia Minor.” The Arian emperor did this to weaken St. Basil, the archbishop in Caesarea and a fierce critic of Valens’ unorthodox beliefs. Because church structures corresponded with political provinces, this re-districting limited the number of bishops and churches under Basil’s jurisdiction.


The church in Tyana had a significant history. The first reported bishop, Eutychus, attended the Nicaean Council (325). The last metropolitan was named in 1359, just before the Ottoman empire overtook the Byzantine empire. The foundations of a Byzantine church have been excavated in Tyana.


The city was destroyed several times during the Arab raids of the 8th and 9th centuries. It was then overtaken by Seljuk and then Ottoman Turks.


Historical Sites


Today, Tyana is famous because of the Roman aqueduct. The engineering marvel brought water from the Roman pool 4 km away. The spring flows into the large Roman pool (23m by 66m) that lies at the base of the Neolithic mound Köşk Höyük. The pool and aqueduct were built around 200 AD, the peak of the Roman empire. Water was transported via subterranean clay pipes for 2.5 km, and then along the aqueduct for the final 1.5 km before the city center. The aqueduct runs along a main road and terminates at the archeological site.

Roman aqueduct ending at the town center

An Italian archaeologist first excavated Tyana (2001–16) and now a Turkish professor leads the project. The archaeological excavations are not accessible to the public but you can walk along the arched aqueduct.

© 2019 Jason Borges

photo credits

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