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Apamea Kibotus

Author(s) : Kalogeropoulou Georgia (4/10/2001)
Translation : Koutras Nikolaos (12/30/2007)

For citation: Kalogeropoulou Georgia, "Apamea Kibotus", 2007,
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=7329>

Απάμεια Κιβωτός (4/10/2008 v.1) Apamea Kibotus (11/17/2008 v.1) 

1. Geomorphology

Apamea Kibotus was a city in Phrygia, located on the plain of Sultan Dağ, near the confluence of the rivers Marsyas and Maeander. The ancient city is identified with the modern city of Dinar, 320km east of Smyrna (Izmir) and 320kmsouthwest of Ankara.

Apamea was built on the foothills of the mountain range delimiting the eastern side of the plain at the confluence of the river Maeander with four more rivers; then it became especially torrential as it flowed to the sea.1 Marsyas (modern Dineir) flowed from under the citadel and crossed the city centre. The entire region was very fertile, enjoying abundant water springs and arable land, suitable for agricultural cultivation and stock-raising.

Apamea was founded when the population of the city of Celaenae was relocated. The citadel of Celaenae towered on one of the nearby hills behind Apamea.2 Apamea occupied an important strategic position on the crossing of the roads connecting Phrygia and Pamphylia with Lydia and Ionia. It controlled the gateway to the East, i.e. the mountain pass from the lowland of the coastal zone to the plateau of central Anatolia. During the Roman period it was an important trading centre and controlled an extensive area. The city’s limits reached to the north up to Sagalassos and lakes Anana and Ascania (Iznik) and south to the city of Sanaus; to the east to the cities of Metropolis and Euphorbion. To the west, apart from the three communities of the upper valley of Maeander, the Sibilian, Peltenes (pedion Peltinon) and Dionysopolites, it controlled the cities of Eumeneia, Lunda, Motella and the area inhabited by the Hyrgaleias.

The visible ruins are very few, for the city has always been the epicentre of a region of intense seismic activity.3

2. Name

The city is mentioned by ancient writers by three names: ‘Celaenae’, ‘Apamea’, and ‘Kibotus’.4 The name ‘Celaenae’ referred to the earlier city, and continued to be used by poets and writers even after the new city’s foundation. The use of this name was revived mainly in the 2nd cent. AD. The hero Celaeneus, Zeus Celaeneus and Dionysus Celaeneus are often depicted on coins. Herodotus mentions the city as Celaenae, considering the name to be a Greek word derived from the epithet celaenos (=dark). However, a different writing of the word, as attested on coins bearing an invocation of Zeus Celaeneus, may prove its original form.5

Another view suggests that it is a Greek translation of the Hittite name of the city ‘Kuwaliya’, which translates as ‘dark’; the two cities were thus geographically identical.6 This hypothesis has not won general acceptance. Strabo reports that the name ‘Celaenae’ originates from Celaenus, son of Poseidon and the Danaid Celaeno, or from the black colour a stone acquires after it has been burned.7 The name Celaenae also survives on a grave stele dating to the mid-3rd cent. BC found in Sardis.8 When Antiochus I founded the new city, Apamea, he named it after his mother Apama. This new name was used on coins, official documents and Byzantine inventories.

The city’s name and the ethnic epithet underwent differentiations. Inscriptions from the city itself and its wider region, as well as coins, mention it simply as ‘Apamea’ or ‘Apameus’. Often, we have the addition of a descriptive term, like ‘Apamea of Phrygia’.9 A victor list from Samos mentions one ‘Apamean from the Maeander’, while in Stratonicea of Caria it is called ‘Apamea, the one towards the Maeander’.10 Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy refer to it as ‘Apamea Kibotus’.11 The list of the conventus dating to the Flavian era refers to ‘Apameans of Kibotus’.

Coins dating to Hadrian’s reign bear the inscription ‘ΚΙΒΩΤΟΙ’ together with depictions of two, three or five arks.12Later we have the depiction of a male and a female figure next to a rectangular ark bearing the name ‘ΝΩΕ’ (=Noah) (late 2nd/1st half of the 3rd cent. AD).13 The name ‘Kibotus’ has been interpreted in various ways, some of which have not been unanimously accepted by scholars.14 There are those who believe that this was never the city’s real name. The prevalent theories claim that it is related to the city's commercial activities15 or to the Jewish population and its belief in Noah's Ark.16 Local traditions considered one of the nearby mountains to be the biblical Mt Ararat where it is said that Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Flood.17

3. Demographic and ethnological data

The foundation of Apamea was a Greek affair, as indicated by a Greek votive inscription dating to the reign of Eumenes II (197-158 BC).18 The population of Celaenae, however, was ethnically diverse. It was inhabited by Phrygians, Iranians and Greeks. The Persians had settled Celaenae when it was under Persian control, while, according to one view, many Greeks moved there during the reign of Antigonus I (320-301 BC).19

Apamea appears to have been even more multicultural. According to a 3rd cent. BC epigram, the Galatian Briccon considered it his homeland. Other evidence indicates that the city contained Iranians and indigenous people as well. A bronze coin of the Hellenistic era bears the Persian name Maiphernis.20

During the Roman period the city appears to have been organized along streets, not tribes, some of which had the names of professions or crafts.21

There was a significant Jewish community in Apamea, as it is testified by the local traditions related to the biblical Flood. During the Roman period the city was populous and rich. When Flaccus confiscated the money the Jews had amassed to send to Jerusalem in 86 BC, the amount collected in Apamea was the largest. Apparently the majority of the Jews in this province lived in Apamea.22

4. History

Celaenae was an important city since the time of Persian rule. The advantages of its location between the mountains and the valley, as well as the natural beauty of the area were much appreciated by the Persian kings. Xenophon relates that Xerxes had fortified the city's citadel and had built a palace, as did Cyrus, who maintained a large game park there.23 When Alexander reached Celaenae its inhabitants took flight. The garrison at first defended the city against the Macedonian army, but finally agreed to surrender. Alexander made it the capital of the Phrygia satrapy, and appointed his general Antigonus I satrap in 333 BC. The son of Seleucus I, Antiochus I (324 -261 BC), founded the city of Apamea by relocating the population of Celaenae to the plain, naming the city after his Bactrian mother, Apama.24

In the years that followed the new city flourished and played an important role in the history of the region. This is where Antiochus III met with the last Roman envoys before the impending war, and this is where he took refuge following his defeat in Magnesia in 189 BC.25 In 188 BC, the Peace of Apamea was signed in the city: according to its terms Antiochus relinquished his claims to the area north of the Taurus mountain range. Apamea became tributary to the kingdom of Pergamon.

Apamea was annexed to the Roman dominion in 133 BC, after Attalus III bequeathed his kingdom to Rome.

During the Roman period it became the seat of a judiciary province (conventus juridicus), to which Laodicea and Synnada also belonged, together with, according to Pliny, Metropolis, Dionysopolis, Euphorbium, Acmoneia, Peltae, Silbia and nine other unknown (ignobilis) cities.26 Two cities that might have belonged to the province of Apamea were Bria and Sebaste. Another unknown city that probably belonged to this judiciary province was located on the south shore of the Ascania (Iznik) lake, as indicated by epigraphical finds.

The Apamea area was often struck by earthquakes. The strongest earthquake, in 88 BC, laid the entire city to ruins. Strabo relates that Mithridates VI offered 100 talents for the city's reconstruction.27 Another devastating earthquake, which resulted in the appearance of lakes, rivers and springs, followed soon, more specifically between 88 BC and the end of the 1st Mithridatic War (85/84 BC).28 During Claudius’s reign (41-54 AD) a great earthquake led to the city being exempted from tax for five years.

The use, by the late 1st cent. BC, of the Calendar of the Province of Asia, which was based on the birthday of Augustus, is also important.29

By the 4th cent. AD Apamea was one of the metropolises of Asia, whose bishops participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

5. Economy

The city's economy relied on its advantageous location and the intense commercial activity. Apamea was the second largest city of Phrygia after Ephesus, and it owed its growth mainly to the trade route of the Maeander, which was used to carry goods from the harbour of Ephesus to the inland.

The earlier coins from Apamea date to the period of the Attalids. The city, as the seat of the confederacy, was responsible for minting coins for the Phrygian League.

Cistophoric coins bearing the initials ΑΠ are also attributed to Apamea.30 During the Roman period, Apamea was a significant commercial centre; it mainly functioned as a warehouse for goods imported from Italy and Greece. The reach of its market covered Phrygia in its entirety, extending to Lydia, Caria, Cappadocia, Pamphylia and Pisidia.31 The extraordinary importance of this commercial activity is also attested on an inscription where the title emporiarches survives.32 This was probably a civil servant responsible for monitoring the market.33

Trades related to textiles and leatherworking flourished, like that of shoemaking.

The assizes also conferred privileges and economic benefits. Dio Chrysostomus relates: “.. .trials take place every year in our city, and a great multitude of litigants, advocates, judges, officials, servants, slaves, procurers, muleteerss, trades, prostitutes and artisans gathers here».34

The holding of games and the great number of spectators that flocked to the city was yet another source of income: during one year only 34,000 denarii were spent to purchase oil for the athletes.35 According to epigraphical evidence, the Roman officials contributed to the city’s public fund through donations, not only in times of need.36

Apamea controlled some flourishing cities as well as many rich villages. The height of the tribute paid by the city to the Roman government testifies to the size of its fertile and arable land and the size of the flocks that were raised in the area. Phrygia was also known for its horse breeding. On the heights around the sources of Maeander, close to Apamea, there were vineyards which produced a sweet wine; this was very expensive and extremely sought after in the time of Pliny (1st cent. AD).37

6. Religion

Certain aspects of Apamea’s religious life are revealed in the depictions of divinities and heroes on the city’s coinage and on the inscriptions that have survived.

The gods worshipped the most were Zeus Celaeneus, Dionysus, Ares as well as Athena and Apollo, who were related to the local hero Marsyas.

Marsyas apparently dominated the legends of Apamea’s inhabitants. The contest between Apollo and Marsyas was supposed to have taken place here, while there was a lake where canes suitable for making reeds for the flutes (aulos) grew. The depiction of goddess Athena is also connected with Marsyas. Coinage minted during the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD) depicts the goddess playing the double flute (diaulos), while Marsyas approaches behind the rock with the intention of stealing her musical instrument.38 The diaulos, with which Marsyas challenged Apollo in a musical competition thus bringing the god’s punishment upon himself, as well as the hero, are frequently depicted on Apamea’s coins dating to Hadrian’s era (117-138 AD).39We should also note the depiction of arks around the hero, an element difficult to interpret; it may allude to the city’s intense commercial activity.

The cult statue of Ephesian Artemis is depicted on coins dating to the reign of Gordian III (238-244 AD).40 The goddess is flanked by the river-gods Maeander and Orgas, the nymph Therme and the hero Marsyas.

Other coins depict Zeus Celaeneus and Dionysus Celaeneus.41 The worship of Zeus was connected with local traditions according to which the god was born in this region.42 The Stenos cave was considered a holy place; it was believed that Zeus was born and raised there by Adrasteia and Rhea-Cybele with the help of the Corybantes. An inscription dating to the Roman period mentions a priest of Zeus Calaeneus.43 Claudius Mithridates, high priest of the Koinon of Asia in the late 1st cent. AD, originated from Apamea.44 The god Poseidon was also worshiped by the inhabitants of Apamea due to the area’s intense seismic activity. An epigram for the Galatian Briccon mentions the god Ares.45 The city worshiped as gods the rulers Eumenes II and Attalus II, while during the Roman period the worship of the Roman emperors was introduced.

The Jewish presence in the city and their religious beliefs appear on coins of the late 2nd/first half of the 3rd cent. AD. A common motif is the depiction of an ark with the inscription ΝΩΕ (=Noah), a pair of figures and two birds. Coinage bearing depictions of the Ark are also attested from the time of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD) to the reign of Trebonianus Gallus (251-253 AD).

7. Institutions - Constitutional Organisation

There is evidence for the existence of a boule and a demos during the Hellenistic period.46 The existence of a gymnasium for adolescents and children is attested in inscriptions, as well as the office of the gymnasiarches.

The inscriptions referring to institutions of the Roman era are more abundant. The boule, the demos and the gerousia were often mentioned in connection to decision-making on civic matters. These bodies take joint decisions with Roman citizens who are mentioned as ‘resident Romans’ or simply ‘Romans’. The eminent citizens are often honoured for their benefactions and their donations by the city’s authorities. References to counsellors of the senate, strategoi, agonothetai, eirenarchs, argyrotamies, agoranomoi, ephebarchoi, curators of the gymnasium give us a picture of the Apamean society and its organization.

8. Urban planning

Our knowledge on Apamea's urban organization rests on the descriptions of ancient authors, the evidence from inscriptions and the visible ruins. The ancient settlement was surrounded by a defensive wall. The river Marsyas flowed through the centre of the city. The existence of a gymnasium is attested since the Hellenistic period. During the Roman period the people of Apamea watched the games and exercised in the city’s gymnasium, frequented the market and the theatre, constructed heroa and posted honorary decrees and statues in the Thermaia square. The only ruins visible in the site today are the early and later walls as well as the Roman theatre which is being excavated.47 Courtyards of the modern city are strewn with inscriptions, fragments of columns and architraves.

1. Three of the rivers, Marsyas, Thermas and Orgas, are represented together with the river Maeander with the initials MAI, MAP, ΘEP and OP on Apamean coinage dating to the reign of Gordian III. Von Aulock., H., SNG: Phrygia, 3508.

2. Str. 12.8.13, 12.8.15.

3. The most destructive recorded earthquake occurred in 1995; its epicentre was Dinar and it took the lives of 90 people, injuring and leaving homeless hundreds.

4. According to Pliny (HN 5.106), the city was originally called Celaenae, then Kibotus and later Apamea.

5. Zgusta, L., Kleinasiatische Ortsnamen (Heidelberg 1984), p. 244. The view has been proposed that the writing with the letter ‘ε’ is perhaps an instance of late Hellenic monophthongation.

6. Cornelius, F., “Geographie des Hethiterreiches”, Orientalia 27 (1958), pp. 375-398.

7. Str. 12.8.18.

8. The sepulchral epigram is dedicated to Matis, a Greek or Phrygian name, Robert, L., “The Inscription of the Sepulchral Stele from Sardis”, AJA 64 (1960), pp. 53-56.

9. Name mentioned by Nicolaus of Damascus (Ath. 8.332).

10. OGIS 441.207.

11. Str. 12.8.15, Ptol., Geog. 5. 2,17, Plin, HN 5.106.

12. See Imhoof-Blumer, F., Kleinasiatische Münzen (Vienna 1901-1902), p. 211; BMC: Phrygia, p. 96.

13. On Apamean coinage bearing depictions of Noah’s Ark see. BMC: Phrygia, p. 101, no. 82; MacDonald, G., Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection (Glasgow 1905), no. 21; Head, B.V., Historia Numorum (Oxford 1911), p. 667, pl. 313; von Aulock, H., SNG: Phrygia, 3506; Perseus Coin Catalogue, Boston 63.1505.

14. A detailed discussion in Magie, D., Roman Rule in Asia Minor (Princeton 1950), pp. 125-126 and Cohen, G.M., The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands, and Asia Minor (Berkeley – Los Angeles – Oxford 1995), p. 284.

15. It has been suggested that the name results from the great importance of the commodities that arrived inside boxes (=κιβωτοί, kibotoi). Hirschfeld, O., Die Kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten bis auf Diocletian (Abh. Berl. Akad. 15, Berlin 1875).

16. The theory of Jewish influence on the name of the city does not suffice to explain the depiction of so many arks on the coins of Apamea. It is also doubtful that during that time the presence of any number of Jews could affect the name of an entire city. It is more likely that Noah’s ark was connected with Apamea later, due to the city's pre-existing name.

17. The tradition of the biblical ark in Apamea is found in Christian and Jewish texts, Oracula Sibyllina 1.261, Georgius Cedrenus 1.20.

18. MAMA VI, 173.

19. See Cohen, G.M., The Hellenistic settlements in Europe, the Islands and Asia Minor (Berkeley – Los Angeles – Oxford 1995), p. 282.

20. BMC: Phrygia, p. 83, no. 83-84.

21. This view rests on votive decrees by the boule and the demos, where the expenses for the construction of statues are undertaken by Roman living on specific streets, IGR, IV, 788, 790, 791, CIG, 3960b.

22. Head, B.V., Historia Numorum (Oxford 1911), pp. 666-667.

23. X., An. 1.2.7-8.

24. A detailed discussion on the founder of the city and Apama in Cohen, G.M., The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands and Asia Minor (Berkeley – Los Angeles – Oxford 1995), p. 282.

25. Liv. 35.15.1, 37.44.6, 38.15.12.

26. Plin., HN 5.106.

27. Str. 12.8.18.

28. Nic. Dam., Ath. 8, 332.

29. MAMA VI, 174, 175.

30. The cistophoric coins have occasioned several debates among scholars. There is the view that the coins were minted at Pergamum for Apamea; others have suggested that the coins were minted for Parion or Apollonia. A detailed discussion in Cohen, G.M., The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands and Asia Minor (Berkeley – Los Angeles – Oxford 1995), p. 283.

31. D. Chr., Or. 15.14-15.

32. IGR, IV 796.

33. It has also been argued that this office was held by the leader of the merchants’ guild, Mendel, G., “Inscriptions de Bithynie”, BCH 24 (1900), pp. 361-426.

34. D. Chr., Or. 35.15 (trans. Γ.Α. Ζάχος).

35. IGR, IV 788.

36. Bérard, V., “Inscriptions de Dinair (Apamée)”, BCH 17 (1893), pp. 301-321.

37. Plin., HN 14.75-113.

38. Franke, P.R., H Mικρά Aσία στους Pωμαϊκούς Xρόνους, Nομίσματα Kαθρέφτης της Zωής των Eλλήνων (Aθήνα 1985), no. 276.

39. Franke, P.R., H Mικρά Aσία στους Pωμαϊκούς Xρόνους, Nομίσματα Kαθρέφτης της Zωής των Eλλήνων (Aθήνα 1985), no. 387.

40. Franke, P.R., H Mικρά Aσία στους Pωμαϊκούς Xρόνους, Nομίσματα Kαθρέφτης της Zωής των Eλλήνων (Aθήνα 1985), no. 200.

41. BMC: Phrygia, pp. 114, 117, 185; Löbbecke, A., Griechische Münzen aus meiner Sammlung (ZFN 15, 1887), p. 49.

42. von Aulock, H., SNG: Phrygia, 3514; Robert, L., Documents d’Asie Mineure (BEFAR 239bis, Paris 1987), p. 265-270.

43. Berard, V., “Inscriptions de Dinair (Apamée)”, BCH 17 (1893), pp. 301-321, esp. pp. 308-309, no. 6.

44. Berard, V., “Inscriptions de Dinair (Apamée)”, BCH 17 (1893), pp. 301-321, esp. pp. 306-308, no. 5.

45. Daux, G., “Notes de lecture”, BCH 92 Ι (1968), pp. 241-256.

46. MAMA VI, 173-237; Bérard, V., “Inscriptions de Dinair (Apamée)”, BCH 17 (1893), pp. 301-321.

47. Topbas, A., “Rettungsgrabungen am Theater von Dinar (Apamea)”, Müze Kurtarma Kazilari Semineri (Ankara 1991), pp. 309-328.


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