Find a Security Clearance Job!


Caria - 1200 BC - 545 BC

Caria was an ancient district of Asia Minor, bounded on the N. by Ionia and Lydia, on the W. and S. by the Aegean Sea, and on the E. by Lycia and a small part of Phrygia. Homer (Il. x. 428-429) distinguished the Leleges from the Carians, to whom is ascribed the invention of helmet-crests, coats of arms, and shield handles. Its capital was Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum), which had been originally been founded by the Greeks. In Antiquity, the Carians were famous mercenaries.

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 Carians were especially famous because they served the Egyptian pharaoh. The main source is, again, Herodotus. He relates that the first to employ these men was pharaoh Psammetichus I (664-610; Histories 2.152), probably at the beginning of his reign. 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.

Caria and the Carians are mentioned for the first time in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, i.e., between c.1800 and c.1200. The country was called Karkissa. They are absent from the Egyptian texts of this period. After a gap of some four centuries in which they are mentioned only once, the first to mention the Carians is the legendary Greek poet Homer. In the Catalogue of ships, he tells that they lived in Miletus, on the Mycale peninsula, and along the river Meander. In the Trojan War, they had, according to the poet, sided with the Trojans (Homer, Iliad, 2.867ff).

The country known as Caria was shared between the Carians proper and the Caunians, who were a wilder people, inhabiting the district between Caria and Lycia. They were not considered to be of the same blood as the Carians, and were, therefore, excluded from the temple of the Carian Zeus at Mylasa, which was common to the Carians, Lydians and Mysians, though their language was the same as that of the Carians proper. Herodotus (i. 172) believed the Caunians to have been aborigines, the Carians having been originally called Leleges, who had been driven from the Aegean islands by the invading Greeks. This seems to have been a prevalent view among the Greek writers, for Thucydides (i. 8) states that when Delos was "purified" more than half the bodies found buried in it were those of "Carians." Modern archaeological discovery, however, is against this belief; and the fact that Mysus, Lydus and Car were regarded as brothers indicates that the three populations who worshipped together in the temple of Mylasa all belonged to the same stock.

A considerable number of short Carian Inscriptions has been found, most of them in Egypt They were first noticed by Lepsius at Abu-Simbel, where he correctly inferred that they were the work of the Carian mercenaries of Psammetichus. The language, so far as it has been deciphered, is "Asianic" and not Indo-European.

Caria figured but little in history. It was absorbed into the kingdom of Lydia, where Carian troops formed the bodyguard of the king. Cnidus and Halicarnassus on the coast were colonized by Dorians. At Halicarnassus the Mausoleum, the monument erected by Artemisia to her husband Mausolus, about 360 BC, was excavated by Sir C. T. Newton in 1857-1858. Cnidus was excavated at the same time, when the "Crudian Lion," now in the British Museum, was found crowning a tomb near the site of the old city (C. T. Newton, History of Discoveries at Cnidus, Halicarnassus and Branckidac). On the border-land between Caria and Lydia lay other Greek cities, Miletus, Priene, and Magnesia, colonized in early times by the Ionian. Inland was Tralles (mod. Aidin), which also had an Ionic population. though it never belonged to the Ionic confederacy. The excavations of the English in 1868-1860, of the French under O. Rayet and A. Thomas in 1873, and the Germans under Th. Wiegand and Schrader in 1895-1898 have laid bare the site of the Greek Priene, and the same has been done for the remains of Magnesia ad Maeandrum by French excavators in 1842-1843 and the German expedition under K. Humann in 1891-1893. A German expedition under Th. Wicgand carried on excavations at Miletus.

In the Persian epoch, native dynasts established themselves in Caria and even extended their rule over the Greek cities. The last of them seems to have been Pixodarus, after whose death the crown was seized by a Persian, Orontobates, who offered a vigorous resistance to Alexander the Great But his capital, Halicarnassus, was taken after a siege, and the principality of Caria conferred by Alexander on Ada, a princess of the native dynasty. Soon afterwards the country was incorporated into the Syrian empire and then into the kingdom of Pergamum.

The coast-line consists of a succession of great promontories alternating with deep inlets. The most important inlet, the Ceramic Gulf, or Gulf of Cos, extends inland for 70 m., between the great mountain promontory terminating at Myndus on the north, and that which extends to Cnidus and the remarkable headland of Cape Krio on the south. North of this is the deep bay called in ancient times the Gulf of Iasus (now known as the Gulf of Mendeliyah), and beyond this again was the deeper inlet which formerly extended inland between Miletus and Priene, but of which the outer part has been entirely filled up by the alluvial deposits of the Maeander, while the innermost arm, the ancient Latmic Gulf, is now a lake. South of Cape Krio again is the gulf known as the Gulf of Doris, with several subordinate inlets, bounded on the south by the rugged promontory of Cynossema (mod. Cape Alupo). Between this headland and the frontier of Lycia is the sheltered bay of Marmaricc, noted in modern times as one of the finest harbours of the Mediterranean.

Almost the whole of Caria is mountainous. The two great masses of Cadmus (Baba-dagh) and Salbaciun (Boz-dagh), which are in fact portions of the great chain of Taurus (sec Asia Minor), form the nucleus to which the whole physical framework of the country is attached. From these lofty ranges there extends a broad tableland (in many parts more than 3000 ft. high), while it sends down offshoots on the north towards the Maeander, and on the west towards the Aegean. Of these ranges the summit of Mt Latimus alone reaches 4500 ft.

The coast is fringed by numerous islands, in some instances separated only by narrow straits from the mainland. Of these the most celebrated arc Rhodes and Cos. Besides these are Syme, Telos, Nisyros, Calymnos, Leros and Patmos, all of which have been inhabited, both in ancient and modern times, and some of which contain excellent harbours. Of these Nisyros alone is of volcanic origin; the others belong to the same limestone formation with the rocky headlands of the coast.

Caria: the southwest of modern Turkey, was incorporated in c.545 BCE the ancient Achaemenid empire as the satrapy Kark.

Join the mailing list