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Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Cilicia

In order to contrast the decline of the kingdom begun some years earlier, with the defeat at Magnesia, Antiochus IV Epiphanes carried out a policy meant to strengthen the relationships between the central power and the different components of the realm. Playing a very important strategic role for the Seleucids, Cilicia was among the countries mostly involved in Antiochus's policy.

Antiochus IV founded or refounded in Cilicia five towns, which were named after Seleucid rulers (except for Castabala) and granted for the first time civic status: they were Adana-Antioch on the Sarus, Mopsus-Seleucia on the Pyramus, Magarsus-Antioch on the Pyramus, Castabala-Hierapolis on the Pyramus and Oeniandus-Epiphaneia. The renaming did not involve those cities which already bore Macedonian or Seleucid names (Aigeai, Alexandria by Issus, Seleucia on the Calycadnus and Tarsus, renamed as Antioch on the Cydnus since the half of the 3rd century BC), nor the important centres of Soloi and Mallus. Five of them (Antioch on the Sarus, Seleucia on the Pyramus, Hierapolis on the Pyramus, Aigeai and Alexandria) were allowed to issue municipal coins, whereas Antioch on the Cydnus had started minting its own coinage at the beginning of the 3rd century BC The coexistence of royal and local types on the earlier municipal coins embody the dialectic between the ruler and the cities. Antioch on the Cydnus continued to strike royal coins, while the other royal mints of Soloi and Seleucia on the Calycadnus were temporarily closed.

Antiochus IV promoted also the development of the most important sanctuaries of Cilicia. In Castabala, renamed as a "Holy City", he furthered the worship of the native goddess Perasia and introduced Zeus Olympius as her paredrus; he favoured also Magarsus, where Athena was worshipped, by promoting its own political development in spite of nearby Mallus and Antioch on the Cydnus. It is hard to say whether the main sanctuaries of western Cilicia, i.e. the oracle of Apollo Sarpedonius near Seleucia on the Calycadnus and the sanctuary of Zeus in Olba, were involved in this process: however, the resurgence of Hellenism also affected them.

Finally, epigraphic texts dating from this period show the degree of Hellenization reached by the leading class of the Cilician cities. Citizens of Antioch on the Pyramus, Antioch on the Cydnus and Zephyrium are recorded in inscriptions as proxeni of the Greek cities or winners in the most important Hellenic games; other documents give evidence of the political and diplomatic activity undertaken by some Cilicians on behalf of Seleucid rulers.

Antiochus's interventions met some resistance, as is shown by the rebellion of Tarsus and Mallus, and were ephemeral in some respects:  after his death the Cilician cities turned again to their traditional names and claimed an increasing autonomy from the central power. Nevertheless, Antiochus's policy in Cilicia contributed decisively to the development of a strong local identity and, at the same time, of a proud awareness of belonging to the Hellenic world.

*Claudia Tempesta, Universita degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", Via S. Agatone papa 50, 00165 Roma - Italy.

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