Archaeologists have found unusual decorations dating back 1400 years in Diocesarea

(ORDO NEWS) — In a little-studied area of ‚Äč‚ÄčAsia Minor, a human skeleton and artifacts were discovered. They point to the death of a Christian priest during a period of serious unrest and strife that tore apart the Byzantine Empire after the death of the last emperor from the dynasty of Justinian.

Now this small city in the southeast of modern Turkey is called Uzundzhaburch, but during its heyday it was called Diocesarea (sometimes in the Russian tradition – Diocesarea). It is located in the Turkish province of Mersin, and it must be said that archaeologists have not been up to it for a long time. Now the situation is gradually changing.

Specialists of the Department of Archeology from the University of Mersin explored one of the towers of the ancient city. There they found 19 artifacts – mostly jewelry, which date back to the turn of the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Among them are a necklace, an earring, an inflated bracelet, a chest chain, as well as several crosses, which are clearly identified as Christian symbols. A human skeleton rested next to these objects.

Archaeologists have found unusual decorations dating back 1400 years in Diocesarea 2

Archaeologists suggest that these are the remains of the owner of the jewelry, who may have been a priest and died in a fire or the collapse of the tower – however, traces of disasters have not yet been found. A radiocarbon analysis of the finds is currently being carried out, but it is unlikely to change the dating much.

In general, the history of Diocesarea, which was then called Olba , is more known for its Hellenistic period. This is not surprising, since the main part of the remaining ruins (the stones were actively taken away) belong to that time.The city occupies a favorable position: on a very flat plateau, at the same time quite high above sea level.

The area around – this is the historical and geographical region of Cilicia – was densely populated as early as the 16th-14th centuries BC (there are almost no archaeological finds before this time). Then Cilicia became part of the Hittite kingdom, and from the 6th century BC it was part of the Achaemenid empire.

Archaeologists have found unusual decorations dating back 1400 years in Diocesarea 3

In principle, then everything is like in a large part of Asia Minor: the conquest by Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire, the conquest by the Armenian king Tigran the Great, and then – Rome. There are a number of legends associated with the stay of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in this city, but they have not yet been recognized as confirmed. Olba is also known in ancient sources for the famous Temple of Zeus.

It was built by Seleucus Nicator, one of the commanders of Alexander the Great and the founder of the Seleucid dynasty. The columns of the temple have survived to this day. In some sources there is information that during the Byzantine period the temple was rebuilt and turned into a Christian church. The name Diocesarea appears in the Roman period and remains so under Byzantium.

Around 600 AD, the Byzantine Empire was going through a difficult time. After the reign of Justinian and the plague that then devastated the countries, the state was slowly restored, and by the period of the reign of Emperor Mauritius (reigned in 582-602), this process was basically completed. In the east, Mauritius, who turned out to be a successful commander, defeated the Persians, who were trying to capture the border territories, including Cilicia.

However, in 602, the centurion Phocas , as a result of a conspiracy, killed the emperor and his brothers, on which the Justinian dynasty ended. The new ruler predictably turned out to be a bad commander, in the east of the empire the Persians began to win, their troops deeply invaded the lands of the empire, and local residents sometimes fell into disobedience to the central government. It is not known which of these episodes could lead to the death of the priest. But it was clearly unexpected: this is evidenced by the jewelry found there, which no one ever took away.

Although the city, like the whole of Cilicia, was under the rule of Byzantium until the end of the 11th century, from about the 7th century there was a constant struggle for this area between Byzantium, Arabs, Armenians and Seljuk Turks. As a result, in 1080, the Cilician Armenian kingdom (Cilikian Armenia) was formed. During this period, temples already once rebuilt by Byzantium were actively rebuilt, albeit without a change in religion.

The Armenians held Cilicia until the end of the 14th century, when it was captured by the Egyptian Mamluks (the core of their striking forces were people from Desht-i-Kypchak.

And in the XV century, this area became part of the Ottoman Empire. No one began to rebuild the temples – they were simply destroyed. It should be noted that, despite the rule of the Ottomans, the main part of the population of the region remained Armenian until 1909, when massacres of ethnic Armenians took place – these events are known as the Cilician massacre .


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