Amazon Women Warriors on Coins of Ancient Greek city of Cyme

 

The Amazons (Greek: Ἀμαζόνες, Amazónes, singular Ἀμαζών, Amazōn) are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia (modern territory of Ukraine). Other historiographers place them in Asia Minor, or Libya.

Notable queens of the Amazons are Penthesilea, who participated in the Trojan War, and her sister Hippolyta, whose magical girdle, given to her by her father Ares, was the object of one of the labours of Hercules. Amazonian raiders were often depicted in battle with Greek warriors in amazonomachies in classical art.

The Amazons have become associated with various historical peoples throughout the Roman Empire period and Late Antiquity. In Roman historiography, there are various accounts of Amazon raids in Asia Minor. From the Early Modern period, their name has become a term for woman warriors

Cyme (or Kymi, also: Phriconis, modern Namurt) was an ancient Greek city in Aeolis (Asia Minor) close to the kingdom of Lydia. The Aeolians regarded Cyme as the largest and most important of their twelve cities, which were located on the coastline of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). As a result of their direct access to the sea, unlike most non-landlocked settlements of the ancient world, trade is believed to have prospered. In his Histories, Herodotus makes reference to Cyme (or Phriconis) as being one of the cities in which the rebel Lydian governor Pactyes sought refuge, following his attempted rebellion against the Persian King Cyrus the Great:

Pactyes, when he learnt that an army was already on his tracks and near, took fright and fled to Cyme, and Mazares the Mede marched to Sardis with a detachment of Cyrus' troops. Finding Pactyes and his supporters and his supporters gone, the first thing he did was to compel the Lydians to carry out Cyrus' orders — as a result of which they altered from that moment their whole way of life; he then sent a demand to Cyme that Pactyes should be surrendered, and the men of the town decided to consult the oracle at Branchidae as to whether they should obey…The messengers returned home to report, and the citizens of Cyme were prepared in consequence to give up the wanted man.

 Location

Both the author of the 'life of Homer' and Strabo the ancient geographer, locate Cyme north of the Hermus river on the Asia Minor coastline, modern day Namurt Limani

Map of Aegean c.200 BC showing the location of Kyme.

After crossing the Hyllus, the distance from Larissa to Cyme was 70 stadia, and from Cyme to Myrina was 40 stadia. (Strabo: 622)

Archaeological finds such as coins give reference also to a river, believed to be that of the Hyllus.

 Early history

Little is known about the foundation of the city to supplement the traditional founding legend. Settlers from mainland Greece (most likely Euboea) migrated across the Aegean Sea during the Late Bronze Age as waves of Dorian-speaking invaders brought an end to the once mighty Mycenaean civilisation some time around 1050 BC. During the Late Bronze Age and early Greek Dark Ages the dialect of Cyme and the surrounding region of Aeolis, like that of neighboring island Lesbos closely resembled the local dialect of Thessalia and Boetia.

Culturally however the citizens of Cyme considered themselves of Ionian descent. An Ionic dialect is believed to have been the local language and would have given rise to the famous Cumae alphabet that is believed to have originated in or near Cyme. Archaeologists believe Kyme was already inhabited by Pelasgians prior to the Euboean arrival:

Around 950 every tribe had settled down in its own territory. They co-existed beside each other, but never formed a nation… they even almost never felt as one nation. There would always be a strong contrast between the different groups, especially between the Ionians and the Dorians. The Ionians arrived in Hellas around 1600 and mixed with the original inhabitants while the Dorians arrived 500 years later and enslaved them, without learning anything from their culture. The Dorians valued their system of tribes and remained isolated as Sparta would show later on, while the Ionians valued art, science and individualism which were the cornerstones of Athens.

The colony was founded during the Greek Dark Ages by settlers from Locris in central Greece who began by reducing the Pelasgian citadel of Larisa near the river Hermus

Cyme developed into a regional metropolis to some thirty other towns and settlements in Aeolis. The Cymeans were later ridiculed as a people who had for three hundred years lived on the coast and not once exacted harbor taxes on ships making port. Hesiod’s father is said to have started his journey across the Aegean from Cyme. The cities of southern Aeolis in the region surrounding Cyme occupied a good belt of land with rough mountains in the background yet Cyme like other colonies along the coast did not trade with the native Anatolians further inland who had occupied Asia Minor for thousands of years. Cyme consequently played no significant role in the history of western Asia Minor prompting the historian Ephorus, himself a native of the city, to comment repeatedly in his narrative of Greek history that while the events he wrote about were taking place his fellow Cymeans had for centuries sat idly by and kept the peace.

Politically, Cyme is assumed to have started as a settler democracy following in the tradition of other established colonies in the region although Aristotle concluded that by the 7th and 6th centuries BC the once great democracies in the Greek world (including Cyme) evolved not from democracies to oligarchies as was the natural custom but from democracies to tyrannies.

Cyme was an important settlement long before the prominent events of the Greco-Persian wars. Evidence has pointed to Cyme establishing itself not as a democracy but rather a monarchy under King Agamemnon of Cyme who supposedly married his daughter to King Midas of Lydia

 5th Century BC

By the 5th century BC, Cyme was one of the 12 established Ionian colonies in Aeolis. Herodotus (4.138) mentions that one of the esteemed voters deciding whether or not to support Militiades the Athenian in his plan to liberate the Ionian Coast from Persian rule in (year BC) was Aristagoras of Cyme. Aristagorus campaigned on the side of Histiaeus the Milesian with the tyrants Strattis of Chios, Aeaces of Samos and Laodamas of Phocaea in opposing such an initiative arguing instead that each tyrant along the Ionian Coast owed their position to Darius King of Persia and that liberating their own cities would encourage democracy over tyranny. Cyme eventually came under the control of the Persian Empire following the collapse of the Lydian Kingdom at the hands of Cyrus the Great. Herodotus is the principal source for this period in Greek history and has paid a great deal of attention to events taking place in Ionia and Aeolis.

When Pactyes, the Lydian general sought refuge in Cyme from the Persians the citizens were between a rock and a hard place. As Herodotus records, they consulted the Greek god Apollo (supporting the claim that they were of Ionic not eastern culture), who said after much confusion through an oracle that he should be handed over. However a native of Cyme questioned Apollo's word and went back to the oracle himself to confirm if indeed Apollo wanted the Cymians to surrender Pactyes. Not wanting to come to grief over the surrender of Pactyes, nor wanting the ill-effects of a Persian siege (confirms Cyme was a fortified city capable of self defence) they avoided dealing with the Persians by simply sending him off to Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, not far from their city.

After the Persian naval defeat at Salamis, Xerxes moored the surviving ships at Cyme. Before 480 BC, Cyme had been the principle naval base for the Royal Fleet. Later accounts of Cyme's involvement in the Ionian Revolt which triggered the Persian Wars confirm their allegiance to the Ionian Greek cause. During this time, Herodotus states that due to the size of the Persian army, Darius the Great was able to launch a devastating three-pronged attack on the Ionian cities. The third army which he sent north to take Sardis was under the command of his son-in-law Otanes who promptly captured Cyme and Clazomenae in the process. However later accounts reveal how Sandoces, the supposed Ionian governor of Cyme helped draft a fleet of fifteen ships for Xerxes I great expedition against mainland Greece c. 480 BC. Cyme is also believed to have been the port in which the Persian survivors of the Battle of Salamis wintered and lends considerable weight to the argument that Cyme was not only well served by defensive walls, but enjoyed the benefits of a large port capable of wintering and supplying a large wartime fleet. As a result, Cyme, like most Ionian cities at the time was a maritime power and a valuable asset to the Persian Empire.

Once Aristagoras of Miletus roused the Ionians to rebel against Darius, Cyme joined the insurrection. However, the revolts at Cyme were quelled once the city was recovered by the Persians. Sandoces, the governor of Cyme at the time of Xerxes, commanded fifteen ships in the Persian military expedition against Greece (480 BC). Herodotus believes that Sandoces may have been a Greek. After the Battle of Salamis, the remnants of Xerxes's fleet wintered at Cyme. Thucydides does not provide any significant mention of place is hardly more than mentioned in the history of Thucydides.

 Roman and Byzantine eras

Polybius records that Cyme obtained freedom from taxation following the defeat of Antiochus III, later being incorporated into Roman Asia province. During the reign of Tiberius, the city is believed to have suffered from a great earthquake, common in the Aegean. Other Roman sources such as Pliny the Elder mention Cyme as one of the cities of Aeolia which supports Herodotus' similar claim:

The above-mentioned, then, are the twelve towns of the Ionians. The Aeolic cities are the following:- Cyme, called also Phriconis, Larissa, Neonteichus, Temnus, Cilla, Notium, Aegiroessa, Pitane, Aegaeae, Myrina, and Gryneia. These are the eleven ancient cities of the Aeolians. Originally, indeed, they had twelve cities upon the mainland, like the Ionians, but the Ionians deprived them of Smyrna, one of the number. The soil of Aeolis is better than that of Ionia, but the climate is less agreeable.

Archaeological coinage exists from the Roman Imperial era from Nero to Gallienus. The river god Hermos, horse with their forefoot raised and victorious athletes are typical symbols commonly found on period coinage minted at Cyme.

Later under the leadership of the Eastern Roman Empire, Cyme became a bishop's see.

 Archaeology

Archaeologists first started taking an interest in the site in the middle of the 19th century as the wealthy landowner D. Baltazzi and later S. Reinach began excavation on the southern necropolis. In 1925, A. Salaç, working out of the Bohemian Mission, uncovered many interesting finds, including a small temple to Isis, a Roman porticus and what is believed to be a 'potter's house'. Encouraged by their successes, Turkish archaeologist E. Akurgal began his own project in 1955 which uncovered an Orientalising ceramic on the southern hill. Between 1979-1984, the Izmir Museum carried out similar excavations at various locations around the site, uncovering further inscriptions and structures on the southern hill.

Geophysical studies at Cyme in more recent years, have given archaeologists a much greater knowledge of the site without being as intrusive. Geomagnetic surveys of the terrain reveal additional structures beneath the soil, as yet untouched by excavations.

Statue of a young woman; late Hellenistic, 1st century BC, Cyme (Namurt).

The northwest side of the southern hill was utilized as a residential neighborhood during the entire existence of the city. Only a limited area of the hill has been investigated. It has been verified that there were at least five successive phases of building. 1. A long and straight wall going from north to southeast represented the most ancient building phase. In the wall there are visible traces of a threshold linking two rooms. There is uncertainty as to the chronology of the wall, but what is sure is that is was built before the end of the 5th century BC. 2. Two rooms (A and B), that were part of a building dating back to the end of the 5th century BC, belong to the second phase. The building appears to be complete on the northern side, but could have also had other rooms on the southern side, where the entrance to room A opened up. The western wall of room A, was constructed with squared limestone blocks, and also acted as a terracing wall connecting the strong natural difference on the side of the hill. At the foot of this wall there was a cistern excavated in the rock that gathered water coming from the roof of the house. The cistern was filled with debris and great amounts of black and plain pottery dating back to the late Hellenistic Age. 3. Some walls that belonged to the Imperial Roman Period were constructed by means of white mortar and bricks. During this phase a service room east of room A, with a floor that was made of leveled rock, was built. In the area of the cistern, by now filled, a new room decorated by wall paintings was also built. 4. A large house occupied the area during the Late Roman Period. The rooms were constructed using reused materials, but without the use of mortar, and often enriched by polychrome mosaics. Access was gained by a ramp placed at the edge of the southwestern part of the excavation. Still, what needs to be clarified is the extent of the building, whose destruction is placed between the end of the 6th century to the beginning of the 7th century AD. 5. The final phase is represented by some superficial structures found at the northern part of the excavation. There is a long wall going from the northwest to the southeast and a ramp built with reused blocks, with the same orientation as the wall. The wall and the ramp could be proof that this area was utilized during the Byzantine Age.

 Trivia

Cyme was the birthplace of the historian Ephorus; and Hesiod's father, according to the poet (Op. et D. 636), sailed from Cyme to settle at Ascra in Boeotia; which does not prove, as such compilers as Stephanus and Suidas suppose, that Hesiod was a native of Cyme.
 

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