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Amorium Höyük (mound) as seen from the minaret of the village of Hisarköy
John Kallos, titular Bishop of Amorion

Amorium was a city in Phrygia, Asia Minor which was founded in the Hellenistic period, flourished under the Byzantine Empire, and declined after the Arab sack of 838. Its ruins are located near the village of Hisarköy, Turkey.

Amorium is the latinized pronunciation of its original Greek name Amorion (Greek: Ἀμόριον). Arab/Islamic sources refer to the city as Ammuriye. Although an attractive idea, the name does not derive from the Latin root word of amor 'love', but is generally linked to the Proto-Indo-European ma 'mother', which leads to the conclusion that, at its foundation, the settlement was associated with the Mother Goddess cult, widespread in ancient Anatolia. Today, Amorium's höyük (mound, tumulus) is situated by the modern Turkish village of Hisarköy, under Ottoman rule the site was called Hergen Kale.

Contents

History

Its site lies at a distance of 13 kilometers from the district center of Emirdağ, in Afyonkarahisar Province. Excavations on the site are currently being pursued by an international team led by Dr. Chris Lightfoot, a curator from the New York Metropolitan Museum.

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Antiquity

That the city had minted its own coins as of some time between 133 BC to 27 BC till the 3rd century AD is evidence of its maturity as a settlement and of its importance during the pre-Byzantine period as well. Amorium then must have been prestigious and prosperous. But early historical records that mention the city are extremely scarce, in fact strictly limited to a reference by Strabo, although it is expected that new discoveries will shed a light to the city's Roman period and before.

Byzantine period

Gold solidus of Emperor Michael II the Amorian and his son Theophilos.

The city was an episcopal see (bishopric) as early as 431, and was fortified by the emperor Zeno, but did not rise to prominence until the 7th century. Its strategic location in central Asia Minor made the city a vital stronghold against the armies of the Arab Caliphate following their conquest of the Levant. The city was first attacked by the Arabs in 644, and taken in 646. Over the next two centuries, it remained a frequent target of Muslim raids (razzias) into Asia Minor, especially during the great sieges of 716 and 796. It became capital of the thema of Anatolikon soon after. In 742-743, it was the main base of Emperor Constantine V against the usurper Artabasdos, and in 820, an Amorian, Michael II, ascended the Byzantine throne, establishing the Amorian dynasty. This began the period of the city's greatest prosperity, when it became the largest city in Asia Minor. Its status however as the native city of the reigning dynasty also spelled its doom: in 838, the Caliph Al-Mu'tasim launched a campaign specifically against the city, which fell and was razed.

The city never recovered from the sack, but retained an active bishopric until definitively conquered by the Seljuks following the Battle of Manzikert. Emperor Alexios I Komnenos defeated the Seljuks at Amorium in 1116, but the area was never recovered. Amorium remains a titular see of the Catholic Church.

42 Martyrs of Amorium

Following the 838 sack, 42 officers and notables of Amorium were taken as hostages to Samarra (today in Iraq). Refusing to convert to Islam, they were executed there in 845, and became canonized as the "42 Martyrs of Amorium".[1]

Excavations

In 1987 Professor R.M. Harrison of Oxford University conducted a preliminary survey of the site with excavations being started in 1988. From its inception the Amorium Excavations Project has been principally concerned with investigating post-classical, Byzantine Amorium. During 1989 and 1990 an intensive surface survey was conducted of the man-made mound in the upper city. In 2001 Dr. Ali Kaya made a geophysical survey of the church found in the upper city, although a full excavation has yet to be undertaken. The Project is sponsored by the British Institute of Archaeology and funded by generous grants from various institutions in the United States including the Adelaide and Milton De Groot Fund at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Friends of Amorium.[2]

Notable people

  • Aesop (620-560 BC), Greek fable writer (origin disputed among several cities)
  • Michael II "the Amorian" (770-829), Byzantine emperor and founder of the Amorian dynasty

Sources and external links

References

  1. ^ (French)René Grousset, Les Croisades, Que sais-je ?, 1947
  2. ^ http://www.amoriumexcavations.org accessed 02/08/08.

Coordinates: 39°01′14″N 31°17′21″E / 39.020439°N 31.289145°E / 39.020439; 31.289145


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