History of Anatolia

In the end, the Roman Pompey pushed Mithridates’s forces out of Anatolia for good, at which time the renegade from Pontus took his own life rather than become subjugated under his captors.

Pompey’s expedition brought the Pontus area under the authority of the empire-building Romans. Lucullus also added to the total. Rome controlled the length of Anatolia as far east as the Euphrates River. The country enjoyed a period of stability and peace. One last disruption was seen that involved Brutus and Cassius when they met with Octavius. Soon after settling this dispute, Octavius proclaimed himself master of the Roman world. He was thirty-one years old and the first to be given the title Augustus, the “majestic one. This had previously been used only for the gods. The empire under the rule of Augustus prospered. Little of what was found under Hellenism was radically changed in Anatolia.

The main cities in Ionia remained the centers of culture and learning. The Romans went to great lengths in decorating their newly acquired cities. The monuments and ruins that we see standing today mainly date from this period of Roman rule. The reign of Octavius was stable because he had picked the governors of his provinces in Anatolia himself. As soon as any one of them was found unworthy of the position through any misuse of authority or inefficiency in office, that was it. Augustus wanted things run the way he wanted them run. During this period of Roman rule, an honest and efficient hierarchy operated in Anatolia. In his later years Augustus visited the provinces, and he was hailed as the visionary who had produced order out of the chaos that had existed throughout the region.

The period lasting from 31 B.C. to 180 A.D. is what is known as the Pax Romana or the Roman Peace. This was a time when the Roman Empire was at its height, and the provinces in Anatolia were prospering more than ever before. It was also a period of Roman persecution of the followers of “the new way”, the Christian religion. Starting with Octavius, the Roman emperors had set themselves up as gods, going as far as having altars built for the purpose of emperor-worship. What the early Christians did to arouse the wrath of the Roman authorities was to reject any show of respect, let alone worship, for the emperor. They criticized the pagan religions that were practised throughout the empire and let people believe at first that Christianity was something mysterious with their secret meetings. The one person who did the most to spread the new religion through Anatolia was the convert Paul, later known as Saint Paul.

He traveled from one end of the land to the other proclaiming the teachings of Jesus Christ to the Anatolians. He founded a number of churches, the most important of which were in Pergamum, Thyatira, Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea and Ephesus. These are known in the Bible as the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. Saint Paul was most effective with the poor and downtrodden to whom Christianity promised a better life in the hereafter. The persecution of the Christians reached a climax in the year 65 A.D., when Emperor Nero, having been accused of setting the raging fire that spread through Rome, placed the blame on the Christians.

Thousands of them were thrown into the arena and killed by the wild animals placed there for the purpose. Despite the official persecution, the religion triumphed and spread quickly, especially in Anatolia. It was here, in a small cave in Antioch in southeastern Anatolia, that Saint Peter first used the word Christian. In 313 A.D., the emperor Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion and, in doing so, encouraged its spread. By the 4th century A.D., it had been proclaimed the official religion of the Roman Empire.

After the fall of Rome in the 4th century, it was Christianity and the work of people in the religious orders that stemmed the flow of the Germanic barbarians and kept them from sweeping throughout both the West and the East.


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