Journal of Roman Studies

Research Article

Rome, Pamphylia and Cilicia, 133–70 B.C.

A. N. Sherwin-Whitea1

a1 St. John's College, Oxford

There has been much debate about the nature and purpose of the Roman intervention in Pamphylia between 102 and 70 B.C., to which a new edge has been given by the discovery of the extensive new fragments of the ‘Piracy Law’ of 101–100. Any solution needs a clear understanding of the strategic geography of the region and its political role within the kingdom of Pergamum that became the province of Asia. This fertile though narrow coastal plain, hemmed in by the western prolongation of the Taurus mountains, between the high massif of Cilicia Aspera in the east and the lower block of Lycia in the west, with the Pisidian chains to the north, is the coastal face of the isolated and difficult country of Pisidia. The deltas of the Pisidian rivers, notably Cestros and Eurymedon, enrich the narrow plain of Pamphylia. Practicable access to the interior for large forces dependant on wheeled transport for supplies is provided by three difficult routes leading through the Pisidian mountains from the coastal harbours: the first goes north-west from Attaleia past Termessus into and through the mountainous Milyas region that lies behind Lycia to Cibyra, and thence to Laodicea on the upper Maeander (Lycus) in Carian Asia. The second and easiest goes northwards from Attaleia to Sagalassus in the heart of Pisidia, and thence to Apamea on the Phrygian plateau—with a difficult branch north-east to Pisidian Antioch and Philomelium—and the third goes north and north-east from Side through the highest section of the Pisidian mountains, passing between the great Lake Caralis and the northern end of the High Taurus into the elevated plateau of Lycaonia: thence, from the communication centre of Iconium, there is easy access to Cappadocia by the central highway that links Apamea, Iconium and Mazaca. Pamphylia thus forms the southern gateway to Pergamene and Roman Asia, and to the Cappadocian kingdom behind the main chains of the Taurus. Hence it was of strategic interest to the Hellenistic kingdoms, which in the past had sought to control it and to found cities in it, and most notably after the Treaty of Apamea, to the kings of Pergamum.