214) War And Peace In Asia Minor

“To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…I thank my God through YHVH’s Anointed Savior for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:1-3)

Paul was not exaggerating.

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia:” (Revelation 1:4)

It wasn’t the church at Rome as much as his seven churches in Asia / Turkey that had spread the Gospel throughout the whole world. It was Asia’s geography that was responsible – smack in the middle of the trade routes reaching out to all the world to all points of the compass.

Turkey was considered an exceptional piece of land, where we have the two famous rivers flowing through it: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The rivers flowed all the way down to Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”) and gave the land the shape of what became known as the Fertile Crescent…The people in Turkey today are likely an extension of former civilizations like the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Turkic…from…Mongolia.”

Through the ages a long succession of Asiatic, European, and Egyptian powers have desired to control this natural transit land between East and West.

  • Ancient Chal­dean, Babylonian, and Assyrian kings first pushed their frontiers from the Tigris west to the Mediterranean.
  • Phoenicia when Tyre and Sidon were frontier towns
  • The landed Hittites fought constantly to maintain their power over Asia Minor
  • The Pharaohs of Egypt
  • Persian conquerors like Cyrus and Darius
  • the Greeks who settled coastal cities in the days of Troy and won the whole lot under Alexander the Great and the Seleucids
  • the Romans whose easternmost outpost reached the Kurdish city of Nisibis in what is now southeast Turkey
  • The Germans whose easternmost outpost reached the same city of Nisibis at the terminus of their Bagdad Railroad in WWI.
  • the British Empire whose WWII plots to take this great overland trade route laid the minefield for the next world war.

What are the geographic factors in this recurrent historical…drama which returns with monotonous action and theme, though the actors change in race, nationality, and civilization from one age to another?

The valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

This forms a natural pass from the Mediterranean Ocean to the Persian Gulf thence to the Indian Ocean, and its western outlet to the Mediterranean. For the last 5,000 years it has been the most accessible, ergo profitable, connector between contrasting climates, ergo contrasting products, of the temperate Mediterranean and the tropical Asiatic lands.

Just one sticking point. A look at a map shows that mountains block access from the Mediterranean to the Mesopotamian passage.

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The eastern sub-basin of the Mediterranean, known as the Levantine Sea, is surrounded on its three sides by natural barriers.

  • To the south in Africa is the vast expanse of the Sahara and Libyan Deserts.
  • To the north, in Asia Minor / Turkey are the high and rugged Taurus Mountains, with a mean elevation of 6,500 feet but rising at intervals to 10,000 feet or more.
  • To the east is another line of mountains from the Amanus Range in northern Syria to the towering Mount Sinai (8,530 feet) in the south, with a second line of mountains paralleling the first, rising to the imposing height of Mount Hermon (9,020 feet) in the north, beyond which stretch the Syrian and Arabian Deserts to the banks of the Euphrates.

There are only two partial breaches at each extremity of the eastern mountain ranges.

To the south the Suez Isthmus affords a short and level passage to the Red Sea. However,

  • year-round violent northwest winds in the Gulf of Suez and the upper half of the Red Sea,
  • a broad belt of coral reefs along the shores,
  • desert coasts, and for the most part desert hinterland

all combined to make navigation dangerous for sailing vessels and to reduce the profits of commercial voyages. It wasn’t the Industrial Revolution under the British that a canal through the Suez Isthmus, envisioned from very ancient times, was finally realized as a major financial venture. And thereby becoming a major asset drawing political, international, and military attention.

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The 193.30 km (120 miles)-long Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway located in Egypt and connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez, a northern branch of the Red Sea.

Officially opened in November 1869, the Suez Canal is one of the most heavily used shipping routes in the world, witnessing the passage of thousands of vessels every year.

The journey from Europe…cuts around 7,000 kilometres off the journey compared to the one carries out through the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans…

According to Reuters, the Suez Canal generated revenue of $5.3 billion in 2017…

The canal was vital to the British economy as it provided a shorter sea route to its colonies and the oilfields of the Persian Gulf.

Britain strengthened its control over Egypt in 1875…invade Egypt in 1882…During the First World War, Britain…sent forces to protect the canal, and this lasted till 1922 when Britain provided nominal independence to Egypt…1936, Britain took complete control of the Suez Canal…[again deploying troops.]

The…Suez Crisis, started in July 1956, when the then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and…resulted in the invasion of Egypt by the UK, France, and Israel. It was only after the intervention of the United Nations, the three forces withdrew from Egypt, allowing the country to reopen the canal for commercial shipping.

With all that was, and remains, entailed in the Suez Canal with the feat of construction, investment financially, politically and militarily, it is understandable that the primary route from the Mediterranean was through the northern breach in the barrier.

The Gulf of Alexandretta (Iskenderun), the ancient Gulf of Issus, drives a marine wedge fifty miles back into the coast line of northern Syria. The mountain barrier also contracts and drops to the single, relatively low chain of the Amanus Range. This was crossed in ancient times by three pass routes.

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One…is the route of the Bagdad Railroad built when railroads were new.

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The second route was used by Darius’ army after being routed by Alexander’s army at the battle of Issus in 332 BC.

map_antiochBut it was the great pass city of Antioch and its port Selucia which exploited their geographical position as the natural western termini of the great trade route to the East.

There is just 100 miles through a short low section of the Amanus Range, across a grassy plain from Selucia to a western bend of the Euphrates River, giving access to the great valley of the twin rivers, stretching southwest for 800 miles to the Persian Gulf.

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In the 1st Century AD this passageway to the world belonged to the Roman Empire’s territory of Asia. There were Jewish synagogues in all the cities, and Paul had planted congregations of believers in Yeshua haMessiach in all the major trade cities. From there, Jewish and Gentile traders picked up all the latest news and spread it worldwide throughout their journeys.

You can play a little game of Find That City! of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. First one to mark them off on his playing map wins. Bonus points for finding Tarsus, the regions of Galatia, Cappadocia, Cilica, Syria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Cyprus, Miletus references in the Bible. No fair using a concordance.

This review of the natural geographical isolation of the Promised Land also explains why, historically, Israel has always been invaded from “the North”.

  • Assyria across the top of the Fertile Crescent carrying the northern tribes of Israel into captivity
  • mikebickle-daniel2-statuethen Neo-Babylon, taking the southern division of Judah into captivity
  • then Persia releasing from captivity
  • then Greece with first Alexander the Great then Antiochus Epiphanes
  • then Rome 

In an unmistakable subplot threaded throughout the Bible demonstrating God’s sovereignty, all four kingdoms rose and fell in power – while surviving as an entity – in Anatolia.

Planted like a bridge between Asia and Europe, the peninsula of Asia Minor has been from the beginning of history a battlefield between the East and the West. Across this bridge the religion, art, and civilisation of the East found their way into Greece; and the civilisation of Greece, under the guidance of Alexander the Macedonian, passed back again across the same bridge to conquer the East and revolutionise Asia as far as the heart of India. Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, have all followed the same route in the many attempts that Asia has made to subdue the West.

When boots on the ground are needed to secure territory, we have no reason to believe that the last army, the Beast from the Sea’s invasion force allied with all previous four empires, will advance on Israel from any direction but North. In our day, that is the geopolitical entity of Turkey.

Unless otherwise referenced the following is taken from CHRONOLOGY OF ASIA MINOR (ANATOLIA) 500.000 BC – 330 ADSee the post Father Abraham for more details.

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Although the campaign has gone down in in military history as one of, if not the, most spectacularly failed campaign ever, they came close to re-capturing Babylon. Xenophon established precedents for many logistical operations, and is considered a military genius. His detailed campaigns in Asia Minor and in Babylon outlining both military and political methods used by Cyrus the Great to conquer the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BC inspired Alexander the Great

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  • 331 BC – Alexander the Great reclaims Anatolia for Greece and continues on to conquer Babylon and the Achaemenid Empire in Persia. On his death Alexander’s empire divided up by his four generals who, as well as other kingdoms, engage in constant bloody wars to expand their territory, wealth and power.

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  • ~300 BC – Antioch just around the bend “in Syria” to distinguish it from the many cities named after her founder throughout Asia, becomes the seat of the head of government of the sixteen provinces of the Seleucid Empire, named for the Alexander’s general whose allotment was the Near East. Its geographical, military, and economic position for the spice trade, the Silk Road, and the Royal Road brought power rivaling Alexandria as the chief city of the Near East.
  • 263 – 230 BC – Rise of Pergamum kingdom which becomes strong ally in Rome’s regional interests against the Seleucid Greeks.
  • 189 BC – Seleucid hegemony over Asia ended as in battle after battle Rome methodically incorporates the Hellenized city-states of Asia.
    • 130 BC – City-state of Pergamum becomes the first Roman province in Asia Minor.
    • 101 BC – Cilicia (southern Anatolia) becomes a Roman province.
    • 84 BC – Lycia incorporated into Roman province of Asia
    • 81 BC – Pontus annexed into Roman province
    • 74 BC – Bithynia bequeathed to Rome
  • 64 BC – the last Seleucid king Antiochus XIII Asiaticus executed by Pompey the Great. The Romans make Antioch the seat of the governor of the province of Syria. Antioch was called “the cradle of Christianity” as a result of its longevity and the pivotal role that it played in the emergence of both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity. The city may have had up to 250,000 people during Augustan times, but declined to relative insignificance during the Middle Ages because of warfare, repeated earthquakes, and a change in trade routes, which no longer passed through Antioch from the far east.
  • 53 BC – 44 BC The Battle of Carrhae (present-day Harran, Turkey)one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian / Persian Empires triggered civil war raging across the Roman world. 
    • Crassus, the richest man in Rome, funded and led the expedition to win military glory and amass the finances needed for a coup against Republican Rome by the “first” triumvirate including himself, Julius Caesar and Pompey.
    • When Crassus was killed and and his legions wiped out, a balance of power could not be maintained between the two remaining powers Julius Caesar and Pompey, and civil war erupted.
    • Julius Caesar won, only to be assassinated in 44 BC for his authoritarian ambitions.

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  • Not surprisingly, their alliance soon imploded into war between rivals for supreme authority.
    • 37 BC – Antony logically allies with Egypt’s resources to support his bid, meets with Cleopatra at Tarsus in Asia Minor to form an alliance. Yep, as in “Saul of”.
    • 32 BC – Antony the soldier and Cleopatra the queen get married at Antioch, the agreement being that this capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire and the capitol of the Western Roman Empire in Rome would be transferred to Alexandria in Egypt. Rome responds to this outrage by declaring war on Queen Cleopatra’s Egypt.
    • 31 BC – Cleopatra and Antony defeated by Octavian at the battle of Actium.
    • 30 BC – Octavius visits Antioch to flex his muscles, Cleopatra and Antony commit suicide.
  • 30 BC – Roman Senate rewards the man of peace who ended a decade of world war by voting him (with a white stone) into a new political position with higher authority and bestowing on him a new name / title of Augustus projecting his new way / power. He was now Augustus / godlike, the first emperor of the new Roman Empire. Previously only applied to Roman deities of the Empire, this ushered in the Roman Imperial cult.
    • A deceased emperor…could be voted a state divinity (divus, plural divi) by the Senate and elevated as such in an act of apotheosis. The granting of apotheosis…allowed living Emperors to associate themselves with a well-regarded lineage of Imperial divi…This proved a useful instrument to Vespasian in his establishment of the Flavian Imperial Dynasty following the death of Nero and civil war, and to Septimius in his consolidation of the Severan dynasty after the assassination of Commodus.
    • The imperial cult was inseparable from that of Rome’s official deities, whose cult was essential to Rome’s survival and whose neglect was therefore treasonous. Traditional cult was a focus of Imperial revivalist legislation under Decius and Diocletian. It therefore became a focus of theological and political debate during the legalization of Christianity under Constantine I.
  • 29 BC – Ephesus replaces Pergamum as capital of the Roman province of Asia.
  • 48-58 AD – Paul naturally crossed the same bridge to revolutionize the West with the Eastern Semitic religion of YHVH’s Savior, leaving behind congregations of believers throughout the Roman province of Asia.
  • 70 AD – Antioch becomes the main center of Hellenistic Judaism after the Second Temple is destroyed
  • 379-395 – Theodosius I adopts Christ as the imperial cult and Christianity as Rome’s state religion while perpetuating the rites and practices that characterized the imperial cult in the theology and politics of the Christianized Empire.
  • The name Asia Minor (from the Greek Mikra Asia = Little Asia) was first coined by the Christian historian Orosius (l. c. 375-418 CE) in his work Seven Books of History Against the Pagans in 400 CE to differentiate the main of Asia from that region which had been evangelized by Paul the Apostle. 
  • 5th-11th centuries the Byzantine Empire battled for control the area against the Arab Islamic CaliphatesThe Byzantine Empire referred to the region as East Thema which meant, simply, Eastern Administrative Division, and later sailors called it The Levant which meant ‘the rising’ or ‘to rise’ referring to how the land rose up out on the horizon of the sea.
  • 1090 – Asia Minor was captured by the Turko-Persian Sunni Moslem Seljuk Turks, but the Byzantines succeeded in retaking it, then the Turks, then the Byzantines…
  • 1299 CE the Ottoman Empire,  one of history’s most powerful empires, grew from a stronghold in Anatolia into a vast state that at its peak reached as far north as Vienna, Austria, as far east as the Persian Gulf, as far west as Algeria, and as far south as Yemen. Control of some of the world’s most lucrative trade routes led to vast wealth.
  • 1923 Turkey rises from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat at by European powers in WWI.

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