Location, location, location.
Asia Minor AKA Anatolia AKA Turkey, Asia’s geography is responsible for its impact on world events.
It is smack in the middle of the trade routes reaching out to all the world to all points of the compass. All roads lead to Turkey, not Rome.
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 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.
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.
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.
One…is the route of the Bagdad Railroad built when railroads were new.
The second route was used by Darius’ army after being routed by Alexander’s army at the battle of Issus in 332 BC.
But 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.
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
- then 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 world kingdoms rise and fall 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 AD. See the post Father Abraham for more details.
- 10,000 BC – preflood or even pre-human era, Gobekle Tepe, billed as the oldest temple and astronomical observatory in the world. Who but fallen angels would map out their home world in the heavens and continually seek a means of returning?
- 3000 BC – preflood era, Troy and Hattusa are established.
- 2500 BC – earliest post flood era, descendants of Heth, son of Canaan son of Ham, settle colonies established by Semite Asshur from home base at Ninevah in Mesopotamia.This is more likely than not following the standard MO of resettling defeated foes to use as slave labor to enrich the empire. Exactly like Europeans resettling Africans on plantations in the Americas or Americans exploiting cheap Asian labor on the cross-continental railroad.
- 2400 BC – brought under sphere of influence of the Semitic Akkadian Empire of Sargon I.
- 1750 BC – 1600 BC – Hittite kingdom – from Heth, son of Canaan – founded and becomes leading power in the Middle East.
- 1500 BC – Hittite king Mursilli “went to Babylon and destroyed Babylon. He took the deportees from Babylon and its goods to Hattusa.”
- 1275 BC – Hittites defeats Egyptians at Kadesh, earliest known international peace treaty which requires Egyptian withdrawal from Syria to allow Hittite hegemony in the region.
- 1250 and 1200 BCE the Sea Peoples invaded, weakening the Hittites
- 1112 BC – Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser defeats Hittites in Urartu.
- 1000 BC – Greeks settle permanent colonies on the Aegean coastline of Anatolia.
- 717 BC – Assyria captures fortress of Carchemish and gains control of Anatolia
- 550 BC – Persia takes control of Anatolia under Cyrus the Great, pushes into mainland Greece in 490 BCE but repelled at the Battle of Marathon.
- 400 BC – Xenophon, elected commander of one of the biggest Greek mercenary armies, the Ten Thousand, marched through Anatolia to join Cyrus the Younger’s campaign to claim the Persian throne from Artaxerxes II of Persia.
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
- 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.
- ~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.
- At the Seleucid Empire’s height it covered Anatolia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, and what are now Kuwait, Afghanistan, and parts of Turkmenistan. As happened more recently with English domination, an urban Greek elite formed the political class, and civil and economic investments were reinforced by steady immigration from Greece.
- The empire’s western territories were repeatedly contested with its rival Hellenized kingdom, Ptolemaic Egypt.
- Conflict with Chandragupta of the Maurya Empire led to a political alliance ruled by a dynasty of Emperors named Antiochus 1 – X1I1. Who surnamed themselves Soter / Savior, Theos / God, Epiphanes / God Made Manifest.
- 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.
- 43 BC – After Caesar’s assassination Caesar’s grand-nephew and adopted son and heir Octavian and Caesar’s military general Marc Antony openly avenged the assassination of Rome’s populist leader while secretly strategizing to complete his transformation of the chaotic and ineffectual Republic into an efficient and powerful Dictatorship. To most effectively wage civil war, they split the over-extended empire into West ruled by Octavian and East ruled by Antony.
- 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 Caliphates. The 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 – While one motley crew of illiterate peasants seizing control of a wilderness island at the edge of the known world at the Battle of Hastings was heralded as a great feat, the Turks in a whirlwind advance seized control the most civilized and wealthy territories of Nishapur and what is known today as Iran, Turkmenistan, and northern Afghanistan, and kept on going.
Eventually, as with the Roman Empire, due to its unwieldy size, there would come to be an eastern half based in modern Turkmenistan, and a western based centered in modern day Tehran and Baghdad.
The Great Seljuk empire was made up of an astoundingly diverse range of linguistic and ethnic groups, and religions including Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians in a loose political confederation meeting mutual interests. Not unlike OPEC.
The western-most territory of the Seljuk Turk Empire – Anatolia – was taken from the rival Western / Roman Empire in 1081, and as with the names of the other political entities incorporated into the Turkish Empire, the name of this territory remained the same: Rome / Rum, and its ruler – as conqueror – claimed the title of the Sultan of Rum / Rome.
Unlike Uganda’s Idi Amin’s claim to be “Conqueror of the British Empire” and “the Last King of Scotland”, the Sultan’s claim was taken seriously enough to be hotly contested for the next 250 years by Christian rivals.
Eventually, as with the Roman Empire, due to its unwieldy size, there would come to be an eastern half based in modern Turkmenistan, and a western based centered in modern day Tehran and Baghdad
- 1299 CE the Ottoman Empire, was also founded by and named after a Turkmen chieftain, Osman I.
It grew to become one of history’s most powerful empires by control of some of the world’s most lucrative trade routes.
While the rustics in Europe fled west to seek their safety and fortune, the empire encompassed most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including present-day Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, and parts of Ukraine; portions of the Middle East now occupied by Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and large parts of the Arabian Peninsula.
On the eve of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was in ruinous shape. As a result of subsequent wars fought in this period, territories were lost, the economy was in shambles and people were demoralized and tired…the Empire had to ally with one or the other camp, because, after the Italo-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, it was completely out of resources…at first it did not really matter which one that would be. As Talat Paşa, the Minister of Interior, wrote in his memoirs:
“Turkey needed to join one of the country groups so that it could organize its domestic administration, strengthen and maintain its commerce and industry, expand its railroads, in short to survive and to preserve its existence.”
Keep that thought in the back of your mind.
Turkey shares neither past or future with Western rivals to hegemony in the region.
- 1923 The Republic of Turkey rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in WWI.
In light of the resilience of the Eastern powers, not to mention thousands of years of biblical prophecy that has never been failed, should we consider that 100 years has been enough time for Turkey to regroup and shake of its need for Western support?
Often described as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’, British India played a key role (economic, strategic, military) in the expansion and consolidation of British Empire…and an integral part of the British Empire for reasons that included both resources and a role in enhancing imperial prestige.
- The Americans swept into WWII at the last minute to save Europe for democracy and simultaneously destroy the British Empire through the Lend-Lease Act, replaced with its version of United Nations and a Treaty Organization
While this is not called the American Empire, be real. Actions speak louder than words.
And Turkey is still the pivotal territory that swings power one way or another both militarily and economically.
TURKEY PUSHES CROSSROADS POLITICS
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan…inaugurated [in 2013]– on the 90th anniversary of the founding of Ataturk’s Republic – the US$3 billion, 76-kilometer Marmaray rail system which, in the hardly hyperbolic words of Mustafa Kara, mayor of Istanbul’s Uskudar district (where the tunnel comes out), will “eventually link London to Beijing, creating unimagined global connections”…
this technological marvel fits right into CHINA’S extremely ambitious New Silk Road(s) strategy which, just like the original Silk Road, starts in XIAN, and aims to cross to EUROPE via, where else, Istanbul…