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Soli (Cilicia)

Roman colonnade at the site.

Soli (Ancient Greek: Σόλοι, Sóloi), often rendered Soli/Pompeiopolis (Ancient Greek: Πομπηϊούπολις), was an ancient city and port in Cilicia, 11 km west of Mersin in present-day Turkey.


The red dot shows the position of Mersin in a map of present-day Turkey. At this scale, it coincides with the position of Soli.

Located in Southern Anatolia, on the edge of the timber-rich Taurus Mountains and fertile Cilician alluvial plain, Soli was constantly at or near regional boundaries; Kizzuwatna and Tarḫuntašša during Luwian/Hittite occupation, and Cilicia Trachea and Cilicia Pedia during Graeco-Roman period.[1] This, coupled with the city's good harbor and proximity to the Cilician Gates ensured that Soli was consistently of strategic importance throughout ancient history.


Neolithic and Bronze Age

Archaeological evidence indicates a human presence in the area as early as 7000 BCE at the Yumuktepe mound, 9 km to the northeast. The first known Luwian settlements and fortifications at Soli proper date the 15th century BCE, and the city was an active port from that time onwards.[1] Soli may have functioned as the harbor city of Kizzuwatna, but this is disputed.[2] The region was controlled by the Hittite Empire from the 14th-13th centuries BCE, and recovered Mycenaean bronzes and ceramics indicate trade with the Aegean.[3][4]

The Bronze Age Collapse ended Hittite hegemony in Cilicia, and Soli may have suffered an attack from the Sea Peoples. This "destruction layer" is populated by burned and broken pottery and is followed by a hiatus in human occupation.[1]

Archaic Period

Achaean and Rhodian colonists[5] reestablished a permanent human presence at Soli between 700 and 690 BCE,[6] leaving behind geometric pottery characteristic of the Archaic period.

Persian Period

Cilicia became a vassal state to and satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire after the reign of Cyrus the Great, assisting the Persians in multiple military campaigns.[7] Soli briefly allied itself with the Delian League,[8] but otherwise prospered under Achaemenid hegemony, minting coins to the Persian standard until Alexander the Great drove the Persians out of Cilicia in 333 BCE.[9][10] He imposed a fine of 200 talents on the city for favoring the Persians, imposed a democratic constitution, made a sacrifice to Asclepius and held honorary games.[11] A year later, Alexander extracted three triremes from Soli and nearby Mallus to assist in his siege of Tyre.[12]

Hellenistic Period

After Alexander's death (323 BCE), Soli fell to the control of Ptolemy I Soter, and was attacked unsuccessfully by Demetrius I Poliorcetes.[13] Cilicia traded hands between Alexander's successors until the end of the Fifth Syrian War (197 BCE), at which point Soli was held by the Seleucid Empire. Throughout the Hellenistic Period, the city gained considerable local autonomy, minting its own coinage and largely conducting its own affairs.[14] Rhodes appealed to the Roman Senate to liberate Soli from the Seleucids on the grounds of their common heritage, but this case was dropped.[15] Tigranes the Great of Armenia sacked Soli during the Seleucid Empire's collapse (83 BCE), and took the city's citizens to inhabit Tigranocerta, his newly founded capital.[16]

Roman Period

In 67 BCE, the lex Gabinia was passed by the Roman Senate, endowing Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) with proconsular powers to combat piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean. After subduing the pirates, he resettled some surrendered pirates in the depopulated Soli,[17][18] renaming it Pompeiopolis (not to be confused with the Pompeiopolis in nearby Paphlagonia, also founded around this time).[19][5] The harbor was improved and expanded with Roman concrete,[20] and new city walls, a theater and baths were built.[1] The harbor was renovated again by 130 CE under the aegis of Antoninus Pius (though the project may have been begun by Hadrian),[20] and the port city flourished under Roman rule.

After defeating Valerian at Edessa in spring of 260 CE, Sassanid King Shapur I invaded Cilicia and was defeated while sieging Soli-Pompeiopolis.[21] The exact circumstances of the battle are disputed.

The Soli-Pompeiopolis became a bishopric sometime around 300 CE. In 525 CE, the city was leveled by a powerful earthquake and largely abandoned.[22]


Diogenes Laërtius wrote that Solon founded Soli as an Athenian colony, and named the city after himself. This account is in conflict with the work of Strabo[5] and comparative archaeological studies of the region.[6] While largely discredited, the idea was preserved in the word solecism, derived from σόλοικος (sóloikos, “speaking incorrectly”), as since the dialect of Greek spoken there was thought to be corrupted form of Attic Greek.[23]

"...[Solon then] lived in Cilicia and founded a city which he called Soli after his own name. In it he settled some few Athenians, who in process of time corrupted the purity of Attic and were said to "solecize."[24]

Alternately, soloi could derive from local economic resources, namely "metal ingots"[25] or "a mass of iron."[26]

The city may be mentioned in the Šunaššura Treaty,[27] between Hittite king Šuppiluliuma I and Kizzuwatna, as Ellipra or Pitura.[2] These may alternately refer to the Yumuktepe site, but certainly refer to one of the few harbor settlements on the border between Kizzuwatna and Tarḫuntašša.

It’s been suggested that Soli corresponds the coastal city Sallusa in the later Annals of Ḫattušili III, indicating that some Luwian variant of the Classical name may predate Hellenic settlement of the area.[2]

Locally, the site is known as Viranşehir, or "Ruined City."[28]

Notable natives


  1. ^ a b c d Novák, Mirko; D’Agata, Anna Lucia; Caneva, Isabella; Eslick, Christine; Gates, Charles; Gates, Marie-Henriette; Girginer, K. Serdar; Oyman-Girginer, Özlem; Jean, Éric (2017-12-01). "A Comparative Stratigraphy of Cilicia". Altorientalische Forschungen. 44 (2). doi:10.1515/aofo-2017-0013. ISSN 2196-6761.
  2. ^ a b c Remzi, Yağcı (2001). "The Importance of Soli in the Archaeology of Cilicia in the Second Millennium B.C". Publications de l'Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes (in French). 13 (1).
  3. ^ Sandars, N. K. (1961). "The First Aegean Swords and Their Ancestry". American Journal of Archaeology. 65 (1): 17–29. doi:10.2307/502497. JSTOR 502497.
  4. ^ H., Cline, Eric (2009). Sailing the wine-Dark sea : international trade and the late bronze age Aegean. Arcaeopress. ISBN 9781407304175. OCLC 876580797.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Strabo, Geography, Book 14, chapter 5, section 8". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  6. ^ a b Bing, J. D. (April 1971). "Tarsus: A Forgotten Colony of Lindos". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 30 (2): 99–109. doi:10.1086/372102. ISSN 0022-2968.
  7. ^ Herodotus. Histories. 5.118, 6.43, 6.95.
  8. ^ Gernot., Lang (2003). Klassische antike Stätten Anatoliens. Books on Demand. OCLC 314086999.
  9. ^ Moysey, Robert A. (1986). "THE SILVER STATER ISSUES OF PHARNABAZOS AND DATAMES FROM THE MINT OF TARSUS IN CILICIA". Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society). 31: 7–61. JSTOR 43573706.
  10. ^ "Ancient coinage of Cilicia". Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  11. ^ Arrian. The Anabasis of Alexander.
  12. ^ Arrian. The Anabasis of Alexander.
  13. ^ "Plutarch, Demetrius, chapter 20, section 4". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  14. ^ Jones, A.H.M. (1971). The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces. Oxford University Press. pp. 191–214. ISBN 978-0198142812.
  15. ^ "Perseus Under Philologic: Polyb. 21.24.12". Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  16. ^ "Plutarch • Life of Pompey". Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  17. ^ "Cassius Dio — Book 36". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  18. ^ "Strabo, Geography, Book 14, chapter 3, section 1". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  19. ^ "Appian, Mithridatic Wars, CHAPTER XVII". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  20. ^ a b Brandon, Christopher; Hohlfelder, Robert L.; Oleson, John Peter; Rauh, Nicholas (2010-08-03). "Geology, Materials, and the Design of the Roman Harbour of Soli-Pompeiopolis, Turkey: the ROMACONS field campaign of August 2009". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 39 (2): 390–399. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.2010.00277.x. ISSN 1057-2414.
  21. ^ Peter., Bowman, Alan. Cameron, Averil. Garnsey (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139053921. OCLC 828737952.
  22. ^ Öniz, Hakan (2018-06-28). "Harbour of Soli-Pompeiopolis: recent underwater archaeological research". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. 47 (2): 337–342. doi:10.1111/1095-9270.12320. ISSN 1057-2414.
  23. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Soli (Asia Minor)" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  24. ^ "LacusCurtius • Diogenes Laërtius: Solon". Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  25. ^ E., Burkert, Walter, 1931-2015. Pinder, Margaret (August 1998). The Orientalizing Revolution : Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674643642. OCLC 904724528.
  26. ^ Marcellesi, Marie-Christine (2007). "Le " trésor " du temple du Létôon de Xanthos (1975-2002). Les monnaies rhodiennes et la circulation monétaire en Lycie à la basse époque hellénistique". Revue Numismatique. 6 (163): 45–90. doi:10.3406/numi.2007.2824. ISSN 0484-8942.
  27. ^ Beal, Richard H. (1986). "The History of Kizzuwatna and the Date of the Šunaššura Treaty". Orientalia. 55 (4): 424–445. JSTOR 43075426.
  28. ^ "Soli (Pompeiopolis) | Turkish Archaeological News". Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  29. ^ Laërtius, Diogenes. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers.
  30. ^ Laërtius, Diogenes. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers.