From Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation, The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916, by Sir William M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL.D., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928; pp. 84-92.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation.



Chapter VIII


THE Greek-spelt word oa, ôgê, oua, quoted by Hesychius, is certainly Anatolian by origin; it meant village or district or tribe. The land and the people that occupied it were almost identified. That is the old West Asian law, the land belongs to the cultivators and possessors: those who use the land have a right to it; those that do not use the land lose any right, and it passes to the State or the assembled tribe to allot to those members of the community that will use it (see Chapter IV.) This, as we have seen in that chapter, was regulated and modified by the Mosaic Law according to the Jubilee year, when land returned in possession to the owners (or their representatives), who had possessed it fifty years ago. The great lawgiver foresaw, and guarded against, that fundamental fact of human nature, that no equal division of property can be permanent, and that some men possess superior powers of economy and acquisition, and such men must inevitably acquire greater wealth than others who are less able and less prudent. If the principle of the Jubilee year was very truly carried into effect, it would inevitably be found that some will lose and grow poor, and others will gain and become rich; but the Old Testament is full of complaints against the backsliding of the Jewish people, and 85 against the failure of the Mosaic Law to secure regular or faithful observation. The monarchy was fatal to the principle, that is pointed out in 1 Samuel as the inevitable consequence of kingship (see Chapter IV.). Even the institution of Judges implies that outstanding individual men were needed in cases of national danger from foreign attack, great men who possessed courage and leadership beyond their fellows, though their rights, suddenly gained in stress of circumstances, did not pass to their children. Yet Jair who judged Israel twenty-two years had thirty sons who rode on thirty asses’ colts (Judges x. 4); and it is not to be supposed that every Israelite had either thirty sons or thirty asses. A certain dignity and dominance inevitably attached to the superior intellectual moral and physical ability that marked out the judge. Jair is not said to have achieved anything of any kind, except the sons and the thirty asses.2

There was something like the Judgeship in the Roman Republic. The Dictator was called forth by some sudden emergency: his power was limited to six months, and for many centuries there was no case where a dictator was found to be aiming at permanent power. Every one returned to his ordinary occupation at the end of his tenure of that extraordinary office: in many cases six months was not needed to save the Republic from disaster; and the Dictator voluntarily retired from power as soon as his task was accomplished. Cincinnatus stood forth as the typical Roman Judge and Dictator. He gave up the supreme power, and returned of his own accord to plough his own land.

The identity in usage of Owa, Oîa, Oua, as the land and the tribe, in Anatolia, i.e. in Western Asia, proves that the tribe and 86 the possessors of land in the tribe were almost equivalent facts and ideas. That this was true far more widely in Asia is proved by the use of the Turkish term ova and the Turkmen oba.3 They denote at once land and people or tribe. See also forms beginning with omega — (obai, obatus, oge); and the notes of Hesychius on kôme, komaî, kometis.

Neighbours and fellow-tribesmen were called oar, oares, or oaroi. The tribe had its central village, called Kishla usually in modern Turkish, the same word that denotes “barracks for soldiers,” for the Turks were all soldiers: it was their duty and their occupation. Hence, in general, neighbours were oares or oaroi (where the case termination is Greek).4 The word denoting neighbourly conversation was oaristys or oarismos, the friendly talk of people living familiarly beside one another in the same Oa (i.e. ova), and the verb was to “oarise” ὀαρίζειν in Greek). These derivative words are characteristic particularly of Homer and his imitators. They were used mostly of talking and flirtation between young men and young women, and once at least of Hector talking to his wife before he went to battle. Achilles draws a powerful contrast between the talk that he is about to have with Hector in single combat, and the flirting conversation between a youth and a maid, sitting beside one another on a rock or a tree. Hesychius even mentions that oares was used in the sense of women.

This whole series of words combines to give a picture of easy, pleasant village life: I quote in illustration words which I used more than thirty year ago (Impressions of Turkey, p. 122): “The total want of pleasant intercourse and friendly open relations 87 between men and women greatly intensifies the monotony and the ignorance of village life, and also produces many other evils — a subject on which I will not enter. But, after a long time among Turks, it was quite delightful and refreshing to meet, beside a Kurd village, a young man driving out a bullock-cart to the harvest, and a young woman walking beside it, talking and laughing and engrossed in each other’s company.5 It was like a breath of Europe, bearing the scent of home.

The word Oa occurs in the late Phrygian inscriptions of the third century after Christ, and much later its existence is proved by a curious passage in several of the Byzantine writers (especially Leo Diaconus, p. 122). Leo Phokas, in his ill-starred attempt to make himself Emperor, A.D. 920, after having penetrated as far as Chrysopolis on the Bosphorus, was obliged to flee, and was captured on the way. The name of the village where he was taken was Goleont or Oêleont (in which we observe the difficulty that there was in representing a native Anatolian name in Greek letters and speech). The historians called it Goê-leont, and rendered it “the mourning of Leo,” because his eyes were put out immediately when he was captured; and the historians remark that the name was perhaps due to the original dispensation of Providence, and foreshadowed the fate of Leo.6

There can be no doubt that the village was called Ogeleont, and that it is the same village that is called Leontos-kome, mentioned as a village of Phrygia where hot springs, impregnated with nitre and possessing curative properties, are mentioned by Athenaeus, ii. 43. They are numerous in the district round the modern Afiom-Kara-Hissar, a district where the name and the figures of the lions on the rocks and the character of the rocks prove that the lion was recognised as the divine feature of the district.7 Two of those hot 88 springs are situated quite near each other on the Anatolian Railway line in a pass four or five hours north of Kara-Hissar; and here Leo was probably captured. The pass was on his road to his own estates beyond Tyriaion and Serai-iñi:8 he must almost certainly go through it, and then make his way by the long valley of Paroreios Phrygia past Serai-iñi. Swift messengers had outstripped him, and caught him on the pass.

There are other hot springs in this part of Paroreios, one near the railway line leading from Afiom-Karak-Hissar to Smyrna, two hours distant, the other towards Tchai and the East, four hours distant, but they were not such favourable places for catching Leo, as the country is more open. The great rock of Kara-Hissar itself was Leontos-Kephalai, the Lion’s Heads or Lion’s Head, the strongest fortress in all Phrygia. A line of great volcanic rocks are here thrust out from the level limestone plain. The biggest of these, a column of rock 560 feet in height or more, was a fortress and a prison.9 The modern castle is a mediaeval ruin, practically deserted; and some high authorities have rejected this identification (made first by G. Hirschfield); but the modern ruins furnish no sufficient evidence, for the form of this rock made it a castle by nature; and I was assured by a good authority that there were traces of ancient wall. I have never ascended that column of rock.

From Hesychius, we learn that kôme or kume, and rûme, were used in the Anatolian village system, and are characteristic of it. The village was a line of houses along a street or road (rûme); and, as the settlement grew in size, the number of streets would increase. Like kôme, kume, there was doubtless a variation of rôme, rûme. The names Gorgo-rome, Ophiorume, occur, evidently meaning Gorgon’s 89 village, Serpent’s village. Gorgon’s village is still called Gulgurum near Lake Trogitis, and Ophiorume was on the road that leads past Hierapolis with its wealth of hot springs in the Lycus valley.10 The name was easily transferred in the Christian legend to Hierapolis itself; but the great road to the East from the Hermus valley by Kallataba would not pass through Hierapolis on the rough hills, but at the foot of the hills, in the low level ground near the Lycus, passing close to the duden, where the hot water, after being manifested by the goddess to her people, flows back again into the earth.11

Professor Calder in Discovery, April 1920, p. 100 f., prefers to interpret rôme as “head,” and the local names accordingly. Certainly or rôs in Anatolian means “head” or promontory, and it is true that many places in the Greek world were named with the element head κεφαλή), such as Boos-kephalon, Kynoskephalai, etc. But or rôs must be distinguished from rûmê. Anatolian ros has in all probability given origin to the Arabic ras, “promontory,” which is, according to Professor Sayce, not a true Semitic form.

Hesychius mentions that kometis means a neighbour (feminine); for people who live in the same village are naturally called neighbours; and adds the explanation that “villages are streets.”12 He has also the explanation “villages = streets, ῥῦμαι,” and “a village is a street or a district.”13 Take these interpretations in connexion with Strabo’s expression: “Smyrna, when it was captured by the Lydians, was organised on the village system,” i.e. as an Anatolian community, and no longer a Greek self-governing polis; as we have known for a long time from an inscription, however, it was not destroyed, but continued to exist as Smyrna, no longer as a Greek 90 polis, but as an Anatolian town. Then you have the whole gist of the preceding paragraphs in a few scattered Greek phrases, picked from different authors and interpreted, not by theory, but by following the literal meaning of the ancient authorities.

Professor Calder was perhaps misled by the first element in certain Lycaonian or Cilician words, which is sometimes “Ro” as in “Rô-sgêtis, Rô-zrumeris, etc., sometimes “Rôn,” as in Ron-derbemis, Rondberras, and others; but the “n” in such cases has no connexion with the “m” of the suffix “mê” or “ma”; it is the usual expression in Greek letters of the peculiar nasalisation which is such a frequent feature of Anatolian words.

As an example of the growth of Anatolian villages, kômai, we may take the place that became the city Neapolis of Pisidia. The true old Pisidian towns were built on high peaks of the Taurus mountains. The town that occupied the north-eastern corner of Pisidia was Anaboura, about seven hours south-east from Pisidian Antioch.14 It was situated on a high point above the modern village Enevre. Sterrett discovered Enevre, and rightly recognised it as a modern pronunciation of the old Anaboura, but wrongly supposed that it was the site of the Pisidian town. Pisidian towns were not planted in a hollow level valley, but on lofty, hardly accessible mountain sites: they were robber-strongholds from which the people descended to spoil the peaceful Phrygians of the fertile plains, unwarlike by long habit, and willing to live at ease in quiet enjoyment, until Antioch was made a Roman colony to guard against the Pisidians and Homanadenses about 21-19 B.C.

I long followed Sterrett both in his correct identification and in his wrong supposition; but in 1926 I was informed by an old 91 inhabitant of Yallowadj, the modern town a the edge of Antioch, that the real Pisidian site was on a high peak above Enevre in the rugged mountains on the west. I had known this man since 1882, but the information that one desires is often long in coming. The modern population are very willing to talk; they are eager to tell what they know;15 but they tell what they think the explorer desires to learn, and do not know what he wants.

The population of the Pisidian mountain stronghold of Anaboura began to find that it was more pleasant to live in the fertile plains than in the rugged rocky country; they came down; and there gradually grew up on the great highway from Apamea and Antioch towards the Cilician Gates and Syria a New Town, which first of all was a kôme by the road, and gradually grew more important and acquired the status of a city as Neapolis. This growth was apparently a long, slow process. The highway must have been very important from the time when Apollonia and Antiochea were founded to guard the Seleucid communications with their Syrian capital, i.e. from soon after 300 B.C. Yet about 100 B.C. Artemidorus, and about A.D. 20 Strabo knew no place Neapolis: evidently it was still a roadside village or small town. The line of Augustus’s Via Sebaste passed through it from 6 B.C. onwards, and it then rapidly increased during the first century after Christ. Its territory is fertile, and it was a wealthy city, which could furnish a citizen to bear the great expense of entertaining the Oecumenical Artists’ assembly at Ancyra about A.D. 128.

My informant called the name of the village Elevre, whereas both Sterrett and I heard the name as Enevre. The variation between “n” and “l” is a characteristic Anatolian feature in their pronunciation. I observed a similar variation in the name of one of the twelve quarters of Yallowadj. It is called, as I have always caught the name, Nevlepjilar; but in the official map it is spelt Lebelebjilar. The variation in Anatolian Greek inscriptions between 92 V or W (i.e. ου) and B has been often observed by Professor Calder and myself: and the substitution of the surd for the sonant before J, which I made, is extremely easy in the native pronunciation. I have never been able to determine whether Yallowadj or Yallowatch is true to the local pronunciation.16

There are inscriptions of Anaboura at Neapolis (now called Karagatch, Black Tree), and at Eurdekji in the plain (a village not far from Enevre). The former is an extremely important document, recording the gift made by two brothers to the people of Anaboura. They were the descendants of the ancient god of the land, Manes of Ouramma; and were obviously an ancient priestly family. The date unfortunately is not given.17

The technical term for the Anatolian social system is used by Strabo. When a Greek polis or city-state was made into the Anatolian style, “it was organised according to the village system.”18 The verb “to be organised” is important. The polis ceased to be a self-governing body of individual citizens: it was now regulated on the analogy of a family or household οἴκος). The kôme was the household “writ large.”



 1  The evidence is given in a more scientific form in an article by the present writer, printed for No. II. of the new Journal Oriens, the issue of which has been long delayed owing to the tragic death of Professor Ember (Johns Hopkins) and all his family by fire. The reader may consult that article.

 2  The Israelites became a very mixed people: they intermarried freely with the various nations of Palestine (Judges iii. 6); and 600,000 who came out of Egypt cannot all have been sprung from Jacob (Exod. xii. 37, xxxviii. 26, Numb. i. 46, xi. 21). Other slaves of the Egyptians must have taken the chance of freedom (Exod. ii. 38), as was only natural.

 3  The distinction between the Turks and the Turkmens or Nomads is apparent from the beginning of the Turkish conquest in 1071. It is mentioned as early as A.D. 1100. See H.G.A.M. p. 213. It was the Nomads who broke the power of the Christian population. The distinction of Turk and Nomad lasts till the present day, though Abd-ul-Hamid tried to make the Nomads settle down.

 4  Intermarriage between different villages is rare still, and hardly occurs if one differs in race from the other.

 5  The scene was in the valley of the Euphrates on the western side of the river in 1890.

 6  Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, p. 143.

 7  But Kara-Arslan is modern; see p. 94, note.

 8  See an article in the Revue Archéologique, 1923, ii., part 2.

 9  Plutarch, Themist. 30; Appian, Mithrid. 19 and 20. On its use as a prison see my articles in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1920, p. 107. The second path up and down the steep rock, which was required in my theory, exists, as a lady who had traversed it told me later.

10  Was Roma “the town” on the road at the crossing of the Tiber? Or is the old derivation, Stroma, stream-village, to be preferred? Both are Anatolian words.

11  This duden has been rarely seen by travellers, who are usually content with the more conspicuous and wonderful sights of Hierapolis itself.

12  κῶμαι  γὰρ  τὰ  ᾄμφοδα.

13  κῶμαι  ἀγυιαι·ῥῦμαι, and κώμη·  ᾄμφοδονχωρίον.

14  It is so called in the correct text of the Acts xiii. 7, not because it was in Pisidia (“of Pisidia” is the false reading there), but because it was the defence against the Pisidians. Strabo three times calls it “a Phrygian city towards Pisidia,” i.e. on the side of Pisidia, directed towards Pisidia. The frontier lay between Antioch and Neapolis, which was annexed by the Pisidians of Anaboura.

15  Only two subjects are tabu, religion and the family.

16  An interesting phenomenon of derivation is now in process. The best Turkish authorities that I knew asserted positively that Yallowadj was not a Turkish name; but it is now receiving Turkish form by being made into Yali-vadj. Yali, level, is a common element in Turkish local names.

17  I published it in Athenische Mitteilungen des deutschen Instituts, 1883, p. 72. See also on the land of Ouramma an article in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1918, p. 146. The land of Ouramma and the neighbouring promontory and pass were keenly contested in a law suit by the Pisidian Timbriada, which dominates the land, and decided by the Roman governor of Galatia, before the foundation of Antioch as a Colonia, but after 25 B.C.

18  ᾠκεῖτο  κωυηδόν.