Caria (Turkish Karya, Greek, Καρία)
was a region in western Anatolia rather clearly defined south of the
River Maeander and of Ionia and, north of Lycia and west of Phrygia.
The eponymous inhabitants were known as Carians, and they had come
to Caria before the Greeks. They were described by Herodotos as
being of Minoan descent, while Carians themselves maintained that
they were Anatolian mainlanders intensely engaged in seafaring and
were akin to Mysians and Lydians. Also closely associated with the
Carians at all times were Lelegians which could be an earlier name
for them or a people who had preceded the Carians in the region and
continued to exist as part of the Carian society in a subordinate
The name of Caria appears in a
number of early languages: Hittite Karkija (a member state of the
Assuwa league, ca. 1250 BC), Babylonian Karsa, Elamite and Old
Persian Kurka. According to some accounts, the land was originally
called "Phoenicia", because a Phoenician colony settled there in
early times. Allegedly, the region would have then received the name
of Caria from Kar, a legendary early king of the Carians.
Independent Caria arose as a
Neo-Hittite kingdom around the 11th century BC. The coast of Caria
was part of the Dorian hexapolis (six-cities) when the Dorians
arrived after the Trojan War in the last and southernmost waves of
Greek migration to western Anatolia's coastline and occupied former
Mycenaean settlements such us Knidos and Halicarnassos (present-day
Bodrum). Herodotus, the famous historian was born in Halicarnassus
during the 5th century BC. But Greek colonization touched only the
coast and the interior remained Carian organized in a great number
of villages grouped in local federations. Caria was then
incorporated into the Persian Achaemenid empire as a satrapy in 545
BC. The most important town was Halicarnassus, from where its
sovereigns reigned. Other major towns were Heraclea by Latmus,
Antiochia, Myndus, Laodicea, Alinda and Alabanda.
The Iliad records that at the time
of the Trojan War, the city of Miletus belonged to the Carians, and
was allied to the Trojan cause.
Halicarnassus was the location of
the famed Mausoleum dedicated to Mausolus, a satrap of Caria between
377–353 BC by his wife, Artemisia. The monument became one of the
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and from which the Romans named
any grand tomb a mausoleum.
Caria was conquered by Alexander
III of Macedon in 334 BC with the help of the former queen of the
land Ada of Caria who had been dethroned by the Persian Empire and
actively helped Alexander in his conquest of Caria on condition of
being reinstated as queen. After their capture of Caria, she
declared Alexander as her heir.
As part of the Roman Empire the
name of Caria was still used for the geographic region but the
territory administratively belonged to the province of Asia. During
the administrative reforms of the 4th century this province was
abolished and divided into smaller units. Caria became a separate
province as part of the Diocese of Asia. In the 7th century
provinces were abolished and the new theme system was introduced.
notes that "As Caria probably abounded in figs, a particular sort
has been called Carica, and the words In Care periculum facere,
having been proverbially used to signify the encountering of danger
in the pursuit of a thing of trifling value."
The Turkish township of Geyre, at
the location of the inland Carian manufacturing city of Aphrodisias,
perpetuates the ancient name.
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