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Nearchus the Cretan and the Foundation of Cretopolis1

  • Nicholas Victor Sekunda (a1)


The clarification of when and in what circumstances the various Hellenistic cities of Pisidia were founded is an important undertaking. Through the microcosm of Pisidia, such study throws valuable light upon the way in which Anatolia became hellenized. Pisidia is especially important because at the beginning of the Hellenistic period the Pisidians were hardly touched by either hellenism or urbanism. They were bellicose raiders who constituted a threat to their more urbanised neighbours. Many of the cities of Hellenistic Pisidia seem to have been established with the deliberate intention of pacifying the region.

In a recent issue of Anatolian Studies Stephen Mitchell dealt with, among others, the Pisidian city of Cretopolis. Cretopolis is of interest for several reasons, in particular because it seems to be one of the earliest military foundations of the Hellenistic period, and because the name informs us that the city was settled by Cretans. Cretans were frequently employed as mercenaries throughout the Hellenistic period, but in antiquity, as in more recent periods, Cretans made very reluctant colonists. There are very few individual Cretans attested as colonists in Egypt or elsewhere, and very few attested Cretan colonies indeed.



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2 Mitchell, Stephen, ‘Three Cities in PisidiaAnatolian Studies 44 (1994) 129–48.

3 Jones, A. H. M., The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces2 (Oxford 1971) 125 stated that the name Cretopolis is ‘curious’. He notes that by the middle of the fourth century the Pisidians of Selge had put forward a claim to Greek origin, claiming that they were Lakedaimonian colonists. Consequently he suggested that the Pisidian community of the Keraeitai, noticing that there existed a Cretan community of the same name, renamed their city Cretopolis in order to emphasize their pretensions to Hellenic origin. This is an extremely dubious suggestion. It is now clear that the Keraeitai were a separate community from the inhabitants of Cretopolis, and were later absorbed by the city of Kremna. The claim of Selge to Hellenic origins is unusually early. False claims of this nature are generally a Hellenistic feature. The terminus ante quem (see below) for the foundation of Cretopolis is 319, before the Hellenistic community of states had properly been formed. The identification of Cretopolis with the Keraeitae has also been followed by Levick and Syme (Levick, B., Roman Colonies in Southern Asia Minor (1967) 47; Syme, Ronald ed. Birley, Anthony, Anatolica. Studies in Strabo (1995) 194–5).

4 Remarked on, for example, by Launey, M., Recherches sur les Armées hellénistiques I (1949) 276–9. A list of Cretans, presumably soldiers, serving abroad is given in Spyridakis, Stylianos, ‘Cretan Soldiers Overseas: A ProsopographyΚΡΗΤΟΛΟГΙΑ 12–13 (1981) 4983.

5 Polyb. 5. 72. 5; cf. Walbank, F. W., A Historical Commentary on Polybius I (1957) 598–9.

6 See Mitchell for documentation of modern literature for this battle, to which add Ramsay, W. M., “Military Operations on the north front of Mt. Taurus. IV. The Campaigns of 319 and 320 BCJHS 43 (1923) 1 sqq; Syme, Ronald ed. Birley, Anthony, Anatolica. Studies in Strabo (1995) 196–8.

7 Niese, B., Geschichte der griechischen und makedonischen Staaten seit der Schlacht bei Chaeronea (Gotha 18931903) I, 231 n. 3 “Vielleicht ist die Stadt von Alexander”.

8 Ruge, , “KretopolisRE xi (1922) 1824 “Vielleicht ist sie von Alexander angelegt und mit kretischen Kolonisten besetzt”.

9 Στρατηγάκη, I., Ἱστορία τῆς Κρήτης (Athens 1967) 161.

10 The standard account is that of Stark, Freya, “Alexander's March from Miletus to PhrygiaJHS 78 (1958) 102120, reprinted as Appendix I in Stark, Freya, Alexander's Path (London 1958) 229–68. See also the forthcoming article of Antony Keen, G., “Alexander's invasion of Lycia: its route and purpose” in Ancient History Bulletin.

11 Cohen, Getzel M., The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands, and Asia Minor (1995) 345 n. 3.

12 Van Effenterre, Henri, La Crète et le monde grec de Platon à Polybe (1948) 303 n. 3.

13 Arr., Anab. 3. 6. 5; 8. 18. 4, 10; BCH 20 (1896) 470–3.

14 Steph. Byz. s. v. Λητή. On the interpretation of this passage see the article ‘Nearchus’ in RE and Van Effenterre, op. cit. 292 n. 2.

15 Arr., Anab. 3. 6. 6. Dr. A. G. Keen has suggested that the borders of Lycia as outlined in Ps.-Skylax, where the eastern border runs between Perge and Aspendos and the western border includes Telmessos, may reflect the extent of Nearchus' command at this time (edd. Hansen, M. H. and Raaflaub, K., More Studies in the Ancient Greek Polis (Stuttgart 1996) 137–8.

16 Arr., Anab. 1. 29. 3.

17 Arr., Anab. 4. 7. 2.

18 Bosworth, A. B., CQ 24 (1974) 62; Bosworth, A. B., A Historical Commentary on Arrian's History of Alexander I (1980) 156.

19 Heckel, Waldemar, The Marshals of Alexander's Empire (1992) p. 232.

20 Translation from Krentz, P., Wheeler, E. L. (ed., tr.), Polyaenus Stratagems of War (1994) 533–5.

21 Eg. Green, Peter, Alexander of Macedon (1974) p. 201.

22 Eg. Billows, R. A., Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State (1990) 408, followed by Heckel, Waldemar, The Marshals of Alexander's Empire (1992) 232.

23 See Burn, A. R., “Notes on Alexander's Campaigns 332–30JHS 72 (1952) 81–5 (Section 1. The Persian Counter-Offensive 333–2).

24 Bosworth, A. B., A Historical Commentary on Arrian's History of Alexander I (1980) 157.

25 Berve, H., Dae Alexanderreich auf prosopographischer Grundlage 1 (1925) no. 92 (Plut., , Mor. 180F, 760C).

26 Badian, E. in Ancient Society and Institutions. Studies presented to Victor Ehrenberg on his 75th birthday (1966) 42.

27 Tod, Marcus N., A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions II (1948) no. 196.

28 Pliny 6. (26) 97; Tscherikower, V., Die hellenistischen Städtgründungen von Alexander dem Grossen bis auf die Römer Zeit (= Philologus Suppl. xix.1; Leipzig 1927) 110.

29 Steph. Byz. .

30 BCH 20 (1896) 470–3; SIG 3 266.

31 Lanckoronski, Charles, Villes de la Pamphylie et de la Pisidie (Paris 1890) II 129–30. On the importance of the route Magie, D., Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950) 1138– n. 16.

32 Diod. 19. 69. 2.

33 Livy 38. 15.

34 Green, Peter, Alexander of Macedon 356–23 BC (1974) 209–10, 243.

35 Arr., Anab. 1. 28. 8.

36 Arr., Anab. 1. 24. 6.

37 Strab. 14. 3. 9; cf. Arr., Anab. 1. 24. 5.

38 Arr., Anab. 4. 24. 7.

1 I would like to thank R. H. J. Ashton and Dr. A. G. Keen for their useful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Nearchus the Cretan and the Foundation of Cretopolis1

  • Nicholas Victor Sekunda (a1)


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