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Ruins from the Kingdom of Tuwana

The Ancient Kingdom of Tuwana: A Bridge that Aided the Flow of Culture


Tuwana (spelled also as Tyana) is an ancient city that existed since the time of the Hittite Empire. This city is now known as Kemerhisar, and is located in what is today the Niğde Province, Central Anatolia, Turkey. Tuwana was one of the principal cities during the Hittite period. Moreover, following the fall of the Hittite Empire, Tuwana became the capital of an independent Neo-Hittite / Syro-Hittite kingdom. Much later, Tuwana would become a Greek city, and then part of the Roman Empire.

Tyana, city center.

Tyana, city center. Photo source: (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The Rise of Tuwana

Tuwana is almost certainly the city referred to in Hittite archives as Tuwanuwa. According to a much later source, Arrian’s Periplus Ponti Euxini, the city must have first been called Thoana, and was founded by a Thracian king.

Since ancient times, this was an important city due to its strategic location. It was located on a fertile plain, which meant that it had the potential to become a wealthy town through agriculture. More importantly, it also controlled the route from central Anatolia to the Cilician Gates, through the Taurus Mountains, to the Mediterranean. As Tuwana controlled the Cilician Gates, which was the passageway between the East and the West / between Europe and Asia, it was able to develop not only economically, but also culturally and politically.

The Hittite Empire, approximate extent of the maximum area of the Hittite rule (light green) and the Hittite rule ca. 1350-1300 BC

The Hittite Empire, approximate extent of the maximum area of the Hittite rule (light green) and the Hittite rule ca. 1350-1300 BC (green line) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Two Kings of Tuwana

At some point of time during the first half of the 1st millennium BC, Tuwana was a small buffer state between two superpowers, the Phrygians to the west, and the Assyrians to the east. According to an Assyrian source, the king of Tuwana (a man by the name of Ušhitti) paid tribute to the Assyrian king, Tiglath Pileser III, in an unknown year between 745 BC and 737 BC.

King Warpalas (right) and the god Tarhunza

King Warpalas (right) and the god Tarhunza (left) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Another king of Tuwana who is known to modern scholars is Warpalas. In a famous rock relief found near Ivriz, dated to the 8th century BC, Warpalas is depicted as praying to the storm god Tarhunza, who is shown as a giant. A similar relief was also found at Bor, though this is an image of only the king.

Warpalas also was important for the role that Tuwana played as the bridge between East and West. When the Phrygians, who were ruled by a king by the name of Mit-ta-a (some have identified this king with the legendary Midas) intended to negotiate with the Assyrian ruler, Sargon II, they had to cross territory controlled by Tuwana. It was Warpalas who accompanied the Phrygian envoy across the Taurus Mountains to the Assyrian governor of Cilicia.

Aiding the Flow of Culture

In addition to the flow of trade and envoys between East and West, Tuwana also facilitated the flow of culture. Initially, the kingdom had used a hieroglyphic language called Luwian for communication purposes. It is believed that Tuwana later adopted the Phoenician alphabet as its script. This may be seen in three stelae from the Iron Age which were discovered at the site a few years ago. Although these stelae are not very well preserved, they appear to attest to the cultural importance of this site. It has even been speculated that the Phoenician alphabet arrived in Greece via Tuwana.

Bor, Relief of king Warpalas, inscription

Bor, Relief of king Warpalas, inscription (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Disappearance of Tuwana

Unfortunately, Tuwana disappeared from the historical records for some time, and only re-emerged as a city in the Achaemenid satrapy of Katpatuka (Cappadocia). Tuwana would then become a Hellenized city when the Achaemenid Empire fell to Alexander the Great. Following the death of the Macedonian king, Tuwana would first be part of Antigonus the One-Eyed’s kingdom, before falling to the Seleucids after the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC.

The city then became part of Cappadocia, and was renamed Eusebeia near the Taurus, in honor of the Cappadocian king, Ariarathes IV Eusebes. The city would eventually become part of the Roman Empire, who also left their mark. One of the most prominent monuments left behind by the Romans at Tuwana is the city’s aqueduct.

The Roman aqueduct of Tyana

The Roman aqueduct of Tyana (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Although more is known about Tuwana’s later history, i.e. from the Roman period onwards, much less is known about Tuwana during the Hittite and Neo-Hittite / Syro-Hittite periods. However, this is changing as archaeological excavations are now being carried out at the site. It is likely that more information about this forgotten kingdom will come to light in the future.

Featured image: Ruins from the Kingdom of Tuwana. Credit: Jens Helmstedt

By Ḏḥwty


Harper, R. P., 1976. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites: Tyana (Kemerhisan/Bahçeli, Bor, Niğde) Cappadocia, Turkey. [Online]
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Vailhé, S., 1912. Tyana. [Online]
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Wisniewski, J., 2013. 10 Forgotten Ancient Civilizations. [Online]
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Pete Wagner's picture

When you compare the ruins on either side of the Atlantic, particularly the stone-carved reliefs, such as this from above

...and this from Mexico

You note the differences in material condition due to weathering.  The Mexican reliefs show much less weathering and damage, which suggests that they were made more recently.  But the Mayan people had NO culture for stone-carving at the time the Europeans arrived, only myths about the so-called culture of gods who came before them, who the quarrying and all the stoneworks were attributed to.  So the age of the Mexican carvings would have to be AT LEAST let's say a thousands years old.  Then comparing the Mexican reliefs to those across the Atlantic, we have to say the latter have to be MUCH OLDER.  Almost certainly pre-Ice Age.

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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