Axylon (MAMA XI 201-221)

The 21 monuments published here all derive from the treeless steppe between Amorion in the west, Laodikeia in the south, and Kinna in the north; all were recorded by William Calder and Michael Ballance in the summer of 1954.1 A vivid description of the geography of the region is provided by J. G. C. Anderson, who crossed over the shallow ridge of hills separating the plain of Akşehir (Philomelion) from the village of Turgut (ancient Klaneos) in the summer of 1898. ‘In the dim light of evening it looks a promising country, but when the traveller begins to wander over it, he meets with an unpleasant surprise. He finds it is sparsely inhabited: the villages are few and far between: the soil is dry, sandy and bare, and the patches of cultivated land which he sees here and there yield but a poor increase. Then he realises that he is already on the edge of that great barren, treeless waste which fills the centre of the peninsula and has from all time merited the name of Axylos. The character of this vast tract of country is very inadequately described by such vague expressions as “Salt Desert”, “Great Salt Plains”, and so forth. Few parts of it are absolutely desert, for villages are to be found all over it at intervals, where any fair water supply is available; and except on the south and south-east the proportion of level plain is by no means above the average. On the contrary, the landscape is ever varied by gently undulating ground, rolling country, hill, and mountain; but all alas! are equally bare, equally dreary and forbidding.’2

One of the few fixed points in the ancient topography of this bleak plain is the late Roman village of Gdanmaa, securely located at or near the modern village of Çeşmelisebil. More than fifty inscriptions, most of them Christian, have previously been recorded at Çeşmelisebil and the neighbouring village of Kuyulusebil, 4km to the north-west; eight further monuments are published here, seven of them for the first time (MAMA XI 201-208).3 These are followed by three monuments from the village of Azak (now Hodoğlu), 14km south-east of Çeşmelisebil, which seems to have been the site of an ancient village, perhaps Pegella (MAMA XI 209-211).4

The village of Zengen (now Özkent) lies a little over 20km due south of Çeşmelisebil, roughly halfway between Gdanmaa and Laodikeia (Ladık). Including the three inscriptions published here (MAMA XI 212-214), 33 inscriptions are known from the village, rendering it certain that this was the site of a settlement in the Roman and Late Roman periods.5 No name can be assigned to the site with certainty.6 The villages of Sülüklü and Zaferiye (MAMA XI 215-216) both lie to the north of Çeşmelisebil, on the territory of the small ancient town of Vetissos (exact location uncertain), the site of the largest doorstone-workshop in north-east Phrygia.7

The remaining five texts in this section derive from the villages of Yunak, Aşağı Küçükhasan, Yukarı Küçükhasan, and Yukarıaliçomak (MAMA XI 217-221), all in the far west of the Axylon. Yunak is the southernmost of these villages, lying on the east slopes of Bayatkolu, overlooking the small Eşme ova, site of the ancient village of Selmea (Kuzören).8 When Anderson visited in 1898, Yunak was a Kurdish village, almost entirely depopulated in summer in favour of a highland yayla. The single stone copied at Yunak by Calder in 1954 (MAMA XI 217), like the four inscriptions copied here by Anderson, ought probably to be assigned to Selmea.9

The villages of Küçükhasan and Yukarıaliçomak both lie in the plain of Çeltik, in the easternmost part of the territory of Amorion (Hisar); Aşağı Küçükhasan is situated on the western shore of the small lake Akgöl. Two further monuments were copied at Küçükhasan by Anderson in 1898, both said to come from a site called Kale, fifty minutes SSW of the village on the north slope of Seyfiören Dagı.10 The most important ancient site in this region was situated at the village of Aşağı Piribeyli, 10km south-west of Yukarıaliçomak. Aşağı Piribeyli, the site of a major doorstone-workshop, was identified with the late Roman bishopric of Pissia by Ramsay, Anderson and Calder; Ballance seems to have been the first to see that Pissia had to be located much further south, at the village of Bisse (now Çamlı) near Philomelion/Akşehir.11

List of monuments from the Axylon


1. Livy 38.18.4; Strabo 12.6.1; Wenzel 1937; Mitchell 1993: I 143-7.

2. Anderson 1897-8: 59.

3. TIB Galatien 166, s.v. Gdanmaa; Waelkens 1986: 251. Inscriptions: Anderson 1899: 281-8, nos. 167-86; A. M. Ramsay 1906: nos. 36, 41-2, 50; MAMA I 339-71; MAMA VII 544-70. The eight monuments published here are those referred to in the introduction to MAMA VII, p. xxiii.

4. TIB Galatien 212, s.v. Pegella. The three monuments published here are referred to in MAMA VII, p. xxiii (with a list of other inscriptions from the village).

5. TIB Galatien 244, s.v. Zengen. Inscriptions: MAMA I 372-83; MAMA VII 571-85; Calder 1910: 237-8, no.6; CIL III 13639, with the comments of Laminger-Pascher 1984: 102, no. 166. The three monuments published here were all transcribed by Calder in the introduction to MAMA VII, pp. xxvi-xxvii.

6. In 1910, Calder read the first two lines of an inscription from Zengen as [Ἰού]λιος πρεσβ(ύτερος) υἱὸς Εὐγενίου Συφιτη(νοῦ), and suggested that this might be the ethnic of the village (Calder 1910: 237-8). He withdrew this idea in 1956 (MAMA VII, p. xxvi) in favour of the notion that the relevant letters were a mason’s error. The proposal of Laminger-Pascher 1984: 102, no. 164, that Συφιτη might represent the Arabic name Suwait, has little to recommend it.

7. MAMA VII, pp. xxi-xxv, and nos. 311-62; Robert, Hellenica XIII, 252-4, 264; TIB Galatien 242, s.v. Vetisso; Waelkens 1986: 230-40, nos. 592-617; Mitchell 1993: I 155.

8. TIB Galatien 223, s.v. Selmea. Inscriptions: Anderson 1899: 298-302, nos. 220-36; MAMA VII 243-56.

9. Yunak: Anderson 1897/8: 60; Anderson 1899: 301, nos. 229-32; Waelkens 1986: 221.

10. Anderson 1899: 303, nos. 237-8; cf. Anderson 1897/8: 61.

11. Doorstones: Waelkens 1986: 216-20, nos. 551-66. Identification with Pissia: Ramsay 1890: 232-3; Anderson 1899: 306; Calder, MAMA VII, pp. xx-xxi. Pissia at Bisse: TIB Galatien 134, s.v. Aşağı Piribeyli, followed by Brixhe and Drew-Bear 1997: 105-10.