Komana Archaeological Research Project began in 2004 with the objective of identifying the location and urban fabric of the Classical site of Komana in central Black Sea region in Turkey, ancient Pontus. The site was a major cult center for the Kingdom of the Mithradatids during the Hellenistic Period and continued its independence through most of the Roman era. It was a sanctuary for the Anatolian goddess Ma, a trade center for the surrounding regions, and possibly a bank for the Kingdom. Its festivals, busy market, sacred prostitutes and fertile lands must have attracted people from all around Anatolia. The site was first identified by 19th century travellers and was located on a mound named Hamamtepe near river Iris (Yeşilırmak) 9 km northeast of modern city of Tokat.

The research project employed various methods of investigation including extensive survey during which sites within a few kilometer radius of the mound previously identified as Komana were recorded, pottery was collected in an unsystematic fashion, inscriptions were identified and geophysical prospection was conducted. With this web site the project aims at sharing the information collected during the fieldwork and make it available to a larger audience.


In inland Pontus there were two cities which functioned as temple-states. The larger of the two was a Cappadocian-type temple-domain for the mother goddess Ma (Wilson 1960, 228). The land around the sanctuary belonged to the temple, and was tilled by ca. 6,000 serfs (Strabo 12.3.34). The city was a very busy place with visitors from the surrounding area as well as from Armenia. During the festivals sacred prostitution was performed by women residing at Komana.

The worship and celebrations at Komana resembled those at the sanctuary of Ma in Cappadocia. Strabo, in fact, considered the temple to Ma a copy of the temple in Cappadocia (Strabo 12.3.32):

“..and nearly the same course of religious rites is practiced there; the mode of delivering the oracles is the same; the same respect is paid to the priests as was more particularly the case in the time of the first kings, when twice a year, at what is called the Exodi of the goddess (when her image is carried in procession), the priest wore the diadem of the goddess and received the chief honors after the king.”

The land that belonged to the temple domain expanded throughout its history: when Pompey made Komana a principality, he added two schoeni or 60 stades approximately two and a half miles in diameter (Magie 1950, 371; Wilson 1960, 229). Either Caesar or Antony gave another four schoeni of land to the priests of Komana. The new land must have been added to the east, south, and west, corresponding to the lands of Zelitis and Megalopolitis. The northern extent must have been limited, since the two large cities of Magnopolis and Neocaesareia were situated very close to Komana. Komana’s territory became as large as the civitates of the province under Octavian. When Komana was annexed to Pontus Galaticus in 34/35 (IGR III, 105; Waddington et al. 1904, 109), Magnopolitis may also have been added to Komana. According to Munro, the western side of Komana consisted of a temple-estate that was taken by the Pontic kings to surround their royal castle at Gaziura. The area finally became an imperial domain during the reign of Maurice Tiberius (A.D. 582-602). At some point between the Pontic kings and the emperor Maurice, this area functioned as an ager publicus (RGS Supp.Pap. III 1893, 736).

After the fall of the Pontic kingdom, following the flight of Mithradates VI, the temple state became a principality, and it was assigned to Archelaus by Pompey in the mid-first century B.C. (Wilson 1960, 228; App. Mithr. 115). Archelaus was succeeded by his son, who was subsequently removed by Caesar in 47 B.C. Lycomedes, a Bithynian of Cappadocian descent, was appointed to the priesthood of Komana (Bell.Alex. 66.3). Medeius, Cleon, and Dyteutus were appointed by Octavian in succession (Cass.Dio 51.2.3; Strabo 12.558; 12.574). The annexation of Komana corresponds to the death of the last of these priests.

By this time the priests had lost some of their power, although the temple remained active. The city became known as both Hierocaesareia and Komana by the reign of Titus, and possibly even earlier (IGR III 105, 106). Christianity quickened the decline of the temple at Komana. The surrounding land was assigned to Daximon, a smaller but more centrally located town in the plain of Daximonitis.

Representation of Ma on coins already began during the reign of Caligula. Coins of Caracalla and Septimius Severus, and later of Trajan, are our only clues regarding the appearance of her temple (Fig.1). The coins suggest that it was a tetrastyle temple, and the eight grey columns built in the Ali Paşa Mosque in Tokat may once have belonged to it (Waddington et al. 1904, 109). The columns and their capitals used in the construction of two other mosques in central Tokat, Ulu Mosque and Garipler Mosque, could have come from Komana as well.*

The site of the temple-state is a large, high hill overlooking fertile plains on all sides at Gömenek (10km northeast of Tokat) (Procop. Pers. I .17.14). On the side of this hill there are scanty remains of walls (IGR III 105-107). These walls are made of small unshaped stones, resembling the inner fill of a thicker wall, and they could have formed part of the foundations for the temenos walls. On the surface of the hill are weathered pieces of ceramics and tiles. A bridge, now destroyed, that connected the temple site with the other bank of the Iris was rediscovered in the modern water regulator construction during the 2004 survey. The surrounding agriculturally rich land was undoubtedly connected to the economy of the temple-state (Strabo 12.3.34). The construction of the modern irrigation channel and the more recent road on the side of the hill played a significant role in the destruction of the site.

The information on this web site is for personal or educational use only and publication, reproduction and re-distribution is prohibited without the permission of the authors.

* This information was kindly provided by Mr.Hasan Erdem.

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