Byzantine Countryside with its Villagers and Dynatoi: the Example of the Soğanlı Valley, Cappadocia
Hacettepe University, Faculty of Letters, Department of History of Art, Ankara/TÜRKİYE
Keywords: Cappadocia, the Soğanlı Valley, Byzantine village, the dynatoi, the family of Skepides.
The Soğanlı Valley is on the main route that connects Niğde and Kayseri. Its arable land, rock-cut dwellings that housed a large population and an openly parochial complex from the tenth century indicate that the settlement contained a Byzantine village. Its masonry church, a rare element from late antiquity, exemplifies the special status of the settlement in early Christianity and foreshadows its ongoing importance in the Middle Ages. The eleventh-century inscriptions are the indicators of the middle and high-ranking soldiers in the settlement. Apparently, Soğanlı was one of the settlements chosen for the military leaders of the century and became a piece of land held by them. The powerful (dynatoi) who settled near this crucial route must have been meant not only to control that route but also to maintain their economic welfare from the territory. Thus, Soğanlı had a twofold prominence as a Byzantine countryside: It was a part of the defence strategy the empire attempted to formulate in medieval Cappadocia; furthermore, it housed important archaeological, epigraphical and art historical data on the medieval period of the region with its monuments of various functions and inscriptions. Soğanlı and its ‘dynatoi’ endured within the new administrative system after Manzikert. The study aims to examine the ‘village’ identity of the settlement especially in the tenth century, and to analyse the activity and continuity of the powerful in Soğanlı and the empire. Within this aim, the study uses the military, historical, legislative texts of the period, and architectural and archaeological data from the valley.