Sevasteia (Trk: Sivas) which in earlier years was referred to as Souvaz is an ancient Pontic town and now seat of a prefecture in modern Turkey. The town was built at the foot of Mount Paryadris (Trk: Merekun) 2km from River Ali/Halys (Trk: Kizil Irmak). The town is an important communal link for Turkey. Close to the town is the road that links the northern regions of Asia Minor with Caesaria as well as the road that leads to Baghdad. There are 3 bridges in the region which pass over the Kizil Irmak, one of which was built during the Roman era on which leads to Tokat, while the other two are for roads leading to Caesarea and Baghdad.
Before the Exchange (1923) it consisted of 43,000 residents, 1500 of whom were Greek, and 9,100 were Armenian. After the Exchange, in 1927, the population reduced to 29,700. According to S.Ioannidis around the middle of the 19th century the population of the town was 17,000 the majority of which were Muslim and of Turkic origin.
It is believed that modern Sevasteia is not located at the site of ancient Sevasteia. A number of archaeologists believe ancient Sevasteia is located 8km from today's town, at a village named Gavras (Grk: Γαβράς) which is close to the Kizil Irmak.
According to many researchers ancient Sevasteia was called Kavyra (Grk: Κάβειρα). Oeconomidis identifies Neocaesarea as being close to Kavyra. Later Pompey renamed it Diospolis (Grk: Διόσπολη) and Marcus Antonius passed it over to the son of Pharnakes and grandson of Mithradates VI. Later it came under the rule of Polemon and following his death his widow Pythodora renamed it Sevasti to honour August which the Greeks referred to as Sevasto.
In close proximity to today's Sevasteia is the Lake of Sevasteia where the 40 martyrs were killed. S Ioannidis who visited the region in the mid 19th century mentioned that the lake had all but dried up.
Following the Persian Wars Justinian paid extra attention to the town and built walls around it while during the years of Procopius a large fortress was built in the centre of the town. In the 11th century the Armenian king Synecherin swapped the district Baspurakan in his own country, with Sevasteia which thus became the capital of Armenia Minor. The town was later ruled by the Seljuks, Ottoman Sultan Beyazit I (1397) and Tamerlane (1400). Tamerlane had ordered his cavalry to trample over 4000 children of the town following his retreat from the town and subsequent handing back to the Ottomans.
Sevasteia has many buildings and monuments including an Armenian Monastery (Holy Cross) which is believed to have been built by the Apostle Thadaio and the Gok Medrese which was built by the Greek Kalogiannis of Konya/Iconium (c. 1272).
According to S. Ioannidis close to the town there were well known salt works as well as mines. Wheat, legumes and fruit were also in abundance in the region. Before the Exchange (1923) the Greeks had a church (St George) which was formerly an Armenian church, as well as a primary school.
When the Greeks of the Pontus were being exterminated by the Neo Turks starting in 1916, Sivas was the destination for those who were being ‘resettled', or in effect being sent on death marches.1 During the same period, In September of 1919, the Sivas Congress took place. The call for the congress was made by Mustapha Kemal three months earlier. It was at the Sivas Congress that vital decisions were made which determined future policy in the War of Independence.
On the 2nd of July 1993, 37 people, mostly Alevi, were massacred in what is now known as the Sivas massacres. The victims, who had been gathered at a cultural festival were massacred when a group of radical Islamists set fire to a hotel where the Alevi group had been gathered.
The Encyclopaedia of Pontian Hellenism. Malliaris Paedia.
1. The Young Turks' Crime against Humanity. Taner Akcam. p107