(kăpӘdō'shӘ), ancient region of Asia Minor, watered by the Halys River (the modern Kizil Irmak), in present E central Turkey. The name was applied at different times to territories of varying size. At its greatest extent Cappadocia stretched from the Halys valley E to the Euphrates River, from the Black Sea S to the heights of the Taurus and Anti-Taurus ranges. Mostly a high plateau, it was famous for its mineral resources, particularly its copper and iron. Cappadocia maintained its local Asian traditions in contrast to the Mediterranean seacoast of Asia Minor, which was dominated by the Aegean culture.
Several thousand tablets, written in cuneiform by Assyrian colonists in Cappadocia, have been found at Kültepe (Kanesh); they show that a highly developed trade existed between Assyria and Asia Minor before 1800 B.C. At that time Cappadocia was the heart of an old Hittite state. Later the Persians controlled Cappadocia. It did not yield fully to the conquest of Alexander the Great, and during the 3d cent. B.C. it gradually developed as an independent kingdom. Pontus now became completely separated from Cappadocia. The kings had their capital at Mazaca (later Caesarea Mazaca); the only other important cities were Tyana and Melitene, though Iconium was at times in Cappadocia.
In the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. the Cappadocian dynasty maintained itself largely by siding with Rome. Invaded in 104 B.C. by Mithradates VI and c.90 B.C. by his son-in-law, Tigranes of Armenia, Cappadocia was restored by Pompey. Antony replaced the king, who had been disloyal to Rome in the Parthian invasion at the time of Julius Caesar, and in A.D. 17 Rome annexed the region as a province and Cappadocia became prosperous. It was a refuge for persecuted Christians in 2d cent. A.D., and several major saints came from there, including St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Kayseri.
Modern Cappadocia is famed for its unusual rock formations and caves. Deep valleys bordered by steep cliffs have formed out of rock and ash from prehistoric volcanic eruptions. Among the unusual formations are “fairy chimneys,” cones of volcanic tufa and ash that resemble hats perched on columns. Ancient peoples dug underground cities that date back to the 4th cent. B.C. or earlier, including Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu, S of Neyşehir, and a more recently discovered one at Neyşehir itself. Christian monks carved caves and churches out of the cliffs; notable examples are found at Göreme, in the center of the region 45 mi (72 km) W of Kayseri.