Speri (region)

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Ancient Region of Anatolia
Location of Pamphylia
Roman-Persian Frontier, 5th century
LocationNortheastern Anatolia

Speri, also known as Sper (Armenian: Սպեր Sber or Sper, Georgian: სპერი Speri),[1][2][3] is a historical region now part of the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. It was centered in the upper reaches of the valley of the Çoruh River, its probable capital was the town of İspir, or Syspiritus as indicated on the map next to the Byzantine-Sassanid border, and it originally extended as far west as the town of Bayburt and the Bayburt plains.


Sper was a part of ancient confederation Hayasa-Azzi on lands of Armenian Highland, in 2nd millennium BC.[4]

The name Speri is thought by some to be derived from Saspers.[5] According to the most widespread theory, they are a Kartvelian tribe.[6][7][8][9] However, their origins have also been attributed to Scythian people.[10]



Ethnic map of the Caucasus in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. During that period Saspers inhabited the area between Çoruh, Kura, Aras and Euphrates rivers.

In 2nd millennium BC on lands of Sper was an ancient confederation Hayasa-Azzi who were the Armenians.[11][12][13][14][15]

Beyond the Persians, to the north, are the Medes; and next to them are the Saspires [Σάσπειρες]. Contiguous to these, and where the Phasis empties itself into the northern sea, are the Colchians.[16]

— Herodotus

Late antique Sper was part of Armenia and is probably the Syspiritis of classical authors.[17]Syspiritis is mentioned in Strabo's Geographica: one of two areas (the other being Acilisene) settled by followers of "Armenus of Armenium", the eponymous founder of the Armenian race. Strabo also mentions "mines of gold in the Hyspiratis".[18]


Spruner von Merz, Karl; Menke, Th. 1865. Albania, Iberia, Colchis, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Assyria (A).jpg

After the 380s partition of Armenia into Roman and Sasanian client states, Sper was one of nine districts forming the territory of the Armenian kingdom of Arshak III. Sper at that period was a principality, the ancestral domain of the Bagratuni clan. Their capital was the fortress of Smbatavan or Smbataberd, which may have been located either at Bayburt or Ispir. In the northern part of the principality was a territory lived in by non-Armenian people called Chalybes, whose name was preserved in the alternative Armenian name for the Sper valley: Khaghto Dzor (Chaldian Valley).[21] After Arshak's death, in 390 his kingdom was annexed by Rome and turned into a Roman province called Inner Armenia.

During the time of Justinian this province was incorporated into Armenia Magna ("Greater Armenia"). In the Geography of Anania Shirakatsi, a 7th-century text, Sper is listed as being part of Bardzr Hayk ("High Armenia" or "Upper Armenia"). Hewsen speculates that "Bardzr Hayk" may simply be a translation of the Roman/Byzantine name for the province.[22] The border between Byzantine-ruled and Sasanid Persian-ruled Armenia crossed the Choruh valley somewhere between İspir and Yusufeli.[23]

Sper was a Bagratid domain in the fourth to sixth centuries but at some point they lost direct control of Bayburt to the Byzantine empire, possibly soon after 387. Bayburt was refortified by the Byzantines in the period of Justinian and was eventually incorporated into its theme of Chaldia.[23]

Middle Ages[edit]

In 1203, Rukn ad-din Suleiman II of Rum decided to capture the southern shores of the Black Sea and rule over Asia minor. He invaded the Kingdom of Georgia with 400 000 Muslim warriors from the emirates and sultanates of Erzinca, Abulistan, Erzerum and Sham (Syria) and took control over several southern Georgian provinces including Speri. In the same year, by winning in the Battle of Basiani, Georgia managed to banish the Turks and liberate the region of Speri again.

During thirty one years the blessed Tamar, with the wisdom of Solomon, and the courage and care of Alexander, held her kingdom (firmly) in her hands, which stretched from the Pontic Sea to the sea of Gurgan, from Speri to Daruband, and all the lands on this side of the Caucasus Mountains, as well as Khazaria and Scythia on the other side. She became the heiress of what was promised in the nine Beatitudes.

In the 15th century Sper was controlled by the Ak Koyunlu confederation. In 1502, after the defeat and collapse of the confederation, its territory passed into the hands of Safavid Persia;[23] however, localised Ak Koyunlu rule continued in Sper until, taking advantage of the dissolution of the Ak Koyunlu state following the death of Yakub, it was taken by Mzechabuk, the Atabeg of Samtskhe. The name of Mzechabuk's lieutenant in charge of Ispir during all or part of this period is known thanks to a colophon added in 1512 to an Armenian manuscript that tells of the "principality over Sper of Baron Kitevan, from the Georgian nation". Mzechabuk pursued a policy of appeasement with the Ottoman Empire and surrendered Ispir fortress to Sultan Selim in October 1514.[24] The Ottoman Empire had taken all of Sper from Mzechabuk probably by 1515.[23]

Early modern history[edit]

In 1520 Sper became a kaza within the Ottoman Empire; in 1536 speri became a sanjak.[24] The Ispir valley was still almost completely Armenian Christian in the early 16th century: the Ottoman census recorded no Muslims.[23] Muslims would increase in later centuries and eventually become the majority.[citation needed]

In 1548, during the Ottoman–Safavid War (1532–55), the towns of Ispir and Bayburt were taken and destroyed by the Safavid Shah Tahmasp.[24]

During World War I, in 1916 the region was taken by Russians forces and retaken by the newly formed Turkish Republic in 1918.


  1. ^ "The Iberian Gates... As they are the Iberici vici of Byzantine-Greek and Latin sources, “The Iberian Gates, or, the Caucasian” led through Mount Uzundere (Mescit Mountains) into the Armenian border, to the south (Theodosiopolis, currently Erzurum)."[20]


  1. ^ E. Takaishvili. "Georgian chronology and the beginning of the Bagrationi rule in Georgia".- Georgica, v. I, London, 1935
  2. ^ Al. Manvelichvili. "Histoire de la Georgie", Paris, 1955
  3. ^ K. Salia. "History of the Georgian Nation", Paris, 1983
  4. ^ A History Of Georgia. Tbilisi: Artanuji Publ., 2014.
  5. ^ Donald Rayfield. Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia Reaktion Books, 2013 ISBN 978-1780230702 p 18
  6. ^ Grammenos, Dēmētrios; Petropoulos, Elias (2007). Ancient Greek colonies in the Black Sea 2, Volume 2. Archaeopress. pp. 1113–1114. ISBN 9781407301129.
  7. ^ Salia, Kalistrat (1980). Histoire de la nation géorgienne. pp. 30–41.
  8. ^ Reisner, Oliver; Nodia, Ghia (2009). Identity Studies, Vol 1. Ilia State University Press. p. 51.
  9. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander. Historical Dictionary Of Georgia. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2007.
  10. ^ Armenia as Xenophon saw it , Vahan M. Kurkjian, 1958
  11. ^ G. Kavtaradze. "The Ancient Country of Taokhians and the Beginnings of Georgian Statehood". "Language and Culture". N5-6, 2005.
  12. ^ И. Дьяконов «История Мидии», стр. 355, 1956

    Сатрапская династия Оронтов сидела при Ахеменидах в восточной Армении (в XVIII сатрапии, земле матиенов-хурритов, саспейров-иберов и алародиев-урартов; однако, как показывает само название, здесь жили уже и армении)…

  13. ^ И. Дьяконов «Закавказье и сопредельные страны в период эллинизма», глава XXIX из «История Востока: Т. 1. Восток в древности». Отв. ред. В. А. Якобсен. — М.: Вост. лит., 1997.
  14. ^ James R. Russell «Zoroastrianism in Armenia», chapter 2 «Armenia from the Median Conquest to the Rise of the Artaxiads». Harvard University Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, 1987.
  15. ^ Polym. 79
  16. ^ Melpom 37
  17. ^ Talbert, Richard J. A. (2000). Barrington atlas of the Greek and Roman world map-by-map directory. Princeton University Press. p. 1226. ISBN 0-691-04945-9.
  18. ^ Strabo, Geography 11.14.12
  19. ^ Toumanoff, p. 9
  20. ^ Patrizia Licini 2017, p. 136.
  21. ^ Robert H. Hewsen, Summit of the Earth, p35-37, in Armenian Karin / Erzurum Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) 2003.
  22. ^ Robert H. Hewsen, Summit of the Earth, p36, 41-42, in Armenian Karin / Erzurum Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.) 2003.
  23. ^ a b c d e Sinclair, T.A. (1989). Eastern Turkey: An Architectural & Archaeological Survey, Volume I. Pindar Press. pp. 265–266–267–281–283–289–290. ISBN 9780907132325.
  24. ^ a b c Hovann H. Simonian (ed.), The Hemshin - History, society and identity in the Highlands of Northeast Turkey, 2007, page 34.

Coordinates: 40°24′N 41°00′E / 40.4°N 41.0°E / 40.4; 41.0