From 25 B.C. to 235 A.D., five Roman provinces are established in Anatolia: Asia, Bithynia, Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia. During this period, numerous roads are built linking the highland cities to the Anatolian coast. Primarily designed for military use, they become important communication and trade routes. By the mid-third century, the expanding power of the Sasanian empire to the east, along with rebellious dynasts in the desert city of Palmyra to the south, threaten the collapse of the empire’s frontiers. In response, fortifications are hastily built around major cities. During the fourth and fifth centuries, urban life prospers with a revival of classical forms in literature and the arts, especially sculpture. Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman empire in the fourth century, and churches and other ecclesiastical buildings are rapidly built.
At the height of its power, the Roman empire controls Anatolia from the western coast to the Euphrates River, an area divided into five Roman provinces. The Roman cities of Anatolia, with their fertile farmland and extensive trade networks, become the richest in the empire. A vast road system marked by milestones and many new bridges is in place by the end of the first century A.D. throughout Anatolia and remains in good repair for about 300 years.
Christianity transforms the vocabulary of artistic expression, including new subjects for representation and new media such as church architecture. In the first century, Saint Paul introduces Christianity into Anatolia, where it becomes a recognized religion in the early fourth century. Armenia is a Christian state by 314 A.D. and Georgia converts in the late 330s A.D. Christianity is recognized as the official religion of the imperial territories in 380 A.D.
The political situation in the area of the Southern Caucasus is in a state of flux for several centuries as the Roman and then Byzantine empires fight with the Parthian and Sasanian empires for control of the Near East. Independent states exist intermittently in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
An earthquake levels twelve cities in western Anatolia, including Sardis. The rebuilding of these cities under the direction of the Roman emperor Tiberius results in their transformation from Greek or Hellenistic to Roman plans, including Roman architectural forms such as the hippodrome and the monumental arch, as well as long, broad main streets. Roman architecture and city planning are not restricted to these rebuilt cities, but are introduced in many other cities in Anatolia and the Southern Caucasus, as well as elsewhere in the empire.
Catacomb burials may be those of the Alans, a tribal group new to the Caucasus. The burials contain ceramics similar to those of the urban centers to the south, as well as iron weapons. Bronze belt plaques covered with gold are decorated with stylized snakes, birds, and human figures.
The emperor Constantine moves the capital of the Roman empire to the site of Byzantium, which is now referred to as Constantinople or New Rome.
Upon the death of the emperor Theodosius, the empire is formally split in half. The Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, becomes the Byzantine empire.
The Georgian and Armenian alphabets are created, initially for ecclesiastical use.
“Asia Minor (Anatolia and the Caucasus), 1–500 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=05®ion=waa (October 2000)