Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wonderful Patara! - Lycian Coast 12

The minibus drops us at the foot of the aqueduct further inland. My vision of an aqueduct is the typical Roman concept of arched vaults spanning the entire valley, connecting one side to the other, but this one surprisingly looks more like a dam. Our path runs alongside a sophisticated water channel cutting like a stone trough in the hillside and a little further on we see the petrified silt still sticking to the inner walls. We then reach the level where the aqueduct crosses the valley atop of a solid stone wall that from a distance looks like a barrage. At the top of the wall, the square mass produced stone blocks line up like soldiers in a close row. In the center of these blocks measuring 90 x 90 cm runs a round pipe with on one end a male connection and a female on the other, so the blocks simply click together. Every five blocks or so there is a plug for maintenance access and at regular intervals the male connection has a higher ridge, so the entire block can be wiggled out of the row in case of a severe clogging. All in all, it is an amazing construction and I have never seen anything like it! It was built under Emperor Nero around 50 AD and according to the inscription on this wall, it has been repaired under Vespasian, some 12 years later.
As we walk around to the foot of this dam, I can now see two small gateways held in place by enormous lintels above them that served as passages for cattle or people. Proceeding further in the direction of Patara, we keep crossing the winding aqueduct time and again. Part of our path actually runs right through the water channel, which over the years has lost its top slabs as they made good reusable building material. We don’t walk the entire length of 21 kilometers – thank God! – but we are able to trace the course of this marvelous construction through the landscape. Very interesting, I must say.

After a couple of hours of treading over these old paths and passages, the grand city of Patara lays at our feet with the unmistakable theater in the middle of the picture. What a view! In the foreground stands a rather narrow arch, 10 meters high and 19 meters long, built in such a way that it aligns with the aqueduct, leading its water further to the fountains and Nympheums in town. It was actually constructed around 100 AD to honor the first governor general of Lycia and Pamphylia, administrator of Patara, C. Trebonius Proculus Mettius Modestus. The niches and pedestals that once held statues are empty now but clearly give a certain grandeur to this imposing three-arched construction that surprisingly enough shows the same design on both sides.

On the higher elevation to the west, beyond the swamps at our feet, recent excavations have revealed a large round tower-like building This is what is left of an almost 2,000 years old lighthouse. It is believed to be sixty years older than the one found in Spain which was known as being the oldest in the world and was built around 60 A.D. Originally the Patara lighthouse must have stood approximately 16-20 meters high.
At the foot of the mountain, we just came down an ancient road leads out of Patara, flanked by sarcophagi for the Patarans – like the Via Appia in Rome, no less. The sun is setting quickly now, putting Mettius Modestus’ Arch on fire and wrapping the lonely Lycian sarcophagus uphill in a golden shred.

To make the most of the fast dwindling light, our bus drops us at the southern end of Patara that was, and in some parts still is buried under the sand. The theater for one has been only recently dug out, much to Peter’s surprise and disappointment. He always felt it very rewarding when climbing the sand dunes to suddenly find himself in the middle of the theater. That enchantment is gone now but instead of sand we see shiny white stones as if the theater were built just yesterday. It is of Hellenistic origin with most of the two floored skene and the five doors opening to the proscenium still in place. Around the orchestra the seats have been removed to make place for a stone wall, meaning that the theater was converted into an arena where wild animals’ fights could be held. The VIP seats have obviously been removed and found a new place on the ambulatorium.

It is nearly dark by now and we can just decipher the inscription on the side wall, beside the parodos, reading that the theater was built with the contributions of the people of Patara. Other inscriptions mention that the theater was rebuilt at the beginning of the 1st century AD and that it needed repair after the earthquake of 141 AD. A long annotation indicates that the proscenium was constructed by a certain Velio Titionus and that his daughter, Velia Prouila, provided funds for the statues and the decorations "in honor of the gods of Augustus and in honor of the gods of Patara city and in honor of Emperor Antoninus Pius in the year 147 AD". It makes me wonder, how emancipated Roman women actually were?
Across from this theater stands a most impressive building, also very recently resuscitated from the sands. This is the Lycian Counsel – of all places! The access is barred with iron gates but one can easily recognize the Odeon-shaped seating inside flanked by two sturdy entrances under high vaulted ceilings. The floor is probably covered with mosaics but I cannot see them from outside. I am very much excited to see this important Counsel for this is where delegates from all over Lycia came together to vote on important matters. Since the League itself is so much older than the clearly Roman entrance indicates, I wonder if maybe the central part, i.e. the Odeon-shaped construction, dates from Lycian times (2nd century BC) and has been framed in a Roman concept later on – unless it is standing on old Lycian foundations? I am curious what future excavations will reveal.

Peter mentions that the famous Temple of Apollo has not been located yet. Its oracle, it is said, would rival only with that of Delphi and the Temple itself equaled the reputation of the famous temple of Delos. It was believed that Apollo lived at Delos during the summer but spent his winters at Patara.

Turkish archeologists are actively digging here right now, so who knows what they’ll come up with? Our visit is only superficial, just enough to put Patara on the map, but I am determined to come back one day and investigate this important site in detail. By now darkness has set in with a crescent moon looking down on all these centuries past. For us, it is time to drive back to our gulet.

Our poet has once again written a poem about this unique city:

P A T A R A  -  a sonnet

The city gate still stands. The aqueduct,
A seam of rubble stitched across the hill.
Goats browse inside the tumbled bathhouse walls.
No splash of water now. No voices heard
Along the marbled street. The theater plays
A scene of drifting sand. The harbor walls
Confront a silted bay. No sailors’ shouts,
No clank of anchor chains, no travelers’ tales.

Above the buried stones a woman calls
Her cows for milking. Low across the marsh
Two herons fly. A mellow sunset breeze
Rustles the reeds. Listen. Perhaps you hear,
Among the scattered, vaulted, empty tombs,
The dry whisper of Lycian ghosts.

John Onley - May 2005
 
Tonight the crew has the evening off and we are dining out for a change. Peter made reservations at Restaurant Belgin, in uptown Kalkan. We are seated in elegant Ottoman style outside on the roof among richly decorated cushions and colorful canopies and flowers. I find it difficult to fit my legs under the low table and the only way to do so is by taking my shoes off. It is a most lovely spot but, unfortunately, we are getting colder by the minute and after the mezes, we move downstairs around a square table under high wooden ceilings. The food is delicious but we all agree that Fatuşa’s cooking still wins the prize! We are all enjoying ourselves very much and time flies; it is midnight when we return to our bunks.
Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read the full story

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sheltering for the storm like in antiquity - Lycian Coast 11

I hear the motor being started, it is 6.30 a.m. Our captain must have decided to leave early for a safe crossing to Kalkan. It feels cozy to stay in bed but the door of my cabinet is slamming back and forth, so I have to get up after all. The only way to wash up and to get dressed is by sitting down for the boat jumps around like a kitten. It’s fun for a change and I manage. I sit down at the table in the galley with a few other early birds. The sky is clear and the dark blue sea very choppy as the waves splash against the portholes and we soon come within sight of Kalkan harbor.


The entrance is very narrow and a bit tricky if you ask me, but as I said before, we have full confidence in our captain. It turns out to be quite an affair to moor our boat backward in the crowded and odd shaped harbor and somehow the anchor chain gets entangled with that of another gulet opposite ours. We have to move forward and backward a few times to untwine our anchor chain. Easier said than done. All the vessels around us come alive and watch closely, the occupants shout and gesticulate, all are afraid to be rammed. All hands on deck! Everybody is in a high state of alert. Some official from Kalkan harbor rattles his directions and comments in rolling Turkish. Our crew and even Peter run back and forth, pushing and pulling the other boats to avoid collision. It is the event of the day, all harbor activity is put on hold for a while. Our Mehmet is very tense; the crew utterly silent acting immediately on the captain’s slightest command. We, the guests, try to stay out of the way and look on in respectful silence. Finally, our gulet is properly anchored at the jetty and order is restored. Our friendly captain is most upset and angry with himself: in his entire career this has never happened! He disappears to his quarters below, his pride is hurt - understandably. As a result of this eventful morning, our breakfast is served much later than usual.

The weather forecast for today is ideal, dry and windy, so the plan is to move our entire program one day forward. Today we will be walking along the Patara aqueduct (that should take about 3 hours) with afterward a stop at the antique site of Patara for a global visit. To fit all this in a practical time frame, we will start right after an early lunch.

Till then we are free to stretch our legs in Kalkan and I take a closer look at the beautiful houses in Ottoman style with wooden balconies and upper floors among the purple and white bougainvillea. They make beautiful pictures in the narrow steep streets and against the blue sky! I stop for my Turkish coffee at one of the waterfront places and then return to the gulet to prepare for my walk. I’m curious how my foot will do today!

Patara, the capital of Lycia, lies in the very heart of the Xanthos Valley close to the sea. In antiquity, Patara was a prosperous harbor town, silting up slowly till it died some time between 500 and 1000 AD. Today’s swampy estuary is enhanced with beautiful sand dunes near the seashore. It is here that one can see the famous milestone listing the distances to all the cities in Lycia that probably stood in the very center of Patara.

Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read the full story

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An unexpected visit to Antiphellos - Lycian Coast 10

After lunch on board and a short break, Peter takes us to explore old Kaş or Antiphellos as it was called in antiquity. Antiphellos was the harbor for the town of Phellos, further inland that lived mainly from agriculture. To ship out their produce they needed Antiphellos (no roads remember?), but the location was a haven for ships from as early as 2000 BC.

It is clear that Antiphellos was invaded by the Persians in the middle of the 6th century BC, but that did not stop its trading business and the city even prospered in the 5th and early 4th century BC. Antiphellos was represented with one vote at the Lycian League and was known to mint its own coins. Since the Lycian writing has not been entirely deciphered yet, there are still many gaps in the history of Lycia waiting to be filled.

We head to the left on a road that runs more or less parallel to the seashore and discover the remains of a solid wall. In fact, this is the temenos of a Hellenistic Temple with walls of bulged stones as has become fashionable after Alexander’s time. Nothing much is known about this temple but then no serious excavations have been carried out either.

The walk continues uphill, a little more inland and another wall appears to my right, i.e. the sidewall of a beautifully preserved theater with 26 rows still in place and used by the locals for their wrestling contests and other happenings. This is definitely a Hellenistic construction and offers a sweeping view over Kaş and the surrounding islands. The center has been filled with earth and gravel to recreate a podium for today’s performances, but all traces of the skene are gone. It may never have been built or it may have disappeared after the severe earthquakes that hit Lycia since we know that Antiphellos was one of the cities that received donations from our friend Opramoas of Rhodiapolis. As always, the theater is a beautiful spot to linger for a moment.

As the top row seats meet the level of the land behind it, we walk that way, passing a few hardly recognizable remains of sarcophagi as the materials have been taken elsewhere for reuse. But the big rock-tomb we see next has been cut out of the solid bedrock and, luckily for us, could not be taken apart. The triglyphs have fallen down but the guttae give an indication of where they once belonged. Stepping inside over the ridge of the sliding door, I find the floor and walls rather rough in comparison to the smooth finish outside, but then the space has been used over the centuries – just look at the black smoked ceiling! Right, the same problem was encountered in Petra where they had to force the locals out as recently as the 1990’s! Peter pulls out his flashlight and surprising details now appear. This was a tomb for six persons and the edges of two of the benches are delicately decorated with floral motives while the wall opposite to the entrance shows a band filled with dancing girls moving around in fluffy dresses. This tomb too should be dated to the 5th-4th century BC. Gee, how wonderful! Imagine walking here, in the middle of nowhere and suddenly coming across such an exceptional burial place!

We stroll back to Kaş, arriving at the Lycian sarcophagus on the main street that I saw this morning. That sums up what is left of Antiphellos. Maybe some day, someone will further investigate this area.

In fact, we were supposed to walk to the lost city of Phellos today, the longest walk on our program, but with the storm hovering above us, it did not sound a good idea. Nobody wanted to slip on the wet bedrock or to be soaked by a sudden downpour even if we have to miss the stunning views. It’s a pity, but our safety comes first, of course.

Before supper, we set out for a drink. Peter recommended an old cistern in the basement of a flashy bar nearby. It is amazing to see how the water is still in there and how old columns support the bar floor above, but the place smells musty and closed-up, not very inviting, and we opt for the town square instead. Dinner is served on board at 8 p.m. We feel safe at our anchor place in Kaş harbor and our many neighbors are very quiet. I sleep tight, only to awaken from time to time by the wind whistling and howling in the rigging. Poor fellows who are still out at sea tonight!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The flooded remains Kekova Island and Uluburun - Lycian Coast 9

Breakfast at 8.30 a.m. The captain checks the weather forecast and we are in for more wind in the afternoon and definitely for rain earlier in the day. This means that we can forget about today’s walk to Kyaenai, one of the most remarkable Lycian towns. Sad, and very disappointing. Imagine, now that I can walk again, the walk is canceled! Besides, how will I ever manage to see Kyaenai? Well, there is nothing I can do about it. We should have made a better offering to the weather gods, I suppose?

The captain is however very obliging and takes the Almira close under the north side of Kekova Island, where no diving or swimming is allowed and where we can plainly see the Byzantine remains at close range. The city dates back to the 5th century AD, when pilgrims stopped here on their way to the Holy Land. The seashore buildings are now partially under water, some of them have entirely collapsed, others are still standing ashore showing their proud remains. It is interesting to see the square holes in the walls where wooden beams held up the roof, one of the many cisterns, a staircase disappearing under water or a sewage run-off dropping vertically into the sea. Sometimes the contours of a house are outlined on the rock wall. By 655 or so the city was raided and destroyed by the Arabs crusading in the name of Mohamed. It has been left behind just as we find it today, except that the northern side of Kekova is now slowly tilting downwards under sea level.

From here we venture to open seas and the waves gain in height and turn shallow. It feels like a rodeo ride by now and it is not wise to walk on deck without grabbing a hold. Then comes the rain! A true downpour. The full gale hits us as we all scramble to the galley. This is no joke for many a seafarer has lost his life in these waters. We gather around the table below watching the water rushing over the windows and feeling the wind pushing and pulling our gulet. As much as possible the captain keeps her head in the wind, but this is hard work.

The story of the oldest shipwreck ever found in these waters near Uluburun comes to my mind. When I was in Bodrum this spring Peter took us to the museum to admire the relics and treasures of this ship that went down in a storm in 1350 BC.

Sitting cozily together in the galley, Peter (see: Peter Sommer Travels) relates the story again to our eager group. For me this is an opportunity to jot down the facts and figures I heard a few months ago. The wreck was found at a depth of 30 meters and it took the expert divers 22,430 dives to bring the entire cargo to the surface as they could only stay down for 20 minutes at the time. The archeologists figured out that the ship was on her way from Egypt to the Black Sea, loaded with her precious cargo: 234 copper ingots of 10 ton each from Cyprus; tin ingots to make bronze (copper + tin) from Persia; a gold scarab of Nefertiti; golden pendants; the oldest book in the world, i.e. two wooden flaps coated with wax and tied together; lapis lazuli from Afghanistan; amphorae and pots for olive oil and wine; weapons, a bronze dagger, a trident; ivory and ebony from Syria; 175 glass ingots mixed with cobalt and turquoise for coloring also from Syria; 11 stone anchors; a silver bracelet; gold and silver jewelry scraps for melting; amber from the Baltic Sea; oil lamps; ostrich eggs from Africa; ropes and twines; a sound box for a lute made of tortoise shell; weights for scales, etc. In my mind, I am back in the museum and vision the pieces mentally. Imagine the cargo of just one ship! How many more ships were sailing these seas? How many went down? How many anchored in these harbors, loading and unloading their precious cargo, exchanging goods and the latest news? It is very difficult to picture how lively these harbors were in antiquity!

At last we reach Kaş and the captain knows how to maneuver his gulet between the welcoming arms of the jetties. All ends well. Loud applause for the captain and the crew! Hoorah! Now that the gangway is lowered, we can go ashore as we please. It is still raining and I enjoy a cup of Turkish coffee waiting for the weather to clear up. Lunch will not be served before 1.30 p.m., so I have plenty of time anyway.

Kaş, once famous for its sponges, is not an unpleasant town, rising almost straight from the sea to the mountains around it. Around the harbor the many souvenir shops offer a variety of articles that are the same everywhere, from the simple Turkish lucky-charm eye to Iznik tiles, from kilims and carpets to jewelry and all kinds of so-called antiques. Strolling up the main street I suddenly come face to face with a full-size Lycian sarcophagus, there where the street splits in two. Can you believe it? The old tree next to it seems to have grown over its entrails and somehow shelters the tomb with its awkward arms. This sarcophagus carries beautiful lion heads on the beams and an inscription in Lycian on the sides. It seems to be standing here since the 4th century BC! This means that it has been looking down on the town’s daily life for 2,500 years! Just try to imagine what this means! I can’t.

I find the bookstore where they sell a map of Lycia. I wanted it very much in order to follow our travel route, including the Lycian Way, for I am having a hard time figuring out where I am. I look at the books about Lycia but see that they are published in the UK. So I might get them cheaper over there, if not for the same price, without having to carry them on the plane. I do look for a supermarket though for if there is one thing I want to buy, it is tea (of course!). When that is done I walk back to the harbor and come suddenly across another Lycian sarcophagus, less fancy than the one uptown but framed in pink laurel and overlooking the bay.

Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read the full story

Monday, January 21, 2008

Precious Sura and Andriake Bay - Lycian Coast 8

Today a visit to the ancient city of Sura is planned followed by a two-hour walk back to the boat. I’m having serious doubts whether or not to go along. Shall I take my chances and see how things work out? Or shall I listen to reason and skip another day of hiking? This is a tough nut to crack and I am very much upset with myself. After all, I joined this trip to see all these places that are not accessible by road and here I am, stuck with a twisted foot! I have a hard time convincing myself that I better rest for another day and enjoy the rest of the trip rather than forcing myself now and end up confined to the boat afterwards. Not easy and it is with pain in my heart that I watch the others putting their gear together and setting off to Andriake Bay on the mainland. I stay behind with the friendly crew as the gulet moves to Peter’s meeting point, a few hours from now.

This is a most peaceful bay, hidden away among the coastal islands with a handful of smaller sailboats for company. The stillness is healing. At a distance the fish are having fun, jumping in and out of the water with pleasant splashes. On the Lycian mainland, I hear the goats before I see them. They cleverly bounce from one rock to the next making their grunting sounds as if daring me to watch them. The waves are licking the rocks where our anchor rope has been secured and our Turkish flag unfolds in the sweet breeze. Except for the clashing of the pots and dishes in the galley, all is quiet. How blissful!

Since I am not seeing Sura “live”, this is a good time to do some reading up. Sura was famous for its oracle, not only in Lycia but all over the ancient world. The Temple of Apollo Surios, probably dating from Hellenistic times, was built next to the holy spring and it was here that the soothsaying took place based on the movement of the fish. Even in Christian times the place was considered sacred, for next to the temple the remains of an early church can be found. The origins of Sura are apparently not older than the 4th century BC, based on the findings around the Acropolis and the typical Lycian rock graves and sarcophagi. Well, I hope to visit the place some time in the future, even if I have to travel there on my own.

For now, I think it may be a good idea to get a foot massage and I climb down the ladder alongside the boat to sit on the bottom step. The water is a bit chilly but as I dip my leg in deeper water I notice a warm current underneath. Reflecting so close to the water level, I watch a school of small silvery fish swimming back and forth along the entire length of the gulet, changing course in a flash. In the crystal clear water, their belly almost looks phosphorescent. How fascinating!

Towards noon the wind is picking up, blowing almost straight from the south and our flag claps nervously around the pole. Fatuşa is starting lunch and the smell of pasta, onions and garlic drifts in the air, Turkish music keeping her company. I don’t mind the music for it blurs the harsh German talks from the nearby sailboat and the junk music from another gulet that has anchored opposite to ours and where everybody is screaming, jumping overboard with loud splashes. Around lunch time, hell breaks loose as one boatload of day-tourists after the other sets course to “our” bay to regurgitate its human contents in the welcoming blue seas. The idyllic cove turns into a playground and the serene shiny waters are disgraced by dozens of heads bobbing up and down like grim balloons.

By 1.30 p.m. my companions return, tired but happy about their visit to Sura and the walk back over rugged Lycian countryside. I am as hungry as they are, and luckily the crew is setting the lunch table almost immediately.

The plan was to return to Üçağız under sail but the winds are now too strong to hoist our sails and the captain cranks the motor instead. The conditions become increasingly more serious with choppy waves and heavy wind gusts, even here in the shelter of Kekova Island stretching its entire length in front of Kale. This area is also called “three mouths” as this bay has an opening east and west of Kekova Island and one to the town itself. We drop the anchor just outside Üçağız. As any sailboat, the Almira automatically heads into the wind, much to the comfort of her passengers.

Peter allows us some free time for a walk ashore. The zodiac is taking us there and in spite of this being in a sheltered inlet, our behinds are wet when we set foot on land. Well, the wind will dry us, right?

I am still not interested in shopping but instead, I am very determined to find out how it feels to be walking on my sore foot. From the boat I have spotted the ever fascinating Lycian sarcophagi along the coastline - Üçağız being the ancient Teimiussa - and I didn’t expect to find myself right in the middle of so many remains from the past. At the parking space next to the many restaurants, a high Lycian sarcophagus seems to be parked between the garbage bins on one side and cars and trucks on the other. I find my way to a plain asphalt road that soon leads to a gravel road, and then through the fields where I’m right in the middle of Lycian sarcophagi, Hellenistic walls, and Byzantine arches. I climb over walls, following the goat track as I see no other, to wind up on the Lycian Way covered with scree, rocks, and bits of marble. This is so exciting! Not only do I have these antique relics all to myself, but I manage very well walking and climbing without feeling any pain in my foot! Wow, wee! What a relief! The low sun throws a beautiful soft light over the trees on the opposite slopes and the rocky islands in the sheltered bay below. I feel coming back to life again!

Tombs with Lycian inscriptions seem to place the origins of Teimiussa in the 4th century BC. Apparently the city had ties with Myra and Kyaenai and the oldest ruins are a few rock-cut house-type tombs at the eastern end of Üçagiz's harbor. Well, I don’t walk that far, of course, it may be asking a little too much of my fragile foot and after all, there is still so much to see right here!

The sea squill, for instance, is in full bloom and I take some close-up photos. I watch the local daily life unfold around me with the chickens and roosters parading in the alleys, patchwork cats making a dash in front of my feet while their kittens call them from hidden boxes behind the rubble. Pomegranates shine in the low light like early Christmas decorations in the trees. From up here, the sheltered bay looks unbelievably peaceful!

I retrace my steps while the sun disappears behind the high mountains in the West. I’m thirsty and look around for the Çaibahçe for a cup of tea. From here I pass the mosque, a plain whitewashed building with red tiled roof, but the entrance hall catches my eye with its beautiful blue Iznik tiles carrying an inscription dated 1943, I suppose the date it was built?

At 7 p.m. our zodiac splashes to the jetty. The ride back to the boat is another wet one. No problem, I have dry clothes on board.

We are having a festive dinner tonight, with Kale’s castle in the floodlights in the background like a theater stage. It is funny how it keeps moving – well, our boat is moving, of course, keeping her head in the wind! Overnight the weather is calming down, just a heavy gust from time to time. All is well.

A day for reflexion in the heart of Lycia - Lycia Coast 7

A day to relax, what else can I do? Breakfast at 8.45 a.m. is served as usual under the outside awning and our table is as richly provided as ever. Beside the tasteful Turkish bread, we have a choice of sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, green and black olives, spam with pistachios, goat cheese, yellow cheese, yoghurt, jam and honey. Eggs are served in various ways: soft boiled, hard boiled, scrambled, sunny side up or as eggy bread, i.e. French toasts. Water, coffee and tea ad libitum. Nobody is still hungry after that!

The motor is started and we head for Üçağız to get supplies. My companion travelers go ashore but I stay behind, feeling kind of lazy. I get a nice cup of Turkish coffee from Fatuşa, our cook, and move to the shade of our big awning, legs up on one of the big rolls and a cushion under my head. The rocking of the boat is soothing and I fall asleep. Around noon the shoppers return and I wake up. The gulet now moves to the next cove that is unfortunately crowded with day tourists swimming and screaming, having a good time celebrating the end of Ramadan – I guess.

Everybody is enjoying a wonderful swim (except me, of course). Some are even daring enough to take a solitary kayak peddle along the spectacular coastline. Gee, how I envy them. The goats in their black, white and beige furs watch us with skeptical eyes.

After lunch and a short siesta, my fellow travelers head for Kale, ancient Simena, for the afternoon walk up to the castle of Kaleköy, meaning “castle village". The top of the village is dominated by a well-preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes partially on top of ancient Lycian foundations. The castle houses a small theater, cut into the rock, seating about 300 people, a sign that this was a minor settlement in Roman times. I have decided not to go along and to give my ankle time to recover. Besides, this is the one place I visited already in Spring on my Alexander tour, so I am not really missing much. The climb to the summit, as I remember, through the small village was very worthwhile. It was wonderful to just sit in the little theatre and gaze out over the bay to Kekova below. The odd Lycian tombs lying around reminding you of where you were and the one Lycian sarcophagus popping up from the water seemed to come from another world altogether.


As I am making myself comfortable, a local woman oars alongside trying to sell her colorful goodies: beads, scarves, napkins, doilies, etc. Then all is quiet and I grab another nap. When I awake the sun is setting in a perfect scale of oranges and my companions return.

Tonight we are having octopus for dinner, the captain’s catch. I never tasted octopus before and I find the meat surprisingly tender, somehow reminding me of mackerel – yet in a much nobler form, of course! Fatuşa serves it baked garnished with dill. As usual there is much more food to go around: backed aubergines with chopped meat, rice, baked potatoes, grated radices marinated in lemon and a mixed salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. For desert, more healthy stuff: a choice of yellow melon and juicy pears – pealed and ready to eat. By the time we finish this lavish meal it is 10 p.m. and time to turn in. See what tomorrow will bring!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Apollonia, Entirely new for me - Lycian Coast 6

Same reveille call as yesterday’s and the minibus brings us from Kaş to the ancient city of Apollonia, at about one hour drive. On our uphill drive, a large herd of angora goats is barring our road in a solid traffic jam. Ancient skills and knowledge of the goat herder is all it takes to whistle the animals to one side of the road so our bus and other cars can move past. Apollonia lies next to the town of Kılınçlıköy, in fact in the middle of nowhere and we should carry plenty of water.
It feels like an early summer morning when we start out at Kılınçlı where time again has come to a standstill. Roman inspired wooden granaries blend in with crudely piled up stone farmhouses. Our marble rubble path meanders between low stone walls till we reach a wide track that we cross. All of the sudden but not unexpectedly I see Lycian sarcophagi dotting the landscape. One sarcophagus has lions carved on the side beams, looking at each other; another proudly shows a starry sun inspired on the Macedonian emblem - probably a legacy of Alexander the Great’s followers and dating back to the 3rd century BC.

Nearly unnoticed and half buried in the terrain lies a sizeable Roman cistern that must have held many gallons of fresh water for the city. Further down our path we come across a Roman temple-tomb, inspired by the Lycian ones but wider with corner ornamentation representing the tree of life and topped with an Ionic capital which in turn is crowned with a Corinthian acanthus. From the edge above, Medusa is looking down on us – just as she did in Roman times. Behind it, runs a polygonal wall that must have been part of a Heroon dating back to the 5th or 4th century BC.

It is not known how important Apollonia was in Lycian times, although we do know that it had a place in the Lycian League, sharing its one vote with Aperlai and Istlada mid 2nd century BC, because of the coins that were discovered carrying the abbreviation AΠΟ. As far as I can see now, Apollonia was not a big city but ideally located on this hill-island in the middle of the valley floor where hundreds of goats are now grazing among the olive trees.

We walk all the way to the top, getting a closer look at the city walls and towers that were built in all sorts of styles: polygonal, Roman, classical, Byzantine, you name it. One of the city gates, obviously Byzantine, shows a lintel from an earlier Greek or Roman temple crowned with a bow of bricks alternating with carved stones in a colorful pattern. Since no noticeable excavations have been done we have to crawl on hands and feet underneath the gate to jump to the lower floor of a well preserved Byzantine Basilica.

The theater of which only five or six rows remaining was built on a natural slope. This seems to indicate that it dates back to Hellenistic times. Further among the ruins we find the bottom part of an antique olive grinder, a perfectly circular grove in the rock with a run off channel for the oil on the side. Fascinating! We have not invented anything new!

We now start off on our walk down to Aperlai and our boat. The terrain is lunar like with spirals and protruding rocks all around us. Soon we meet up with the Lycian Way, meandering between the limestone rocks and Mediterranean shrubs. At times, it is simply rough walking when our feet roll over the scree, at other times we seem to be jumping from one solid rock to the next. Lots of holly-oak trees grow here, mingled with occasional olive, almond or carob trees. They offer a welcome shade in this unforgiving landscape and we seat ourselves in their comfortable shade at regular spaced intervals for a sip of water or a nibble of the fresh almonds or carob pods that Ivşak picked for us.

After a while I gain confidence walking the uncomfortable terrain and I enjoy every step of it till at only 20 minutes from our waiting boat, I trip. I try to catch my balance, only to trip again, grabbing around for a hold of what turns out to be one of the many spiky plants. Ouch! I get a handful of nasty tiny splinters and my whole hand seems to be on fire! Some of the splinters are bleeding even, not a fair sight. But what’s worse, I twisted my foot. My fellow travelers make me sit down. I ask for water on my hand, to sooth the pain and clean off the blood. Peter has his big bottle of water handy, rinses off the blood and applies antiseptic gel. That’s better. Now my foot, that is another story. I can stand on it but not really walk – at least not on this terrain. If I put it down on a flat level it is OK, but with all the rocks and rubble around it is not evident at all. Finally I work it out with two walking sticks, one on each side to support me where the foot fails. I feel stupid but this cannot be undone. Luckily it happened on our last stretch but I am keeping everybody behind, while we were doing so well time wise! One of my fellow-travellers is kind enough to carry my rucksack and to clear the path for me when there are too many loose rocks around. At long last I can see the sea. Thank God! On the beach a lonely half-sunken Lycian sarcophagus acknowledges that I have reached Aperlai. The ruins of this Lycian city are hidden behind the trees. Nothing much has been done here either to clear the site and the few ruins seem to be part of the old castle and city walls, while the only building to speak of is the Byzantine church. I have no wish to set one step more than absolutely necessary. All I can focus on is to reach Peter and the others waiting for me at the end of a narrow lumpy jetty from where the dinghies take us to the Almira in the middle of the bay. I am not really in pain, rather annoyed with myself! Gee, am I glad to be back on board!


While we were away, Mehmet has been dive-hunting successfully for octopus, and the crew caught a decent meal of fish that will soon land in our plates! All sails are hoisted now and we head towards Kekova Island for the night. What a life, just drifting with the winds and the waves!

Three other boats are anchored in our cove that is big enough for all of us though and the captain chooses a spot at the far end. Unfortunately there is a party going on aboard one of the vessels, with blaring junk music. We cannot even hold a basic conversation at our dinner table – very unpleasant to say the least. But, as a good captain, Mehmet speaks to the people on the noisy boat. It takes a while but eventually they tune their music down and we are enjoying a pleasant and peaceful night. The stars are all out again to keep watch over us.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Discovering Pinara – Lycian Coast 5

It is 8.30 a.m. or thereabout when we weigh the anchor and set out for Kalkan. I’m not under the spell of the many buildings and colorful houses – too touristic if you ask me. The dinghy puts us ashore where the minibus will drive us north into the Xanthos Valley, all the way to Pınara, today’s Minare.

Once again I am impressed by the lush green vegetation of this valley but the scenery is spoiled by the many greenhouses that mushroom all around. Three crops a year is of course very tempting, but at what price! The sight upsets me, such scars in the landscape! It strikes me though that as a rule the greenhouses are in better shape than the houses where the farmers live. Today’s worldwide obsession of making money has reached even this sheltered area!

After about one hour driving, we leave the main road where the sign says Pınara 2 km. This road is still somehow in the making with a good foundation but no asphalt coating yet. Tricky gravel and dirt have not filled all the potholes but we trust we are in good hands.

From the road, we can see the huge round red rock in the landscape full of pigeonholes, all Lycian tombs. In Lycian language, the name for Pınara was Pınala, which was their word for “round”, hence the name of the city. Amazing how neatly the rectangular gaps are aligned. The builders must have dug out the space hanging over the cliff’s edge to cut these burial spaces that seem to measure about three meters high by four or five meters wide – probably as deep. It feels like dozens of hollow eyes staring mysteriously at me! As we drive closer I notice tombs in the opposite mountain wall that are decorated with framed facades and relief bands.

The first tombs we actually visit are the so-called Royal Tombs aligned in a narrow gulley sealed off at the end with rubble from recent earthquakes. The main tomb, or what I believe to be the main one, is very impressive with its reliefs inside the tympanum picturing the deceased surrounded by servants with underneath an entire procession of dancers and all. The burial space itself contains one single bed, an unmistakable indication that this was an important person. I can’t help but comparing these tombs with the ones I saw in Petra, Jordan, also cut in the bare rock, also with a decorating framework on the outside and also having rock beds or benches along the inside walls. Of course, Petra’s heydays started in the 3rd century BC after Alexander’s conquest of the area, but the Nabataeans had lived there for hundreds of years before, carving their tombs in the bare pink rock. I never read anything about the legacy from Petra to Lycia or vice-versa, maybe nobody thought of it? Anyway, I find this exchange of culture quite exciting!

The sliding entrance door is no longer in place but the grove is still clearly visible. Stepping back outside into the narrow front room, Peter draws our attention to the reliefs on the side walls. Well, how do you like that? There are four panels, two on each side, showing clear contours of buildings, square crenelated towers, staircases and passages that seem to refer to a Lycian city – maybe Pınara itself. For some reason, it reminds me of medieval tapestries. Wow! Back to ground level, I also notice that one of the beams supporting the tympanum is shaped as a Medusa head. Amazing, the more you look, the more you see! When we, later on, see the drawings which Charles Fellows made here in the mid-1800’s, the figures and contours were much clearer than they are today.

The tombs to the left are less spectacular in comparison, although very well preserved. The ones further down the gulley may have been worth checking out but are not inaccessible because of the landslides.

As we climb higher, we are met by more sarcophagi standing as they stood since the day they were erected, only worn down by weather and earthquakes. The view from here is very impressive, embracing the entire width of Xanthos Valley all the way to its Eastern slopes. Behind us, a strange Lycian sarcophagus is crowned with carved ears and ox-horns, a bucranium (ox-skull), a classical decoration and sign of power. It seems this is still done today where ox skulls are placed above the doors of the peasants’ huts. Well, the American West carries on this tradition also, I remember, at the entrance gate to the ranches or like in Texas where they put the bull’s horns even on their cars and trucks!

We now arrive at the city center so to speak where a long Stoa once shaded the walkways in front of the shops on either side of the street – apparently the Decumanus. No significant excavations have been carried out here and the layout is just roughly recognizable in the landscape. An Odeon or Bouleuterion across the street is most obvious but otherwise, it is guesswork, especially since Pınara was built on steep terrain and the architects had to make shift with whatever terrace space they had, meaning that any official building along this central street had to fit within the limits of those terraces. At the far end of the street, we reach a sudden drop off point, where city walls once stood as an extra protection against the possible invader. Climbing over walls, we find ourselves within the clear limits of a Byzantine Basilica with rounded apse and a vaulted nave on either side. Even the steps to the preacher’s stand are still in place. But none of the rubble has been cleared and I dare suppose we may one day see the mosaic floor underneath.

Down in the valley, the river Eşen (the Xanthos River from antiquity) has somehow preserved the Roman Theater with its 27 rows still in situ. The supporting side wall seems ready to collapse anytime soon but has survived many earthquakes over the centuries. The major earthquake of 141 AD surprisingly has spared most of Pınara because it was built on a rocky hill. This is confirmed by the fact that our benefactor Opramoas of Rhodiapolis donated only 5,000 denarii to repair the damages, much less than to other cities that were obviously in greater need of reconstruction.

All in all, Pınara was an important city founded by colonists from Xanthos and one of the six great Lycian cities represented at the Lycian League by three votes. After the earthquake of 240 AD, Pınara was even granted the right to mint coins for a while (ΛΥΚΙΩΝ-ΠΙ). We know that the city welcomed Alexander the Great and remained independent afterward, although it was within the limits of the Kingdom of Pergamon. When this kingdom was annexed by Rome in 133 BC, Pınara obviously became a Roman city, which is what we mostly see today. It stayed alive through Byzantine times until the 9th century and then gradually disappeared.

The eye-catching red rock riddled with tombs now is behind us and looks, even more, impressive than before. Walking back we pass a few heart-shaped corner columns, probably belonging to some temple but pending excavations at Pınara this is just a guess.

Today’s trail is more comfortable than what we walked yesterday. At the bottom of our trail, the bus takes us to Eren where our gulet is awaiting our return. This is such a wonderful feeling for not only are we being expected but this is our hotel and our restaurant at the same time, our home away from home. The harbor is busy and the water rather rough so the captain decides to move to the next creek for a lunch on calmer seas.

We spend a leisurely afternoon on the boat where Mehmet steers the Almira towards Kaş, one hand on the wheel and the other holding the fishing line, i.e. a simple nylon wire with a small shiny floater at the end. This hi-tech equipment seems to be enough to catch the local tuna fish, about 30 cm long. It is a happening each time the fish bites for the motor is switched to low gear, and as the boat loses speed we all watch how Mehmet pulls in his catch. It is so wonderful to witness the excitement each time he catches a fish, one of the simple pleasure of life!

Yet our captain also knows how to read the coastline and spots a wonderful inlet near Kaş where we are spending the night. The wind has cleared the haze of the past days and I take a last stroll around the gulet to watch the starry skies – skies which the seafarers from antiquity must have watched also; skies that were familiar to Alexander the Great…

Friday, January 18, 2008

Discovering Sidyma – Lycian Coast 4

So much for Lycia. Now back to Sidyma. The name Sidyma is an Anatolian name, just like Idyma and Didyma, and it is believed that these cities go back all the way to the 10th century BC or so. In the late Hellenistic period, Sidyma must have reached a certain importance since it minted its own coins bearing the inscription ΛΥΚΙΩΝ-ΞΙ. Also during the first years of the Roman Empire, Emperor Claudius felt that Sidyma was important enough to build a temple and a Stoa here - in his honor, I suppose.

Next to the square where we have listened to Peter’s explanations, stands a freshly painted mosque whose whitewashed columns in the front contrast with the bright yellow of the building itself. In spite of their coat of paint, the columns are clearly reused Greek or Roman material and even one of the old capitals has been inserted. The surprise is on the back wall of the mosque where all kinds of Lycian, Greek, and Roman stones have been reused. Some stones still carry their original inscriptions, upside down or not, and we are all fascinated by the beautiful list of gods and goddesses in Greek on one of the cornerstones.

We start out on our quest over rubble corridors framed between stone walls covered with dead wood and dried sticks to keep the goats from jumping over. Today’s way of life is a simple copy and a continuation of yesterday’s, it seems. Houses lean against old Lycian sarcophagi or have annexed doorways that once belonged to some Roman official building. The wheat has been harvested from the field, carefully avoiding the Roman tombs and sarcophagi, or what is left of them. It is clear that the Romans got inspired by the Lycian tombs, copying their general shape but putting a pointed roof on top instead of the overturned keelboats the Lycians used all over the Xanthos Valley. Amazingly enough today’s wooden granaries are still built in the same style as the rock-hewn Roman sarcophagi!

We stop at one of the greater temple-tombs in the middle of a stubby field, a big square construction, definitely Roman, with a monolith slab on top. The ceiling is divided into squares and each square is decorated with a flower motif or a woman’s head, among which we even recognize Medusa.

The tomb was probably too big to be taken apart for reuse elsewhere and it has been mostly left alone, except for a few pieces of the walls. In the shade of an old tree, we find another sizeable temple-tomb, all four walls still standing and its doorway filled with rubble. If you just pay attention the remnants of Lycian and Roman times are all around you: pieces of columns in the field or inserted in houses, nice square cut stones from unchartered buildings, or simply the rubble that covers the footpaths between the fields where lumps of marble have been chopped down and mingled with rocks, pottery, and faience.

Peter now takes us to a cluster of Lycian and Roman sarcophagi, next to the remains of a prismatic tomb. The view from here over the five kilometers wide Xanthos Valley is breathtaking! What a spot for a burial ground! Imagine if you have to choose a place for yourself or your close family, wouldn’t you like to have a view like this?

Back in the quiet village square, the shepherd is still tending his flock, moving his shiny zinc bucket from one goat to the next, making sure they all get their share of water. Our van rides up and seems once again so out of place. It must be noon time and it is rather hot on this mid-October day. I welcome the coolness of our modern transportation but the pleasure does not last as it is only a short distance to our first walk on the Lycian Way, marked with its typical red and white stripes. I don’t know what exactly I expected to find on this Lycian Way, what it would look like or how steep it would be, but anyway, this is worse than what I could have imagined!

The footpath soon turns to a track, zigzagging all the way down to the sea. The terrain is rough and where the Byzantine road is visible, going is reasonable although uncomfortable. The climb down is less than a thousand meters but about halfway it turns into chaos. Landslides have pushed entire portions of soil out of place and we trip over the many loose rocks, slipping and sliding among the long pine needles. The heat of the day is heavy and we are running low on our water supply. Far down the sea is beckoning and it seems to take us forever to get there. Panic, fear and even sickness take over. My own knees are trembling and I fear they’ll not carry me on my next risky step. I sit down on a shady rock, enjoying one more sip of water and reminding myself that time is not the essence when confronted with nature in a precarious situation. The pace doesn’t matter anymore; down there our dinghy will be waiting for us anyway. Two of my companions are far ahead when I meet up with the couple that joined us recently, the husband is not feeling well, he says. He doesn’t look good either: whitish, yellowish, ready to faint at any moment. Peter is behind me helping another couple over the rubble and when he catches up with the patient the diagnosis is clear: dehydration. He has him lie down with his feet higher than his head and advises him to drink as much as he can. I get back to my feet and work my way further down. The scramble seems endless. I remove dirt from stones to get a foothold. I poke the rocks with my stick to make sure they are not loose and will not take me on an unexpected journey. At long last and much later than expected we arrive at the seashore. Thank God! Peter courageously turns back with one of the shipmates to bring the stranded couple down. They all return much sooner than expected as the husband has recovered pretty fast and met his rescuing party halfway.

Back on board, the cool water tastes like the elixir we are all dying for. A good swim or a hot shower puts our bones and muscles back in place. I am hungry, maybe a little too tired to eat? We have lunch later than planned, so maybe we’ll have a late dinner also?

We all are pounding today’s experience and speculate about the risks we may or may not take in the days to come. We are however thankful we made it all in one piece. Earlier than you would expect it, our stomachs start grumbling again and we wind up eating our dinner at the usual time. It is 10 p.m. when I return to my cabin. The chilly winds have blown all the mosquitoes away tonight. This means I can sleep with the portholes wide open and for the first time I’m getting a good night’s rest.

In spite of his sickness earlier today, our patient shows his talents as a poet and this is what he has to say about our visit to Sidyma.

S I D Y M A
Merhaba! Ingiliz? comes the modern greeting
To seekers of an ancient Sidyma.
A tractor-driver waves. Beside the well
An old man, timeless, waters his black goats.

They live among the rubble of the past,
Recycled blocks of stone in homes and barns,
Tread fractured marble on their village tracks,
See Lycian pillars rear above their fields.

A cow reclines against a fallen column,
Carved capitals shore up the terraces,
The garnered dead, inside their rock-hewn tombs,
Survey the stubbled land where once they reaped.

The curved apse of a lost Byzantine church
Strengthens a farmhouse wall. And in the mosque
Illiterate masons sideways lodged a slab
Inscribed in Greek with Homer’s pantheon.

Apollo, Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite,
Cohabit here with Jesus and Mohammed.
Time, and neglect, have fudged a harmony
Of jumbled stones, of peasants, and of gods.

We all feel that these words reflect our impressions so very well.

[Click here for all the pictures of Sidyma (Dorduga)]
Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read my full story

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A short history of Lycia – Lycian Coast 3

This is an early wake-up and at 6.45 a.m. I’m on deck to watch first daylight as the gulet is getting ready to leave immediately after breakfast. The air is cool and like magic creates a misty band above the warmer seawater. The short twisted pine trees stand out on rocky islands against a fairytale background, reminding me of a drawing from a Japanese temple wall.

We are heading for Ölüdeniz, the Blue Lagoon as it is called by the general public and tourists alike. No, this is not a joke; this is the very place where the movie “Blue Lagoon” was actually shot. Well, I never knew that it was taken on the Turkish coastline, imagining a faraway tropical island as was meant by the moviemakers. What a clever deception!

We are met again by Ivşak, and the minibus drives us to the site of Sidyma, about 1 ½ hour away. Because of the nearby mountain range, we’ll have to make quite a detour: first to Fethiye and over the main road up to Esenköy; from there right in the middle of the luscious Xanthos Valley that produces a variety of crops. Inevitably I picture Alexander the Great riding his Bucephalus at an easy pace through these fertile fields dotted with a string of cities from Tlos and Pınara in the north to the more familiar Xanthos and Letoon in the south. Somewhere to the northwest of Letoon lies Sidyma, half buried under and among today’s Dodurga.


Of course, the Acropolis of Sidyma on top of a conical hill is what I see first. The walls and watchtowers looking down on us may be reminiscent of antiquity but also from Byzantine times - it is hard to tell from down here.

Time seems to have come to a standstill in this part of the country. The arrival of our minivan is the event of the day and the elderly come out of nowhere to greet us, after which they withdraw to the stone bench that sits around one of the trees on what could be the central square. On the side, a proud elderly man is drawing water for his goats, gestures that must go back to the early Lycians.

As Peter introduces us to the history of the early Lycians, the villagers slowly return to their daily chores. I look around in amazement for our van is so out of place. There is no road to speak of, only a few stony paths wide enough maybe for an occasional tractor but mainly used by the local people on foot and their mules.

The Lycians were referred to as the Luwian people in early eastern and Egyptian inscriptions, i.e. the Luqqu or Luqqa from the 2nd millennium BC. Lycia’s main source of income came from its forests but also from trade with the ships that navigated along its coastline. Neighboring kings from Caria and Lydia tried but failed to conquer Lycia, until the Persians under the Achaemenids managed to impose themselves. Persian rule was fierce and ruthless and Xanthos resisted heavily, preferring even mass suicide rather than submission to the enemy.

The occupation took a different turn when Mausolos, the King and satrap of Caria took over, forming a kind of buffer between the Persians and the Lycians. In the 4th century BC, a certain Pericles tried to unite all Lycian cities under one central rule, without success. It was Alexander the Great who put a final end to the Persian occupation; at the same time, he also stopped the use of the Lycian language in favor of Greek. After Alexander’s premature death and the fight of his successors over the territories he conquered, Lycia came under the rule of the Egyptian Ptolemaics in 310 BC, and in 301 BC it was ruled by Lysimachus, King of Syria. But this kingdom would not live long either and finally, by the beginning of the 2nd century BC, Lycia came under the control of Rhodes with the influence of Rome.

Yet Rhodes did not give the Lycians a fair treatment and after many complaints, Rome found it reasonable to grant them their freedom. Finally, the Lycian cities all agreed it was time to unite and the Lycian League, as dreamed of by Pericles several centuries earlier now became reality. The six main cities: Xanthos, Pınara, Tlos, Patara, Myra, and Olympos were the administrative, judicial, military, financial and religious centers and each received 3 votes in the meetings of the League. Most of the other cities had 1 vote each while some very small cities shared 1 vote (for instance Istlada, Apollonia, and Aperlai). Some cities and small federal states were allowed to mint their own coins, provided they bear the inscription ΛΥΚΙΩΝ ΚΟΙΝΩΝ. This must have been an enormous boost to the Lycians’ pride and eventually to their prosperity.

During the 1st century BC, Lycia with the rest of Anatolia became a Roman province, but this domination had its good side too for Rome had the power and the means to protect them against pirates, for instance. When their plundering of commercial ships and coastal cities went beyond limits, Manlius Vulso decided to go after them both by land and sea – and he was successful! The trade routes were open once again and the economy could develop.

But then, in the wake of the murder of Julius Caesar, Brutus arrived in Lycia. Finding no support for his cause, he slaughtered the inhabitants of Xanthos (a repeat of what the Persians had done a few centuries before). A year later Marc Antony took over and luckily he decided to rebuild the cities, especially Xanthos. With the reign of Augustus peace returned, at last, reaching its heydays under Trajan and Hadrian.

Unfortunately in the year 141 AD, Anatolia including Lycia was hit by a severe earthquake, destroying many cities. Thanks to the contributions of rich citizens like Opramoas of Rhodiapolis, every single city between Phaselis in the east and Telmessus in the west was rebuilt and Lycia continued developing. But then it was hit again by a major earthquake on the 5th of August 240 AD and the cities were equally destroyed – yet no money seemed to have been available for their reconstruction this time and the entire region slowly fell into decline. By the 5th century the Byzantine Empire was crumbling down and soon afterward the Arabs invaded the territory.

Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read the full story