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[Anatolian Civilizations] [Ancient civilisations]


THE LYCIAN CIVILIZATION      


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THE LYCIAN CIVILIZATION

In the light of the ceramics excavated in the neighbourhood of Elmali, it is supposed that there was a settlement at this region approximately in the third millennium BCE. Based on the Hittite tablets and the Egyptian sources, which were dating back to the 2000s BCE, it was mentioned that there was a people named Lukki, Karsika and Lukka. These people were the Lycians whose kinship with their neighbours, the Luwians is a known fact. In addition to this, as it can be understood by the excavations done in Patara, the Lycians dwelled at the Mediterranean region, which is known as Teke peninsula today from the 2000s BCE onwards. With its fertile lands, scenic beauties and underground resources Lycia was surrounded by Pamphylia-Pisidia in the north and north-east, Karya in the North-West and by the Mediterranean in the west, east and south.

According to Herodotus, the Solyms called the people Sarpedon Termilas, who were known as the Milias later on. When Lykos, the son of Pandion who was exiled from his own lands, went to this region, he called the people living there the Lycians. In Homer’s The Iliad epic, it is mentioned that there are those Lycians who came to support the Trojans. According to the epic, the leaders of the Lycians who came to Troy were Pandaros and Sarpedon.

The Lycians had a similar alphabet with the Phrygians and their language, which was similar to the Luwian language, has not been interpreted yet. The Lycians had a family order in which they were dependent upon the mother and they were respectful to the women. They were using their mothers’ name instead of the fathers’. ‘Lada’ (woman), which is a very old Lycian word, has been used in the Indian-Europe languages later on.

Strabon indicates that the Lycians lived justly and led their lives in a civilized and upright way on the lands of their ancestors. The Lycian union was consisted of 23 cities which had the right to vote. The biggest cities in the union had 3 rights of vote, the medium cities had 2 and the rest had 1 right. The cities which had 3 rights of vote were Ksanthos, the capital of the union, Patara, Pinara, Olympos, Myra and Tlos. The Congress which gathered at the council building at Patara elected firstly a Lykiarkh (president) and then other officers. War, peace and agreements were discussed by the committee and members of the committee adopted a resolution consequently. The constitution of the democratic union that determined the administrative structure inspired the US State Law.

In the period between 545-333 BCE, Lycia was under the control of the Telmessos satrapy, which was ruled by the Persians. At this region, which is also known as the “Land of the Heroes”, fierce battles were fought against the Persians, particularly at Xanthos, and the Lycians who were very sensitive about their independence, defended their cities to the bitter end. The Lycians reconstructed the city, which was destroyed many times, with great endeavors. On a tablet found at Xanthos, the Lycians made a commitment: they would not give up with their resistance against the invaders. After the domination of the Persians, the Lycians were attached to the Athens Sea Union. However, they perpetuated their authentic style of civilization despite the visible Greek impact.

The Lycians worshipped a queen goddess, Leto, before the Greek impact pervaded in Anatolia. Apollo and Artemis are Leto’s twin children. Sanctuaries for the goddess and her children were constructed at the city of Letoon in the 7th century BCE. Since some of the satraps in Anatolia acted as if they were independent kings, considerably enchanting and crucial tomb monuments, sarcophagi and rock-cut tombs were built in the end of the 5th century BCE and in the 4th century BCE particularly at Lycia. One of the most spectacular examples of tomb monuments is the Nereid Monument at Xanthos, which is on display at the British Museum today. The monument, which is dating back to the 5th century BCE and in the acropolis of Xanthos city, is like a small Ionian sanctuary due to its triangular façade on the fluted and voluted mushroom columns which are on a high base. The rise of the monument on a high base renders it oriental.

The light clothes, which cling onto the Nereid sculptures lined up between the columns, have floating scrolls. The owners of the tombs are depicted as they are sitting facing each other in the front façade. The scenes regarding the life of the king and the line-up of the soldiers on the relief of the base plate have some oriental features. The tomb chamber in which a Lycian king was buried is in a high pedestal. Since the monolith stone block in the Xanthos acropolis and the marble relief of the Harpies Monument which is consisted of a tomb chamber and 8,87 m. tall, have also been taken to the British Museum, there are only copies of these archaeological heritages.

On each side of the relief; those who present gifts to the owners of the tombs, other figures such birds, helmets and pomegranates, and the Sirens, who carry away the souls of the dead people to the other world in the Greek mythology, are depicted. Since the Sirens, who are with the head of a female and the body of a bird, winged and have a beautiful soul, are defined as the harpies by mistake, this monument is remembered with this name. The Ion impact is seen on the reliefs of the monument dating back to 480 BCE. Apart from the ones in the acropolis, there are many sarcophagi in the agora and necropolis.

The reliefs of the tomb with lion, whose base is seen from the east foot of the Roman acropolis, are also at the British Museum. This monument, which is the most ancient Lycian tomb ever known, is dating back to the 6th century BCE.

The tomb monument at Golbasi (Trysa) is a rectangular structure with its high court wall and the Lycian type of tomb inside it. The internal sides of the walls and the external side of the south wall have friezes in relief in two lines. On the court wall friezes, The Kalydonian Boar Hunt, the wars of the Amazon and the Kentauros against the Greek, themes about Bellerophontes and Odysseia are depicted. The scenes of the Amazon and Kentaur belong to the Greek mythology and yet, the depiction of a mythological theme is under the impact of the East. The clothes and the postures of the figures are identical in style and the friezes are stowed continuously: these are also the characteristics of the Oriental impact. The tomb monument, which is like a house in appearance, dates back to 420-410 BCE and it is on display at the Vienna’s Art History Museum.

The rock-cut tombs, which reflect the Lycian timber architecture, are present at the cities of Derme (Myra), Lymra, Pnara, Tlos, Kayakoy (Karmlassos) and Fethiye (Telmessos). One of the most spectacular examples of these tombs is King Amyntas rock tomb, which was carved into the rock face at Fethiye. One should ascend the four steps in order to reach the columned part in front of the tomb, which is similar to the Ion sanctuary type. It is possible to see such kind of rock-cut tombs and sarcophagi around Fethiye and its environ.

In the acropolis of the city of Tlos, it is available to see Bellerophon’s tomb, which was cut into the rocks and which is a temple type of tomb. There are three doors above the rock-cut tomb. On the reliefs of the tomb, Bellerophon, who is riding Pegasus, is portrayed while he is killing the Chimera. Bellerophontes, who is also mentioned in the Greek mythology, is a Lycian hero.

Bellerophontes, who wanders around with his flying horse called Pegasus, kills the Chimera, who is a fire breathing she-beast with the tail of a snake and with the heads of lion, goat and dragon. However, the fire coming out of the tongue of the she-beast does not extinguish. Today, the fire which burns continuously at some places at Yanartas (Olympos) owing to the fact that a kind of burning gas is emitted from the ground through vents is believed to be related to this legend. Myra rock-cut tombs, which date back to the 4th century BCE, are lined up on top of each other asymmetrically. The dead people were laid down above an elevation at the tomb chamber which is placed behind the entrances in the complexion of the form of Ion sanctuary.

It is possible to come across with sarcophagi type of tombs with great sizes in almost all the Lycian cities. Andriake, Antiphellos, Arykanda, Kadyanda, Letoon, Lymyra, Olympos, Patara, Phellos, Pinara, Sdyma, Sura, Telmessos, Tlos, Trysa, Xanthos are full of sarcophagi type of tombs. Most of the sarcophagi with reliefs date back to the 4th century BCE. Figures of feast and hunting reflecting the daily life of the princes and the Persian satraps at Lycia are described on the reliefs lying on the long and narrow faces of these sarcophagi. One may see the descriptions of the sphinx as the guardian of the tomb on the front parts of the lids. The sarcophagi which are made of regional limestone have lids which are of base, hyposorion, sarcophagus and semerdam types.

The type of Lycian sarcophagi was also built in the regions outside Lycia. The long and narrow sides of the Lycian sarcophagus, which is exhibited at Istanbul Archaeology Museum and which was found at Sayda, is embellished with reliefs. This sarcophagus, which is dating back to the years 410-400 BCE, was created by a very competent Ionian sculptor. On one of the narrow sides of the lid the sphinxes are sitting facing each other and on the other side of the lid the gryphons are sitting vis-à-vis. On the narrow sides of the sarcophagus, however, one may see the struggle of the kentauros. On the long sides of the sarcophagus, the figures of lion hunting with the chariot and boar hunting with horses are depicted. As well as the impact of the Ion style, the oriental impact on the reliefs is also visible.

Apart from the sarcophagi, there occur other structures such as theatre, sanctuary and agora in Lycia’s every acropolis and its downtown zone. The structures dating back to the 5th and 4th century BCE are side by side with the monuments of Hellenistic and Roman period.