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 Dragiana/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 OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 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)

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


  1. I think that as good hosts, the people stopped their work and gathered in the square, expecting that you, as strangers and visitors, would greet them, explain why you were there, and accept hospitality of the people whose home it is.

    Perhaps next time.

    1. Yes, your are right for this is exactly what happened. It is an ancestral custom that we have lost in our western "civilization" - unfortunately.