Xanthus, Travels of Discovery in Turkey by Enid Slatter (ISBN 0-948695-30-7) is an absolute must for every lover of Greek antiquity and more particularly for those, who like me, fell in love with Lycia in southeastern Turkey.
The title Xanthus, although the main city and once capital of ancient Lycia, may be misleading as the book covers in fact, all of Lycia. The author mainly has reproduced the journals kept by Charles Fellows, who in 1838 and 1840 crisscrossed this unchartered territory looking for architecture worth of filling the newly founded British Museum in London. Occasionally Enid Slatter has added updated information about the whereabouts of certain artifacts.
The journal not only mentions the (generally phonetically spelled) Turkish names of the towns but also the corresponding name from antiquity. The book is further richly illustrated by a huge amount of drawings, some made by Fellows himself, but most of them drawn by young George Scharf, who accompanied him especially for this purpose.
It gives a great insight of the policy applied by the then ruling Ottoman government as well as that of the British occupying nearby Rhodes and Malta. The general landscapes with rivers, gorges, scant bridges and fording places are very detailed, but also the overall color pallet of blossoming trees, field flowers, and dresses of the local people. On top of all that, it is quite interesting to learn how Charles Fellows and his entourage traveled from England to Turkey and back, using ferries, carriages, an occasional new train track, steamers, ferries, to continue on horseback or on foot through the pristine Lycian countryside. They suffered from seasickness on many occasions and were thoroughly shaken during the bumpy rides in the stage coaches. In Turkey, they were dependent on the weather and often hit by fierce thunderstorms. The Lycian coast was still infested by swarms of mosquitoes, especially in summer when even the locals moved out en-masse to the inland mountains.
Xanthus was and is, of course, the focal point, but Fellows also put sites like Letoon, Tlos, Pinara, Myra, Limyra, Arykanda, Olympos and Finike on the map, which today are only one flight away for the many tourists.
While during his first trip Charles Fellows aimed to discover as much of Lycia as he could, his second expedition of 1840 was the one that enabled him to crate and ship the magnificent pieces of what is now called the Nereid Monument (or Ionic Monument), the friezes of the Harpy Monument, the entire Payava Tomb (or Horse Tomb), and several other pillar or box tombs now at the British Museum. He also made plaster casts of pertinent reliefs that could not otherwise be moved, which have sadly disappeared since.
The reading is never dull and Fellows’ love for this unique Lycian culture is one of a kind. His journal is truly filled with many exciting details, very much worth discovering.