Existing Member?

xEurasia Odyssey

A Journey Through Time: Fethiye and the Lycian Coast

TURKEY | Sunday, 5 June 2022 | Views [53]

Breakfast area at Yonca Lodge outside Fethiye

Breakfast area at Yonca Lodge outside Fethiye

FETHIYE

 After visiting a number of Eastern and Northern European capital cities and their national museums, I wanted to take a few days somewhere surrounded by ancient historical sites and nature to work on these blogs.  The Lycian Coast of Turkey is stunning and as I hadn’t been here in awhile, (and the Turkish air flight from Pristina to Dalaman wasn’t expensive,) I headed to the beach. Unfortunately, when I arrived my computer wouldn’t load; it seemed that the charging cable no longer worked. I tried to find someone who had an old apple air charger, but no one did, short of driving to Antalya, a 200 km. one way trip. I decided that the universe was simply telling me to chill and enjoy the scenery. Thank you, Universe!  The few days without a computer were relaxing. 

I had been to most of the Lycian Coast before I started writing these blogs in 2013, so I was familiar with the stretches from Izmir south to Marmaris and from Antalya north to Fethiye, but not from Fethiye to Marmaris. This seemed like a good time to fill in that blank on the map. I chose not to stay directly in town as I wanted to hear birds sing and not traffic noise, and chose a place with a large garden and private beach ca. 20 driving minutes north of Fethiye, the Yonca Lodge.  It was a good choice, even if the food wasn’t particularly up to normal Turkish standards, the location was perfect.  As public transportation in Turkey isn’t reliable nor particularly efficient outside of the major cities, I rented a car for the few days, which meant I could easily get around, including to the excellent restaurants along the long boardwalk along the seashore on the outskirts of Fethiye. I’m not exactly sure how long the boardwalk is, but from one end to the harbor in town walking at a fairly solid pace for exercise it took about 45 minutes. If strolling and enjoying the views it will take much longer, but that time is well spent as there is always something going on in the parks that line the boardwalk up to the harbor that is cram packed full with tour and party boats as well as the ferry to the Greek island of Rhodes. The tour and party boats have a set excursion schedule; most of them make a 12 Island cruise that goes up near Göcek, or down to the Blue Lagoon and Butterfly Valley, which goes south to Ölüdeniz. Ölüdeniz, like Kas further south along the coast, is filled with British ex-pats. Nonetheless on my last morning, I chose to take a boat (without the party blaring muzak) from the large all-inclusive resort a few beaches down from the Yonca Lodge beach to the Blue Lagoon. The boat followed the coastline and skirted between islands, some with temple ruins, like those on St. Nicholas Island, and by turquoise-colored coves. As it was the end of May, I was surprised how warm the water was and how much crystal clearer it was even compared to the water by the Yonca Lodge beach. 

 The temple ruins on the island, as well as inland, speak to the lengthy history of this region. Fethiye is the modern name for the ancient city of Telmessos. There are still a few rock tombs and the remains of a 6,000 seat theater on the hill behind the center of the modern city.  From the boardwalk, the ruins are visible above the sign for McDonalds. In times well before the plastic golden arches, Telmessos was a member of the Lycian League. As they were worried about the Persian advances, they sent money to the Athenian League to support them in defending the area.  The Persians attacked nonetheless, and the city became part of the Persian Empire, then part of Pergamon, then held by the Romans, Byzantines, and finally the Ottomans until the Republic. The name Fethiye derives from Fethi Bey, who crashed his airplane in the area during the early Republic Period. The Ottomans called it Makri.

 The Lycian coast has been inhabited since Neolithic times and archeological artifacts just about litter the region.  There are archeological sites to be explored throughout the mountainous coastal area.  The largest site nearest Fethiye is Tlos.

Tlos was first mentioned as a ‘country’ in a 15th C BCE Hittite inscription. (Tlos 15) The region was inhabited much earlier on, though, as Neolithic mother goddess figurines, Geometric and Bronze Age votive figures and pottery have been uncovered and are now in museums in Fethiye, Izmir and Istanbul. Tlos was one of the major cities in the Lycian region as it was at the epicenter of seven directional roads, which made it a prime trading center. The entire Lycian Region was made a Roman state in 43 CE by Emperor Claudius. The name is clearly not Roman, but Lycian and stems from a much earlier legend of its founder, the mythical Tloos. According to a 5th C BCE source, Tloos was one of the four sons of Temilus and Praksidike; his siblings are Pinaros, Xanthos, and Kragos. (Tlos 13) Each of whom has their own site in the region.

Getting to the Tlos archeological site from Fethiye is fairly simple as the signage is visible and the roads, while small, are good. The site is at the top of a hill and can’t be missed. The side of the hill leading up to the site is lined with ancient necropoli. Near the top of the hill on a plateau are the ruins of a theater, large and small baths, a Christian basilica, and a not quite completely excavated Temple to Kronos.  This white marble columned structure is unusual in a number of ways.  Firstly, there are no other known temples to Kronos in Anatolia, and secondly Kronos was a Roman, not Lycian god. As evidence suggests that the temple was last used in the 2nd C CE, it was clearly used during the Roman Period, but the construction is from a much earlier time.  Local archeologists believe that as Kronos was a sky god, he took the place of the Lycian sky god, Trggas. What had originally been Trggas’ temple became Kronos’ temple.  There is evidence of coins from Gordian III’s reign with a depiction of a warrior with a double axe that is supposed to depict the Roman god. There is also evidence that there was a cult to Kronos at Tlos and that the earlier annual festivities honoring Trggas, were converted into the “Kroneia” competitions during the Roman Period. (Tlos 48) Across from the road heading toward the citadel, is the stadium and the path up to ruins of rock tombs from various eras and the Ottoman era fortress at the top.

While the site is now in ruins, the descendants of people of the former city are still in the area, including in the nearby village of Yaka.

 The museum in Fethiye is small, only two rooms, but it has an interesting collection of items from Telmessos and Tlos as well as Kaunos. The collection includes artifacts from Neolithic pottery and figurines through the Byzantine period, with remnants of old Basilica carved doors with vegetal and Christian symbols. There were a few items in the gallery that caught my special attention. The first was a  3rd C BCE 55cm stone statue of the Lycian goddess Artemis Eleuteria. Like her sister to the north, the Ephesian Artemis, her skirt is filled with symbols, but unlike her she doesn’t have multiple breasts or rows of symbolic creatures. Artemis Eleuteria’s skirt is somewhat simpler, with figures of a scorpion and wreath at the bottom, apparently under the earth, a pair of what look like does on a level that could represent the earth with an angel in the center surrounded by frogs, above the angel are flowers and a figure of a god/goddess with the sun rays radiating from its head. The goddess has multiple necklaces and earrings and her hair is placed in a way to represent the city she is protecting. There are also engravings on the sides that are not visible through the glass showcase. The positioning of the figures appears to me to represent her protection of the three worlds, the underworld with the scorpion, the earth with frogs and does, and the sky with the sky god between her shield-like breasts. The angel in the middle is like her heart connecting the three worlds.   The plaque next to her states that: “she was the mother goddess of Myra and was worshipped in the coastal settlements of Lycia. The exact nature of her worship is unknown, but she does appear on coins and steles found in Limyra and Myra.”  It should be noted that Myra is also the birthplace of the gift giving St. Nicholas.

Another female figure that I found fascinating was the bowhead of St. Catherine. She was used as protectress on 19th C commercial vessels.  The Greeks used Christian symbols and saints, while the Ottomans used animal figures.

A different, series of artifacts that were striking were a set of reliefs with two warriors on horseback facing a standing female figure.  There is a rock relief on the Taskuzluk Plateau that is mentioned in the Tlos book, that describes the same image.  In that book, they say that these are probably Hellenic Roman era reliefs depicting the twin sons of Zeus, Castor and Pollux, with either their sister Helena or the mother goddess Artemisia in the middle. (Tlos 176)

The museum is worth visiting. It is free, and is conveniently located just behind the harbor’s pedestrian zone.

 A very different experience is to be had at the Saklikent Milli Park, which is a gorge in the mountains behind Fethiye further on from the turn off to Tlos. The gorge is a deeply cut slice in the rock with waterfalls and icy cold mountain waters.  People come from all over to wade in the stream, go river rafting or go hiking on the nearby trails.  It is a beautiful place to cool down on a hot summer’s day, and even at the end of May it was well above 30 degrees C.

 The few days in the Fethiye region were wonderful. The historical and pre-historical sites offer much to reflect upon as do the artifacts in the small museum.  The waters along the coastline have witnessed civilizations come and go like the tides. While we live in the here and now and try to ride the waves of Kronos’ warrior time, we can still hope to be protected with peace by the Lycian Goddess Artemis Eleuteria with her angelic heart that will keep the earth and seas intact.

 

References:

Krokut, Taner. ed.,TLOS A Lycian City on the Slopes of the Akdag Mountains, Istanbul: Yalinlari Ltd., 2016.

 

Yilmaz, Yasar. Ancient Cities of Turkey. 5th ed. Istanbul: Müsendal, n.d.

 

Plaques, Fethiye Museum

Tags: archeological sites, beach, history, museum, towns

 

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.


About krodin


Follow Me

Where I've been

Favourites

Photo Galleries

My trip journals


See all my tags 


 

 

Travel Answers about Turkey

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.