1902 Encyclopedia > Lycia


LYCIA, in ancient geography, was the name given to a district in the south-west of Asia Minor, occupying the portion of the coast between Caria and Pamphylia, and extending inland as far as the ridge of Mount Taurus, The region thus designated is one strongly marked by nature, as constituting a kind of peninsula or promontory projecting towards the south from the great mountain masses of the interior. It was also inhabited from a very early period by a distinct people, known to the Greeks as Lycians, but whose native name, according to Herodotus, was Termite, or (as it is written by Hecataaus) Tremite, and this is con-firmed by native inscriptions, in which the name is written Tramite. Herodotus tells us also that they were not the original inhabitants of the country, which was previously occupied by the Milyans, and this is rendered probable by the fact that a people of that name was still found in the rugged mountainous district in the north-east, who appear to have always continued distinct from the Lycians. But the statement of the same historian that they originally came from Crete is in the highest degree improbable; and the attempts to connect them with the Greek legendary history through Sarpedon and Lycus, a son of Pandion, may be safely rejected as mere fictions.

The Lycians alone among the nations in the west of Asia Minor preserved their independence against the kings of Lydia; but after the fall of the Lydian monarchy (in 546 B.C.) they were subdued by Harpagus, the general of Cyrus, though not till after an obstinate resistance in which Xanthus, their chief city, was utterly destroyed. But, though they were from this time nominally subject to Persia, they appear to have enjoyed a considerable amount of independence, which they afterwards maintained by join-ing the Athenian maritime league. They were conquered almost without resistance by Alexander, and thus passed under the Macedonian dominion, sometimes of the Ptolemies, sometimes of the Seleucidans. But through all these vicissitudes, as well as after their ultimate sub-mission to the Roman power, they continued to preserve their federal institutions, which remained unimpaired, in form at least, as late as the time of Augustus. Strabo, who has preserved to us an account of their constitution, which he regards as the wisest form of federal government with which he was acquainted (a judgment confirmed by the high authority of Montesquieu), tells us that the league consisted of twenty-three cities in all, of which the six principal were Xanthus, Patara, Pinara, Olympus, Myra, and Tlos. These six had each three votes in the general assembly ; of the remaining cities the more considerable had e ich two votes, and the rest only one. The payment of taxes and other public burthens were apportioned in the same manner, and the choice of the supreme magistrate, who was styled Lyciarch, and the other magistrates of the league rested with the federal assembly. At the same time the internal affairs of each city were managed by a senate or council (Boule), and a general assembly of the people (Demos),'in the same manner as was usual with Greek cities. This system of government continued to subsist under the Roman empire, though of course subject to the control as well as protection of the sovereign power; but in the time of Claudius dissensions among the separate cities afforded a pretext for the intervention of Rome, and Lycia became formally annexed to the Roman empire. It was at first united in the same province with Pamphylia; but in the reign of Theodosius it was constituted a separate province.

Almost the whole of Lycia is a rugged mountainous country, traversed by offshoots and branches of the great range of Mount Taurus, which occupies the whole interior or northern part of the district, and sends down to the sea great arms or branches, constituting lofty promontories. The consequence is that the coast, though less broken and irregular than that of Caria, is indented by a succession of bays,—the most marked of which is that called in ancient times the Glaucus Sinus, now the Gulf of Maori, in the extreme west of the province, and separating Lycia from Caria. A number of smaller bays, and broken rocky headlands, with a few small islets lying off them, constitute the coast-line from thence to the south-eastern promontory of Lycia, formed by a long narrow tongue of rocky hill, known in ancient times as the Sacred Promontory, with three small adjacent islets, called the Chelidonian islands, which was regarded by some ancient geographers as the commencement of Mount Taurus—an opinion justly con-troverted by Strabo. But it really forms an important point in the geography of Asia Minor, where the coast trends abruptly to the north till it reaches the confines of Pamphylia. It was believed by Strabo to be directly opposite to Canopus in Egypt, and to be the point where the interval between the two continents was the shortest.

Though the mountain ranges of Lycia may all be con-sidered as in reality offshoots of Mount Taurus, several of them in ancient times were distinguished by separate names. Such were Mount Dsedala in the west, adjoining the Gulf of Macri, Mount Cragus on the sea-coast, west of the valley of the Xanthus, and Mount Massicytus nearly in the centre of the region, rising to a height of 10,000 feet, while Mount Solyma in the extreme east, above Pbaselis, rises abruptly from the sea to an elevation of 7800 feet. The steep and rugged pass between this mountain and the sea, called the Climax, or Ladder, was the only direct communication between Lycia and Pamphylia.

The only two considerable rivers in Lycia are (1) the Xanthus, which descends from the central mass of Mount Taurus, and flows through a narrow valley till it reaches the city of the same name, below which it forms a plain of some extent before reaching the sea, and (2) the Limyrus, which enters the sea near Limyra. The Arycandus and the Andriacus, which are intermediate between the two, are much less considerable streams, and do not flow from the central chain. The small alluvial plains at the mouths of these rivers are the only level ground in Lycia ; but the slopes of the hills that rise from thence towards the moun-tains are covered with a rich arborescent vegetation of the most beautiful character. (See the description of it by Forbes, quoted in ASIA MINOE, vol. ii. p. 709.) The upper valleys and mountain sides afford good pasture for sheep, and the main range of Mount Taurus encloses several extensive yailalis or upland basin-shaped valleys of the peculiar kind so characteristic of that range throughout its extent (see ASIA MINOR, p. 704).

It is very difficult to determine the limits of Lycia towards the interior; and the boundary seems to have varied repeatedly at different times. The high and cold upland tract to the north-east, called Milyas (which was supposed to retain some remains of the aboriginal popula-tion of Lycia), was by some writers included in that pro-vince, though it is naturally more connected with Pisidia. A similar tract to the west of this, and also situated to the north of the watershed of Mount Taurus, was termed Cabalia; but this had no natural connexion with Lycia, nor was in early times ever politically united with it, the four cities that were situated in this region—Cibyra, with its dependent towns of GEnoanda, Balbura, and Bubon— having always formed a separate league or Tetrapolis, which had no connexion with the Lycian league. It was not till after their annexation to Rome that Cibyra, with the district adjoining it, termed the Cibyratis, was united to Phrygia, while the three other towns above enumerated were annexed to Lycia.

According to Artemidorus (whose authority is followed by Strabo), the towns that formed the Lycian league in the days of its integrity were twenty-three in number; but Pliny tells us that Lycia once possessed seventy towns, of which only twenty-six remained in his day. Recent researches have fully confirmed the fact that, notwithstand-ing its rugged character, the sea-coast and the valleys that ran up into the interior were thickly studded with towns, which in many cases are proved by existing remains to have been places of considerable importance. The names have been for the most part identified by means of inscriptions, and we are thus enabled to fix the position of the greater part of the cities that are mentioned in ancient authors. On the Gulf of Glaucus, near the frontiers of Caria, stood Telmessus, an important place, while a short distance from it in the interior were the small towns of Dsedala and Cadyanda. At the entrance of the valley of the Xanthus were Patara, Xanthus itself, and, a little higher up, Pinara on the west and Tlos on the east side of the valley, while Araxa stood at the head of the valley, just at the foot of the pass leading into the interior. Sidyma, on the slope of Mount Cragus, seems also to have borne the name of the mountain, as was also the case with Massicytus, if there was really a city of the name at all. Myra, one of the most important cities of Lycia, occupied the entrance of the valley of the Andriacus; on the coast between this and the mouth of the Xanthus stood Antiphellus, while in the interior, at a short distance, were found Phellus, Cyanese, and Candyba. In the alluvial plain formed by the outlets of the rivers Arycandus and Limyrus stood Li myra, and encircling the same bay the three small towns of Rhodiapolis, Corydalla, and Gagse. Arycanda com-manded the upper valley of the river of the same name. On the east coast stood Olympus, one of the cities of the league, though it could never have been more than a small town, while Phaselis, a little farther north, which was a much more important place, never belonged to the Lycian league, and appears to have always maintained an independent position. We have thus in all twenty-one towns of which the sites have been ascertained, but the occurrence of other considerable ruins, to which no names can be attached with any certainty, confirms the statement of Pliny as to the great number of the Lycian towns.

The cold upland district of the Milyas appears never to have contained any town of importance. Podalia seems to have been its chief place. Between the Milyas and the Pamphylian Gulf was the lofty mountain range of Solyma, which was supposed to derive its name from the Solymi, a people mentioned by Homer in connexion with the Lycians and the story of Bellerophon. No such name was known in historical times as an ethnic appellation, but they were supposed by some writers to be the same people with the Milyans, while others regard them as a distinct people of Semitic origin. It was in the flank of this mountain, near a place called Deliktash, that the celebrated fiery source called the Chimaera, which gave rise in ancient times to so many fables, was found. It has been visited in modern times by Captain Beaufort, Messrs Spratt and Forbes, and other travellers, but is merely a stream of inflammable gas issuing from crevices in the rocks, such as are found in several places in the Apennines. No traces of recent volcanic action exist in Lycia.

Few parts of Asia Minor were less known in modern times than Lycia until a very recent period. Captain Beaufort was the first to visit several places on the sea-coast, and the remarkable rock-hewn tombs of Telmessus had been already described by Dr Clarke, but it was Sir Charles Fellows who first discovered and drew atten-tion to the extraordinary richness of the district in ancient remains, especially of a sepulchral character. His two visits to the country, in 1838 and 1840, were followed by a more regular expedition sent out by the British Government in 1842 for the purpose of transport-ing to England the valuable monuments now in the British Museum, while Lieutenant (now Admiral) Spratt and Professor Edward,Forbes explored the interior of the district, and laid down its physical features on an excellent map. The monuments thus brought to light are certainly among the most interesting of any that have been discovered in Asia Minor, and, while showing the strong influence of Greek art, both in their architecture and sculp-ture, prove also the existence of a native architecture of wholly distinct origin, especially in the rock-cut tombs, some of which present a strange resemblance to our English Elizabethan style, while others distinctly evince their derivation from the simple construction of the mud and timber built cottages of the natives. But the theatres that are found in al most every town, some of them of very large size, are alone sufficient to attest the pervading influence of Greek civilization ; and this is confirmed by the sculptures, which are for the most part wholly Greek. None of them, indeed, can be ascribed to a very early period, and hardly any trace can be found of the influence of Assyrian or other Oriental art.

One of the most interesting results of these recent researches has been the discovery of numerous inscriptions in the native language of the country, and written in a character, or at least an alphabet, before unknown, and which appears to have been peculiar to Lycia. A few of these inscriptions are fortunately bilingual, in Greek and Lycian, which has afforded a clue to their partial interpretation, and the investigations of Mr Daniel Sharpe in the first instance, followed by the more mature essays of Moritz Schmidt and Savelsberg, have established the fact that the Lycian language belonged to the great Aryan family, and had close affinities with the Zend. The alpha-bet in which the inscriptions are written is obviously derived from the Greek, no less than twenty-four of the letters being identical, while most of the additional letters appear to have been invented in order to express vowel sounds which were not distinguished in Greek. None of the Lycian inscriptions, however, any more than the sculptures, can lay claim to a high antiquity. It is remarkable that the Greek alphabet upon which it was founded appears not to have been the Ionic alphabet which was in general use in Asia Minor, but was more akin to the Doric alphabet in use in the Péloponnèse.

For these modern researches see A Journal written during an Excursion in Asia Minor, London, 1839, hy Sir Charles Fellows; An Account of Discoveries in Lycia, by the same author, London, 1841 ; Travels in Lycia, Milyas, and the Cibyratis, by Lieutenant Spratt and Professor Edward Forbes, 2 vols., London, 1847 ; Moritz Schmidt, Neue Lykische Studien, Jena, 18G9 ; Savelsherg, Beiträge zur Entzifferung der Lykischen Sprachdenkmaler, Bonn, 1874. (E. H. B.)

The above article was written by E. H. Bunbury, author of History of Ancient Geography.

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