General Information about Lycians

Lycians are one of the original Anatolian civilizations. Their country is today’s Teke peninsula on the coast of Mediterranean Sea which is located between Antalya and Fethiye. The Lycian language is one of the ancient Anatolian languages of Indo-European origin, a relative of Hittite and Luwian. They called their country “Trm̃mis” and themselves “Trm̃mili” in their own language. Although the name Lycia is thought to be given by the Greeks, its origin may be older. The country of “Lukka”, which is mentioned in various ancient sources, especially the Hittite, has been associated with the Lycian region for a long time.

Excavations and investigations take the history of the Lycian region back to the Paleolithic ages. However, the emergence of monumental structures, which is the main focus of this web site, begins in the middle of the 6th century BCE. The influence of the original Lycian culture continued to show itself in the monumental structures of the Hellenistic and Roman periods that followed.

  • Dynastic Period: It is also called the classical period of Lycia. Dynastic period begins with the Persian domination of Lycia along with all of Anatolia starting from 546 BCE. During this period the Lycian cities were ruled by local rulers (dynasts) who paid taxes to the Persians. Urban administration and the first city coins begin in this period. In the second half of the 5th century BCE, which was the scene of conflicts between the Greeks and Persians, the cities of Lycia briefly supported the Delian League. However, there was no strong unity among the Lycian cities during this period. There was a struggle for dominance among the occupying foreign powers as well as among themselves. At the end of the internal conflicts in the first quarter of the 4th century BCE, Perikle, the dynast of Limyra, managed to dominate almost all of Lycia and put an end to the Persian domination, albeit for a short while. When the Great Satrap Revolt started in Anatolia in 366 BCE, Lycia supported the rebellious satraps who were the losing side at the end. In 360 BCE, the rule of Lycia was given to the Carian Satrap Mausolos who had supported the Persian king during the revolt.

  • Hellenistic Period: The short-term domination of Caria was followed by the conquest of Lycia along with all Anatolia by Alexander the Great in 334 BCE. Under the rule of Alexander and his successors, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Kingdoms, the Lycian cities abandoned the dynastic structure and adapted a structure similar to the Greek city-states (polis). The independent structures of the cities continued, but rather than dynasts they were administired by city councils. It was the domination of Rome in Anatolia that put an end to this period. After the Roman Empire defeated the Lycian-supported Seleucids in the Magnesia war of 189 BCE, as a punishment Lycia was ruled by the Roman ally Rhodes.

  • Roman Period: Thanks to the diplomatic relations developed with Rome, the dominance of Rhodes over Lycia was short-lived and in 168/167 BCE the Roman senate granted autonomy to Lycia as a protectorate of Rome. Although they continued to pay taxes to Rome, the Lycians were free to make their own decisions in both internal and external matters. It is thought that the establishment of the Lycian League took place on the same date. Probably due to regional revolts in Lycia, which resulted in death of several Roman citiziens, in 43 CE Emperor Claudius ended the independent status of Lycia and it became a Roman province.

Lycian League
It is a union established at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE by the Lycian cities by agreement among themselves in order to establish a democratic government. An assembly consisting of delegates from each city, including women, elected from the civilian population, would meet to discuss and decide on important common issues. Periodic meetings were held alternately in each city. Cities had voting rights according to their wealth and importance. They were also contributing to the league in line with their vote rates. There is no definitive list showing which cities the Lycian League consisted of in which period. According to Strabo, the league consisted of 23 cities around 100 BCE, and the 6 largest cities, Xanthos, Myra, Patara, Pınara, Tlos and Olympos, each had three voting rights. While there were cities with two or one voting rights, some smaller and close cities shared one voting right together. Some later historians give different figures about the number of member cities of the Lycian League. On the other hand, it is also known that the member cities of the league have changed over time. For example, in the 1st century BCE, Olympos and Phaselis separated (or were expelled) from the league due to their relations with the pirate activities in the region, and Olympos, which had three voting rights, was replaced by Limyra. In the same period, after the victory against Mithridates, in line with a new administrative arrangement made by Rome in the region, the cities of Kibyra, Oinoanda, Bubon and Balbura were included in the league with two votes each.
All the peoples of the member cities had equal citizenship rights. The managers and officers of the league were elected every year, and the president of the league (Lyciarch) was elected every year from a different city. The league council discussed the common issues of the cities, and the local issues were handled by the city councils. The league had its own coin, and important cities affiliated with the league had the right to mint coins. Until the independence status of Lycia was ended by Emperor Claudius in 42 CE, even war, peace and all agreements with other countries were discussed in the league assembly. After 42 CE, Lycia was turned into a Roman province and the league was allowed to conduct only the internal affairs.

Lycian Monumental Tombs
The most significant monumental structures that have survived from the Lycian civilization are the tombs. There are many different types of grave structures that have been used since archaic times in the region. However, especially “Pillar Tombs”, “Rock-Cut Tombs” and “Sarcophagi” are the most original grave types belonging to Lycia. Among them, the Pillar Tombs can be identified as the oldest monumental tomb form in Lycia, almost all of which date to the Dynastic Period. The detected number of pillar tombs hardly exceeds fifty. Most of them have lost their original form. Xanthos has the largest number of pillar tombs with the best-preserved examples. Another type of grave structure that was also used extensively during the Dynastic Period is the Rock-Cut Tombs. The most significant feature of them is their façades carved in imitation of wooden architecture, which is an original Lycian style. Like the Pillar tombs, the wooden architecture imitating rock-cut tombs are generally used in the Central and Western Lycia region. The most numerous and beautiful examples can be seen in the necropolises of LimyraMyra and Pınara. Another type of tomb is the sarcophagus. Since it is a form that continued to be used until Byzantine Period, examples can be seen in the entire Lycian geography. The most distinctive feature that distinguishes Lycian sarcophagi from their counterparts is their ogival-shaped (gothic) lids. There are many monumental examples with or without hyposorions and podiums, and some sarcophagi are even placed on top of the pillars. There are also several number of monumental tombs in the form of temples or heroons such as the Nereid Monument of Xanthos, the Tomb of Amyntas in Telmessos, the Heroon of Perikle in Limyra and the Heroon of Trysa.

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