Patara - Pttara

The city is located at the south-west end of the Xanthos Valley where the Xanthos River (Eşen Stream) meets the sea. The name of the city is also mentioned in the 13th century BCE Hittite texts. Its Lycian name is Pttara. The city, which has existed since the Bronze Age, stands out as the main port of the region in the dynastic period. In the Hellenistic period, there was a prophecy center in the name of Apollo. During the period of the Lycian League, political importance of the city increased with 3 voting rights. Patara lived its golden age as the capital of the Lycian state during the Roman period. Although its political importance decreased during the Byzantine period, Patara continued to be a great metropolis. The city lost its importance by the 14th century CE, as the port filled with alluvium of the Xanthos river lost its function.
Although the first traveler to mention the ruins of the city was Richard Pococke in 1745, the first researchers to visit the city were the Society of Dilettanti team headed by William Gell in 1811. The first modern excavation work was carried out in 1952 and regular excavation and restoration works, which started in 1988 under the direction of Fahri Işık, are still continuing uninterruptedly under the direction of Havva İşkan Işık. The structures belonging to the dynastic and Hellenistic periods remained 3-4 meters under the filling soil, which rendered the port dysfunctional. The most important building remains from the dynastic and earlier periods are on the Tepecik acropolis to the east of the inner harbor. It is thought that the Cemetery Church, located to the northeast of the Tepecik acropolis, was built on top of the Temple of Apollo, which was used as a prophecy center. Most of the existing monumental structures belong to the Roman and Byzantine periods. The theater and bouleuterion, which were mostly unearthed after the excavation and restoration works, belong to the Roman period, but were built on earlier structures used for similar purposes. Another feature of the theater with a capacity of 5000 people is the theater temple located in the middle of the upper cavea. The only similar structure in Anatolia is in the theater of another Lycian city, Tlos. The bouleuterion building, worthy of the size of the city, has a capacity of 1400 people and has a covered roof. Four baths, a granarium and a temple with a Corinthian order are other partially surviving structures. Among the many tombs found in the necropolises around the city, there are only 4 rock-cut tombs from the dynastic period. There are a few sarcophagi from the Hellenistic period and numerous underground carved tombs, sarcophagi and mausoleums from the late Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The Lighthouse of Patara

The lighthouse is located at the southwest end of ancient Patara Harbor. The ancient harbor, which was a natural bay, has turned into an inland lake with the alluviums filled by the River Xanthos (Eşen). Today, the lighthouse stands about 500 m inland from the sea. The tower is thought to have collapsed as a result of an earthquake in the 15th century. The surviving part is only 4.5 m high. The cylindrical shaped tower originally was 26 m high and 6 m in diameter. It consists of two interlocked cylindrical structures connected by spirally ascending steps. It was erected on a 20×20 m wide and 5 m high podium. With a project started in 2006, the tower is being restored using its original stones. It is planned to be completed in 2023. The lighthouse was built in 64/65 CE and it is the oldest known ancient lighthouse structure in the world.
There are two inscriptions found on the lighthouse. The first one is located on the east face of the tower and on the upper part. It was written with gold-plated bronze letters, each 20-30 cm high, and covers an area of 3.70 m in height, so that it could be easily seen from the ships entering the harbor. The second inscription is located on the pedestal of a statue (most possibly of the Governor Marcius Priscus) on the eastern side of the tower. In both inscriptions, it is written that this lighthouse was built in the name of Emperor Nero by the Governor Marcius Priscus for the “salvation of the sailors”. The second inscription further states that there was a second lighthouse (Antipharos) in Patara. It was probably located at the tip of the breakwater of the inner harbor.

The Arch of Mettius Modestus – City Gate

It is a city gate and also an honorary monument dedicated to Mettius Modestus, the Roman Governor of Lycia and Pamphylia in 100 CE. There are inscriptions honoring Mettius Modestus, his family, and the notables of the city on the niches and consoles, which are thought to have been adorned by statues and busts. Although built as the main entrance gate of the city, it also forms the last leg of the waterways that carry water to the city. The water channeled to the city from 20 km away via the waterway called ‘Delikkemer’ flowed over this arch and on its west side poured like a waterfall into a pool, from which it was distributed to the city. The monument is 19 m wide and 10 m high. The arch in the middle is 3.60 m wide, while the arches on both sides are 2.5 m wide.

Patara Road Monument

The monument was found in 1993 after a forest fire in Patara. By this examination of the unearthed inscribed blocks, it was understood that they belonged to a monument erected in 46 CE. On the front face, there is an Old Greek inscription indicating that it was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Claudius. Quintus Veranius, mentioned in this dedication, is the first Roman governor appointed to the region after Lycia became a Roman province in 43 CE. The significance of the monument is that the roads leading to the cities in Lycia are listed on both sides with their distances. There are 53 ancient city names in 65 routes in total. Thanks to the monument, the names and locations of the cities which were previously unknown or uncertain, have been discovered and/or confirmed. It is the oldest of all known such monuments and a very important source in terms of understanding the history and geography of Lycia. It is thought that the six-meter-high, rectangular column-shaped monument served as a base for a statue of Emperor Claudius on a horse.
Various publications refer to the monument and the road list as “itinerarium,” “miliarium,” “stadiasmus” and “tabellarium,” but at this web site it will be referred to more generically as “Patara Road Monument.” The content of the inscriptions on the monument are listed below (Adapted from Sencer Şahin 2014; includes author’s restorations of unreadable sections.)

Front Face of the monument (Dedication Inscription)
To Tiberius Claudius, son of Drusus, Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Pontifex Maximus, with his fifth tribunician power, eleventh salutation as emperor, father of fatherland, and fourth consulate in prospect, the savior of their nation, (dedicated by) Lycians as Rome- and Caesar-loving loyal allies, for they were freed from mutiny and lawlessness and banditry by his divine foresight; after the conduct of state was (taken) from the incompetent majority and entrusted to councilors chosen from amongst noblest men, (and) by this means they (Lycians) were given the possession of the homeland by him (Emperor) through Quintus Veranius, legatus propraetore of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, they (Lycians) have recovered concord, the fair administration of justice and the ancestral laws.

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Çevik, N. 2021. Lykia Kitabı: Arkeolojisi, Tarihi ve Kültürüyle Batı Antalya, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara.
Fellows, C. 1847. Lycia, Caria, Lydia, illustrated Mr. George Scharf with descriptive letter-press by Sir Charles Fellows, London.
Işık, F. 2000. Patara: The History and Ruins ot the Capital City of Lycian League, Antalya.
Işık, F., H. İşkan & N. Çevik. 2001 Miliarium Lyciae. Das Wegweisermonument von Patara, Lykia 4 – 1998/1999, Antalya.
İşkan, H. 2016. ‘Capital of Lycian League and Province: Patara’, in From Lukka to Lycia: The Land of Sarpedon and St. Nicholas, eds. H. İşkan & E. Dündar, 186-205, İstanbul.
İşkan, H., W. Eck & H. Engelmann, 2008. ‘Der Leuchtturm von Patara und Sex. Marcius Priscus als Statthalter der Provinz Lycia von Nero bis Vespasian’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 164, 91 -121.
Onur, F. 2016. ‘The Monument of Roads at Patara’, in From Lukka to Lycia: The Land of Sarpedon and St. Nicholas, eds. H. İşkan & E. Dündar, 570-577, İstanbul.
Şahin, E. & Aktaş, Ş. 2019. ‘Urban Change in Patara’, in Patara. City, Harbor, Cult, ed. H. İşkan, 156-174, İstanbul.
Şahin, S. 2011. Stadiasmus Patarensis. Likya Eyaleti Roma Yolları, İstanbul.
Şahin, S. 2014. Stadiasmus Patarensis. Itinera Romana Provinciae Lyciae / Likya Eyaleti Roma Yolları, İstanbul.
The Society of Dilettanti, 1840. Antiquities of Ionia, Band 3, London.
Texier, C. 1849. Description de l’Asie Mineure, Vol.3, Paris.

Image sources:
The Society of Dilettanti, 1840
C. Fellows, 1847
C. Texier, 1849
O. Benndorf & G. Niemann, 1884
S. Şahin, 2011, 2014
Patara Excavations
William Neuheisel, 2012
F. Onur, 2016
E. Şahin & Ş. Aktaş, 2019
N. Çevik, 2021
Daily Sabah by AA, 2022
Bora Bilgin, 2022
Reha Özer, 2022
Tayfun Bilgin, 2022, 2024