Telmessos - Telebehi

The oldest known name of the settlement is Kuwalapassa. Over the time, it was also called by different names such as Anastasiopolis, Makri and Meğri. The Lycian name of the city is Telebehi. Today it is located in the center of the town of Fethiye in Muğla province. It was the most important port settlement on the western border of Lycia. The westernmost Lycian inscription was found in Telmessos. Although it was not one of the largest and most powerful cities in the Lycian League, in the 5th century BCE among all of the Lycian cities that supported the Athenian League Telmessos was the biggest contributor. The city has preserved its value in every period owing to its position as a port overlooking the Glaukos Gulf and the fertile lands around it. During the dynastic period, it came under the control of the powerful dynasts of the region, Albinas and Perikle, and after the death of Alexander, the kingdoms of Ptolemaios, Seleukos and Pergamon. Although Telmessos joined the Lycian League at a relatively late date in 80 BCE, it was one of the important cities of the league during the Roman period.
The first settlement of the city was on two hills called Hıdırlık (or Hızırlık). Tombs and ruins of the city walls can still be seen on the acropolis of this early settlement. Most likely, the settlement moved to the seashore after the dynasts of Xanthos conquered the region in the 5th century BCE. By the Hellenistic period, Telmessos had become one of the largest and richest port cities in the region. The ancient settlement around the port has largely been destroyed by modern construction. The most important monuments that have survived to the present day are the rock tombs in the southeast of the castle hill. The most impressive one is the tomb belonging to Amyntas, which is built with an Ionic temple façade. Apart from a few temple-type tombs similar to that of Amyntas, there are many rock-cut tombs, most of which are of classical Lycian house style. The sarcophagus tombs seen in the drawings of the 19th century travelers are today remain among the buildings of the modern city. Most of the stones of the Telmessos theater seen in the same drawings were used in the construction of the Fethiye harbor in 1953. In 2012, a restoration work was started on the remains of the theater building.

Telmessos Sarcophagus

When 19th century travelers visited the city, this sarcophagus was in the Fethiye harbor with its base submerged in water. Today, it stands next to the government office building within the modern city settlement but only the sarcophagus and lid are shown above the ground. The podium and hyposorion are not visible. It is a typical dynastic period Lycian sarcophagus with its wooden house-imitating architecture and ogival shaped lid. The both sides of the sarcophagus lid and ridge beam are decorated with reliefs depicting battle scenes. The reliefs on both pediments of the sarcophagus lid are possibly depicting the grave owner and his family. In the drawings of Fellows and Texier, it can be seen that there are also reliefs on the podium of the tomb, which are no longer visible today. Texier proposed that these reliefs were added during the later reuse of the tomb.

Amyntas Tomb Monument

It is the largest and most significant of the rock tombs in Telmessos. The tomb has an 11×13 m façade with double columns and a triangular pediment in the form of an Ionic temple. The inscription on it states that it was made for Amyntas, the son of Hermapias. It is dated to the second half of the 4th century BCE by most historians. There is not much data about Amyntas. He might be a local ruler or one of the city’s wealthy nobles of the city. Although the name Hermapias is Lycian, Amyntas is of Greek origin. It is known that the construction of temple styled tombs started in the pre-Alexander period. Unlike the classical Lycian type tombs found in large numbers on the same rocks, these tombs, built with temple façades, are probably the traces of a transformation under the influence of Hellenistic culture, which occurred after the domination of the Carian and Hecatomnid dynasties of the region.


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Image sources:
C. Fellows, 1839, 1841, 1847
J. H. Allan, 1843
C. Texier, 1849
O. Benndorf & G. Niemann. 1884
E. Petersen & F. von Luschan, 1889
F. W. Hasluck, 1909
SALT – Ali Saim Ülgen Archive, 1932
N. Başgelen, 2005
A. M. Greaves et al., 2020
Tayfun Bilgin, 2022
Reha Özer, 2022
Bora Bilgin, 2022, 2023