Pinara, Turkey.

Evocative Ancient Lycian city

The remote ancient Lycian city of Pinara is on a pine forested mountain foothill of the ancient Mount Cragus (today Mount Babadag),two kilometres above the village of Minare, in the Fethiye district of Mugla Province, south-western Turkey.

The lost ruins of Pinara were discovered by Sir Charles Fellows, a British archaeologist and traveller from the 19th century.

Colonists from the overpopulated city of Xanthos, which was the largest city of the Lycian Federation, established Pinara (meaning ‘round hill’ in ancient Lycian) on the western bank of the River Xanthos in the 5th century BC. During this period, Pinara had a large natural harbour and was one of the chief ports of the influential Lycian league. The harbour no longer exists and in its place are reed-filled wetlands.

Very little was written about Pinara by ancient writers, however Strabo, the ancient Greek geographer, philosopher and historian wrote Pinara was a very important and developed city and was one of the six principal cities of the prominent Lycian league and possessed three votes at the Federal assembly. (The other five were Xanthos, Patara, Olympus, Myra, and Tlos). 

Strabo also noted that the city appears to have paid hero honours to Pandarus, Homers celebrated archer from the Trojan war.

In 334 BC, the city surrendered happily to Alexander the Great, on his march through Lycia. The locals welcomed as a liberator Alexander because of their disdain for the former Persian occupiers. The city, like the rest of Lycia, was completely Hellenised during this period.

Ancient Theatre. Pinara. Turkey.
View of the spectacular Greek-style 2nd century BC theatre. Pinara. Turkey. The theatre is situated at the base of the ancient city and accommodated up to 3,200 spectators.

After Alexander’s death, his empire was spilt with Pinara annexed to the Attalid Kingdom, the Hellenistic Dynasty that ruled Pergamum. It eventually became under Roman rule and achieved great prosperity. During its peak, Pinara even minted its own coins.

The area was and is prone to earthquakes and large earth-shaking events considerably damaged the city in 141 and 240 AD. The city was rebuilt; however, it was eventually abandoned in the 9th century.

Many footpaths crisscross the extensive and interesting site, linking many remnants from its past. Highlights include the ancient theatre, foundations of ancient temples, Cyclopean walls, an Odeon and Agora, an upper and a lower Acropolis, and thousands of rocks tombs cut into the vertical limestone cliff face, some of which are quite intricate.

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All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Palmyra, Syria.

Bride of the desert

An oasis in the Syrian desert, Palmyra was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. 

From the 1st to the 2nd century AD, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilisations, married Greek-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. 

Palmyra prospered in ancient times as a caravan staging post, primarily because of its location on one of the main ancient routes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates and to markets further east, including those on the Silk Route. 

Palmyra reached its zenith of prosperity (earning it the nickname ‘bride of the desert’) around the 2nd century AD, when it was under the mighty rule of Queen Zenobia, who challenged the powerful Roman Empire and nearly bringing the Romans to their knees. 

Tetrapylon. Palmyra. Syria.
Palmyra. Syria. The towering Tetrapylon, with its Corinthian columns, dominates the central section of the Great Colonnade Street. In the background is the hilltop 17th century Arab castle or citadel of Qala’at lbn Maan. The Tetrapylon, which marks and masks the change of direction of the great colonnade, has four independent pylons, each comprising four columns and stands on a moulded square plinth at the four corners of a stepped platform.

Palmyra has many outstanding remnants of its past, including the following;

 The 2nd century theatre which laid buried under sand until the 1950s has largely been excavated and restored back to its former glory. The magnificently adorned stage has a large central door known as the Royal Gate, which is flanked by two smaller ones. Facing the stage is the semi-circle orchestra; 20 metre is diameter and beyond it rises the cavea with its nine rows of seats.

The Monumental Arch which was erected in the early 3rd century AD under Septimius Severus in order to disguise the thirty degrees change of direction of the first and second sections of the Great Colonnade.

 The Temple of Bel which is the most impressive remnant of Palmyra. Dedicated to Bel who is thought to be the supreme God of the Palmyrene pantheon, the Temple is an enormous complex and its major construction was performed over several stages from the Hellenistic through to the Roman periods. 

Unfortunately, several of the ancient monuments that I photographed at Palmyra have been severely damaged or destroyed, one consequence of the devastating civil war.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palmyra, is, without question, one of the world’s great archaeological sites. 

Click this link to view the complete Palmyra

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Arykanda Turkey

Built on a series of terraces on a rocky steep hillside overlooking stunning mountainous and valley landscape, Arykanda’s location resonates like mystical Delphi in Greece and is perhaps the most beautiful of ancient cities in the whole of Lycia, an ancient geopolitical region in Anatolia. It is in the province of Antalya on the southern (Turquoise) coast of Turkey.

The city was well known for its grand and lavish buildings, however according to ancient sources, the citizens of Arykanda were apathetic and in the habit of living extravagantly beyond their means. It is said that they fell into debt; and it is believed they repaid their extravagance through new special taxes.

Arykanda was a small obscure settlement when it was invaded by the Persians in the 5th century BC. Like other Lycian cities, Arykanda heroically resisted the invasive powers, however, they eventually succumbed to the might of the Persian Empire.

During 333 BC, Alexander the Great arrived in Lycia (on his way to defeat the Persians) and was welcomed as a liberator by the citizens of Arykanda.

With Alexander came the overwhelming force of Hellenism. Arykanda fully embraced the Greek culture and way of life, which included the Greek language, and it was transformed with all the buildings necessary for a Greek metropolis.

In antiquity, Arykanda was a representative (with voting rights) of the Lycian League and even minted its own coins.

Arykanda continued to grow and prosper after the premature death of Alexander and remained under the control of the Ptolemaic dynasties. It briefly changed hands to Antiochus III and again to Rhodes around 190 BC (ally with Rome at the time). It was formally annexed to Rome in 43 Ad.

Grand Baths panoramic view. Arykanda. Turkey.
Part view of the Grand Baths complex and stunning landscape surrounding Arykanda, Antalya province, Southern Turkey.

The city continued to prosper as a Greek city under Roman authority; however, its prosperity was stalled when it was struck by two significant earthquakes in 141 and 240 AD.

After a bitter struggle with the city’s pagans, Christianity prevailed in Arykanda and the city became a bishop’s seat in the Byzantine age. However, the city was on the decline and sometime between the ninth and eleventh centuries AD; the site was abandoned because of the Arab invasions of the region.

British researcher and explorer Sir Charles Fellows rediscovered Arykanda in 1838. The isolated archaeological site is extensive and thoroughly sign-posted.

It has a very impressive array of excavated architectural remnants from its illustrious past including: Stadium, Theatre, Odeon, Agoras, Baths, many Temples or Sanctuaries, Nymphaeums, Houses and Villas and at least 15 monumental tombs. 

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All Images, Text and Content are Copyright Steven Sklifas.