Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Country / Turkey

Myra

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Myra

About the site


Corridor: Via Anatolia
Country: Turkey, Antalya
Type: Ancient Site
Epoch: Antiquity
Theme: Antiquity
World Heritage:
AntiquityAntiquityAncient Site

Myra was a leading city of the Lycian Union and surpassed Xanthos in early Byzantine times to become the capital city of Lycia. Its remains are situated about 1.5 km north of today's Demre, on the Kas-Finike road. Most of the ancient city is now covered by Demre and alluvial silts, for it is located on the river Demre Cay in a fertile alluvial plain. Today this large plain is almost covered with greenhouses stuffed full of tomatoes. In ancient times this area was probably farmed extensively, for export and trade with the interior of Lycia.
The date of Myra's foundation is unknown. There is no literary mention of it before the 1st century BC, when it is said to be one of the six leading cities of the Lycian Union (the other five were Xanthos, Tlos, Pinara, Patara and Olympos). It is believed to date back much further however, as an outer defensive wall has been dated to the 5th century BC.
The city is well known for its amphitheatre (the largest in Lycia) and the plethora of rock-cut tombs carved in the cliff above the theatre.
Rock-Cut Tombs - The famous rock-tombs of Myra are in two main groups, one above the theater and the other in a place called the river necropolis on the east side. Although most of the tombs are plain today, Charles Fellows tells that upon his discovery of the city in 1840 he found the tombs colourfully painted red, yellow and blue. The entire cliff face must have once been a bright riot of colour.
To the west of the theatre the steep cliff is pockmarked with a huge number of closely packed rock-cut tombs in an asymmetric pattern, house type rock-cut tombs. A few are temple tombs and one can see steps carved out out the rock that lead to them. Most of the tombs are from the 4th century BC, and many contain funeral scenes in relief, some scenes portraying the daily life of the deceased.
The tombs on the eastern face of the hill resemble those next to the theater. Approached by an uncomfortable rock-path is the monument known as The Painted Tomb, one of the most striking throughout Lycia. It is the ususal house-type tomb with the outstanding feature of a group of eleven life-size figures in relief.
 

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