Phaselis

HOW TO REACH

Here is how Kate Clow, Turkish Daily News Guest Writer, describes the path to Phaselis:

“… and cross a flimsy little bridge [near the bar] over a stream. Turn towards the beach and follow the footpath around the high water line until it heads slightly inland just before a rocky outcrop which divides this bay from Phaselis. In summer, you may be able to wade round the outcrop onto Phaselis beach, but there is a Grade 2 track upwards to beautiful views of the old city perched on its peninsula, fortified by walls where the cliffs were not steep enough to deter invaders. Descending from the outcrop you meet the wire fence around Phaselis but there is a gap marked with a red arrow painted on a fence post. You can now stroll along Phaselis beach to the ruins… (Main road to ruins — 1 hour)”

Although the borders of Lycia was altered many times in the course of history, Phaselis is known as ‘the city at the eastern border’ of the area next to Phamphylia. Phaselis is an ancient city where only surface excavation has taken place. This is why it is still among pine trees and under vegetation. The combination of ancient remains with a forest surrounded by sea on three sides makes it a beautiful national park.

Because the land was not suitable for agriculture, Phaselitans concentrated on trading and thus excelled as great traders. According to the legend, they are supposed to have bought the land in exchange for dried fish from a local shepard named Cylobros. Every year, Phaselitans then sacrificed dried fish in the honor of Cylobros. According to the legends, it is clearly understood that the inhabitants preceding the Phaselitans were Lycians. The name of the town is said to be derived from the Greek word phaselos meaning chick-peas.

Phaselis came under the rule of the Persians in the 6th century BC and was freed in 469 BC by the Athenian commander Cimon. They minted coins in the 5th century BC which show the bow of a ship on one side and the stern on the other, which symbolizes sea and trade:

Phaselitans minted coins in the 5th B.C.
Main items of export were were wood, oil of rose and various perfumes.

Phaselis proved its independence from Lycia by siding with Mausolus, the Carian satrap, in the 4th century BC. When Alexander the Great came in 333 BC they offered him a golden crown. This attitude showed Phaselitans’ reaction to authority. He spent the winter of 333 BC in Phaselis. Phaselis was known as the most prominent port city to the west of the Gulf of Antalya, until the city of Attaleia was established in the 2nd century BC. In the 2nd century BC, Phaselis became part of the Lycian Federation, but in the beginning of the 1st century BC, taking advantage of lack of authority in the territory, Cilician pirates came into rule.

In 43 AD, with the orders of Emperor Claudius, all of Lycia and Pamphylia, including Phaselis, were united as a Roman Province. Thus the Lycian Federation lost its prestige, and a period of Romanization has begun.

2nd century AD has seen Phaselis at its golden age. In 129 AD, Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis, and numerous buildings and statues were built which were dedicated to him. In the 7C and 8C Phaselis flourished as a fleet base under Byzantium, its population increased and new residential buildings have been built.

In the 9th and 10th Centuries, Port of Attaleia gained popularity so much so that it became the most important harbour in the gulf. According to historians, many of the structures in Phaselis were torn down so that the stone blocks could be used in the construction of the city walls of Attaleia. Phaselis survived until the 12th century. In the 12th century, it was inhabited by the Seljuk Turks until it was abandoned in the following century. Following this, Phaselis disappeared from the stage of history gradually and no more mention was traced thereafter.

THE SITE

Near the parking lot, the first thing that catches the eye is an Aqueduct.

Three harbours of Phaselis, north, city and south, are arranged around a 400-meter-long (1,310 ft) peninsula on which most of the city is situated.
These harbours served the city’s trade activities, particularly the export of local timber, rose and lily oil. The North Harbour was the key point in terms of defense.

The City Harbour had a sea wall and the harbour entrance between two towers which could be closed in times of danger. The South Harbour is the largest and protected by a long breakwater most of which is under water. This was for the loading and unloading of larger ships. Between the middle harbour and the monumental gate near the south harbour is the Main Street.

On both sides of the 22-meter-wide (72 ft) main street are important Roman and Byzantine public buildings, baths complex, agora and suchlike. The Monumental Gate, built of gray-white marble blocks, was erected in the 2nd AD in honor of Hadrian’s visit and bears a dedication to him. The Roman Theater which probably had replaced an earlier Hellenistic theater, lies to the east of the main street on the hillside of the Acropolis and dates from the 2C AD.

Without any doubt, the theatre, resting against the slope in the northwestern side of the Acropolis, is the most impressive structure in Phaselis. According to Hellenistic tradition, it is in complete harmony with the city and the natural beauty of the area. Steps of stone lead up to the theatre. The main entrance and exit are through the para doses on each side.

The original architectural features especially of these sections have been altered due to the additions in later periods. During the Byzantine era, it served for defense and of course, it was modified considerably to serve that purpose.