Monday, May 28, 2012

Patara (the one in Lycia, not the one in Cappadocia)

Patara -- seating rows inside newly reconstructed
Lycian League Assembly Hall
Patara is the birthplace of Saint Nicholas, a/k/a the Bishop of Myra, a/k/a Santa Claus.  It was important for a lot more than that.  Long before the birth of the man who became Saint Nicholas, Patara was celebrated for its temple and for the oracle of Apollo.  It was Lycia's major naval and commercial port and was situated on the Xanthos River.   Following capture by Alexander the Great, Patara became an important naval base.  Alexander promised the revenues of 4 cities, including Patara, to 1 of his commanders.  

Many legends exist explaining the origin of the name of Patara.  During the time of Lycia's domination by Egypt's Ptolemy, Ptolemaios II (reigned 285 - 246 B.C.) re-named Patara as Arsinoe in honor of his wife.  That name did not stick, and the original name was soon again in use.  The Lonely Planet states that Patara was the port where Saints Paul and Luke changed boats while on their third mission from Rhodes to Phoenicia.  From the evidence visible today (without digging) Patara was a very large and very wealthy city.

During the Roman period, Patara was the judicial seat of the Roman governor, and the city became the capital of the Lycian province.  Patara was called 'the chosen city' and 'the metropolis of the Lycian nation.'  Around 128 B.C. Patara had a population of about 20,000 and ranked among the top cities of Anatolia and Ephesus.  Remember, only the male Roman citizens were counted in the population.....women, children and slaves were not counted in the population.  Add those, and the population of the city likely would have been 140,000.

Patara -- all Greek to me.
No idea what building this wall belonged to.
Absolutely no idea what the carvings say.
Piracy and looting started in the late Roman Age.  By the mid-7th century the Arabs had built a fleet that challenged Byzantine naval supremacy in the eastern Med.  The Arab raids eventually pretty much finished off Lycia.  Patara still held on, but was eventually reduced to a mere village.  The townspeople were forced to retreat to a small area on the edge of the harbor and to build walls to create a protected inner port.  By this time the city was very much reduced in size and population.  Written records of the 9th century show that while Patara was still an important place, it was then just a village.  In the 10th century it became a naval base of the Byzantine Empire.  Patara continue to be used through the 15th century, continuing to shrink in population and with poverty increasing.  The once very wealthy city was reduced to a poor village.  Eventually, with too little manpower to keep the sand out of the harbor, it silted up and became plagued with mosquitoes.  Malaria finished off Patara.

Patara -- ruins of large Hadrian's Granary across the swamp, which
used to be a deep harbor port.  Large sand dunes
on left where river used to exit to sea.  Beach is on other side of the dunes.
The river has silted heavily and changed course over the past 2,000 years.  What once was a huge port is now a large marshy oval depression filled with reeds behind high sand berms on the beach which covered in dense vegetation and trees.  The Xanthos River has changed course and empties into the sea quite some distance from this ancient city.  Patara can claim Turkey's longest uninterrupted well as some of Lycia's finest ruins.  The beach is 18 kilometers long and was voted one of the top beaches in the world by Times Online in 2005.  Umbrellas and lounge chairs are available for rent if you want a break from walking the ruins.  The area is a national park.

Patara -- This site is huge!  And only a tiny portion has
been excavated.  Archaeologists work 2 months each
year on this site.  Lots yet to do!
Patara's oracle at the renown Temple of Apollo was said to rival that at Delphi, and the temple equaled the reputation of the famous temple on the island of Delos (birthplace of Apollo).  It was believed that Apollo lived at Delos during the summer but spent his winters at Patara.  Omens were interpreted in these two towns during the respective seasons.  A large bust of Apollo, discovered on the hill beyond the City Gate, indicates the existence of an Apollo Temple; but this renowned Temple of Apollo has not yet been found.  This is a huge site and only a tiny fraction has been excavated so far.   Work was underway the day we visited.

Roman Triumphal Arch near entry to Patara

Shortly after passing the ticket booth one drives past a 2nd century triple-arched Roman triumphal arch.  Then a necropolis containing a number of Lycian tombs nearby.  

Patara---self-explanatory sign

Also near the Roman triumphal arch was some sort of on-going excavation.  Loved the signs telling visitors that entrance was forbidden.  Entrance to what?
What we are forbidden to enter


Patara--the Roman Baths complex.  Pretty bad condition.

Next is a baths complex.  The baths are in pretty deplorable condition.  If one is not familiar with what Roman baths were like, then it is not likely one would figure out what had been the purpose of this building.  Heck, even though we know what Roman baths were like it still required active imaginations to guess what the purpose of this building had been.  

Patara--one of many buildings we could
not identify.  No maps or brochures and no guides here.
Very nice new roads, though.

Supposedly the next thing to see was the remains of a Byzantine basilica.  We never found that.  The was a large field filled with number stones.  Maybe those stones have been excavated and cataloged in preparation of reconstructing the basilica.  

Patara--Roman gladiator style theater

Back to the left was the theater.  This theater was built for gladiator exhibitions.  Some of the stones at the gladiator level are carved with gladiator paraphernalia.  Sorry; but at this point we have seen too many Roman theaters.  'The thrill is gone' as the old song says.  I just was not impressed with this theater.  The one at Myra was in far better condition and was larger.

Patara--where the gladiators
entered the theater arena

Patara--cisterns on top of hill in distance

Behind the theater is a hill upon which are the foundations of a Temple of Athena and an unusual circular cistern cut into the rock with a pillar in the middle.  There also are the ruins of an ancient lighthouse high on the far side of that hill which was only recently discovered and excavated.  Chay and Jamie climbed to the top of the hill; Bill, Katie and I stayed at the lower level.   

Patara -- Active dig behind the recently reconstructed
Lycian League Assemble Hall

Bill and I were more interested in the very recently reconstructed Lycian Assembly Hall.  This is cool beyond belief!  This is basically their parliament building.  The building looks almost new.  

Bill & Katie sitting outside the recently
reconstructed Assembly Hall

They took the old stones which were excavated and finished each one to what it would have looked like when first used in construction this assembly hall.  For missing stones, they fabricated completely new stones.  The result is that visitors can see which parts of the walls, seats and floors are made up of the old original stones but can also easily see which stones are new.  The colors are almost the same but you can see the difference at close hand.  The result is that the entire building appears to be recently built.

Katie & Bill on glass floor in Assembly Hall

The floor inside has been covered with an elevated glass/acrylic/plastic floor.  You can see the original marble floor beneath the 'plastic' floor, but shoes of visitors won't further damage the original marble floor.

Katie and Bill standing in front of stage inside the Lycian Assembly Hall at Patara

Bill in front of interior wall of Assembly Hall.  Note
the stones to see old and new

The stage looks just as it would have 2,000+ years ago.  Wood has been used both on stage and as doors and a few beams........just as would have been when originally built.  We were all very impressed with this reconstructed assembly hall.  I would love to see a few more of these old sites reconstruct one major building on each site.  As one travels through Turkey it would be possible to see examples of each type of building in its original state. 

Right side facing stage in Assembly Hall

Left side facing stage in Assembly Hall

To the right of the newly reconstructed assembly hall stands the colonnaded agora.  Much of the agora is beneath standing water.  But most of the columns are in place.  And the shop areas along one side are clearly visible.  

Looking from left to right in front of stage
Patara -- Exterior of the newly reconstructed Lycian League Assembly Hall.
This is one cool building!

Jamie & Chay near colonnaded
agora.  Shops to left of columns. 

Follow the dirt path past the agora and it winds back to the ancient harbor area -- now just a marshy wet area filled with mosquitoes.  At the harbor area is the enormous Granary of Hadrian and a Corinthian-style temple tomb. 

Patara -- Chay and Jamie on top of a building we never identified.
Oh, to have the energy of youth to climb everything he found.
At the west end of the beach at Patara once stood a naval and military base fortress.  It had 11 rectangular towers at its corners and mid-way along the walls.  It had 7 protruding stairways which allowed soldiers to quickly scale its walls from the inside.  Battlements were later added on the upper walls.  The only sign of construction within the walls is a small church.  This fortress was called Pydnai and guarded Patara from attack from the west.

After all the walking and climbing at the ruins, we had to stop at a small roadside shop to check out souvenirs.  This shop had some interesting antiques, but nothing that screamed "buy me!"

Patara -- Bill doing the obligatory shopping,
but no buying.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.