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under construction by Pedar W. Foss, Stanford University
-- last revised: 12 June 1998 --

Table of contents*


  1. Introduction and chronology
  2. Sources
    1. Literary
      1. Pre-Roman sources
      2. Lycia and the Romans
    2. Archaeological
      1. Survey
      2. Excavation
      3. Epigraphy
      4. Numismatics
  3. Peoples and places
    1. Geology and geography
    2. Topography, ethnography and archaeology
      1. Western Lycia; MAP [81K]
        1. Western Gulf of Fethiye: Kalynda (Kozpinar), Krya (Tashyaka), Lydae and Aramaxa (Agyalimani), Lissa (Kizilagyaç), Daidala (Inlice Asari)
        2. Telmessus (Fethiye), Kadyanda (Üzümlü), Lebissos (Gemile Ada)
        3. Xanthus (Kinik), the Letoön (Kumluova), Patara (Kelemish)
        4. Lower Xanthus valley: Pydnai/Kydna (Zeytinlik), Sidyma (Dodurga), Pinara (Minare), Arsada (Arsa)
        5. Upper Xanthus valley: Tlos (Kale Köy), Araxa (Ören), Dereköy
      2. Central Lycia; MAP [98K]
        1. Antiphellos (Kash), Phellus (Çukurbag), Sebeda (Bayindir Liman)
        2. Aperlai (Sicak Iskelei), Apollonia (Kilinçli), Isinda (Belenli)
        3. Teimiousa (Üçagyizköyü), Tyberissos (Tirmisin), Simena (Kale-Kekova), Istlada (Inishdibi)
        4. Myra (Demre), Sura (Sura), Andriake (Calpat Liman)
        5. Trysa (Gölbashi-Davazlar), Kyaneai (Yaviköy), Kandyba (Gendive-Cataloluk)
      3. Eastern Lycia; MAP [71K]
        1. Phaselis (Tekirova), Olympos (Delik Tash), Gagai (Aktashharabeleri)
        2. Phoinikousa (Finike), Limyra (Yuvalilarköy-Saklisu Mahallesi), Korydalla (Kumluca), Rhodiapolis (Saricasuköyü)
        3. Akalissos (Dereköy), Idebessos (Kozagyci), Kormos (Karabük)
      4. Northern Lycia; MAP [114K]
        1. Mountain passes: Arykanda (Arifköy), Arneai (Ernez), Neisa (Sütlegyen)
        2. The Elmali Basin: Komba (Gömbe), Choma (Hacimusalar), Podalia (Karamik)
        3. The Kibyratis: Oinoanda-Termessos Minor (Inci Alilar), Balboura (Altinyayla), Boubon (Ibecik), Kibyra (Gölhisar)
  4. History and administration
    1. Persian-Classical and Hellenistic antecedents
    2. Circumstances of Roman conquest
    3. Political, social, and economic history during the Roman period
    4. The question of Romanization
    5. Role of the province in the empire as a whole

* Orthographic note: the ISO Latin-1 character set for HTML formatting does not unfortunately include all of the special characters and accents necessary for rendering Modern Turkish place-names correctly. In particular, two characters require special coding: the soft 's' with a subscript cedile shall be rendered 'sh', while the soft 'g' with an upside-down caret will be rendered as: 'gy' The dot-less 'i', unfortunately, cannot be suitably rendered at this time.

* Copyright note: all space shuttle images are public domain photos courtesy of Earthrise. Black and white photos are from O. Benndorf and G. Niemann, Reisen in Lykien und Karien (Wien 1884) and E. Petersen and F. von Luschan, Reisen in Lykien Milyas und Kibyratis (Wien 1889), now public domain. Provincial maps based on Xerox PARC Map server; Maps of Lycia based on World Aeronautical Chart (342) Dodecanese Islands, Fourth Edition, November 1947. All other maps, text and photos, ©1998 Pedar W. Foss. Opening photograph: Patara, city gate and arch of Mettius Modestus, governor of Lycia et Pamphylia ca. A.D. 100; from Benndorf and Niemann 1884: Taf. 36. Special thanks goes to Deniz Arikan of the University of Cincinnati for assistance in translating Turkish sources.

´ Author's note: this page will be updated and expanded at least once every year, as I am able, and probably more frequently. I will always note the date of the most recent revision at the top of this page. This brings up the problem of a 'stable copy' for reference purposes. Readers are advised to note the date they accessed these pages in their references. When ERP has established a universal policy for updates and archives, I shall follow that policy. Until that point, these pages should be considered 'under construction'.

* Reader's note: all links to illustrations, cross-references and other Web pages are underlined and reddish in color. All citations and references are in blue.

I. Introduction and chronology

Lycia came to occupy most of the Teke peninsula at the south-west corner of Anatolia (general map [54K]; labelled regional photo [79K]; labelled photo [46K]), between the Indos river bordering Caria in the west, the plains of Pamphylia starting at Attaleia in the east, and the mountains of Pisidia to the north. From its Homeric boundaries in the Xanthos river valley (Bryce 1986: 13), the territory called 'Lycia' expanded over time, whether as a set of independent city-states, as a formal federation, or while under the control of foreign powers such as Persia and Rome. In fact, its largest extent and greatest prosperity may have belonged to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods.

Lycia held the distinction of being the last area in Asia Minor to be formally incorporated as a Roman province. Lycia was formally free for over two centuries after breaking away from Rhodian control with Rome's blessing in 167 B.C. However, in A.D. 43, during the reign of Claudius, it was combined with part of Pisidia to the north-east and Pamphylia to the east into the joint province of 'Lycia et Pamphylia'. Though technically jointly administered for most of the imperial period, Lycia was always topographically, culturally, historically and to some extent administratively distinct. Thus Lycia will be treated in its own right as a provincial region of the Roman Empire.

Lycia only ever played a supporting role in international affairs, leaving us shy of an abundant historical record. Lycia might be considered a historical backwater, with only a few 'Great Men' or 'Great Events'. Nevertheless, the many relatively well-preserved material remains, including ample epigraphic and numismatic evidence, offer a fine picture of a province-at-work in the Roman Empire.

Lycia long had a history of strong regional-cultural identity, and a tradition of independent city-states that periodically joined in a Federation that was in many ways a model political organization. Despite a steep geography that sharply divides the land into river valleys, coastal plains and upland basins, despite the invasions of larger powers and despite the occasional rise of individual tyrants, the Lycian system of representative government was remarkably effective in maintaining Lycian autonomy during the troubled years of the Late Hellenistic period. Even under the Empire, when the governor, empire and army maintained ultimate authority, the Lycian League oversaw local religious, economic, and legal matters, distinct from the areas of Pisidia and Pamphylia that technically belonged to the same province. For the average citizen, that local Lycian decision-making was probably as real and relevant as the periodic imperial decisions or power-shifts centered at Rome. Lycia under the Roman Empire provides the historian a particular opportunity to consider the structures and processes of Romanization, to study how local culture and imperial culture interacted.

My viewpoint, as it develops, will be to try and balance the facets of Annaliste history* to form a composite telescopic lens with which to observe (collect evidence), know (organize evidence) and understand (interpret evidence) the past in Lycia. These lenses comprise (Bintliff 1991: 6):
1. histoire événementielle (individuals, short-term events, chance, and their near-immediate behavioral contexts)
2. histoire des conjonctures (middle-range climatic, demographic, political, ideological and social cycles, and their contexts of human experience and memory)
3. histoire de la longue durée (grand, long-term geographical, technological and ideological forces that essentially become enviro-evolutionary contexts)

Allowing for the condition and distribution of our sources, Lycia may prove to be an instructive case-study for the study of history precisely because it was never at the center of things; it may be argued that short-term, middle-term, and long-term history were always and somewhat equally in operation there in a way that is accesible without being overwhelming, allowing us perhaps to focus our historical telescope with some degree of clarity.

This illustrated essay consists of three main documents: 1) this introduction, including a discussion of our evidence for ancient Lycia (Sources); 2) a tour of the land and peoples of Lycia (Peoples and places); and 3) a review of Lycian history during the pre-Roman and Roman periods (History and administration). At the end of relevant sections in the documents are bibliographies. References are made with in-text citations in the (author date: pg. no.) format. A chronology table outlining the major periods and dates of Lycian pre-history and history is provided below.

* sources:
rather than attempting a comprehensive bibliography on the relationship between historical theory and practice in the classical world, I select two volumes of note: J. Bintliff (ed.), 1991. The Annales School and archaeology (Leicester); I. Morris (ed.), 1994. Classical Greece: ancient histories and modern archaeologies (Cambridge).


As any construction of a history is guided by the flow of time, it is necessary to outline the major periods of human occupation in Lycia, with the understanding (especially for the early periods) that the divisions are somewhat imprecise and artificial. Beyond these primary technological, political or social separations, I have grouped broader periods by color to correspond roughly to phases of middle-range history as discussed above, between which 'mentalités' underwent significant shifts.

The dates are keyed especially for Lycia, and may differ somewhat from chronologies constructed for the whole of Anatolia or for other Mediterranean regions. Nevertheless, they provide a context for the movements of peoples, goods, and ideas through the Lycian landscape over time. They also establish the period designations used throughout this essay.*
* In some future update, I plan to link each of the periods below to an invisible search that will produce documents particular to each period, thereby offering the reader the options of perusing a topical, topographical, or chronological history.

Middle Paleolithic ca. 60,000 - 30,000 B.C. Early Hellenistic Period ca. 333 - 167 B.C. Upper Paleolithic ca. 30,000 - 12,000 B.C. Late Hellenistic Period ca. 167 B.C. - A.D. 43 Mesolithic ca. 12,000 - 8,000 B.C. Early Roman Empire ca. A.D. 43 - 162 Neolithic ca. 8,000 - 5,500 B.C. Middle Roman Empire ca. A.D. 162 - 293 Chalcolithic ca. 5,500 - 3,000 B.C. Late Roman Empire ca. A.D. 293 - 395 Early Bronze Age ca. 3,000 - 1,900 B.C. Early Byzantine Period ca. A.D. 395 - 610 Middle Bronze Age ca. 1,900 - 1,500 B.C. Middle Byzantine Period ca. A.D. 610 - 961 Late Bronze Age ca. 1,500 - 1,200 B.C. Late Byzantine Period ca. A.D. 961 - 1176 Early Iron Age ca. 1,200 - 800 B.C. Seljuk Turkish Period ca. A.D. 1176 - 1299 Late Iron Age ca. 800 - 542 B.C. Ottoman Turkish Period ca. A.D. 1299 - 1922 Persian-Classical Period ca. 542 - 333 B.C. Modern Turkey ca. A.D. 1922 - present


Borchhardt, J. 1993. Die Steine von Zemuri (Wien), 5 fold-out chronological charts in back.

Bryce, T. R. 1983. The Lycians, vol. 1: The Lycians in literary and epigraphic sources (Copenhagen).

Foss, C. 1996. Cities, fortresses and villages of Byzantine Asia Minor (Aldershot, G.B.), articles I-II.

Götter, Heroen, Herrscher in Lykien (Vienna 1990).

Joukowsky, M.S. 1996. Early Turkey: Anatolian archaeology from prehistory through the Lydian period (Dubuque, IA).

Keen, A.G. 1998. Dynastic Lycia (Mnemosyne suppl. 178, Leiden).

Remy, B. 1986. L'Évolution administrative de l'Anatolie aux trois premiers siècles de notre ère (Lyon).

II. Sources

The problems of collecting, assessing and reconciling sources for Lycian history are manifold, especially when the methods and motives of the researchers in written and material evidence differ. Lycia has long been a tempting historical topic because of its unique and often isolated place amongst the lands of Asia Minor, because its native language is still incompletely understood, and because it is so prominent in Greek mythology. However, in nearly all treatments of Lycia, the Roman period is either peripheral to the author's interest, or merely a chapter within a larger work (see the History and Administration bibliography). No monographic study of Roman Lycia exists; this electronic essay moves to fill that gap.

In the last two decades we have seen a renaissance in Lycian studies: in archaeological fieldwork, which is providing new evidence for settlement patterns, chronological and artifactual classification, and occasionally new epigraphic documents. Still we know less about the landscape of ancient Lycia (especially the interior) than we do about other regions of Anatolia such as Caria, Ionia, and the Troad. This is a time of growth and change for Lycian studies; in ten years our outlook on, and control of, the sources will be much different.

II.A: Literary

Relatively little literature of the ancient tradition (historical, mythical, poetic, epistolary or otherwise) survives to describe the land of Lycia, its peoples and customs. that which we do have is largely concerned with the period from the Persian conquest to the Roman conquest. This section will briefly review the extant evidence for the pre-Roman period, followed by a more detailed outline of literary sources for Lycia during the Empire.

II.A.1: Pre-Roman sources

II.A.2: Lycia and the Romans

II.B: Archaeological

Lycia was a land of cities, and it is the cities, above all, that have been investigated by modern scholars, because they have offered the inscriptions, standing remains and tombs that early on attracted antiquarian travelers such as Fellows, and Spratt and Forbes. Only in the past decade has any serious effort been made towards surveying the countryside between settlements and monuments (ref. the Balboura survey and Hacimusalar surveys). Even so, the cities of Lycia, with a few exceptions (Xanthos, Limyra, Patara) remain barely described and largely unexplored. Lycian archaeology is still very much in its infancy, though it is presently a growth area for Turkish and foriegn archaeologists. Almost no archaeologist knew the land better than George Bean, and his work is still useful, but it has been superceded in recent years by a revival of fieldwork in all parts of Lycia, as evidenced by the published proceedings of two international conferences (Actes 1980; Borchhardt and Dobesch 1993), and the regular project reports in the Kazi Sonuçlari Toplantisi, Anatolian Studies, and the American Journal of Archaeology, amongst others.


Actes du colloque sur la Lycie antique. 1980. Institut français d'études anatoliennes d'Istanbul 27 (Paris).

Bean, G. 1978. Lycian Turkey (London).

Borchhardt, J. and G. Dobesch (edd.) 1993. Akten des II. Internationalen Lykien-Symposions, 6-12 Mai 1990 (2 vols., Wien), esp. R. Jacobek, "Lykien - Bibliographie", vol. 2, 245-314.

Fellows, C. 1841. An account of discoveries in Lycia (London).

Spratt, T.A.B. and E. Forbes. 1847. Travels in Lycia, Milyas, and the Cibyratis (2 vols., London).

II.B.1: Survey

II.B.2: Excavation

II.B .3: Epigraphy

on-going series of reports: "Epigraphische Forschungen zur Geschichte Lykiens" Chiron.

Neumann, G. 1979. Neufunde lykischer Inschriften seit 1901 (Wien).

II.B .4: Numismatics


Hill, G.F. 1964. Catalogue of the Greek coins of Lycia, Pamphylia and Pisidia (2 vols, text + plates; British Museum, London).

Troxell, H.A. 1982. The coinage of the Lycian League (New York).