Καῦνος (in Greek)
The basilica of Kaunos in front of the acropolis
|Location||Dalyan, Muğla Province, Turkey|
|Founded||10th century BC|
|Abandoned||15th century AD|
|Associated with||Protogenes, Zeno|
|Website||Kaunos Archaeological Site|
The Calbys river (now known as the Dalyan river) was the border between Caria and Lycia. Initially Kaunos was a separate state; then it became a part of Caria and later still of Lycia.
Kaunos was an important sea port, the history of which is supposed to date back till the 10th century BC. Because of the formation of İztuzu Beach and the silting of the former Bay of Dalyan (from approx. 200 BC onwards), Kaunos is now located about 8 km from the coast. The city had two ports, the southern port at the southeast of Küçük Kale and the inner port at its northwest (the present Sülüklü Göl, Lake of the Leeches). The southern port was used from the foundation of the city till roughly the end of the Hellenistic era, after which it became inaccessible due to its drying out. The inner or trade port could be closed by chains. The latter was used till the late days of Kaunos, but due to the silting of the delta and the ports, Kaunos had by then long lost its important function as a trade port. After Caria had been captured by Turkish tribes and the serious malaria epidemic of the 15th century AD, Kaunos was completely abandoned.
In 1966 Prof. Baki Öğün started the excavations of ancient Kaunos. These have been continued up to the present day, and are now supervised by Prof. Cengiz Işık.
The archeological research is not limited to Kaunos itself, but is also carried out in locations nearby e.g. near the Sultaniye Spa where there used to be a sanctuary devoted to the goddess Leto.
According to mythology Kaunos was founded by King Kaunos, son of the Carian King Miletus and Kyane, and grandson of Apollo. Kaunos had a twin sister by the name of Byblis who developed a deep, unsisterly love for him. When she wrote her brother a love letter, telling him about her feelings, he decided to flee with some of his followers to settle elsewhere. His twin sister became mad with sorrow, started looking for him and tried to commit suicide. Mythology says that the Calbys river emerged from her tears.
The oldest find at the Kaunos archeological site is the neck of a Protogeometric amphora dating back to the 9th century BC, or even earlier. A statue found at the western gate of the city walls, pieces of imported Attic ceramics and the S-SE oriented city walls show habitation in the 6th century BC. However, none of the architectural finds at Kaunos itself dates back to earlier than the 4th century BC.
Kaunos is first referred to by Herodotus in his book Histories. He narrates that the Persian general Harpagus marches against the Lycians, Carians and Kaunians during the Persian invasion of 546 BCE. Herodotus writes that the Kaunians fiercely countered Harpagus' attacks but were ultimately defeated. Despite the fact that the Kaunians themselves said they originated from Crete, Herodotus doubted this. He thought it was far more likely that the Kaunians were the original inhabitants of the area because of the similarity between his own Carian language and that of the Kaunians. He added that there were, however, great differences between the lifestyles of the Kaunians and those of their neighbours, the Carians and Lycians. One of the most conspicuous differences being their social drinking behaviour. It was common practice that the villagers -men, women and children alike- had get-togethers over a good glass of wine.
Some important inscriptions in Carian language were found here, dating to c. 400 BC, including a bilingual inscription in Greek and Carian found in 1996. They helped to decipher the Carian alphabets.
After Xerxes I was beaten in the Second Persian War and the Persians were gradually withdrawn from the western Anatolian coast, Kaunos joined the Delian League. Initially they only had to pay 1 talent of tax, an amount that was raised by factor 10 in 425 BC. This indicates that by then the city had developed into a thriving port, possibly due to increased agriculture and the demand for Kaunian export articles, such as salt, salted fish, slaves, pine resin and black mastic – the raw materials for tar used in boat building and repair – and dried figs. During the 5th and 4th centuries BC the city started to use the name Kaunos as an alternative for its ancient name Kbid, because of the increased Hellenistic influence. The myth about the foundation of the city probably dates back to this period.
After the Peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC, Kaunos again came under Persian rule. During the period that Kaunos was annexed and added to the province of Caria by the Persian rulers, the city was drastically changed. This was particularly the case during the reign of the satrap Mausolos (377–353 BC). The city was enlarged, was modeled with terraces and walled over a huge area. The city gradually got a Greek character, with an agora and temples dedicated to Greek deities. Alexander the Great's 334 BC brought the city under the rule of the Macedonian empire.
Because of differences between the Hellenistic kingdoms, the Roman Republic was able to expand its influence in the area and annex a considerable number of Hellenistic kingdoms. In 189 BC the Roman senate put Kaunos under the jurisdiction of Rhodes. At that time it was known as the Rhodian Peraia.
In 167 BC this led to a revolt by Kaunos and a number of other cities in western Anatolia against Rhodes. As a result, Rome discharged Rhodes from its task. In 129 BC the Romans established the Province of Asia, which covered a large part of western Anatolia. Kaunos was near the edge of this province and was assigned to Lycia.
In 88 BC Mithridates invaded the province, trying to curb further expansion by the Romans. The Kaunians teamed up with him and killed all the Roman inhabitants of their city. After the peace of 85 BC they were punished for this action by the Romans, who again put Kaunos under Rhodian administration. During Roman rule Kaunos became a prospering sea port. The amphitheater of the city was enlarged and Roman baths and a palaestra were built. The agora fountain was renovated and new temples arose.
From 625 AD onwards Kaunos was faced with attacks by Muslim Arabs and pirates. The 13th century brought invasions by Turkish tribes. Consequently, the old castle on the acropolis was fortified with walls, giving it a typical medieval appearance. In the 14th century the Turkish tribes had conquered part of Caria, which resulted in a dramatic decrease in sea trade.
The resulting economical slump caused many Kaunians to move elsewhere. In the 15th century the Turks captured the entire area north of Caria and Kaunos was hit by a malaria epidemic. This caused the city to be abandoned. The ancient city was badly devastated in an earthquake and gradually got covered with sand and a dense vegetation. The city was forgotten until the English archeologist Hoskyn found a law tablet, referring to the Council of Kaunos and the inhabitants of this city. Hoskyn visited the ruins in 1842 and brought the ancient city under the attention again.
The see is included, under the Latinized form of its name, Caunus, among the Latin titular bishoprics recognized by the Catholic Church. since it was nominally restored (no later than 1911), as a suffragan of the Lycian Metropolitan of the capital's Archdiocese of Myra.
Kaunos is a site that is interesting for both its archeological and ecological importance. Situated in the Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area, it offers outstanding vistas and is rich in wildlife. The ruins of the city are near Dalyan, on the west bank of the ancient Kalbis river. The main sights at the archeological site itself are:
Outside the official Kaunos archeological site, there are:
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