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Blue Voyage :: Myra

Myra

Myra is situated on the newly completed coastal road from kas to Finike, 24 km from Finike, in the region of Kale. After going through the small town of Bucak, we continue on to the banks of the river Demre, 15 km from the settlement. Leaving our car by the road, we cross the stream and through the fields can be seen the distinctive Lycian rock tombs, with facades almost like that of a multistoried apartment building, pierced with innumerable windows.

Although the date of Myra's first foundation is not known, from some Lycian inscriptions found in the area it would appear that the habitation existed in the 5th century. Strabo counts it among the six notable cities of Lycia. In the year 18 AD, the emperor Germanicus and his wife Agrippina visited Myra, and in honor of this visit, the statues of both the emperor and empress were erected in the harbor of the city, Andriache. In the early years of Christianity in 60 AD, St Paul met with his followers here on their way to Rome.

During the 2nd century AD Myra became a center of the diocese, and it was during that period that its theater was built. The theater and its portico were constructed by Licinus Lanfus of Oinoanda, to whom 10,000 dinars were given for its completion. The renowned Opramoas of Rhodiapolis, whose hand of patronage is to be seen in all the cities of Lycia, did not ignore this city, donating great sums to its development. Another notable patron was Jason of Kyaenai, through whose efforts the city was adorned with many great buildings. During the Byzantine Period, Myra maintained its role as a religious center. During the 4th century AD, St Nicholas of Patara, later to be known as Santa Claus, was bishop of Myra. His tomb and a church dedicated to him are to be found here.

The ruins of Myra are situated 5 km inland, between the modern town and the sea. The acropolis of the city is situated on top of the cliffs containing the Lycian rock tombs. The city walls, dating from the Hellenistic and Roman Periods, are still to be seen protecting the acropolis. The rock tombs cover the southern cliffs below the acropolis like a sheet of lace. Apart from the tombs beside the theater, others are to be seen on the river banks and in the surrounding cliffs.

Many of the tombs cut into the rock near the theater are damaged and much worn, but some still have fine facades, with inscriptions and reliefs clearly delineated. Two damaged tombs can be reached by a steep pathway. Another tomb with reliefs on the northern face of the rock has been cut in the form of a large sarcophagus. The owner of the tomb is seen buried here together with his family. The reliefs show him first in his prime and later as a corpse laid out on his heir with his family around him. The tomb is dated to the 4th century BC.

To see the tombs more closely and in order to examine them in detail, we can climb up to them via a flight of steps belonging to the theater, the river flowing by below. The most interesting tomb in the necropolis has a facade shaped like that of a temple. The facade contains two flanking columns of the Ionian order with floriate capitals containing lion heads. The architrave frieze contains a relief of a lion attacking a bull, executed in a most convincing manner.

The theater is situated close to the rock tombs. It is in a relatively good condition. The cavea has been carved into a slope out of the rock. The galleries were supported at the sides with vaulting that was used both for access to the upper galleries and also contained shops. Below the diazoma were 29 rows of seats, and below them, 6 rows more. The scene is still standing up to the second course in places and from the remaining fragments, it would appear that the facade facing the audience was extremely ornate.

In the town named Kale is situated St. Nicholas Church, who was from Patara, and took office in Myra as the Bishop in the 4th century AD and buried in this Church when he died, which was given his name. The town of Myra and the Church were demolished during the Arabian raids in the 7th and 9th centuries, and were totally destroyed in the naval raid made again by the Arabs in 1034: Constantine Monomakhos IX and Zoe the empress had made the Church reconstructed and also surrounded by walls. In 1087, merchants coming from Bari had stolen the bones from the church which were supposed to be belonging to St. Nicholas. This Church is the one built in the 9th century and restored several times. It is understood that the tombs belonging to the 2nd century AD were used again in the lower storey of the Church.

You can see the frescoes situated on the abscissa and the naves of the Church. Furthermore, the sitting places and columns reflect their restored appearances. You can reach the upper storey of the Church by using the stairs located at the side. The Church was subjected to another restoration in recent past, and a statue of St. Nicholas was erected near it.

After the Church, you can see the mausoleum on the Myra-Kas road, dating back to the 2nd century AD which probably belongs to a rich Lycian. Port of Andriake, taking place in Cayagzi at a few km. distance from Kale, is known as the port of Myra town, where the Hadrian Granarium (granary) with dimensions of 36x45 m still stands erect.

 



Above text and pictures are from the book titled "A Blue Romance".

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