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Cilicia

In ancient times, Cilicia began at Alanya and extended eastward including what is today Adana and Mersin. This region is also dotted with numerous archaeological sites and here we shall be discussing those that we have not been able to include elsewhere. Many of these are located on the Mersin-Antalya highway and are impressive indeed.

Excavations conducted at Yumuktepe in Mersin and at Gozlukule in Tarsus have demonstrated that human habitation of this region goes back to Neolithic times. The Hittites occupied and settled it and it was also a flourishing region during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Tarsus, a town of Mersin province in the direction of Adana, was the center of the Cilician littoral in ancient times. Excavations at nearby Gozlukule have yielded an unbroken series of finds starting from the Neolithic and extending through the Chalcolithic, Bronze, and Hittite periods. Other historical places to visit in Tarsus county are Eski ("Old') Mosque, built in 1102; the remains of Roman baths; Sahmeran Hamami, built during the Ramazanogullari period on the foundations of a Roman bath; Cleopatra's Gate, built in honor of Antonius and Cleopatra's meeting here; Donuktas, a structure whose function is unknown; the Bridge of Justinian; and Ulu ("Grand") Mosque.

Eleven kilometers out of Mersin in the direction of Silifke are the ruins of ancient Pompeiopolis, near Viransehir. This city was founded during the Roman period on the site of an earlier city known as

Soloi, that was itself founded in 700 B.C. The colonnaded street with its row of Corinthian capitals was built between 150-250. In addition, one may also visit remains of a necropolis, a theater, baths, aqueducts, and temples here, The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 525.

After passing by Erdemli we come to Narlikuyu, where there is an ancient mosaic depicting the three goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite or possibly the Three Graces, the daughters of Eurynome and Zeus. After taking a look at it we come to Silifke. The ancient city was founded at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. by King Seleukos I, and it was then called Seleucia Calycadnus. Modern Silifke is located above it. Very little of the old city remains however. Some of the columns of a Corinthian-order 8 by 14 column temple build in the 2nd century are still standing about 100 meters from the Cumhuriyet primary school.

Seven kilometers from Silifke at a place called Meryemlik, is a church built over the mouth of a cave in which St Thekla, an early Christian believer in these parts, took refuge. The Haghia Thekla basilica located here was built between 468-470 and has walls faced with marble and a floor decorated with mosaics. One may also see the remains of baths and cisterns. At the place where the modern stone bridge crosses the Goksu river, there was a bridge originally built by Emperor Vespasian. Thirty kilometers from Silifke at Uzuncaburc is a temple to Zeus as well as temple-shaped tombs alongside the road. All of them are worth seeing. Another site in the vicinity of Silife is Korasion. According to an inscription, the city was founded in the fourth century by Flavius Uranius, governor of Isauria, an ancient district of eastern Pisidia that included part of western Cilicia. Most of the remains here date from the 5th to 8th centuries and include baths, a big storehouse, a building with a courtyard, and a church, all surrounded by a wall.

If you should be going from Silife to Konya, we could recommend a visit to the Alahan monastery just past the county of Mut. This magnificent structure is reached over a winding road that branches off the main highway 20 km from Mut. The monastery is situated on a terrace that was built by hollowing out the side of the mountain overlooking the plain below of which it commands full view. The structures visible immediately to the west of the terrace' are the cells that the monastery's monks lived in. Beyond them is a large basilica whose northern wall was cut into the rock but whose other walls have since fallen away. The interior of the basilica was apparently divided into three naves as evidenced by the double row of Corinthian columns. The frame of the door leading to the narthex is decorated with reliefs of symbols of the four Gospel Writers, angels, human figures, and trees. The cornice is decorated with acanthus and vine leaves, grape clusters, and fish.

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