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.
!n 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.
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 A.D., 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 kms 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 beir with his family around him. The tomb is dated to the 4th century B.C.
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, six rows more. The skene is still standing up to the second course in places and from the remaining fragmentst it would appear that the facade facing the audience was extremely ornate.