Telmessos (Fethiye)

The ruins of Telmessos now lie beneath the pleasant modem town of Fethiye. Fethiye is the center of tourism in Lycia. It contains many touristic facilities and is especially convenient for yacht tourism. From Fethiye one may visit the many ruins and important ancient sites in the surrounding area in comfortable, easy, one-day outings. There are many such places close to Fethiye, including Cadianda, Pinara, Tlos, Xanthos, Letoon, and Patara. Since the new town of Fethiye has grown over the ancient settlement, and no excavations have been carried out we do not know when the ancient city was first founded; however, the double “S” in the last syllable of the name suggests that it was a local name. In the 4th century B.C. Pericles of Lymra, who was trying to establish the Lycian confederation, advanced on Telmessos and included it among the settlements in the confederation. Alexander brought local rule to an end in Telmessos but the great leader had previous links with the town. The fruits and wise men of Telmessos were renowned throughout the ancient world. Philip, the father of Alexander called upon a sage from Telmessos to interpret his dream. The sage, Aristander, prophesied that Alexander would be born and he also prophesied the entire future of the prince. Alexander grew up to respect this sage and always had him by his side.

Aristander was even to accompany him during Alexander’s eastern campaign. It was thanks to the position of this sage that Telmessos surrendered to Alexander immediately. without any opposition, and no damage was done to the city. Alexander’s commander took command of the fortress of Telmessos with some cunning. Nearchos, the commander of the fleet, entered the harbor of Telmessos and asked the citizens to allow his musicians to enter the city. When the citizens agreed, the musicians entered and during the night they took over the fortress with the spears and shields they bore with them. After this cunning trick, Telmessos was left under the command of the King of Telmessos once again by Alexander, who also left his commander as the Governor-General of Lycia, thus trying to placate the king of Telmessos. After the death of Alexander, Telmessos remained in Ptolemaian hands for some time and after 189 B.C., it was joined to the Kingdom of Pergamon for a period. Upon the death of the King of Pergamon, Attalos II, Telmessos was annexed directly to Rome together with all the lands of Pergamon. After the Mithridatian wars, Telmessos was handed over to Rhodes, like all the other Lycian cities, and like them was much dissatisfied with the Rhodian rule. Finally, in the time of Sulla, it was reunited with Rome.

In the year 168 B.C., Telmessos entered the Lycian confederacy and struck a coin to commemorate the event. During the Byzantine period, the city continued to exist as an important center in the area, but after the 7th century A.D., its importance waned with the threat of Arab attacks. At one point, during the 7th century, Anastasius II gave his own name to the city, calling it Anastasiopolis, but this name was soon abandoned. For some time during the Ottoman period it was called Megri, but this name was also abandoned for the modern name of Fethiye, which it has borne since the 19th century. C.Texier, who saw the city in the 1850s, reported that the Apollo temple and the theater were then standing. Soon after his visit, the violent earthquake of 1856 destroyed these, and a second earthquake that took place a century later also destroyed Fethiye.

The town of today was completely rebuilt after 1957, and the theater lies (appropriately enough) below the present open-air cinema. The original town stood on the site of the fortress. The lower part of the walls dates from the Roman period, while the upper parts date from the medieval period. The medieval battlements were reinforced by the Knights of Rhodes, who tried to gain control of the region from here. From Knights’ Island, in the bay of Fethiye, where they built a fortress, they controlled the town of Fethiye.

Today this island is a resort, adorned with villas. On the eastern cliff of the acropolis is the tomb of Amyntas, the magnificent rock tomb which has become the symbol of Fethiye and can be seen from every point in the city.

The facade of the tomb is designed just like a temple in the Ionic order. It belongs to Amyntas who was the son of Hermapias and was made in the 4th century B.C. C.Texier, who visited this tomb in the 1850s carved his name in the upper left corner of the tomb door. Beside the Amyntas tomb is another similar tomb, one of the columns of which has broken off. Alongside this, other rock tombs can also be seen. In the town itself, there are many sarcophagi of the Lycian type. One lies almost beneath the rock tombs, on the street below, and another is situated between the municipal buildings and the wharf. They both contain Lycian inscriptions.