Lycian Tombs and Monuments

Throughout the ages in Anatolia, people given this name due to the reliefs of have buried their dead using various burial rituals Alexander the Great found on it. and have showed them respect in different (4th century B.C.). manners. On occasion, they would incinerate the corpse and hide the ashes, sometimes the corpse would be interned in a large earthenware jar, whereas it is also known that they were buried in simple graves which did not have many characteristics.

In some ages, the graves were made into tumuli by piling soil on top of them, which turned them into distinctive and magnificent tombs. The most splendid of these tumulus tombs were Phrygian King Midas’ 53 meter high tomb in Gordion as well as that of the Lydian King Alyettes, which is located in Bintepeler near Sard and stands 69 meters high.

In addition to these types of tombs, the custom of burying the dead in a tomb resembling a house began in the second half of the 3rd millennium B.C. and continued without pause until (he end of the Age of the Roman Empire. Naturally, from an architectural standpoint, these formed into several tomb structures, the most common of which are seen in the Lycian region. It is literally an open-air museum with all the various types of tombs seen here. Like elsewhere, the early buildings found in this region have been over-laid by those of the Hellenistic and especially the Roman periods; but the Lycian tombs, for which the country is famous, are in many cases earlier than the time of Alexander, and are moreover frequently adorned with sculpture works. Many are still in excellent preservation.

These early tombs fall into four distinct classes, generally called pillar-tombs, temple-tombs, house-tombs and sarcophagi.

Temple tombs are not specifically Lycian, and differ little from those Caunus and other parts of Anatolia. They have simply the facade of a temple, with two columns in antis, usually in the Ionic order, an epistyle, and a pediment. A porch leads through by a door to the grave-chamber, a plain room with stone benches on which the dead were laid. The most splendid of these is located on the hillside above the ancient city of Fethiye. Carved into the stone in the 4th century B.C. is the name of Amyntas, son of Hermapias. The man in question is quite unknown.

House-tombs are in imitation of wooaen houses, in one, two, or occasionally three stories; the square beam-ends are left projecting over the sides. Normally, there is a row of round or square beam-ends above the door; later these develop into a dentil frieze. There is sometimes, but not always, a pediment above, and in a few cases this has the shape of a pointed Gothic arch. These house-type tombs, which have a magical spellbinding effect on us, appear most frequently in Lycian cities such as Pmara, Tlos, Telmessos, Myra, Limyra, AntiphelIos and Theimussa. House-tombs are often decorated with reliefs on the walls, in the pediment, and sometimes on the adjoining rocks; a view of the city was carved into the stonework of a tomb in Pmara. The famous rock tombs of Myra are in two main groups. Just to the west of the theater the steep cliff is honeycombed with closely packed tombs of greatly varying form and size, though the majority are as usual of house-type. Many of these are quite elaborate, and some are decorated with reliefs in color. A few are of temple-type, others are extremely simple; sarcophagi are not in evidence. The second group of tombs is around the corner of the hill facing north-east, and is hardly less impressive than the other. This group of tombs should be visited before 10 o’clock in the morning in order to see them in the optimum light. Not very much above level, and approached by a some what itlhromf of table rock-path, is the monument known ” as the Painted Tomb, certainly one of the most striking in all Lycia. It is of the usual house-type and has in the interior a bench on the right and left sides; in front is a leveled platform with steps leading up to one side. But the outstanding feature is the group of eleven life-size painted figures in relief. The house-type stone tombs near the theater that have battle and feast scenes are situated in places that can easily be seen by those visiting Myra.

Besides these house-type tombs that were worked into the sheer rock face, there were also those that were made out of free-standing stone blocks. The finest examples representing this type are the to,mbs which are found to the west of the acropolis in Phellos, next to the theater in Xanthos as well as those behind the restaurants in Og.z. Proceeding east from the landing-stage at Og.z, one will see a pair of rock-cut house-type tombs located just behind the shore, the doors of which are broken wide open. To the immediate right is a standing figure of a young man or boy, and above the door is a Lycian inscription naming the owner as Kluwanimi. A sarcophagus in the amphitheater in Kas dating back to the 4th century B.C. with belly dancers in bas-relief and women figurines on the inside as well as a tomb-house sarcophagus found in Cadyanda known as the Salas Monument also represent fine examples. The Salas Monument was erected in the 4th century B.C. by the Lycian Prince Salas for his wife, who was a Carian princess.

Besides house-type tombs, there are also monument tombs. The nicest example of these is the well-known Nereid Monument in Xanthos, named for the sculptures that were found among the columns, and which is an exceptionally richly decorated tomb dating to the Sth century B.C.

Only some of the architectural members remain, all the sculptures having been taken to the British Museum by the Englishman Sir Charles Fellows in 1840 where they are currently on display in the Lycia Room.

With their magnificent structure, tombs in the form of heroums, which were constructed to commemorate the heroes in the region, are striking to the eye. Unfortunately, the reliefs from the heroum known as the Golbasi Monument, which was discovered in Trysa, were taken from the enormous sarcophagus there and put on display in the Museum of Art History in Vienna. The wall, about 3 meters high, was covered on its inner face on all four side of the enclosure, and on its outer face on the south side, with a frieze in two horizontal bands representing scenes from mythology. Among these are episodes from ‘The Iliad and the Odyssey,’ from the exploits of Theseus, from the Seven against Thebes, battles of Greeks and Amazons and of Centaurs and Lapithae, as well as many other figures of doubtful attribution. As for the second heroum, it is one which was dedicated to King Pericles of Limyra and is currently under restoration. Friezes belonging to this monument were decorated with Caryatids and were also shipped to Austria.

Another type of tomb which we encounter in the region is that of the pillar-tomb and are usually reckoned to be the earliest and can be seen in Isinda, Cyaenai and in several other Lycian cities, as well. They consist of a rectangular pillar set on a base, with a grave-chamber at the top surmounted by a wide cap-stone. This is the least common type and seems to be confined to the western part of the country. There are six pillar-tombs next to the other tombs in the ancient city of Apollonia. On pillar- tombs, sculpture is confined, when it occurs at all, to the sides of the grave-chamber at the top; the well-known example is the so-called ‘Harpy Tomb’ in Xanthos, which dates back to 480 B.C. The massive base of which was cleared by excavators about 25 years ago; the pillar itself, with the grave-chamber and crowning slabs, stands 8 meters high. Large square lifting-bosses have been left projecting on three sides. The chamber at the top was of marble and decorated with reliefs depicting the Sirens carrying the souls of the dead, in the form of children, to the Isle of the Blessed. These were removed by Sir Charles Fellows and sent to the British Museum, whereas the covering stones were propped up by wooden struts and a pile of stones. The tomb remained in a mutilated state until 1957, when the Turkish authorities installed the cement casts which have done much to restore the beauty of the monument.

There is another monument, just to the south of the Harpy Tomb, which is also sepulchral but of a totally different type. It consists in fact of two tombs, a sarcophagus of normal Lycian type standing on a stunted pillar-tomb. In addition to these, there is a pillar-tomb in excellent preservation belonging to the 4th century B.C. and situated near the east foot of Xanthos’ Roman acropolis hill. Its grave-chamber at the top is of white marble, without decoration.

Sarcophagi are of course one of the most common forms of tomb all over the world, but the early Lycian type is distinctive. It is generally remarkable for its height, and is in three parts, a base, a grave-chamber, and a crested ‘Gothic’ lid. The base is commonly used as a second grave- chamber (hyposorium), destined for the owner’s slaves or dependents. Sarcophagi are also very frequently ornamented with reliefs, mostly on the sides and crest of the lid, but also in some cases onthe grave-chamber itself. In the Roman period. the sarcophagi become much smaller and simpler . whereas the lid is rounded. though still with a crest. Some of these were decorated with Medusa heads. Eros figures or wreaths. whereas rich reliefs depicting hunting. feasts and war scenes can be seen on sarcophagi of the Lycian period.

Though it was not found in the Lycian region. the sarcophagus that was uncovered in Sidon and is currently stored in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. represents a fme example of this type.A great number of the sarcophagi with reliefs found in Lycia were taken abroad. whereas there remains only 18 examples in their original settings. One of the most important sarcophagi that was smuggled abroad. that with the ‘Dereimis and Aischylos. reliefs. was found in Trysa and dates back to 380 B.C. It is currently in the Vienna Art Museum.

Erected in 360 B.C.. little remains of the Payava sarcophagus. one of the finest at Xanthos as the splendid reliefs depicting four horses pulling a chariot on its lid and war scenes on its base have all long since been removed to London. Also displayed in the British Museum is the Merehi Sarcophagus. which dates from 390 B.C. and depicts war scenes on it as well. A sarcophagus. which was found in Trysa belonging to the Hellenistic Period with reliefs on it. has managed to remain in our country and can be found in the Istanbul Museum of Archaeology .

Sarcophagi such as the one in Xanthos with a fine relief of two lions mauling a bull, as .well as another that has belly dancers and dates to the 4th century B.C. are classified under the ‘relief- sarcophagus’ group. A particularly fine specimen of this group, perhaps the finest in all Lycia. which dates to 340 B.C and stands beside the municipal building in modern day Fethiye. It is one of the few sarcophagi with reliefs that has managed to stay in our country. A hundred years ago it was standing in the sea; the water-Ievel, after rising since antiquity , has evidently fallen in recent times. Along with the sarcophagus found in Phellos, the Izrara monument and stone tombs with reliefs in Tlos, the Hoyran monument in village of Kapakli, the Catabura sarcophagus in Limyra as well as the sarcophagus which sits in the middle of an avenue in Kas are all the most captivating works that have survived to the present.

Most of the approximately 2,000 sarcophagi in the region belong to the Roman Age. One can see these Roman period sarcophagi in large groups in a number of Lycian cities such as Phaselis, Sidyma, Apollonia, Cyaenai, Sura, Isinda and Istlada as well as the necropolis located at the entrance of Patara.

Of course, it is impossible not to be saddened for the pieces that have already been smuggled out of the country .If anything, it should be our national duty to become more accountable for the precious few works that remain and ensure that they are not further damaged in the future.