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BLOG The Glory of Amyntas Rock Tomb in Fethiye and Other Lycian Destinations

10 September 2023 / Culture

Amyntas Rock Tomb in Fethiye

Although there is much to see and do in the city, Amyntas Rock Tomb in Fethiye stands in a league of its own. The rock tomb of Amyntas, dating from the Lycian period when Fethiye was called Telmessos, is a remarkable archaeological landmark full of rich history. Most travel brochures list the structure as a must-see for holidaymakers, while those who live and own property in Fethiye have the pleasure of visiting it whenever they want.

Lycian tombs, or funerary rock chambers, are fascinating archaeological finds from ancient Lycia, which cover today's Mediterranean coast. These tomb's rich history reflects their location carved into the cliffs and rock faces. Although Amyntas Rock Tomb stands out as being pretty unique, Lycian rock tombs are all over the Mediterranean coast and are worth exploring.

In this article, we look at Amyntas Rock Tomb, the ancient city it originates from, who the Lycian people were, why the Lycian tombs are remarkable, and other places in Turkey to see them.

                              About the Amyntas Rock Tomb in Fethiye


Who Were the Lycian People?

The Lycian people inhabited the Lycia region along the southwestern coast of modern-day Turkey. Historical records show Lycia was between the southern Mediterranean Sea and the Northern Taurus Mountains. This region's unique geography contributed to its isolation from other ancient civilisations, leading to a distinct Lycian culture.

The Lycians had their own language, an Indo-European language with its own unique script. While the language is poorly understood today, Lycian inscriptions and other monuments have provided valuable historical and linguistic insights. Lycian history dates back to at least the 2nd millennium BCE but became more prominent in the 1st millennium BCE. Lycia was a land of city-states that often operated independently.

Neighbouring civilisations like the Greeks influenced Lycian culture but also had unique characteristics. Sadly, its decline began with the Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE. Then, Lycia lost much autonomy in the Hellenistic and Roman periods and became a province within larger empires. Today, remnants of Lycian cities are important archaeological sites and tourist attractions, offering glimpses into this ancient civilisation's history and heritage. So, what is so special about their tombs?

About Lycian Rock Tombs

The rock tombs, primarily found in cities and towns of ancient Lycia, like Myra, Xanthos, and Pinara, were used as burial chambers for the deceased in ancient Lycia. They were typically reserved for the elite, aristocrats, and important society individuals. These tombs are often in high locations, overlooking valleys and landscapes. The belief was that it would be easier for winged creatures to carry them through to the afterlife.

Lycian rock tombs feature facades that resemble Lycian houses with elaborate details, including doorways, columns, and reliefs. There are several types of tombs, including house-shaped (the most common type), pillar, temple, and barrel-vaulted. They date from various periods, but many were created during the Lycian civilisation's peak, between the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.

However, some older tombs date from the 6th century BCE, while others were constructed during the Roman and Byzantine periods. The rock tombs testify to the creativity and craftsmanship of ancient Lycians and offer valuable insights into the culture, beliefs, and architectural prowess of this ancient civilisation.

About the Rock Tomb of Amyntas

The 4th century BCE rock Tomb of Amyntas, in south cliffs above ancient Telmessos (now Fethiye), is reached by stone steps. Unfortunately, the steps don't suit people with walking difficulties. Once you reach the top, the façade comes into view. The tomb features a triangular pediment supported by columns with Doric-style capitals. It is named after Amyntas, the person buried within it. Archaeologists know this from a translated inscription that reads, "Amyntas, son of Hermagios.

Visitors to Fethiye can explore the tomb, with scenic views, including, on clear days, the Greek island of Rhodes. There is also a small café at the entrance to grab refreshments and surrounding tombs, but you can easily spot the Amyntas tomb because it is the biggest. Remember to wear good walking shoes. Additionally, it helps to know more about the ancient city from where the tomb originated and the modern-day Fethiye city in which it sits.

The Ancient City of Telmessos and the Passage of Time

Fethiye sits on the ancient Telmessos city, also spelt as Telmessus. Telmessos City occupied a strategic position on the Mediterranean coast. It was a significant Lycian city-state known for its strategic location and maritime activities. Like other Lycian cities, neighbouring Greek and Persian civilisations influenced Telmessos's culture and traditions. During the Roman period, Telmessos became an important urban centre in the province of Lycia et Pamphylia.

It continued to thrive during the Byzantine period, with churches and other structures built. Telmessos experienced a decline over the centuries, partly due to changes in political control and shifts in trade routes. It was later abandoned, and its ruins lay hidden for centuries. But then Fethiye started to expand again, especially in the 19th century.

These days, Fethiye is a popular tourist destination in southern Turkey. Fethiye is also popular with people buying holiday homes and foreign expats who want to live a life abroad. You can reach Fethiye by flying into Dalaman Airport, a 40-minute drive away. Read this article to discover other things to do in Fethiye, or if the Amyntas tomb piques your interest, there are many other places on Turkey's Mediterranean coast to see them.

            Where to See More Lycian Rock Tombs on the Turquoise Coast

Demre: Myra, on the Turkish coast

Demre, formerly known as Myra, is an ancient Lycian city in the Antalya province of modern-day Turkey. Sitting on the Mediterranean coast, the ancient Lycian city is also renowned for the Church of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) and its well-preserved ancient theatre, which could accommodate around 11,000 spectators. Myra is closely associated with the historical figure who inspired the modern-day Santa Claus. St. Nicholas served as the 4th-century bishop of Myra. His tomb is a significant pilgrimage site and a major attraction in Demre.

Myra's decline began in the late Roman and early Byzantine periods. The city was gradually abandoned, and its ruins were hidden over time. Myra's historical importance was rediscovered in the 19th century when archaeologists began to explore. Pilgrims also visit the Church, which contains various relics associated with the saint.

History Overlooking Xanthos Valley: Tlos

Also on the Mediterranean coast, the Tlos Valley Tomb is an ancient Lycian rock tomb within the Tlos archaeological site. This tomb, with distinctive architectural features, sits on a natural rock cliff, with architectural elements such as columns and a triangular pediment. 

Like other Lycian rock-cut tombs, the Tlos Xanthos Valley Tomb served as a burial chamber for an individual of high social status or importance in Lycian society.  One notable feature is the intricate carvings and inscriptions found on its facade. These carvings include scenes from Lycian mythology, like depictions of gods, goddesses, and heroes. The descriptions feature Lycian language and script.

Efforts have been made to preserve and protect carvings. However, like many ancient rock-cut monuments, it may still be susceptible to natural erosion and weathering over time. Tlos Xanthos Valley Tomb testifies to the craftsmanship of ancient Lycians in carving elaborate rock-cut tombs. It stands as an important historical and archaeological site of Turkey.

Impressive Tombs in Dalyan: Kaunos

The Lycian rock tombs of Dalyan overlook the river of the same name in the Mugla Province of southwestern Turkey. These rock-cut tombs portray historical significance, unique architectural features, and scenic locations. The site offers stunning views of the river, surrounding landscapes, and the nearby ancient city of Kaunos.

They are carved directly into natural rock formations, and each tomb features a façade, columns, doorways, and other architectural elements. The tombs vary in size and complexity and reflect Lycian people's distinctive styles and artistic traditions.

The ancient tombs of Dalyan are easily accessible by boat tours and have become an iconic symbol of Dalyan and the surrounding region. The nearby ancient city of Kaunos complements the experience for visitors interested in exploring more archaeological sites in Turkey after seeing the Amyntas tomb in Fethiye.

More About Fethiye in Turkey

Fethiye Marina: Fethiye is a sailing hotspot. This is an added bonus for anyone looking at the property. This picturesque harbour town on the magnificent Turkish Riviera boasts azure waters, idyllic beaches, and a rich cultural history. So, the prime position on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, twinned with the perfect weather climate, makes Fethiye one of the world's best sailing destinations.

Fethiye Old Town: An often-overlooked gem within Fethiye is Paspatur, the city's Old Town that only takes a few hours to explore. It is also a great place to shop for souvenirs and grab a bite to eat or refreshments. Alternatively, if you want a day out, town it with a visit to Amyntas in Fethiye.

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