Archaeology Odyssey 1:3, Summer 1998

Destinations: Myra, Turkey

On the southern coast of Turkey, this ancient Lycian city boasts splendid rock-cut tombs.

By Julie Skurdenis

Archaeology Odyssey

I had come to Turkey to visit the sites of ancient Lycia, which dot a 160-mile stretch of Mediterranean coastline between the cities of Fethiye and Antalya. With its majestic rock-cut tombs, Lycia is a place of rugged beauty. It remains relatively remote, despite the recent intrusion of a modern highway.

But I had also come to Turkey because of Santa Claus, or Baba Noel, as jolly old St. Nick is known here. The Lycian city of Myra was home to St. Nicholas, the fourth-century A.D. Christian bishop who became associated with Christmas and gift giving.

Where the Lycians originally came from no one really knows. Herodotus reports that they were Minoans from Crete, arriving sometime around 1400 B.C. More likely they were an indigenous tribe related to the Hittites and referred to in Hittite documents as the Lukka. In Homer’s Iliad, the Lycians fight as allies of Troy in the Trojan War.

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