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Though a Carian town, it was on the Ionian coast. It is some 25 km W of Miletos and about 10 km N of the village of Bafa. Now at the W end of Lake Bafa it was on a gulf of the Aegean at least until Early Imperial times (Strab. 14.1.8). The town lay on a fairly steep lower slope of Mt. Latmos (Beş Parmak, ca. 1400 m) where it met the gulf. First called Latmos, and a member of the Delian League, it fell to Mausolos in the 4th c. B.C. and his philhellene policy accounts for its change of name. In time Miletos overshadowed it, and the gulf on which it stood was gradually converted into a lake by the action of the Maeander. Herakleia was celebrated as the locale of Endymion (Paus. 5.1.5). There are several Early Christian monuments in and near the site, including a Byzantine fortress at the S end of the town.

Either Mausolos or, less probably, Lysimachos in the 280s B.C. built the 6.5 km of walls which still stand in great part (later the enclosed area was reduced by about a third). There were 65 towers, and the maximum dimension of the city, N-S, was slightly more than 2 km. The walls, one of the major monuments of Classical fortification, were carefully built. Cuttings in bedrock were often made for the foundation courses and can be seen where the wall has fallen. All of the detail of such a system can be observed: access stairs, parapets, windows, and roofs. Several of the gates and posterns are preserved, particularly in the S portions. At the N the walls follow the terrain to a height of some 500 m above the level of the lake, marching up the stony site in a manner reminiscent of the Byzantine-Venetian walls of Kotor.

The port lay on the SW side of the town. Within the walls, at least in the S half of the city, the plan was orthogonal on the Hippodamian model rather like the plan of Miletos. The streets were oriented to the cardinal compass points, and the resulting rectangular blocks determined the orientation and alignment of most of the public buildings. An exception to this is the Temple of Athena (an inscription identifying it survives), which stood in a commanding position on a hill above and behind the harbor area. It was a carefully built structure of simple plan: a cella with a pronaos, the two of approximately equal dimensions (the walls of the cella stand nearly intact). To the NW of the Temple of Athena, beyond the agora, are the remains of the bouleutenon, which was similar in plan to that at Priene—a rectangle with the seats, on three sides, parallel to the enclosing walls. Apparently the upper part of these walls featured engaged Doric columns; fragments of a more or less canonical Doric entablature have also been found.

The agora, of Hellenistic date, measures about 60 x 130 m. Its S retaining wall is well preserved, and one can see there two levels of shops, the lower entered from the outside below the agora. Details of windows, doors, and structural niceties are all visible. Farther to the NW are a nymphaeum and a theater, neither well preserved; the latter is of Roman date. There are also the remains of a Roman bath building, between the bouleuterion and the theater, and there are at least three temples in addition to that of Athena; none of these has so far been identified.

In the S part of the site, about 200 m on a line from the Byzantine fort to the Athena temple, is an unusual building which has been identified as a Sanctuary of Endymion. Over-all the building measures about 14 x 21 m. It consists of pronaos of six unfluted columns set between two square piers at the ends of the facade; behind this porch there was an almost horseshoe-shaped cella intruded into by the natural rock and featuring two widely but irregularly spaced internal columns. The building faces the SW and thus is oblique to the orthogonal grid; its design reminds one of certain later sanctuaries and temples in Roman North Africa.

At the very S end of the site, where the walls nearly reach the water, is a cemetery of tombs cut from the living rock along the steep slopes. These tombs had separate lids in the Carian fashion; some are now submerged, as the level of the lake has risen since ancient times.


RE VIII (1913) 431-32; F. Krischen, Die Befestigungen von Herakleia am Latmos (1922); = Milet III.2PI; G. E. Bean & J. M. Cook in BSA 52 (1957) 138-40; id., Aegean Turkey (1966) 252-58MPI; EAA 3 (1960) 390-91 with bibliographyPI; E. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (3d ed. 1973) 240-41P.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.1.5
    • Strabo, Geography, 14.1.8
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