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LY´CIA or Lyceia

LY´CIA (Λυκία: Eth. Λύκιος), a country on the south coast of Asia Minor, forming part of the region now called Tekeh. It is bounded on the west by Caria, on the north by Phrygia and Pisidia, and on the north-east by Pamphylia, while the whole of the south is washed by the part of the Mediterranean called the Lycian sea. The western frontier is formed by the river Glaucus and Mount Daedala (Strab. xiv. p.664), the northern by the range of Mount Taurus, and the eastern one by Mount Climax. The whole extent of the country, from east to west, amounts, according to Strabo, to 1720 stadia; this measurement, however, must have been made along the line of coast, for a straight line from east to west does not amount to more than one-half that distance. Its extent from the sea to the northern boundary is different in the different parts, but is everywhere smaller than that from east to west. Until very recently, Lycia, with its rich remains of antiquity, was almost a terra incognita,--having never been visited by European travellers, until Sir Charles Fellows, in 1838, and a second time in 1840, travelled the country; since which time it has been explored and described by several other men of learning and science, whose works will be noticed below.

1. Name of the Country.

The name Lycia and Lycians is perfectly familiar to Homer, and the poet appears to have been better acquainted with Lycia than with some other parts of Asia Minor, for he knew the river Xanthus and Cape Chimaera. (Il. 6.171, &c., 10.430, 12.312, &c., Od. 5.282, and elsewhere.) But, according to Herodotus (1.173), the ancient name of the country had been Milyas ( Μιλυάς), and that of the inhabitants Solymi (Eth. Σόλυμοι), and Tremilae or Termilae (Eth. Τρεμίλαι or Eth. Τερμίλαι). These latter are said to have been conquered, and expelled from the coast districts by Sarpedon, the brother of Minos, who, with a band of Cretans, invaded the country and conquered it, but without changing either its name or that of the people. But in his reign, Lycus, the [p. 2.224]son of Pandion, being driven by his brother Aegeus from Attica, found a place of refuge in Milyas, the kingdom of Sarpedon, who now changed the name of his dominion into Lycia, to honour his friend Lycus. (Comp. Strab. xiv. p.667; and Steph. B. sub voce Τρεμίλη, who states, on the authority of the historian Alexander, that Bellerophontes changed the name of Tremilae into that of Lycians.) In later times the name Milyas still existed, but was confined to the northern. and more mountainous parts of the country, into which the original inhabitants of the country had been driven by the conquerors, and where they were known under the name of the Milyae. [MILYAS] Strabo, in his desire to look upon Homer as an infallible authority in historical and geographical matters, is inclined to disbelieve the tradition related by Herodotus, as irreconcilable with the poet, who, he conceives, meant by the Solymi no other people than that which in later times bore the name of Milyae. Whatever we may think of the cause of the change of name from Milyas to Lycia, it is probable that it must have originated in the conquest of the country by foreigners, and that this conquest belongs to an earlier date than the composition of the Homeric poems. But although the inhabitants of the country had changed their own name, they continued as late as the time of Herodotus to be called Termilae by their neighbours.

2. Physical Character of the Country.

All Lycia is a mountainous country,--the range of Mount Taurus in the north sending forth numerous branches to the south, which generally slope down as they approach the sea, and terminate in promontories. The principal of these branches are, mounts DAEDALA, CRAGUS, MASSICYTES (rising in some parts to a height of 10,000 feet), and CLIMAX But, notwithstanding its mountainous character, Lycia was by no means an unfertile country, for it produced wine, corn, and all the other fruits of Asia Minor; its cedars, firs, and plane trees, were particularly celebrated. (Plin. Nat. 12.5.) Among the products peculiar to it, we may mention a particularly soft kind of sponge found near Antiphellus, and a species of chalk, which possessed medicinal properties. Lycia also contained springs of naphtha, which attest its volcanic character; of which other proofs also are mentioned, for, not far from the rock called Deliktash, there is a perpetual fire issuing from the ground, which is supposed to have given rise to the story of the Chimaera, but is in reality nothing but a stream of inflammable gas issuing from the crevices of the rocks, as is the case in several parts of the Apennines. Most of the rivers of Lycia flow in a southern direction, and the most important of them are the XANTHUS in the west, and the LIMYRUS or ARICANDUS, in the east. It also has two considerable lakes; one, now called Avlan Gule, is formed by the confluence of several rivers, another, in the more northern part, situated in a hollow among high mountains, is called Yazeer Gule.

3. The Inhabitants of Lycia.

The most ancient inhabitants of Lycia, as we have seen above, were the Solymi, who are generally believed to have been a Phoenician or Semitic race. We are not informed why these Solymi were called Termilae; but the probability is that the Solymi and the Termilae were two different tribes occupying different parts of the country at the same time, and that while the Solymi were driven into the northern mountains by the invaders, the Termilae were subdued, and received from their conquerors the name of Lycians. This seems clearly to follow from the account of Herodotus and the fragments quoted by Stephanus Byzantinus. The Tremilae were no doubt as foreign to the Hellenic stock of nations as the Solymi. The conquerors of the Tremilae, that is the Lycians proper, are said to have come from Crete, which, before its occupation by the Dorians, was inhabited by barbarous or non-Hellenic tribes, whence it follows that the conquering Lycians must likewise have been barbarians. Their struggles with the Solymi appear to have lasted long, and to have been very severe, for Bellerophon and other mythical heroes are described as having fought against the warlike Solymi. (Hom. Il. 6.184, 204, Od. 5.283.) From the recently discovered Lycian inscriptions, composed in an alphabet partly Greek and partly foreign, it has been inferred that, after the conquest of Lycia by the Persians, the great body of the nation changed its character, at least in some parts, which are supposed to have then been occupied by Persians; and this theory is believed to derive support from the Lycian inscriptions, which Mr. Sharpe and others believe to contain a language akin to the Zend. But this hypothesis is devoid of all foundation, for we never find that the Persians colonised the countries conquered by them, and the Lycian language is as yet utterly unknown. All we can say is, that the Lycian alphabet seems to be a variety of the Graeco-Phoenician or Graeco-Semitic character, and that there is no evidence to show that in the historical ages the Lycians changed their character as a nation. They were and remained barbarians in the Greek sense, though they adopted and practised to a great extent the arts and modes of civilised life, such as they existed among their Greek neighbours.

4. Institutions, &c. of the Lycians.

In the Homeric poems the Lycians appear as governed by kings (Hom. Il. 6.173; Dict. of Biogr. s. v. SARPEDON); but in the historical times we find Lycia as a confederation of free cities, with a constitution more wisely framed perhaps than any other in all antiquity. An authentic account of this constitution has been preserved by Strabo. It was the political unity among the towns of Lycia that made the country strong, and enabled it to maintain its freedom against the encroachments of Croesus, while all the surrounding nations were compelled to own his sway. When and by whom this federal constitution was devised, we are not informed, but it reflects great credit upon the political wisdom of the Lycians. They were a peaceable and well-conducted people, and took no part in the piracy of their maritime neighbours, but remained faithful to their ancient institutions, and on this account were allowed the enjoyment of their free constitution by the Romans. It was under the dominion of Rome that Strabo saw its working. The confederacy then consisted of 23 towns, from which the deputies met in a place fixed upon each time by common consent. The six largest towns, XANTHUS, PATARA, PINARA, OLYMPUS, MYRA, and TLOS had each three votes at the common diet; the towns of more moderate size had two, and the remaining small places one vote each. The executive of the confederacy was in the hand of a magistrate called Lyciarch (Λυκιάρχης), whose election was the first business of the congress, and after whom the other officers of the confederacy were chosen. The judges, also, as well as the magistrates, were elected from each city according to the number of [p. 2.225]its votes; taxation and other public duties were regulated on the same principle. In former times, the deputies constituting the congress had also decided upon peace, war, and alliances; but this of course ceased when Lycia acknowledged the supremacy of Rome. This happy constitution lasted until the time of the emperor Claudius, when Lycia became a Roman province, as is mentioned below. (Strab. xiv. p.664, &c.) The laws and customs of the Lycians are said by Herodotus to have been partly Carian and partly Cretan; but in one point they differed from all other men, for they derived their names from their mothers and not from their fathers, and when any one was asked to give an account of his parentage, he enumerated his mother, grandmother, great grandmother, &c. (Hdt. 1.173.) Herodotus (7.92), in describing their armour, mentions in particular, hats with plumes, greaves, short swords, and sickles. Respecting the religion of the Lycians nothing is known, except that they worshipped Apollo, especially at Patara; but whether this was the Greek Apollo, or a Lycian god identified with him, cannot be said with certainty; though the former is more probable, if we attach any value to the story of Patarus. [Dict. of Riogr. s. v.] This would show that the Greeks of Asia Minor exercised considerable influence upon the Lycians at a very early period.

5. Literature and the Arts.

Although we have no mention of any works in the lycian language, it cannot be doubted that the Lycians either had, or at least might have had, a literature, as they had a peculiar alphabet of their own, and made frequent use of it in inscriptions. The mere fact, however, that many of these inscriptions are engraven in two languages, the Lycian and Greek, shows that the latter language had become so familiar to the people that it was thought desirable, or even necessary, to employ it along with the vernacular in public decrees and laws about and after the time of the Persian wars; and it must have been this circumstance that stopped or prevented the development of a national literature in Lycia. The influence of Greek literature is also attested by the theatres which existed in almost every town, and in which Greek plays must have been performed, and have been understood and enjoyed by the people. In the arts of sculpture and architecture, the Lycians attained a degree of perfection but little inferior to that of the Greeks. Their temples and tombs abound in the finest sculptures, representing mythological subjects, or events of their own military history. Their architecture, especially that of their tombs and sarcophagi, has quite a peculiar character, so much so that travellers are thereby enabled to distinguish whether any given place is really Lycian or not. These sarcophagi are surmounted by a structure with pointed arches, and richly decorated with sculptures. One of these has been brought to this country by Sir C. Fellows, and may now be seen in the British Museum. The entrances of the numerous tombs cut in the faces of lofty rocks are formed in the same way, presenting at the top a pointed arch, which has led Sir C. Fellows to compare them to Gothic or Elizabethan architecture. If we example the remains of their towns, as figured in the works of Sir C. Fellows, Texier, and Forbes and Spratt, we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that, in all the arts of civilised life, the Lycians, though barbarians, were little inferior to the Greeks.

6. History.

Lycia and the Lycians act rather a prominent part in the Homeric account of the Trojan War, where they are described as the allies of the Trojans. Sarpedon and Glaucus, are the two Lycian heroes in the war; but the poet was familiar also with the earlier legends of Lycia,--as that about Bellerophon, which he introduces into the parley between Glaucus and Diomede. Pandarus, another hero on the side of the Trojans, came from a district about the river Aesepus, which was likewise called Lycia, and which was supposed by the ancient commentators to have been peopled by colonists from Lycia, the subject of this article (Il. 2.824, &c., 4.91, 5.105; comp. Strab. xii. p.572, xiii. p. 585); but both history and tradition are silent as to the time when, and the circumstances under which, Lycians settled in Troas. During the period from the Trojan times down to the Lydian conquests under Croesus, the Lycians are not mentioned in history; but that conqueror, who was successful in all other parts of Asia Minor, failed in his attempts upon the Lycians and Cilicians. (Hdt. 1.28.) When Cyrus overthrew the Lydian monarchy, and his general Harpagus invaded the plain of the Xanthus, the Lycians offered a determined resistance; but when, in the end, they found their situation hopeless, the men of Xanthus assembled in the citadel their women, children, slaves, and treasures, and then set fire to it. They themselves then renewed the fight against the enemy, but all perished, except a few Xanthians who happened to be absent during the battle. [XANTHUS] Lycia thus became a part of the Persian monarchy, but, like all Persian provinces, retained its own constitution, being obliged only to pay tribute and furnish its contingents to the Persian army. The Lycians joined in the revolt of the Asiatic Greeks, but afterwards were reduced, and Darius made the country a part of his first satrapy (Hdt. 3.90); the fact that the Lycians furnished fifty ships to the fleet of Xerxes (Hdt. 7.92) shows, that they still continued to be a prosperous and powerful people. Their armour on that occasion is described by Herodotus, and was the same as that noticed above. During the Peloponnesian War the Lycians are not mentioned; but as Rhodes was tributary to Athens, and as contributions were often levied as far as Aspendus, it is not improbable that Lycia may have been compelled to pay similar contributions. Alexander traversed a part of the country on his march from Caria into Pisidia and Phrygia, and reduced it under his sway. The Lycians on that occasion offered little or no resistance to the young conqueror; the cities of Xanthus, Pinara, Patara, and about thirty other smaller towns, surrendered to him without a blow. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 1.24.) In the division of the Macedonian empire, Lycia successively came under the dominion of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae; and then, after a brief interval, during which the Lycians enjoyed their full freedom, they fell under the dominion of Rome: for after the defeat of Antiochus the Great, Lycia was ceded by the Roman senate to the Rhodians; but the Lycians, indignant at being considered the subjects of the islanders, and being secretly supported by Eumenes, resisted the Rhodian authorities by force of arms. In this contest they were over-powered; but the Romans, displeased with the Rhodians for their conduct in the Macedonian War, interfered, and restored the Lycians to independence. (Plyb. 22.7, 23.3, 26.7, 30.5; Liv. 45.25; Appian, App. Mith. 61, &c., Syr. 44.) It was apparently during the period which now followed, [p. 2.226]that Lycia enjoyed its highest degree of prosperity, for under the protection of Rome the people had sufficient leisure to attend to their own internal affairs. By a strict and wise neutrality, they escaped the dangers of the Mithridatic Wars as well as those of the wars against the pirates. (Appian, App. Mith. 24, 61; Strab. xvi. p.665.) The prosperity of Lycia, however, received a severe blow during the war of Brutus and Cassius, who attacked the country because it was suspected to favour the party of Octavianus and Antony. When Brutus advanced against Xanthus, the inhabitants razed the suburbs to the ground, and offered the most determinate resistance. After a long and desperate siege, the soldiers of Brutus gained admission by treachery, whereupon the Xanthians made away with themselves by setting fire to their city. The fall of Xanthus was followed by the surrender of Patara and the whole Lycian nation. Brutus levied enormous contributions, and in some instances ordered the inhabitants to give up all their gold and silver. (Appian, App. BC 4.60, 65, 75, &c.) Antony afterwards granted the Lycians exemption from taxes, in consideration of their sufferings, and exhorted them to rebuild the city of Xanthus. (Ibid. 5.7; comp. D. C. 47.34.) But after this time the prosperity of Lycia was gone, and internal dissensions in the end also deprived the inhabitants of their ancient and free constitution; for the emperor Claudius made the country a Roman province, forming part of the prefecture of Pamphylia. (D. C. 60.17; Suet. Cl. 25.) Pliny (5.28) states that Lycia once contained seventy towns, but that in his time their number was reduced to twenty-six. Ptolemy (5.3), indeed, describes Lycia as a separate province; but it is probable that until the time of Theodosius II. it remained united with Pamphylia, for an inscription (Gruter, Thesaur. p. 458. 6) mentions Porcius as “procos. Lyciae et Pamphyliae,” and both countries had only one governor as late as the reign of Constantine. But Theodosius constituted Lycia a separate province; and so it also appears in the seventh century in Hierocles (p. 682, &c.), with Myra for its capital.

For further topographical and historical details see the separate articles of the Lycian towns, mountains, and rivers, and especially the following works of modern travellers. Sir C. Fellows, A Journal written during an Excursion in Asia Minor, London, 1839, and An Account of Discoveries in Lycia, being a Journal kept during a Second Excursion in Asia Minor, London, 1841; Spratt and E. Forbes, Travels in Lycia, Milyas, and the Cibyratis, 2 vols. London, 1847, which contains an excellent map of Lycia; Texier, Description de l'Asie Mineure, vol. i. Paris, 1838. The Lycian language has been discussed by D. Sharpe, in Appendices to Sir C. Fellows' works ; by Grotefend, in vol. iv. of the Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlands; and by Cockerell in the Journal des Savans, April, 1841.



hide References (21 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (21):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.28
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.90
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.92
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.173
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.824
    • Homer, Odyssey, 5.283
    • Homer, Iliad, 6.171
    • Homer, Iliad, 6.173
    • Homer, Iliad, 6.184
    • Homer, Iliad, 6.204
    • Homer, Odyssey, 5.282
    • Appian, Mithridatic Wars, 4.24
    • Appian, Mithridatic Wars, 9.61
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.8.60
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.10.75
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.9.65
    • Suetonius, Divus Claudius, 25
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 12.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.28
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 25
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.24
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