Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Easy to miss, and having ended up at the car park of a heavily touristed waterfall, I back tracked and finally found a narrow paved path leading up to Arycanda. I stopped for the photo above and noticed a cesme on the opposite side of the path. I filled my water bottles and continued the steep climb. But, this days' journey actually began about eight kilometers out of Finike, when I began to see numerous rock cliff tombs dotting the vertical cavern walls.
After leaving Finike, I once again arrived at the turnoff that goes to the ancient city of Limyra, about 8km from the coast. Continuing ahead on Finike-Elmali road up the valley, just past the turnoff and high up on the back side of Tocak Dag (the mountain where the acropolis of ancient Limyra is situated) are a number of Lycian rock cliff tombs (pictured above and below).
From the road, I was able to observe two types of Lycian tombs, the House Tomb and the Temple Tomb. Due to the difficulty in accessing these tombs, they appear to be in a remarkable state of preservation.
The House Tomb pictured at the far left in the photos below would seemingly be more appropriately called a Mansion Tomb, as its breadth and depth appear to outsize other Lycian tombs I have seen.
In the right side of the photo is a remarkably well preserved and detailed Temple Tomb, which looks to be perched atop one or more other tombs that are situated below the crest tombs.
As I continued up the valley, I was able to spot a few more rock face tombs before leaving the area that was once dominated by ancient Limyra (pictured above and below).
Now some 800 meters above see level and 40km from the coast, I arrived at the village of Arif. In the photo below, ancient Arycanda hangs on the high slopes in the top right corner.
Easy to miss, and having ended up at the car park of waterfall tourist destination, I back tracked and finally found a narrow paved path leading up to Arycanda. I stopped for the photo below and noticed a cesme on the opposite side of the path. I filled my water bottles and continued the steep climb.
After having a great chat with the Arikanda watch man, Murat Sariyer, I began my four and a half hour exploration of the ancient city. Just off the parking area is Horseshoe hill, where the grave of Lykian Governor Hermaios was once located, only to be built over with a small luxurious bath complex following the dedicatory monuments' collapse.
Continuing along the slope east/southeast toward the farthest extent of the Eastern Necropolis, the 3-4C AD Bath/Gymnasium complex (often referred to as the 6th Bath) comes into view on a terrace higher up (pictured below). What really stands out is the Grande Bay Window that juts out from the east end of the building, not to mention the impressive size of the stone blocks used in its construction.
Though the photos above and below are sequential, I want to show the 6th Bath and Gymnasium complex in a complete perspective. Pictured above, we are now looking down at the the Grande Bay Window, and what is believed to be the Caldarium of the bath. Below, a view from the west looking east over the Gymnasium with the upper windows of the 6th Bath reaching above the wall in the distance.
Back along the trail, the Eastern Necropolis and its hidden tombs of various sizes can be found within the forest (pictured below).
Pictured above and below, this monumental tomb within the forest is less visited than the main section of the Eastern Necropolis (which sits on a terrace above the 6th Bath complex), though, it is none less impressive.
The sarcophagus that the tomb houses is ornately carved, most likely conveying the passions of the deceased, with gods and family traditions well represented (pictured below).
The monumental tombs of the Eastern Necropolis are on full display on the terrace just above the 6th Bath complex. Pictured above, a Lycian sarcophagi sits within a now collapsed tomb on a terrace supported by a polygonal stone wall.
The more elaborate Temple Tombs are situated closer to the city, such as the tomb pictured above, which has very finely cared door frame (close-up pictured below). The inner beds on which the deceased would have been laid upon can be seen inside the door at the bottom of the photo.
A representative of the family is flanked by two images of winged Nike: the protector and victor holds the arms of the deceased as they ascend toward the gods.
Further along the path of dedicatory tombs, the pediment of a collapsed tomb sits below the structure on the bottom tier, probably felled by an earthquake (pictured above). The Temple Tomb itself, still standing on its raised base a few tiers up (pictured below).
An image of Medusa at the center of the pediment guards the family tomb, warning those who pass to think of the consequences before they undertake any plan to disturb the treasures adorning the deceased.
Another remarkable tomb sits further along the path, with its high Roman base and fluted columns, a Temple Tomb in antis, with square Corinthian columns fronting the side walls. This is a display of the wealth of ancient Arycanda, famous for its export of cedar for the building of ships.
Turning from the monumental tombs along the necropolis path, I headed up the slope on a steep staircase built in antiquity. The further up the slope one climbs, the more the terrace walls began to reveal themselves (pictured below).
The State Agora (pictured below) is located mid-way up the slope and is supported by massive terrace wall of polygonal and square blocks (pictured above).
On the raised u-shaped platform or portico, there are arched entrances in the back wall with steps just inside that lead to the Odeon (pictured above and below).
Pictured above, two intricately carved Corinthian capitals sit in the front of the Odeon, with the plated seating in view on the steep incline.
A view of the Odeon from a staircase above the back wall is testament to the architectural engineering required to build on such a steep slope (pictured above).
Just inside the arched entrance pictured above, a series of stairs lead to buildings higher up slope. Various building periods of slopes and buildings are attested to by the variety of architectural types.
The staircase and raised terraces are buttressed with both polygonal and rectangular shaped stone blocks, some dating from the 1-5C AD Roman period, while others appear to be from the Hellenistic period; but nevertheless, the city continues yet higher and higher up the slope (pictured below).
The next building to be featured up the slope and above the Odeon being the Theater, a Greek design in that it is greater than a semi-circle, and with a detached stage building that did not rise to height as to block the view of the scene beyond; nature in the act. Pictured below, a view of the interior of the stage building.
Pictured above, three doors from the stage building open into the proscenia, here, Roman decorative building members, such as the fluted columns, testify to the restorative work done between the 1C BC - 4C AD. Below, a Hellenistic triglyph metope sculpted as part of the first construction.
At a pleasant climatic altitude, the ancient theater goers would be able to escape the blistering heat of summer, with cool breezes and a view to kill for.
There could be no doubt, that the well to do would spend their summers in Arycanda, and return to the warmth of Limyra near the sea during the winter months.
Reserved seating can be found throughout the theater seating, as the names of those who gained the right have their names forever etched into them (pictured above and below).
The decorative elements of the theater, such as the seating leg posts (pictured below) suggest that the theater and stadium were constructed during the same period, as they also share architectural similarities.
The Hellenistic theater at Arycanda has 20 rows of seating in a single diazoma separated by 7 kerkides or cunel. The seating of the theater is built into the slope of Mount Akdag, and protrudes toward the stage building ending in support walls.
Though the theater is thought to have been modified during the later Roman period, the stage building appears to have escaped the Roman practice of elevating the skene to a height that blocks the spectator's view of the natural scene beyond the theater.
Furthermore, there is no protective wall built to separate and protect the spectators from the action within the orchestra, where gladiatorial competitions could have been facilitated.
The theater seating also serves the purpose of a support for the terrace above, which is where the stadium rests. Pictured below, a view up the slope from the theater, at the support wall and steps leading to the stadium, as well as the peak of Mount Akdag.
The stadium is quite a magnificent structure considering its location, as ascending the steep slope from the lower city alone would provide a citizen with a good workout.
I found the Building with Niches to be a most interesting structure and area. Prior to becoming a space where athletes aspired to reach the heights of glorious honor amongst the gods, priests would put on displays of ascension in their attempts to find favor within the heavens.
The wall and its niches retain the plaster that was applied many millennia ago. Vertical posts procuring out from the niches are decorated in the fashion of a grand ancient temple, with columns supporting Corinthian capitals, over which an entablature rises featuring a frieze with regulae or guttae visible to this day (pictured above and below).
The plaster facade covering the stone blocks of the building provided a marble like beauty that may have also been decorated with painted highlights. That this structure is so well preserved is probably the most astonishing aspect about this monument.
Proceeding west and a bit down the slope, I came to the east end of the terrace support wall where the Commercial Agora is located (pictured below).
Pictured above, the steps leading up to the stoa. Here, a wooden building would have run the length of the agora, and have housed the twelve shops selling the goods that kept the city alive.
Pictured above, the west end of the Commercial Agora reveals some of the partitions between the shops. At the far west end (pictured below), the remnents of the arched roof can be seen on the back wall, as well as the side walls where the arch begins its journey. The depressed or sunken floor may indicate a cool space to store heat sensitive produce.
Continuing west along the main street of the slope (pictured below), we arrive at what is believed to be the Temple of Helios, the back of which can be seen below at the end of the street.
This Hellenistic temple reserves a central and high position within the city. Though it is not absolutely sure that this is indeed the Temple of Helios, the sun god is known to have held a central space of worship among the ancient Arycandians.
Pictured above and below, the terrace support wall can be seen in front and below the temple, followed by the three remaining steps of the crepidoma, and finally, the recess carved directly into the rock face of the mountain which provided the space for the temple to be erected.
Continuing west from the Temple of Helios, we arrive at the Bouleuterion or Council House (pictured below). In the photo below, the remains of the seats can be seen, which were carved out of the rock face of the slope.
Pictured above, a view up the slope with the rock carved seating of the Bouleuterion traversing scene. Below, a bench seat, or section of seating, or perhaps a pedestal to a monument sits on the terrace just below the Bouleuterion. The canvas seen in the photo below is protecting a mosaic, which might have decorated a fountain area, or some other building.
Pictured above, the support wall and bottom section of the Bouleuterion building (the seats can be seen beyond this wall). There is a large Cistern located just below the Bouleuterion to the west (pictured below), and is probably the cistern that fed the Terrace Bath and Nymphaeum which are further down the slope.
With the village of Arif pictured in the valley far below the ancient city, the top of the wall of the Terrace Bath comes into view (pictured above). Reaching the massive stone entrance to the Terrace bath was quite a relief, as it can be quite trecherous navagating the steep slope with its unstable boulders ready to give way upon any step.
Round brick blocks can be found within the bath building, and were used to raise the floor of the bath, thus allowing the thermal heating of the floor (pictured above). Roman bathes would also employ double walls with a space between the two allowing steam to run through the space, which would provide equal and balanced heating throughout the room.
The marble caldron pictured above might have provided a cool splash of water in the midst of the hot steamy environs. Or, perhaps it was kept full with cold spring water for a soothing drink? Further down the slope near the State Agora is the Nympheaum (pictured below).
Continuing down the slope and just below the State Agora there is what looks like a tower, however, it may simply be a section of terrace wall, or perhaps a municiple building, used for storage, or what not, and in connection to the State Agora (pictured below).
Taking the rock cut stairs further down the slope brings us to a very large building known as the Traianeum (pictured below). The large square niches in the walls suggest a second story, and building is thought to have been a Basilica, and this would most likely been how the space was utilized during the late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Upon further inspection of the area, we find in the center of the space the clear remains of a crepidoma, including the stereobate, euthynteria and all the way up to the stylobate (pictured below).
The Traianeum at Arycanda, which is a large temple, would have been built in honor of the Emperor Trajan (full name, Marcus Ulpius Traianus) in the late 1C AD - the early 2C AD.
Whether commissioned by him or after his death is unknown, but perhaps as in the case of the Traianeum at Italica near Sevilla, Spain, where Trajan was born, the Traianeum Temple there was built by his adopted son and successor, Hadrian.
Continuing my trek down the slope toward the site entrance, we come to what is being called the Roman Villa (pictured below).
The villa was still under excavation when I visited, so it was impossible to enter, however, I did manage to extend my camera through the fence in order to snap this photo of one of the mosaics.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)