Photos by Jack A. Waldron
The ancient site of Oenoanda is situated high in the Xanthus Valley, and from Fethiye, required the better part of a day to climb the high mountains to reach the pass at Karabel, beyond which lay the village Incealiler, where Oenoanda is located. As I descended into the Xanthus valley, I could see the remnants of ancient structures high up on the mountains to my right, which in fact were of the ancient city, however, I would need to circumnavigate the mountain in order to access the site from the village of Incealiler.
There is not a great deal of information on the history of Oenoanda, other than it is believed to have been established between 200 - 190 BC as a colony of Termessos (originally being called Termessos Minor), and further, was the southern most member of the Kibyran Tetrapoleis during the Hellenistic period.
The Oenoanda survey project was carried out over the course of six seasons between 1974 and 1983. The goal of the survey was to record inscriptions and fragments in and around the north Lycian city of Oenoanda, with a particular emphasis on recovering as much as possible of the philosophical inscription of Diogenes of Oenoanda.The first season in 1974 began in mid-July but was cut down from eight to three weeks due to the Cyprus crisis. In the short time given, however, they were successful in locating and marking as much of the Diogenes’ inscription as possible, which they estimated to comprise approximately 25% of the entire thing. They also completed a measurement of the Esplanade, began recording the non-philosophical inscriptions on site, and photographed many of the public buildings.Between 17 July and 6 September 1975 the team carried out a second season with the intent of continuing the topographical survey of the main site, completing inventories of inscriptions (both Diogenes’ and non-philosophical ones), and studying other major buildings. Their goals were met as major structures were surveyed and incorporated into plans, 47 new fragments of the Diogenes inscription were found and inventoried, non-philosophical inscriptions were documented by Alan Hall, and major buildings were studied by Coulton, and dated to the third century AD.It became clear at this point that in order to learn more about Oenoanda excavation was advisable, and between 18 and 25 August 1976 Hall visited the site three times in order to observe the practicalities of conducting an excavation there. One new inscription was also found belonging to the Diogenes inscription.Between 27 July and 1 September 1977 a team of eight returned to Oenoanda for a fourth season of work. An inventory and study was made of the main buildings. They were successful in completing a detailed survey down the acropolis hill to the early southern wall, studying the development of the site before and after the city walls, discovering ten new fragments of the inscription of Diogenes, as well as some non-philosophical fragments, and further outlining a plan for excavation.No excavation permit was granted, however, by 1981, and so during a brief fifth season other work was carried out: Coulton studied the city’s aqueduct, Smith checked, re-photographed, and recorded two new fragments of the Diogenes Inscription, and Hall studied the Mausoleum of Licinnia Flavilla and its inscription. It was determined that further work was limited without the possibility of an excavation.The sixth season occurred between 17 and 31 August 1983. Hall examined texts found previously and recorded new material, Coulton and Andrew Farrington continued to measure and study and more closely observe buildings of significance, and R. R. R. Smith looked at architectural details. Three new fragments of Diogenes’ inscription were found in a nearby village, and five other inscriptions were recorded.Nothing more was done until 1994, when Stephen Mitchell spent a week accompanied by Martin Smith, Nicholas Milner and Jeremy Rossiter to assess the potential of conducting an excavation there.In 1997, between 31 October and 9 November, Smith collaborated with İbrahim Malkoç, director of Fethiye Museum, in a small excavation on the Esplanade, primarily. Their work produced several substantial new fragments of the philoosphical inscription as well as other discoveries.Work was again suspended until 2007, when the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbuler Abteilung, took over responsibility for restarting the survey and excavation, under the directions of Martin Bachmann and Jürgen Hammerstaedt, in collaboration with Martin Smith and Nicholas Milner.
Location: near İncealiler village; Muğla Province
Years: 1974-1977, 1981, 1983, 1997
Project Director: Alan Hall, Martin Smith
Participants: Andrew Slade (1974), Maureen Healy (1974), Graham Cooper (1974), John Rowland (1974), David Stephens (1974), James Coulton (1975, 1983), Diskin Clay (1975), David Howarth (1975-1976), Peter Hughes (1975), Martyn Swain (1975), Peter Ross (1975), Richard Harper (1977), Lesley and Roger Ling (1977), Simon Dykes (1977), David Chapman (1977), Andrew Farrington (1983), R. R. R. Smith (1983), Stephen Mitchell (1994), Nicholas Milner (1994), Jeremy Rossiter (1994), Ali Dervişağaoğlu (1997), Hüseyin Köktürk (1997), Orhan Köse (1997), Andrew L. Goldman (1997), Julian Bennett (1997)
Government Representatives: Osman Özbek (1974, 1976), Sırrı Özenir (1975), Ibrahim Malkoç (1983)
Funding: BIAA, Charlotte Bonham Carter Trust, Russell Trust, Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust, private grants
Web Address: http://biaa.ac.uk/research/item/name/oenoanda-survey
As I climbed the ever increasing slope of the mountain to reach the ancient city, a massive defensive wall began to come into view (pictured above and below). This defensive wall was a later addition to the previously undefended city, having been erected around 250 AD.
To the Southeast of the defensive wall lay a trail of massive stone conduit blocks that were used for the transport of either fresh or waste water (pictured below). I'm curious as to what was used to seal the blocks? Perhaps a heavy clay . . .
Looking Northeast from Necropolis, a defensive wall tower rises on the crest of the hill (pictured below). Laying between the tower and myself are monumental tombs and sarcophagi, as well as blocks from Diogenes' Epicurean Inscription, which were repurposed over the millennia.
Pictured above and below, a plethora of sarcophagi and their lids are in situ or toppled throughout the area. Some stand on simple stepped bases, some are carved into the bedrock, and some sit atop monumental tombs of once wealthy citizens.
Pictured above, the toppled lid of a sarcophagus. Below, a high stepped base that once supported one or more sarcophagi.
Massive tomb structures such as the one pictured above, have been destroyed by earthquakes over the millennia. Pictured below, a lion clawed seat lay amongst the rubble, probably repurposed from the bouleuterion, the theater, an exedra, or perhaps just a bench that was part of a tomb itself.
Pictured above, a lengthy inscription that is most likely a block from Diogenes' Portico Wall Inscription. I am by no means an expert in epigraphy, and though I have studied ancient Greek, I would not have the confidence to claim site-on-seen one of the inscription blocks from the stoa wall inscribed by Diogenes. That being said, there is a uniformity to the inscriptions, and I know from other more knowledgable sources that these blocks have been repurposed and scattered throughout the city. So, let your eyes take you where they may, and enjoy the photos of the inscriptions I happened to come across on my first visit to the site. I say 'first', because I do plan to explore this site again in the future!
Oenoanda is unexcavated with a majority of its buildings and their members remaining on site. Though many building members have been repurposed, the newer constructed buildings and their members also remain on site. There is a great work of restoration waiting to take place, which someday will showcase this grand city at the height of the Xanthus Valley.
Powerful earthquakes over the millennia have left the monumental mausoleums strewn down the Southeast side of the city. Wouldn't be grande if we could use our armies to rebuild cities, as opposed to destroying them?
Here in the rubble of the mausoleum pictured above was this exquisitely inscribed block, with the curves of its letters displaying the artfulness and care the sculptor/scribe took in paying homage to the deceased (close-up pictured below).
Continuing up the Southern slope toward the defensive wall and tower, I came to this massive block with a shield relief carved in the center. Perhaps it was part of a soldiers' tomb, or a decorative member of a shrine or temple.
Turning to the Southwest, the view of the upper Xanthus Valley from the crest of the city with the high mountains on the horizon is spectacular. I only saw two other visitors at the site during my five hour trek around the ancient city. As opposed to fighting the hordes of tourists at sites such as Ephesus, this is heaven on earth.
The defensive wall and towers were erected around 250 AD, and are in an excellent state of preservation. Some of the wall are constructed of polygonal blocks, while other parts of the wall are built out of rectangular blocks, and to, the outer side of some walls and towers are constructed with rectangular blocks, while the inner side is constructed of polygonal blocks. The tower pictured here at the crest of the Southwest slope (photo above and below) is constructed of rectangular blocks on the outside and polygonal blocks on the inside, and this also applies to the walls that meet it, as shown further down.
Pictured above, this defensive gap/window allowed the defenders of the city to see the enemy while putting themselves in little danger, and further, would have given them a fairly safe position from which they could shoot arrows at the attackers. Pictured below, the inside of the defensive gap/window widened thus allowing the body of the defender enough room to rotate his/her view outside the wall, and a greater coverage of area to defend.
As described above, the interior (pictured above and below) of the 1-1.5 meter thick walls at this location are constructed using both polygonal and rectangular blocks, while the outer walls are constructed using strictly rectangular blocks.
Pictured above, stairs lead to the next level of the interior wall allowing the defenders to look down on the attackers. Pictured below, another of the many well preserved towers that are interspersed throughout the wall that encircles the city.
From the Southwestern section of the city I headed Northeast into the city proper, or center. Along the path into the city remnants of buildings, stoa shops, and other municipal constructs abound.
Nearing a small bath complex, other buildings have collapsed into the streets forcing the visitor to clammer over and around the preciously decorated members, such as the Corinthian capital pictured above. Below, a dedicatory statue pedestal sits in situ surrounded by the chaos of collapse.
Then, a small bath complex (pictured above and below) comes into view, perhaps the bath that was reportedly donated to the city by a wealthy citizen of Rhodiapolis in the 2C AD. The walls of the bath are constructed of odd shaped polygonal and rectangular blocks, much like the city walls that were constructed are the same time.
It is hard to contemplate how this arch within the bath complex has been able to withstand two-thousand years of earthquakes, severe weather, human repurposing of building members and unknown external aggressions on the site . . . , it is a testament to the solid design and construction.
Leaving the bath complex, I proceeded to walk along the street tower the main agora.
Across from the bath just up the street is the site of a magnificently ornamented civic building with grand arches, a tall base and secret doors to the interior (pictured below).
If this were a dilapidated Neo-Greco/Roman building along the national mall in Washington D.C., it wouldn't be surprising to see it surrounded by scaffolding in preparation of its long deserved restoration.
The two-storied building would in noway be out of place if the exact same design were used to construct an addition to one of the too-numerous-to-count neoclassical buildings that can be found throughout the Greco-Roman culturally based world, as well as international architects who have honored the tradition in their own designs worldwide.
Leaving the municipal building, I followed the street toward the main agora.
Along the way was the occasional dedicatory pedestal, or decree, or statue base, as the streets were often lined with acclamations to the winners of poet competitions, sports events, gifts to the city of structures, roads, bridges, monuments, etc. by wealthy families from the area or beyond.
The main agora of Oenoanda is massive, and one can imagine the elaborately decorated columns, capitals, exedras and statues that once encircled the wide open space that was lined with grand covered porticos cooled by the occasional fountain of fresh spring water.
Men would lean in focused debate, or recline in deepened discussion of the arrival of new immigrants from Termessos in 2C BC, or the dissolving of the Kibyran Tetrapoleis by L. Licinius Murena in 84 BCE. The agora at Oenoanda is impressive for its size, because this is not the commercially central Laodikeia on Meander, but a mountain colony at the crossroads of the Xanthus Valley.
Pictured above, a building member with an exquisite relief of shields, which is a military motif often used during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. Below, the geison of a circular building, perhaps a temple, fountain, apse, or so on.
I almost walked past this fantastic relief without notice, and since I only spent five hours on the site, I continue to think about everything I must have missed. This relief in particular is located just behind the massive remains of the theater stage building, so don't miss it!!
The large tree in the center of the orchestra is cleverly used as a notice board to the archeologists who visit the site. There is a plastic folder with yellow paper squares inside, pieces of string, and a pen of course. If you happen to find something of interest during your visit to the city (such as a block from the Epicurean Wall of Diogenes), then write it up on the paper with a map of the location, roll-up the paper and hang it from a branch under the tree.
The Theater consists of fifteen rows of seats, and with its large orchestra appearing a size too big, there may have been plans to increase the number of rows of seating when such growth might be required.
This was a beautiful discovery that every lover of ancient cities hopes to come across; a magnificent and legitimate museum piece just siting there in situ at an ancient site, undisturbed, awaiting its eventual removal to a museum, that in the mean time offers the occasional visitor a greeting from two-thousand years past (pictured below).
The Bridge at Oenoanda, below the Urluca hill of Oenoanda (pictured below), which is located at an ancient site called Kemerarasi, was an important junction of the upper Xanthus Valley, is clearly of Ottoman construction, which however is situated along an ancient road that at this point crosses the Xanthus River. At further inspection during the 1990s evidence of the construction of a Roman Bridge at this site was discovered.
In the 1990s, a Latin inscription found on a limestone block in the garden of the Oenoanda Bekci (guard) in Incealiler led to the connection of the Kemerarasi site and a Roman bridge that once spanned the Xanthus River there, or near there. The inscription reads as follows:
Transcription (with additions):TI CLAVDIVS DRVSI FCAESAR DEVS AVG GERMANICVS PONTIFE[x]MAX TR[I]BVNICIAE P[ot]X COS V IMP X II DES[ig]P P PONTEM PER T [CL?]EPRIVM MARCELLVM[l]EG AVG PROPR SO A(Corrected and amended) translation:Ti(berius) Claudius son of Drusus Caesar, God, Augustus, Germanicus, chief pontiff, with tribunician power for the 10th time, consul for the 5th time, with imperatorial acclamation for the '12th' (18th) time, co(n)s(ul) des[ig(nate)], Father of the Fatherland, (built) the bridge by the agency of T(itus) [Cl(odius)?] Eprius Marcellus, praetorian [l]egate of the Aug(ustus), so(dalis) A(ugustalis).(Bridge_at_Oinoanda#cite_note-Milner.2C_N._P..2C_118-2)
It took me the better part of a day to cycle up into the mountains from Fethiye to Oenoanda, but going back took me less that two hours, as I was passing buses and trucks at speeds that reached 80 km per hour!! Truly a rush . . . , and my Surly Disc Trucker is everything it is claimed to be . . . a real work horse, and at times, a speed demon!
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)