MYRA

A well-paved road leads to Myra, which is famous for its striking rock tombs. This place is between Kaş, in Antalya's Kale (Demre) township, and Finike. Myra was an important Lycian city in the Middle Ages and St. Nicholas served as a bishop in the city. Lycia means "the place of the sacred Mother Goddess." Myra, or "Myrrh" in the Lycian language, was set up on the coastal side of the mountains with a wall on the northwestern side of the Demre valley. First, the city that was built on today's rock tombs on top of the hill expanded towards lower parts of the hill and it became one of the most important six cities of Lycia. The first coins of the city in the fourth century B.C bore pictures of the Mother Goddess. Although old sources date Myra to the first century B.C., it is understood from coins and rock tombs that the city existed as early as the fifth century B.C.

The Myros River (Demre Çayi), which flows across the city, helped the development of naval maritime trade but also left the city vulnerable to pirate raids. At their port of Andriake, the Myrians tried to put a stop to these raids by putting a chain across the river's mouth to the sea. Brutus, famous for killing Julius Caesar in 42 B.C, came to Lycia to gather soldiers and after they conquered Xanthos, he sent his commander Lentulus to Myra to collect tribute. The Myrians resisted this and tried to defend themselves, but the commander broke the chains across the river's mouth and managed to enter the city. In 18 A.D., the adopted son of Tiberius, Germanicus, along with his wife Agrippina visited here and the Myrians showed their respect for them by erecting sculptures of the couple at their Andriake port. In 60 A.D., St. Paul changed ships in Myra on his way to Rome. Old sources tell about ship tours between Myra and Limyra.

Myra, the metropolis of the Lycian Union, developed greatly in the second century A.D. and many buildings were constructed with the financial assistance of the wealthy people of Lycia. One of these individuals, Licinius Langus from Oinoanda, had a theater and portico built by donating 10,000 dinars. Inscriptions tell us that Jason from Rhodiapolis and Kyeanail also made great contributions to Myra's development. During the time of Theodosius II (408-450), when St. Nicholas served as an archbishop, Myra was the capital of the Lycian region. Starting in the seventh century, the city was raided by Arabs until the ninth century. Finally in 809, one of the commanders of the Caliph Harun el-Rashid gained control of the city. The Church of St. Nicholas was demolished in 1034 during an attack of Arabs from the sea.

Most inhabitants of Myra left the city because of the Arab raids and because of the Myros Stream's frequent floods which filled some of the buildings with mud. Myra soon turned into a village. When Turks first came to the area, Myra had shrunk into a very small place indeed.

Nothing much is left of the acropolis on the mountain behind theater. In 1842, Spratt visited Myra and climbed to the acropolis, and he saw nothing but small rocks. There are remains of walls in the Roman rampart which survived from Hellenistic times and even from the fifth century B.C. On the way to the city, at the end of the road you'll see remains of a Turkish-style bath and a basilica that were built in later times.

Myra's water needs were met by water channels carved into rocks in the valley where the Demre Stream flows. These channels are still visible even in our day. Other structures of Myra remain hidden beneath the earth waiting for their new day in the sun. On the way to Myra, in the Karabucak area, you will notice a well-preserved Roman mausoleum.

There is an ancient city, Sura, near Myra's port Andriake and this city was famous for being a center for prophecy and soothsaying. A few kilometers away from Sura, there is the Trebenda ancient city in Gurses. Now let's take a look at theater, the tomb rocks and the St. Nicholas Church.

Myra's splendid theater has survived to our day and it is still in good shape. Behind it, the cavea of the theater located on the steep side of the mountain is mostly carved into rocks. The theater was later used as an arena, and so some changes were made to it.

In Myra, which owes its fame to its rock tombs, these tombs are located mainly in two places: one group right on top of theater and the other in the river necropolis on the eastern side.



Source: Ministery of Culture