Lycia (in Lycian, Trm̃mis, in ancient Greek, Λυκία and in
modern Turkish, Likya) is a region in the modern-day
provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It
was the site of an ancient country which later became a province of
the Roman Empire.
The region of Lycia has been inhabited by human
groups since prehistoric times. The eponymous inhabitants of Lycia,
the Lycians, spoke an Indo-European language, belonging to its
Anatolian branch. The closest language to the Lycian language is the
Luwian language, which was spoken in Anatolia during the 2nd and
early 1st millennium BC; it may even be its direct ancestor.
Lycia is a mountainous and densely forested
region along the coast of southwestern Turkey on and around the Teke
Peninsula. It is bounded by Caria to the west and north west,
Pamphylia to the east, and Pisidia to the north east. Turkey's first
waymarked long-distance footpath, the Lycian Way, follows part of
the coast of the region.
The principal cities of ancient Lycia were
Xanthos, Patara, Myra, Pinara, Tlos and Olympos (each entitled to
three votes in the Lycian League) and Phaselis.
The archeological exploration of Lycia has
uncovered numerous texts in the Lycian language. Somer of these
texts contain place names in their Lycian forms, including these:
- Trm̃mis = Lycia, the
ancient region now in Turkey (In conventional orthography, the
third letter is an "m" with a tilde above it).
- Aprll = Aperlai, a city
of Lycia near the coast.
- Araththi = Araxa, a
city of Caria, an ancient region now in Turkey.
- Arikanda = Arykawanda,
a city of Lycia.
- Arñna = Xanthos, the
largest city of Lycia.
- Isñta = Isinda, a city
- Khadawãti = Kadyanda, a
city of Caria.
- Khãkbi = Kandyba, a
city of Lycia.
- Khbide = Kaunos, a city
- Pilleñni = Pinara, a
city of Lycia.
- Pttara = Patara,
considered the second city of Lycia.
- Telebehi = Telmessos, a
city of Caria.
- Tlãñna = Tlos, a city
- Wehñta = Phellos, a
city of Lycia near Xanthos.
- Zẽmuri = Limyra, a city
of eastern Lycia.
- Doliciste = Kekova, an
island on the Lycian coast.
Ancient Egyptian records describe the Lycians as
allies of the Hittites. Lycia may have been a member state of the
Assuwa league of ca. 1250 BC, appearing as Lukka or Luqqa. After the
collapse of the Hittite Empire, Lycia emerged as an independent
According to Herodotus, Lycia was named after
Lycus, the son of Pandion II of Athens. The region was never unified
into a single territory in antiquity, but remained a tightly-knit
confederation of fiercely independent city-states.
Lycia was frequently mentioned by Homer as an
ally of Troy. In Homer's Iliad, the Lycian contingent was said to
have been led by two esteemed warriors: Sarpedon (son of Zeus and
Laodamia) and Glaucus (son of Hippolochus). Elsewhere in Greek
mythology, the Lycian kingdom was said to have been ruled by another
Sarpedon, a Cretan exile and brother of the king Minos; Sarpedon's
followers were called Termilae, and they founded a dynasty after
their conquest of a people called the Milyans. As with the founding
of Miletus, this mythical story implies a Cretan connection to the
settlement of Asia Minor. Lycia appears elsewhere in Greek myth,
such as in the story of Bellerophon, who eventually succeeded to the
throne of the Lycian king Iobates (or Amphianax).
Lycia came under the control of the Persian
Empire in 546 BC when Harpagus of Media, a general in the service of
Cyrus conquered Asia Minor. Harpagus's descendants ruled Lycia until
468 BC when Athens wrested control away. Persia then retook Lycia in
387 BC and held it until it was conquered by Alexander III of
Macedon. It subsequently passed into the hands of the Seleucids
before falling to the Roman Republic in 189 BC. The heir of
Augustus, Gaius Caesar, was killed there in 4 AD. In 43, the emperor
Claudius annexed it to the Roman Empire and united it with Pamphylia
as a Roman province. It subsequently became part of the Byzantine
Empire before being overrun by the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire and
eventually becoming part of Turkey. The Lycians own name "Trm̃mi"
comes from the region of Trimili which was recently discovered on an
ancient road sign in Patara excavation. Interestingly, today a
Turkish village named "Dirmil" stands on the lands of ancient
Trimili which may prove that this is the evolved name of the land
therefore the ancient Lycians.
Though the second-century CE dialogue Erotes
found the cities of Lycia "interesting more for their history than
for their monuments, since they have retained none of their former
splendor", many relics of the Lycians remain visible today,
especially their distinctive rock-cut tombs in the sides of cliffs
in the region.
The British Museum in London has one of the best
collections of Lycian artifacts.
Lycia was an important center of worship for the
goddess Leto and later, her twin children, Apollo and Artemis.
The Lycian League was established in 168 BC with
democratic principles. It comprised some 23 known city-states as
Lycia, which had been under Rhodian control since
the Peace of Apamea in 188 B.C., was granted independence by the
Roman Empire at the conclusion of the Third Macedonian War. These
city states joined together in a federalist style government that
shared political resources against larger nations. A “Lyciarch” was
elected by a senate that convened every autumn at a different city,
where each member sent one, two or three representatives, depending
on the city's size, to the senate, or Bouleuterion, as it was
called. The major cities of the League included Xanthos, Patara,
Pinara, Olympus, Myra, and Tlos, with Patara as the capital.
Phaselis joined the League at a later time. The league continued to
function after Lycia became a Roman province in 46 AD. Lycia ceased
being a federation in the fourth century A.D., when it was taken
over by the Byzantine Empire.
- “Poem on the Battle of
Kadesh” 305-313, Ramesses II
- “Great Karnak
Inscription” 572-592, Merneptah
- Breasted, J. H. 1906.
Ancient Records of Egypt. Vol. III. Chicago: University of
- “Plague Prayers of
Mursilis” A1-11, b, Mursilis
- Pritchard, J. B. 1969.
Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Princeton: Princeton University
- R.D. Barnett (1975).
"The Sea Peoples", in J. B. Bury, S. A. Cook, F. E. Adcock: The
Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge: Cambridge University
- Refers to many
different sea peoples and their contact with Egypt and Anatolia.
Also tells about the Philistines during the reign of Ramesses
- T. Bryce (1993). "Lukka
Revisited". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51: 121-130.
- Discusses Lukka's
relations to other regions (like Miletus) and where they
- T. Bryce and J. Zahle
(1986). The Lycians. Copenhagen:
Museum Tusculanum Press.
- Covers the Lycians and
where they lived, their history, language, culture, cults, and
- R. Drews (1995). The
End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe
CA. 1200 B.C.. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- A description of the
Egyptian evidence on the Sea Peoples.