Daily Kekova Sunken City Tour Summary
Demre Myra Kekova
Kekova is the name of a region of fascinating islands, bays and ancient cities. Kekova has a sorely seen attraction a long the shore of the Island a sunken city is observed. The geological movements of the Island caused the city on the Island to be submerged, creating a strange scene with half of the city under water and half above. Teimiussa, Simena are the main Lycian settlements in the area. Kekova is the only area where the flying fish can be watched in this region.
Beyond its cultural features, Kekova shows very significant geological formations, ondulated coastal line, hydrobiological features and scenic beauty of the area form an outstanding quality. It is a remarkable example of cultural continuity, and a living cultural assents as well.
Natural setting of the Kekova Island and the coast in relation with culture creates an outstanding example of natural- cultural property.
Kekova is a unique example of fascinating wonders of art and history and nature all at once.
Kekova dates back to the 5th Century. At that time, Lycia was an important kingdom. King Sarpedon who fought the Trojan War originally belonged to Lycia. Kekova was the seaport of Lycia, connected to the mainland. The Lycians traded extensively with the Greeks. This also made them vulnerable to pirates and so the cities were well fortified. Over the centuries the region was ravaged by a series of earthquakes and the ancient cities were submerged six meters below the sea level. As you cruise down the sea, you can see the ruins of buildings and walls under the water.
Kekova Island and the town of Kale nearby Antalya make an idyllic daytrip for the traveler looking for a combination of sunshine, swimming and fascinating historic ruins. Many operators run trips from Kas but the journey is much shorter from Cayagzi, the harbor of Demre. Along the stony coastline the boatman may stop at a cave, or point out the occasional goat or the smoldering pyramids of wood used by peasants to make charcoal, the product may sit in plastic sacks at the water''''''''''''''''s edge, waiting to be taken away.
Along the edge of the island facing the mainland lie the fascinating half-submerged remains of a Lycian sunken city, and probably from Byzantine times later on. Signs warn against skin- diving, so you can not swim here because many foreigners in the past took a piece of ancient relics with them as a souvenir. The boatman will allow the passengers on board off for a swim further to the west, where the remains of a Byzantine chapel stand on the beach and where further sunken remains can be explored at ease by the swimmer with mask and snorkel.
A fascinating Lycian necropolis, with chest-type tombs spread out along the coastline, lies at Teimiussa, near the present-day Ucagiz on the mainland across from Kekova. This can also be reached by track from the main road between Kas and Demre, where it is signposted. The boat-tripper may be content with a sea-born view and pass to Kale, the ancient Simena, which sits nearby below the crenellated ramparts of an earlier hilltop Roman castle.
The castle houses a small theater, cut into the rock, for just about 300 people, a sign that this was a minor settlement in Roman times. Down in the harbor the turquoise sea laps at waterside restaurants offering good Turkish food including locally caught fish. A lone Lycian sarcophagus standing in a few centimeters of water at the western side lures visitors to pose beside it for photographs. Today Kekova is a very popular anchorage for sailors who enjoy the history together with the nature.
Simena – Kale
From inscriptions that have been found, we know that the history of the ancient city of Simena goes back to the 4th century B.C. If we go ashore via the jetty next to the sarcophagus on the seashore and climb the hill behind the houses, we reach the castle of Simena. This castle was used during the Middle Ages by the Byzantines. In the medieval walls of the inner keep are a few blocks of all that remains of ancient temple. Inside the castle is a small natural theater carved into the rock. This is the smallest of theaters among the cities of Lycia. West of the theater there are rock tombs here and there. Above the rock tombs is a Roman wall built of dressed stone and located on the wall are late-period embrasures thus giving one a glimpse of three eras simultaneously. On the shore are the ruins of public baths whose inscription is still legible and reads "A gift to the emperor Titus made by the people and council of Aperlai as well as by the other cities of the confederation."
Looking from the castle towards Ucagiz it becomes clear how beautiful and safe a natural harbor this really is. Simena (or Kaleköy, its present-day name) is only a temporary shelter however. The actual shelter for yachts is Teimiussa (Ucagiz), a landlocked bay surrounded by green hills. There is a road overland that leads here. The ruins of the ancient city of Teimiussa are located here. Very little is known about the history of the city however. One inscription indicates that its history goes back to the 4th century B.C. One sees mostly the ruins of a necropolis here and no city walls or other major structures have been encountered. The oldest sarcophagus is from the 4th century B.C. and is shaped like a house. Over it is the portrait of a young man. The inscription tells us that it belongs to "Kluwanimiye". The work is Roman and a later addition to the sarcophagus.
One may reach Kekova overland from Demre Cayagzi as well as in boats that you can rent at Kas. After leaving Kekova you pass Kisneli Island and Asirli Island and come to Gokkaya harbor. Gokkaya is a beautiful bay and a fine harbor. On the way is a big sea cave that was used at one time by pirates. From here one comes to Cayagzi (Demre), also called Kokar bay, alongside of which are the ruins of Andreake. From here, one may take a car to Myra, the city of St. Nicholas, which is quite close. This is also a place from which one may visit other Lycian cities as Isinda at Belenli, Apollonia at Kilincli, Istlada at Kapakli, Kyaenai at Yavu, and Trysa and Sura at Golbasi. The area is also filled with thousands of Lycian sarcophagi lying everywhere.
Teimiussa lies directly east of today''''''''''''''''s village of Üçagiz, you can visit some of the ruins at the eastern end of Üçagiz''''''''''''''''s harbour.
Not much is known about the history of the city and it has no known coinage. Tombs with Lycian inscriptions point to settlement by the fourth century BC. The city seems to have had ties with Myra and Cyaneae. An ancient road leads directly from it to Cyaneae and some of Teimiussa''''''''''''''''s tombs bear inscriptions saying that they belong to citizens of Cyaneae and Myra. Teimiussa was probably a small settlement tied administratively to these two cities.
The main ruins here are a necropolis to the east with a large cluster of sarcophagi, mainly from the Roman period. The oldest ruins are a few rock-cut house-type tombs at the eastern end of Üçagiz''''''''''''''''s harbour. One of these has a relief of a nude young man and an inscription tells us that the tomb belonged to a person named "Kluwanimiye".
At the eastern end of the city is a large dock, 28 metres long and 8 metres wide, carved out of living rock.
Myra is an ancient town in Lycia, where the small town of Kale (Demre) is situated today in present day Antalya Province of Turkey.Myra was a leading city of the Lycian Union and surpassed Xanthos in early Byzantine times to become the capital city of Lycia. Its remains are situated about 1.5 km north of today''''''''''''''''s Demre, on the Kaş-Finike road. Most of the ancient city is now covered by Demre and alluvial silts, for it is located on the river Demre Çay (Myros) in a fertile alluvial plain. Today this large plain is almost covered with greenhouses stuffed full of tomatoes. In ancient times this area was probably farmed extensively, for export and trade with the interior of Lycia.
The date of Myra''''''''''''''''s foundation is unknown. There is no literary mention of it before the 1st century BC, when it is said to be one of the six leading cities of the Lycian Union (the other five were Xanthos, Tlos, Pinara, Patara and Olympos). It is believed to date back much further however, as an outer defensive wall has been dated to the 5th century BC.
The city is well known for its amphitheatre (the largest in Lycia) and the plethora of rock-cut tombs carved in the cliff above the theatre.
The origin of Myra''''''''''''''''s name is uncertain and may be a modified form of a Lycian name, like Tlos and Patara. The name was popularly associated with the Greek name for myrrh and the emperor Constantine Porphrogenitus describled the city as "Thrice blessed, myrrh-breathing city of the Lycians, where the mighty Nicolaus, servant of God, spouts forth myrrh in accordance with the city''''''''''''''''s name." However, Myra does not seem to be known for its production of myrrh, the only product actually recorded is rue.
Myra once had a great temple of the goddess Artemis Eleuthera (a distinctive form of Cybele, the ancient mother goddess of Anatolia), said to be Lycia''''''''''''''''s largest and most splendid building. It was built on large grounds with beautiful gardens and had an inner court defined by columns, an altar and a statue of the goddess. Not a trace of it remains today, however, since St. Nicholas (the bishop of Myra in the 4th century AD) in his zeal to stamp out paganism in the region, had the temple of Artemis, along with many other temples, completely destroyed. See more about St. Nicholas below.
In Roman times the emperor Germanicus and his wife Agrippina paid Myra a visit in 18 AD and were honoured with statues of themselves erected in Myra''''''''''''''''s harbour (Andriace, located 5 km southwest of Myra).
St. Paul changed ships at Myra''''''''''''''''s port on his way to his trial in Rome, in about 60 AD, after he had been arrested in Jerusalem after being charged with inciting to riot. Andriace was a chief port for Egyptian vessels passing through the area; Egypt was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire and the imperial government had a fleet of grain ships that carried grain to Rome and other parts of the Empire. Andriace was a major trans-shipment point for grain from Alexandria - grain came from the plain near Myra, and was also possibly brought in by boats, to be shipped onwards from Lycia. It is likely that Paul made the trip to Rome on a grain ship, these were often used to transport passengers as well.
Emperor Hadrian visited Myra in 131 AD and built a huge granary at Andriace composed of seven rooms and decorated with portraits of himself and his wife who accompanied him on his visit. You can still see the granary as you drive along the main Kaş-Finike highway into Demre (the western part of Demre).
The Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II made Myra the capital of the Byzantine Eparchy Lycia until the city fell to the caliph Harun ar-Rashid in 808 AD after a seige and quickly went into decline. Then, early in the reign of Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118 AD), Myra was overtaken by Seljuk invaders.
Because of the terrible plague that swept through Anatolia (Myra lost one-third of its population to it in 542-3 AD), Muslim raids, flooding and earthquakes, Myra was mostly abandoned by the 11th century. What remains is very impressive - a large theatre with the backdrop of Myra’s famous rock-cut tombs. The sight of these is quite striking.
Features of Myra include:
Amphitheatre - Myra''''''''''''''''s Greco-Roman theatre is the largest theatre in Lycia and one of the main attractions of Myra, still in good shape. Its double-vaulted corridors are still preserved and an inscription in a stall space reads "place of the vendor Gelasius" - the location of an ancient concessions stand. It has 38 rows of seats and its facade was richly decorated with theatrical masks and mythological scenes.
Rock-Cut Tombs - The famous rock-tombs of Myra are in two main groups, one above the theater and the other in a place called the river necropolis on the east side. Although most of the tombs are plain today, Charles Fellows tells that upon his discovery of the city in 1840 he found the tombs colourfully painted red, yellow and blue. The entire cliff face must have once been a bright riot of colour.
To the west of the theatre the steep cliff is pockmarked with a huge number of closely packed rock-cut tombs in an asymmetric pattern, house type rock-cut tombs. A few are temple tombs and one can see steps carved out out the rock that lead to them. Most of the tombs are from the 4th century BC, and many contain funeral scenes in relief, some scenes portraying the daily life of the deceased.
The tombs on the eastern face of the hill resemble those next to the theater. Approached by an uncomfortable rock-path is the monument known as The Painted Tomb, one of the most striking throughout Lycia. It is the ususal house-type tomb with the outstanding feature of a group of eleven life-size figures in relief.
Church of St. Nicholas
This church can be visited a short distance from the site of Myra on the outskirts of Demre and is well worth the trip. Inside the church is the sarcophagus of St. Nicholas although his remains were taken to Italy. The earliest church of St. Nicholas was built in the 6th century AD, supposedly over St. Nicholas'''''''''''''''' tomb. Later it was rebuilt, the present church is from the 9th century (probably rebuilt after Arab attacks). It was further rebuilt in 1042 under the patronage of Constantine X and a monastery was added at that time or shortly after. Czar Alexander II bought the building in 1863 and began to have it restored, but the renovation was not completed. Excavations and restorations were done during the 1960''''''''''''''''s and continue today from the early 1990''''''''''''''''s. Wall painting restorations were carried out from 2000-2005. The church''''''''''''''''s floor is of beautiful opus sectile and cosmati, types of luxury marble mosaic floor tilings, and there are some remains of wall paintings (see photo below). A marble sarcophagus was reused to bury the bones of the saint, but actually they were stolen earlier and taken to Bari, Italy (see info below).
The Church was a popular pilgrimage center attracting pilgrims from home and abroad in all periods, even after the remains of St. Nicholas were stolen in 1087 AD.
The church and its close environs were registered as a 1st-degree archaeological site in 1982, and also placed on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. It is ranked among specialists as the third most important Byzantine structure present in Anatolia.
St. Nicholas was a popular bishop at Myra in the 4th century AD, born in Patara between 260 AD and 280, famous for his miracles and known for his kindness. His parents died of the plague and he was left a wealthy young man.
It is said that he was thrown into prison by Emperor Diocletian, perhaps participated in the Council of Nicaea, implored Emperor Constantine for a large tax reduction for Myra which was granted and destroyed Myra''''''''''''''''s renowned temple of Artemis (among many others). After the death of St. Nicholas, Myra became a rich pilgrimage centre with many new churches built.
In 1087 Italian merchants, during the confusion of the Seljuk invasion, stole his body at Myra and transported it to Bari in Italy, which became a pilgimage center and where his relics are still preserved today. An oily substance called Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them. Venetian sailors also claimed to have taken the body.
St. Nicholas'''''''''''''''' cult spread beyond the Byzantine Empire in the 6th -11th centuries, celebrated especially in the East Church under Russian imperial patronage. He later became the patron saint of Greece and Russia as well as of children, sailors, merchants, scholars, those unjustly imprisoned and travelers.
St. Nicholas was known for his charitable nature and humility. Several legends about him have been based on his kind and giving nature and have led to the development of Santa Claus.
His representations in art are as various as his alleged miracles.