Demre (Myra)

You can easily reach the famous ancient city of Myra, which is situated in the Antalya district of Kale, 24 km. outside Finike, on the coastal road from Kas to Finike. Myra retained her fame throughout the Middle Ages as the see of the servant of God, St. Nicholas, who spouted forth myrrh, in accordance with the city’s name. Myra was established on the seaward cliffs of the mountains surrounding the plain of Demre from the NW. At first, the city was established on top of the hill where the rock tombs are situated, then later on, it expanded by moving down below where it became one of the six important cities of Lycia. The city’s first coins, which were minted in the 4th century B.C., depicted the figure of a mother god.

Rather surprisingly, there is no literary mention of Myra before the 1st century B.C.; surviving rock tombs and coins that were minted leave no doubt of her importance from at least the 5th century B.C. In 42 B.C., after the capture of Xanthos, Brutus sent his lieutenant Lentulus Spinther to collect tribute; the Myrans were reluctant and Spinther had to force an entry to the harbor at Andriace by smashing the massive iron chain that had been stretched across it. The Myrans then submitted and complied with his demands. The city was well treated by subsequent emperors; In 18 A.D., Emperor Germanicus and his wife Agrippina paid a visit to Myra, and were honored with statues erected in the harbor of Andriace. In 60 A.D., St. Paul changed ships at Myra, that is, at Andriace, on his way to Rome. Myra’s neighbor to the E was Limyra, and we learn from an inscription that there was a ferry service between the two spots.

Dignified by the title of metropolis, handsomely endowed by gifts of money from Opramoas of Rhodiapolis and Jason of Cyaenai, whereas the theater and its portico were constructed by Licinius Lanfus of Oenoanda, to whom 10,000 denars were donated for its completion. Myra was finally made the capital of Lycia during the time St. Nicolas was Bishop of Myra by Theodosius 11(408-450). Myra and the church were demolished during Arab raids of the 7th and 9th centuries, whereas the Church of St. Nicholas was totally razed to the ground during a naval assault conducted by the Arabs in 1034.

As a result of the discomfort caused by the Arab raids, the frequent flooding over of the banks of the Myros Stream in which some structures were filled with earth, along with earthquakes that hit the region, the city was abandoned whereas Myra was subsequently identified as being a village. When the Turks arrived in this area, they encountered a shrunken Myra.

There isn’t much remaining of the acropolis, which is situated on the mountain above the theater.. Spratt, who visited Myra in 1842, stated that besides some small rocks, nothing else remained on the acropolis.
The Roman fortification wall has some segments which date to the Hellenistic Period and in fact even as far back as the 5th entury B.C. Near the theater as you go towards the city, you will come across some later period ruins on the left side of the road that could be either baths or a basilica. Myra’s water needs were met through aqueducts that opened onto the rock face on the side of the valley where the Demre Stream flowed. The other structures of Myra are buried underground, waiting for the day when they see sunlight again. While arriving in Myra, you will notice a well-preserved Roman Period monument tomb at a place called Karabucak above the road. Andriace, which is the harbor of Myra at the mouth of the stream, was known as a famous soothsaying center, whereas there is also the ancient city of Trebenda, which is in Gürses, a few km. outside Sura. Now, starting from the theater, let’s get acquainted with the rock tombs as well.

The theater is situated close to the rock tombs and is in relatively good condition. The cavea has been carved out of the rock. The galleries were supported at the sides with vaulting that was used both for access to the upper galleries and also contained shops. Below the diazoma were 29 rows of seats, and below them, six more rows of seating. The skene is still reaches up to the second course in places and from the remaining fragments, it would appear that the facade facing the audience was extremely ornate.