You may wish to see an introduction to this section first.
As we gradually wound through the range of the Cragus, which
bounds Macry on the south, the country assumed
the forest character, and the view as we descended
to the bay was very rich. (..) The town, or rather the little port or scala, is inhabited principally by Greeks, and consists of about fifty
houses, or magazines, where much trade is carried on
in acorns, gall-nuts, and firewood. This is the site of
the ancient Telmessus, of which there are but few remains.
Charles Fellows - Journal Written during an Excursion in Asia Minor in 1838
View of the bay
Telmessos, Anastasiopolis, Makri, Fethiye are the four names given through the centuries to a well protected harbour in today's southern Turkey. By looking at the bay from the ancient acropolis it is easy to understand why the site was never abandoned. Although Telmessos did not have a natural harbour which fitted the seafaring needs of antiquity, yet the shape of the bay granted favourable sea conditions due to a group of islets which acted as breakwaters.
A number of caves,
partly built and partly cut in the rock, extend along
the coast, and appear to have been dungeons or guardrooms for a fortified town; many foundations and walls
remain, but it is difficult to trace the plans of the
Fethiye (today's Telmessos) is a booming holiday resort and in particular the starting point of weekly cruises along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Maybe it is with the objective of pleasing travellers that tourist guides say that the Crusaders or the Knights of Rhodes built a fortress on the ancient acropolis. In point of fact the fortifications go back to the Byzantine period and were a protection against Arab raids. They were strengthened by the Ottomans.
The chief objects of interest are the tombs, which
are of several kinds and dates, some appearing from the style to be of as late a period as the Romans;
those standing on the hills and near the town have
been much shaken by the earthquakes so frequently
felt here. The most beautiful specimens are those
cut out of the live rock which has been excavated,
leaving what in appearance are finely built temples. Fellows
Telmessos was renamed Anastasiopolis in the VIIIth century, most likely to celebrate the efforts made by Emperor Anastasius II to stop Arab raids. The name did not last and eventually the town became known as Makri. Apart from an Ottoman garrison in the fortress and a few other Ottoman representatives, its inhabitants were all Greek. In 1923 Greece and Turkey agreed on a vast exchange of population and almost all the inhabitants had to leave: some went to Nea Makri, a new village on the eastern coast of Attica, not far from Athens. The town was eventually named Fethiye after Fethi Bey, one of the first Turkish aviators.
Earthquakes and wars have destroyed most of the monuments of the past; the rock-cut tombs are an exception.
A singular consequence of this mode of building is
seen in a column broken at the base, but remaining
suspended by the capital. The tombs are in most cases
approached by steps, and the columns of the portico
stand out perhaps six feet from the entrance to the
cella ; the imitation of a door is carved in panels, with
ornaments and nails finely finished. The entrance has
originally been effected by sliding sideways a panel of
the false door; but this tedious process has not suited
the despoilers of these tombs, who have entered by
breaking open one of the panels. The interiors vary
but little; they are roughly worked, and are about
nine feet by twelve, and six feet in height; on the
three sides are the seats, or more probably benches,
upon which the coffin or urns have been placed, three
feet six inches in height. Some tombs are larger, affording accommodation for the mourners within them. Fellows
The more elaborate rock-cut tombs were designed in order to resemble a temple in antis: these small temples characterized Hellenistic architecture. Antae is a Latin architectural term describing the posts or pillars on either side of the entrance of a Greek temple - the slightly projecting piers which terminate the walls of the cell. When there are columns between antae, as in a porch facade, the columns (and therefore the temple) are said to be in antis.
The inhabitants of Lycia developed a unique kind of sarcophagus: their lids had a "Gothic" shape which archaeologists suggest may represent a capsized boat; they were not placed in a necropolis in an orderly manner; usually they were free-standing. During the Roman rule the "Gothic" lid was occasionally replaced by a gable-shaped lid.
The theatre, of extremely plain architecture,
is very large, and in tolerable preservation, with the
exception of the proscenium. Fellows
Early XIXth century travellers were impressed by the ruins of a Roman theatre which stood almost on the shoreline. Today it is strangled by busy roads and modern buildings.
Fethiye Museum exhibits: (left) a lion on the lid of a sarcophagus; (right) altars and a Byzantine pediment; the image used as background for this page shows a detail of another altar