City of Sports

There were six great cities in ancient Lycia. I have written about the two that we have visited, Patara and Xanthos. Each of the six were known for specific attributes: Patara as the governmental center and major port; Xanthos as a hub of commerce. Yesterday, we visited Tlos, known for its Stadium, Gymnasium, Palaestra and Bath complex: the “City of Sports.”

Tlos sits high up on a hill at nearly 1,600 feet above sea level. On its summit is the Acropolis.

Well below the Acropolis – you can see it in the photo above – is a columned tomb carved into the cliff face: the Tomb of Bellerophontes, rider of Pegasus. From across the valley, we couldn’t figure out how the creators of the tomb had been able to access that part of the cliff face.

Once we drove to the top of the hill, we were greeted by an amazingly energetic young man by the name of Nail Zorba. He helped me park and then told us to be sure to see the Tomb of Bellerophontes, which he said was accessible from a path that wound around the cliff face and a wooden ladder that we would find there. Then he handed me a professionally published guidebook to Tlos and opened it up, pointing out a picture of himself in living color. He said, in very good English, “Here, take this guide with you. If you like it you can buy it when you get back; if not, don’t.” I flipped through the guide and my eyes lit upon the following passage: “Visitors are not encouraged to go near the Tomb.” Really? “Don’t worry, you can make it,” said Nail, “it’s the best thing here.”

He was right. We did go down the path, past the Lycian Necropolis (city of the dead) that lies below the Acropolis (high city). All of these tombs are from the 4th century B.C.

And there was the ladder, just like Nail said.

We climbed up Nail’s ladder where I took this picture of Dale in front of the Tomb of Bellerophontes.

And here’s Bellerophontes himself, astride his steed, Pegasus, the Winged Horse.

But I told you at the beginning of this post that Tlos was known for its sports facilities, so let’s climb back up there.

First, here’s part of the Stadium seating with the Acropolis in the background (on the top of the Acropolis, directly above the tombs of the Necropolis, a local sultan built a mansion and stable in the 1800s by demolishing and reusing bricks and stone from the Roman walls and structures that previously occupied the hilltop).

From those steps, I took this picture of the Stadium itself, with the Palaestra in the background.

And here’s the full Stadium. It’s hard to feel the scale of this place from a photograph. It was considerably larger than a modern-day soccer field.

We crossed the Stadium and walked along the Palaestra where young men learned wrestling skills.

Around the corner from the Palaestra was a temple…

…with a commanding view of the valley.

And next to that was the Bath complex, sitting on a promontory next to a little stream.

It’s amazing how many ancient ruins like this there are in Turkey. In the Lycia region alone there are 80 large and small complexes! But don’t worry, we’re almost done with our tour of them, so the scenery and my photos will change soon. Just one or two more and then we’ll be off to Greece.

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