Monday, March 1, 2021

The Modern History of Exploration at Oenoanda

The Oenoanda Survey project of the British Institute in Ankara was carried out over the course of six seasons between 1974 and 1983.  The goal of the survey was to record inscriptions and fragments in and around Oenoanda, with a particular emphasis on recovering as much as possible of the philosophical inscription of Diogenes of Oenoanda.


The first season in 1974 began in mid-July but was cut down from eight to three weeks due to the Cyprus crisis.  In the short time given, however, they were successful in locating and marking as much of the Diogenes’ inscription as possible, which they estimated to comprise approximately 25% of the entire thing.  They also completed a measurement of the Esplanade, began recording the non-philosophical inscriptions on site, and photographed many of the public buildings.


Between 17 July and 6 September 1975 the team carried out a second season with the intent of continuing the topographical survey of the main site, completing inventories of inscriptions (both Diogenes’ and non-philosophical ones), and studying other major buildings.  Their goals were met as major structures were surveyed and incorporated into plans, 47 new fragments of the Diogenes inscription were found and inventoried, non-philosophical inscriptions were documented by Alan Hall, and major buildings were studied by Coulton, and dated to the third century AD.


It became clear at this point that in order to learn more about Oenoanda excavation was advisable, and between 18 and 25 August 1976 Hall visited the site three times in order to observe the practicalities of conducting an excavation there.  One new inscription was also found belonging to the Diogenes inscription.


Between 27 July and 1 September 1977 a team of eight returned to Oenoanda for a fourth season of work.  An inventory and study was made of the main buildings.  They were successful in completing a detailed survey down the acropolis hill to the early southern wall, studying the development of the site before and after the city walls, discovering ten new fragments of the inscription of Diogenes, as well as some non-philosophical fragments, and further outlining a plan for excavation.


No excavation permit was granted, however, by 1981, and so during a brief fifth season other work was carried out: Coulton studied the city’s aqueduct, Smith checked, re-photographed, and recorded two new fragments of the Diogenes Inscription, and Hall studied the Mausoleum of Licinnia Flavilla and its inscription.  It was determined that further work was limited without the possibility of an excavation.


The sixth season occurred between 17 and 31 August 1983.  Hall examined texts found previously and recorded new material, Coulton and Andrew Farrington continued to measure and study and more closely observe buildings of significance, and R. R. R. Smith looked at architectural details.  Three new fragments of Diogenes’ inscription were found in a nearby village, and five other inscriptions were recorded.

Nothing more was done until 1994, when Stephen Mitchell spent a week accompanied by Martin Smith, Nicholas Milner and Jeremy Rossiter to assess the potential of conducting an excavation there.


In 1997, between 31 October and 9 November, Smith collaborated with İbrahim Malkoç, director of Fethiye Museum, in a small excavation on the Esplanade, primarily.  Their work produced several substantial new fragments of the philoosphical inscription as well as other discoveries.


Work was again suspended until 2007, when the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbuler Abteilung, took over responsibility for restarting the survey and excavation, under the directions of Martin Bachmann and Jürgen Hammerstaedt, in collaboration with Martin Smith and Nicholas Milner.

Fragment 41

This piece of the puzzle is another in fairly good condition with a wide expanse of undamaged text. It is alternatively numbered Cousin 6 and Usener 17. It is missing its top left hand corner, but otherwise in good condition. 

The source here is Ernst Kalinka and Rudolf Heberdey, L'inscription philosophique d'Oenoanda in the Bulletin de correspondance hellénique. Volume 21, 1897. pp. 381.

Dating of the Inscription

Martin Ferguson Smith, the main expert on the Inscription, ventures a date for the carving and installation, in a timeline on the creation and rediscovery of Diogenes' work. 

He states: "The approximate date of Diogenes’ inscription is indicated by the so-called «Demostheneia inscription», a 117-line text concerning the establishment of a musical festival at Oinoanda by C. Iulius Demosthenes in 125. The close similarity of its lettering to much of that in the philosophical inscription makes it virtually certain that it is the work of one of the stonecutters employed by Diogenes".


Fifty years of new Epicurean discoveries at Oinoanda, by Martin Ferguson Smith

CRONACHE ERCOLANESI: Bollettino del Centro Internazionale per lo Studio dei Papiri Ercolanesi e del Parco Archeologico di Ercolano, 50/2020, Naples.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Baths of Oenoanda

There are at least two baths complexes in the city of Oenoanda. The study that covers both of these is of these Andrew Farrington's volume, The Roman Baths of Lycia - An Architectural Study.

These buildings for lack of a better descriptor are Ml1 and Mk1. These curious namings are the product of the edifices' location on a grid plan used to identify the structures in the city. 


This structure is located on the south side of the road leading north-east from the agora towards the so-called Esplanade, and stands opposite Baths Mk1. The building, which was constructed almost entirely of local limestone, consists of a main block with a colonnaded courtyard to the south of it, both standing on a platform terraced into the lower slope of the "acropolis hill" on the north side of the city. It is delimited to the south and east by a terrace wall of polygonal masonry, which on the south side runs parallel to the main block before deviating slightly to meet the street to the south-east at a right angle; while to the north and west the hillside was held back by a massive retaining wall later incorporated in the city-wall. This retaining wall can be distinguished from the rest of the Roman city-wall by its more regular, more monumental masonry (as opposed to the city-wall's somewhat irregular, rubbly internal face).

The structure had a three-chamber row arrangement with transverse element, with adjoining palaestra (room 5 in plan below, aka Ml2), which was later remodelled. It is not known if the apsidal gallery immediately to the south east of the bath block was part of the bath complex. 

The structure was an orientation of 334º and the ground area of the bath complex is ca 290m²


In Farrington's analysis of of the main structure he observes that: "Room1 communicates with palaestra 5 and 2. Northwesterly door between rooms  1 and 2 added at later stage (?) Room 2 communicates with room 3 by two doorways. Southwestern doorway added later (?) Room 3, small apse with single small window in north-west wall. Arch between rooms 3 and 5. Room 4, projecting doorway in north-east wall, small window immediately below springing of vault in south-east wall".  

As for the rooms' functions he posits that room 1 is an apodyterium cum frigidarium, that rooms 2 and 3 are tepidaria (?) and room 4 is a caldarium

He also speculates that rooms 3 and 4 have marble blocks forming the wall of plunge pools. 

Of the palaestra, he speculates that the holes in the external wall of room 2 might beam holes of a portico surrounding the palaestra (with a peristyle at some stage). At a later date a door was inserted to the north-east street with a ramp or steps up to the level of the palestra. 

In the centre of the palaestra is a sunken area 8.9m X 8.9m, surrounded by two steps. Fourteen column bases and fragments of columns (of at least 2m in original length) were found lying in the palaestra. There was also evidence of an Ionic capital and entablature. There were at least 6 inscribed statue bases.    

As for the Apsidal gallery, he notes that the north-east end of the gallery terminates in the city wall (the so-called Great Wall) dated to or after the mid third century. 

Finally, Farrington muses that the podium of the palaestra of Mk1, which is on the same orientation may also belong to the same building program.

As for the dating, he suggests ca 70-90 AD for the bath block, the palaestra might be Several era or before, with the Apsidal gallery being possibly partially post-Severan. 


This structure is of an entirely greater scale than the aforementioned bath structure. Indeed, in the absence of the demolished stoas of the upper Esplanade, this is the largest extant building of ancient Oenoanda, aside from the theatre.

Its location is at the north end of the podium on the north-west side of the north-east street running up from the agora. As mentioned it stands opposite the Baths at Ml1.

Farrington describes the arrangement as an adapted three-chamber row with a central room (2) set at right angles to the axes of the other rooms. He speculates that room 4 was probably not roofed. There is an impressive two-storey arcuated facade standing on a podium, rising from the palaestra. 

The palaestra was added later. The area of the bath block (including room 4)  is ca 690m².  

Source: Farrington

Farrington posits the rooms functions as: room 1 an apodyterium cum frigidarium (?), room 2 as a tepidarium, room 3 as a caldarium and room 4 as, possibly, a nymphaeum.

The largest room of all was the apsidal hall at the western end of the block. This had a width of about 14m. Ling & Hall comment that this would have demanded a vault of an unusually large span, unless there were internal divisions or supports of some form; on the possibility that the space was unroofed.

Below can be seen the current state of the arcade facing the palaestra:

Source: Ling & Hall

Noticeable in the above is the high level of the ground due to the absence of excavation of the palestra.

Below can be seen a reconstruction of how the arcade originally appeared:

Source: Ling & Hall

The colonnade of the palaestra uses free-standing pedestals for the columns.  Below can be seen an axionometric view of complex:

Source: Ling & Hall

Farrington suggests a date of the second century for Mk1 and dates the palaestra to the Severan period (due to an inscription. 

Third Baths?

There is a reference to a Baths of Opramoas in an inscription (TAM 2 no 905 XIX B 13-14), which Farrington identifies as, most likely, Mk1. Coulton comments, "The self-advertising Antonine plutocrat Opromoas of Rhodiapolis lists a donation of 10,000 denarii for a bath building at Oinoanda among his many benefactions".


The Roman Baths of Lycia - An Architectural Study

ISBN:9781912090662, 191209066X


Building Mk1 at Oenoanda

Author(s): Roger Ling and Alan Hall 
Source: Anatolian Studies, Vol. 31 (1981), pp. 31-53 
Publisher: British Institute at Ankara

The Buildings of Oinoanda

Author(s): J. J. COULTON
Source: Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, NEW SERIES, No. 29 (209) (1983),pp. 1-20
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

To Be Termessos or Not To Be?

Controversy has arisen in the past about the subject of the settlement (and its ruins) that lies below Oinoanda on the banks of the Xanthos River. 

This site is known in Turkish as Kemerarası and has been called Termessos.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites describes it thus:

"Site in Lycia, just below that of Oinoanda. Founded as a colony of Termessos Major, apparently during the 3d c. B.C., and presumably with the agreement of the Oinoandans. It is mentioned only by Stephanos Byzantios (who assigns it to Pisidia) and Eustathius; Strabo confuses it with Termessos Major. The site consists of two low mounds, virtually defenseless, between which the present road runs. There are considerable quantities of ancient stones, including some well-cut blocks, but no buildings are standing. The inscriptions of the city, in which it is called Termessos by Oinoanda, were normally erected in Oinoanda, and it seems that under the Empire, if not earlier, Termessos Minor must have been in effect absorbed into that city. It had its own constitution and magistrates, however, and struck its own coins, and a long inscription has recently been found at Kemerarası containing a letter, as yet unpublished, of Hadrian addressed to the People".

In his article on the Roman bridge that crosses the Xanthos, Milner writes:

"Kemerarası is known to tourists for its Ottoman bridge which still spans the Xanthos, and which is now superseded by a modem highway bridge, and to ancient historians chiefly as the findspot of the Demostheneia festival inscription published by Worrle (1988). The old theory that the site at Kemerarası was a separate city of 'Termessus Minor' has been scotched by Coulton (1982), who showed that Termessus Minor was the name of Oinoanda itself, viewed as a colony of Termessus Major". 

The Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut published a revised map of the area showing how the road (marked below as antike Strasse) leaving Oinoanda originally went south and then west and then north of the city down to Kemerarası.

Exploration has been even more minimalist than has been the case in Oinoanda probably because of the same blocking forces. 

Milner in his article on the Termessians at Oenoanda states: "No sarcophagi or other tombs can be seen in the neighbourhood, nor are there any traces of fortification walls. In the main area of the site between the river and the modern road, there are no remains of walls built of carefully dressed, dry laid, masonry; the visible walls are mainly of rubble and mortar, and although there are some dressed blocks, they are neither large nor accurately finished. There are a few uninscribed statue bases and some broken monolithic column shafts of the type common in Oinoanda. On the other side of the road are the remains of a temple-like building with an arcuated "Syrian" pediment; the entablature and what can be seen of the walls are in the classical technique, as at Oinoanda. Beyond that can be seen the remains of a smallish basilical church.

It might be argued, of course, that the contrast is not a fair one, on the grounds that the site has not been excavated and so does not give a proper picture of its history, or that, being more accessible than Oinoanda it has been much more severely robbed. Certainly one cannot refute these arguments absolutely, but Oinoanda is also unexcavated, yet does reveal evidence of a long period of architectural, while on the other hand the easily accessible remains of the temple-like building north of the road at Kemerarası suggest that if there had been buildings of the same type on the main part of the site, then stone robbers would not have removed all evidence for them. There has indeed been severe disturbance at the site in recent years, but in the absence of a specific description of what was visible earlier, we can only assume it was more of the same type as can be seen now".

The arguments seem to be that this site is definitely subsidiary to Oinoanda in importance. Was this a cult site? Oinoanda has always intrigued in that it does not have any temple complex of its own. Maybe these two sites, somewhat in the style of binary stars, were two settlements that had become captured in each other's orbits. Only excavations will tell and up until now the Turkish authorities seem more inclined to leave Kemerarası to the tender mercies of looters than international researchers. Funny that....


E. Petersen & F. von Luschan. Reisen in Lykien II (1889) 178; DenkschrWien 45 (1897) 1, 50ff 
D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950) 1377 
G. E. Bean, Turkey's Southern Shore (1968) 122-23
Coulton, J. J. 1982: 'Termessians at Oenoanda' Anatolian Studies 32: 115-31
N. P. Milner, 'A Roman Bridge at Oinoanda' Anatolian Studies, Vol. 48 (1998), 117-123

Reconstructing the Stoa of Diogenes

A most desirable course of action would be a restoration of the stoa and installation of the Inscription on site. The Stoa of Attalos (pictured below) rebuilt by the American School in Athens in a good example of how sympathetic recreation of ancient structures, from scratch, can be achieved. 

A recent publication by the Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut posited that the inside of the stoa looked like this:


In 2014, the Institut published a reconstruction of the Esplanade with the structure at the right being a representation of how the stoa with Diogenes' inscription might have looked. This modelling was prepared by Nikolaus Koch of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What Needs To Happen at Site

Repeated over and over again through the decades since the 1970s has been a litany of not-so-veiled comments from archaeologists and epigraphers over the obstructionist attitude of the Turkish authorities when it comes to the issue of excavation at Oenoanda. 

As a result of the torpor vital pieces of the Inscription have been left at the mercy of looters and the elements when they could have excavated, recorded and preserved.

Over the period in question there has not been a shortage of esteemed parties (mostly notably the British Institute in Ankara and the Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut in Istanbul) interested in working with Turkish archaeologists on the site with regard to both the Inscription and investigation of the other structures. Cooperation from the Turkish authorities has been minimal and sporadic. 

Recent years saw the establishment of the program to finally rescue the pieces from the site and rehouse them in a shed down in the valley. This was massively overdue. Even as it was happening there was still prohibition upon lifting some of the stones if they were perceived to be buried or fixed into other structures. What is all this obstructionism about? We can only presume that it is some form of internal power struggle amongst the Turks because everywhere else in Turkey foreign university and research teams are working very happily and productively with their Turkish colleagues. It is unfathomable as to why Oenoanda has been allowed to wallow, when teams are willing and able to fund and help move forward knowledge of the site and preservation of the stones.

It is clear that several things should be prioritised at the site and the investigators have constantly bemoaned the situation to little effect.

Firstly vegetation clearance should be a high priority. This may not be the Mexican jungle but the forest on the site is severely damaging the ruins and makes the exploratory task that much more difficult. Investigators have signalled for decades that roots and branches are undermining and damaging several of the remaining structures and yet nothing is ever done, when local villagers with a chainsaw could solve the problem in the space of two weeks. No-one is talking of denuding the site but certainly there are several score trees and bushes that should be removed from the site to facilitate work and reduce the damage they cause.

Secondly, some elementary site clearance should be undertaken with the focus being on increasing the knowledge of some structures and hopefully precipitating their conversation and partial restoration. The presumed baths/gymnasion at Mk1 has long been a perfect target that has been off-limits to any excavation (except by illegal diggers). Due to its close proximity to the Inscription Stoa it is not beyond the realms of imagination that the courtyard may contain further pieces. The arcade is in danger of collapse from sprouting foliage and the inside of the structure (which is sometimes speculated as being a baths) is filled with rubble from collapsed vault roofing that again the authorities will not allow work to be done on. The dedicatory inscription from the facade is only known in parts and no work is permitted to search for the other pieces.

Thirdly the theatre is a disgrace. Again it has a very large tree growing in the orchestra while the stage is a tumble of debris on which no work is undertaken. The seating is partly buried in scree that would be relatively easy to excavate, sift and remove and yet nothing happens. 

Fourthly, the late wall needs to be dismantled and the pieces of the Inscription still embedded in it need to be liberated. 

Fifthly, I get a queasy feeling about the fate of the Inscription. Moving the pieces to a storage facility was long overdue.
I get the feeling we may find one day that the Inscription is whisked away to the museum in Fethiye "for preservation" never to be seen in its original context ever again.

Quite literally the Turkish authorities have been putting "stones on the road" to block work at Oenoanda. The situation has become slightly better with the rescue of the obvious pieces of the Inscription lying around, but the effort needs to be greater.