Sunday, January 20, 2013

The City Of Oinoanda

The ancient city of Oinoanda ( Greek: Οινόανδα)  is located on the border of the Cibyratis in the remote and rugged mountain region of northern Lycia, in the upper valley of the River Xanthus. It was the most southerly of the tetrapolis led by Cibyra (with Bubon and Balbura) in the Hellenistic Period. This was dissolved by L. Licinius Murena in 84 BCE, whereupon Oinoanda became part of the koinon of Lycia, as its inscriptions abundantly demonstrate. The early history of the settlement is obscure, in spite of an exploratory survey carried out, with permission of the Turkish authorities, by B.I.A.A. in 1974-76.

The site of the city is a broad saddle-ridge between two high hills, at an altitude of approximately 1400m. The hill that rises to the north of the settlement, Eren Tepe (1532m), is sometimes referred to as the acropolis, although it is not integrated into the urban structure. Because of the sharply undulating terrain, public spaces - the paved agora and the so-called Esplanade - could be accommodated only in the northern part of the city, while most of the other structural remains occupy sloping sites. The map below shows the centre of the city. 

In the opinion of Alan Hall, "...the original fortification of the site took place in the late Third or early Second Century B. C., under Pergamene influence. After that period we cannot give a certain date to any other structure until the early Empire: which suggests that either the Hellenistic public buildings were removed by later reconstruction, or that the site was largely vacant during this early period of its history, or that we simply cannot see the relevant remains under present conditions. We can be sure, however, thanks to recent work, that the aqueduct is Flavian, and that the older of the two bath buildings was probably built at the· same time; and this implies other building activity in the early Empire, including, probably, a theatre and a gymnasium. The Agora with its porticoes in Antonine and Severan period, and so is the second and later bath building, together with the porticoes nearby, which may have included the stoa used by Diogenes the Epıcurean.

By the middle of the Third Century A.D., insecurity led to the construction of a new fortification wall, which can be dated to about 270 A.D., and which brought about a drastic restriction in the defended area. Within it, a major basilican church belongs to the early Fourth Century. Thereafter, the position is unclear. The aqueduct was repaired several times, but eventually abandoned. Late Roman housing within the southern and north - eastern sectors of the site shows continued occupation, but the population must gradually have dwindled. The public buildings were abandoned and soon collapsed, their ruins suggesting that it may have 'been partly the result of earthquakes".

At the southwestern extremity of the city is a well preserved section of the aforementioned wall fortified with two towers. The wall is intersected at a tangent by the Flavian aqueduct, which is equally well preserved and spans the dip between the wall and the neighbouring hill to the south.The waterline has been traced through some 4 km of dense forest to its source in springs to the south.

On the plain to the east of the urban area lies the present-day village of Incealiler, from which a footpath now leads up to the site. The map below shows the broader surrounding of the city including the more distant acropolis. 

The site of the city of Oinoanda was discovered and identified by British explorers, Hoskyns and Forbes, in 1841, and published in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, xii (1843). The first plan of the site was published as early as 1847. But subsequently there was no thorough exploration of the site or indeed of any individual structures, some of which are in a good state of preservation. Instead, scholarly interest was focused entirely on the inscriptions, especially on the fragments of a philosophical inscription, which first came to light in 1884 and, with the discovery of 88 fragments by 1895. In the process of further study and research, it became clear that the inscription was the largest known from the ancient world. 

The site remains however rather sporadically explored. It is interesting to speculate on why this might be so. One reason could be that it was a relatively minor city in antiquity with no famous events of personalities associated with it. The discovery of the inscription however means that the city probably deserves an out-sized consideration. J. J. Coulton has described Oinoanda as, «a typical small city of substantial but not unusual prosperity», during the Roman period. 

The city has never been overbuilt so is in fairly good condition. Also because it lacks nearby later town of much consideration it was not heavily raided for building materials (spolia).

The photo above shows the main area of the city as it is today with a lightly wooded cover. The city had a spectacular location overlooking the local region. 

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