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and struck its own coins, and a long inscription has recently been found at Kemerarası containing a letter, as yet unpublished, of Hadrian addressed to the People".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"Kemerarası is known to tourists for its Ottoman bridge which still spans the Xanthos, and which is now superseded by a modem highway bridge, and to ancient historians chiefly as the findspot of the Demostheneia festival inscription published by Worrle (1988).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

No comments:

Post a Comment