The ancient Lycians are among the most enigmatic people of antiquity because there is little historical record about them. But what has been discovered reveals fascinating people, culturally distinct from the rest of the ancient world at the time. One of the most interesting features of the Lycians is their funerary culture.
Carved into the side of the mountains overlooking Fethiye are the incredible Lycian Rock Tombs. Looking up at them, they appear to be ornate entrances leading into the mountain, which of course they are as it is where the Lycian people buried their honoured dead.
The Tomb of Amyntas
The most impressive of these tombs was built by the Lycians in 350 BC. It was named after the Greek inscription on the side of it which reads “Amyntou tou Ermagiou”. Translated to English this means “Amyntas, son of Hermagios”.
What makes this tomb unique is the fact that it is very large inside. While many other tombs carved into mountainsides are quite small, the interior of the Tomb of Amyntas is the same volume as that of a full-sized temple.
Tomb of Amyntas in the 21st Century
Today the tomb overlooks a very different Fethiye to the one of 350BC. It is still just as breathtakingly beautiful, however, the ancient Lycians would see a few changes.
Visitors to the area will either admire the tomb from afar or pay the nominal entrance fee and climb the 200 steps to take a closer look. It is worth the climb to be able to sit on the almighty steps of this iconic tomb, enjoy the view and appreciate the majesty and importance of Hermagios’ son.
More about Lycian Rock Tombs
The Lycians believed that their dead were carried to the afterlife by magic winged creatures and thus they placed their honoured dead in geographically high places such as the cliffside.
Rock tombs date back to the 4th century.
They are the most numerous of all types of Lycian tombs and are the most visually striking.
In some places, there are so many rock tombs that entire the hillsides are honeycombed with them.
The older tombs are often no more than holes dug into the rock.
Despite the external grandeur, the interior of the tombs are spare chambers cut into the rock with a simple monolith inside to display the body and the rooms, are otherwise empty from hundreds of years’ worth of looting.
Not much may be known about the Lycian people but one thing is clear, they certainly made sure their dead had a magnificent view for all eternity.
This article was first published on 4 October 2018.