Sidyma is one of our favorite ancient cities, of the innumerable numbers of ancient remains in Turkey. The city itself is nestled among st the picturesque hamlet of Hisar, a sub village of Dodurga, Western Lycia.
The situation of Sidyma is a very defensive spot nestled above steep cliffs, not visible from below or from the sea. Many of the very old settlements of Lycia are in places like this, but were frequently abandoned during the Roman period, when defense was much less important than trade links. However looking at the many splendid tombs of Sidyma one would assume that there was a building boom in the late Roman/early Byzantine period. Unusual.
While there are few of the typical Lycian Sarcophagi with their Gothic arch and keel like ridge, there is a profusion of Roman period sarcophagi with their angular triangular prism design, along with several large and ostentatious temple type tombs, and one impressive heroon/mausoleum.
Why this building boom here when most Lycian cities away from the trade routes or the sea were in decline? Perhaps the answer comes from a story about a young Roman army officer..
According to Byzantine legend, A young officer called Flavius Marcianus, born in 392AD in Thrace, was passing through the are when his unit was sent to fight in the east in 421AD against the Sassanids. He fell ill and was left behind by his his unit to recover, and was well looked after by the the noble Sidyman family of the Tatianus dynasty.
One day when feeling better he went out hunting with friends, but had another turn of illness. His friends left him in the shade to rest while they continued to hunt. On their return, they saw a fearsome sight. A huge Imperial Eagle, (a native of Lycia) had flown down to where Marcian slept and was shading him with it's huge wings.
This could only be a most favorable omen of imperial greatness, the eagle being the symbol of imperial Rome.
Seeing Marcian's friends, the eagle flew off, and Marcian awoke, knowing nothing of the eagle. Shortly after the event his friends asked him ' If you were to become Emperor, what would you do for us?'
'I would make one of you Governor of Lycia, and one of you governor of Caria', he laughed...
Surprise surprise, Marcian became Emperor of Rome in 450AD, as successor of Theodosius. While the western empire collapsed under his rule and Rome was sacked y the vandals, he is remembered as one of the finest emperors of Byzantium, strengthening the eastern empire and waging war on the Huns.
During this time a great amount of money came to Sidyma, reflected in the fine funerary monuments we find today.
Our trail we followed this week is not the Lycian way, but the Fethiye alternative route marked several years ago. We actually prefer this route to the original Lycian way as there is no walking on roads and the views and valleys are spectacular as you can see from the pictures.
The trek is just 9km, and is marked by red/yellow markings, going all the way to the Lighthouse hotel in Gey, with probably the best view on the Lycian way!