Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, April 14th, 2024
the Third Sunday after Easter
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

LYCIA, in ancient geography, a district in the S.W. of Asia Minor, occupying the coast between Caria and Pamphylia, and extending inland as far as the ridge of Mt Taurus. The region thus designated is a peninsula projecting southward from the great mountain masses of the interior. It is for the most part a rugged mountainous country, traversed by offshoots of the Taurus range, which terminate on the coast in lofty promontories. The coast, though less irregular than that of Caria, is indented by a succession of bays - the most marked of which is the Gulf of Macri (anc. Glaucus Sinus) in the extreme west. A number of smaller bays, and broken rocky headlands, with a few small islets, constitute the coast-line thence to the S.E. promontory of Lycia, formed by a long narrow tongue of rocky hill, known in ancient times as the "Sacred Promontory" (Hiera Acra), with three small adjacent islets, called the Chelidonian islands, which was regarded by some ancient geographers as the commencement of Mt. Taurus. Though the mountain ranges of Lycia are all offshoots of Mt. Taurus, in ancient times several of them were distinguished by separate names. Such were Daedala in the west, adjoining the Gulf of Macri, Cragus on the sea-coast, west of the valley of the Xanthus, Massicytus (io,000 ft.) nearly in the centre of the region, and Solyma in the extreme east above Phaselis (7800 ft.). The steep and rugged pass between Solyma and the sea, called the Climax ("Ladder"), was the only direct communication between Lycia and Pamphylia.

The only two considerable rivers are: (r) the Xanthus, which descends from the central mass of Mt Taurus, and flows through a narrow valley till it reaches the city of the same name, below which it forms a plain of some extent before reaching the sea, and (2) the Limyrus, which enters the sea near Limyra. The small alluvial plains at the mouths of these rivers are the only level ground in Lycia, but the hills that rise thence towards the mountains are covered with a rich arborescent vegetation: The upper valleys and mountain !sides afford good pasture for sheep, and the main Taurus range encloses several extensive upland basin-shaped valleys (vailas), which are characteristic of that range throughout its extent (see Asia Minor).

The limits of Lycia towards the interior seem to have varied at different times. The high and cold upland tract to the north-east, called Milyas, was by some writers included in that province, though it is naturally more connected with Pisidia. According to Artemidorus (whose authority is followed by Strabo), the towns that formed the Lycian league in the days of its integrity were twentythree in number; but Pliny states that Lycia once possessed seventy towns, of which only twenty-six remained in his day. Recent researches have fully confirmed the fact that the sea-coast and the valleys were thickly studded with towns, many of which are proved by existing remains to have been places of importance. By the aid of inscriptions the position of the greater part of the cities mentioned in ancient authors can be fixed. On the gulf of Glaucus, near the frontiers of Caria, stood Telmessus, an important place, while a short distance inland from it were the small towns of Daedala and Cadyanda. At the entrance of the valley of the Xanthus were Patara, Xanthus itself, and, a little higher up, Pinara on the west and Tlos on the east side of the valley, while Araxa stood at the head of the valley, at the foot of the pass leading into the interior. Myra, one of the most important cities of Lycia, occupied the entrance of the valley of the Andriacus; on the coast between this and the mouth of the Xanthus stood Antiphellus, while in the interior at a short distance were found Phellus, Cyaneae and Candyba. In the alluvial plain formed by the rivers Arycandus and Limyrus stood Limyra, and encircling the same bay the three small towns of Rhodiapolis, Corydalla and Gagae. Arycanda commanded the upper valley of the river of the same name. On the east coast stood Olympus, one of the cities of the league, while Phaselis, a little farther north, which was a much more important place, never belonged to the Lycian league and appears always to have maintained an independent position.

The cold upland district of the Milyas does not seem to have contained any town of importance. Podalia appears to have been its chief place. Between the Milyas and the Pamphylian Gulf was the lofty mountain range of Solyma, which was supposed to derive its name from the Solymi, a people mentioned by Homer in connexion with the Lycians and the story of Bellerophon. In the flank of this mountain, near a place called Deliktash, was the celebrated fiery source called the Chimaera, which gave rise to many fables. It has been visited in modern times by Captain F. Beaufort, T. A. B. Spratt and Edward Forbes, and other travellers, and is merely a stream of inflammable gas issuing from crevices in the rocks, such as are found in several places in the Apennines. No traces of recent volcanic action exist in Lycia.


The name of the Lycians, Lukki, is first met with in the Tel el-Amarna tablets (1400 B.C.) and in the list of the nations from the eastern Mediterranean who invaded Egypt in the reign of Mineptah, the successor of Rameses II. At that time they seem to have occupied the Cilician coast. Their occupation of Lycia was probably later, and since the Lycian inscriptions are not found far inland, we may conclude that they entered the country from the sea. On the other hand the name appears to be preserved in Lycaonia, where some bands of them may have settled. According to Herodotus they called themselves Termilae, written Trmmile in the native inscriptions, and he further states that the original inhabitants of the country were the Milyans and Solymi, the Lycians being invaders from Crete. In this tradition there is a reminiscence of the fact that the Lycians had been sea-rovers before their settlement in Lycia. The Lycian Sarpedon was believed to have taken part in the Trojan war. The Lydians failed to subdue Lycia, but after the fall of the Lydian empire it was conquered by Harpagus the general of Cyrus, Xanthus or Arnna, the capital, being completely destroyed. While acknowledging the suzerainty of Persia, however, the Lycians remained practically independent, and for a time joined the Delian league. "The son of Harpagus" on the obelisk of Xanthus boasts of having sacked numerous cities in alliance with the Athenian goddess. The Lycians were incorporated into the empire of Alexander and his successors, but even after their conquest by the Romans, preserved their federal institutions as late as the time of Augustus. According to Strabo the principal towns in the league were Xanthus, Patara, Pinara, Olympus, Myra and Tlos; each of these had three votes in the general assembly, while the other towns had only two or one. Taxation and the appointment of the Lyciarch and other magistrates were vested in the assembly. Under Claudius Lycia was formally annexed to the Roman empire, and united with Pamphylia: Theodosius made it a separate province.


Few parts of Asia Minor were less known in modern times than Lycia up to the 19th century. Captain Beaufort was the first to visit several places on the sea-coast, and the remarkable rock-hewn tombs of Telmessus had been already described by Dr Clarke, but it was Sir Charles Fellows who first discovered and drew attention to the extraordinary richness of district in ancient remains, especially of a sepulchral character. His visits to the country in 1838 and 1840 were followed by an expedition sent by the British government in 1842 to transport to England the valuable monuments now in the British Museum, while Admiral Spratt and Edward Forbes explored the interior, and laid down its physical features on an excellent map. The monuments thus brought to light are among the most interesting of those discovered in Asia Minor, and prove the existence of a distinct native architecture, especially in the rock-cut tombs. But the theatres found in almost every town, some of them of very large size, are sufficient to attest the pervading influence of Greek civilization; and this is confirmed by the sculptures, which are for the most part wholly Greek. None of them, indeed, can be ascribed to a very early period, and hardly any trace can be found of the influence of Assyrian or other Oriental art.

One of the most interesting results of these recent researches has been the discovery of numerous inscriptions in the native language of the country, and written in an alphabet peculiar to Lycia. A few of these inscriptions are bilingual, in Greek and Lycian, and the clue thus afforded to their interpretation has been followed up, first by Daniel Sharpe and Moritz Schmidt, and in more recent years by J. Imbert, W. Arkwright, V. Thomsen, A. Torp, S. Bugge and E. Kalinka.

The alphabet was derived from the Doric alphabet of Rhodes, but ten other characters were added to it to express vocalic and other sounds not found in Greek. The attempts to connect the language with the Indo-European family have been unsuccessful; it belongs to a separate family of speech which we may term "Asianic." Most of the inscriptions are sepulchral; by far the longest and most important is that on an obelisk found at Xanthus, which is a historical document, the concluding part of it being in a peculiar dialect, supposed to be an older and poetical form of the language. Among the deities mentioned are Trzzube (Trosobis) and Trqqiz or Trqqas.

Lycian art was modelled on that of the Greeks. The rock-cut tomb usually represented the house of the living, with an elaborate facade, but in one or two instances, notably that of the so-called Harpy-tomb, the facade is surmounted by a tall, square tower, in the upper part of which is the sepulchral chamber. Lycian sculpture followed closely the development of Greek sculpture, and many of the sculptures with which the tombs are adorned are of a high order of merit. The exquisite bas-reliefs on a Lycian sarcophagus now in the museum of Constantinople are among the finest surviving examples of classical art. The bas-reliefs were usually coloured. For the coinage, see Numis Matics, section "Asia Minor." Authorities. - C. Fellows, Journal Asia Minor (1839) and Discoveries in Lycia (1841); T. A. B. Spratt and E. Forbes, Travels in Lycia (1847); O. Benndorf and G. Niemann, Reisen im siidwestlichen Kleinasien (1884); E. Petersen and F. von Luschan, Reisen in Lykien (1889); O. Treuber, Geschichte der Lykier (1887); G. Perrot and C. Chipiez, Histoire de l'art dans l'antiquite, v. (1890); P.

Kretschmer, Einleitung in die Geschichte der griechischen Sprache (1896); S. Bugge, Lykische Studien (from 1897), A. Torp; Lykische Beitrcige (from 1898); V. Thomsen, Etudes lyciennes (1899); E. Kalinka and R. Heberdey, Tituli Asiae Minoris, i. (1901); see also articles XANTHUS, MYRA, PATARA. (A. H. S.)

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Lycia'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​l/lycia.html. 1910.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile