Olympos, Turkey, Friday Oct 28th 2005: Two years after first visiting Olympos (in South-West Turkey) I returned. I was part way through an Athens to Cairo overland trip that would take me to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and eventually Egypt. As it turned out I stayed a lot longer than planned…
I ran into “Smiley”soon after arriving, the local man who had told me about the lost city two years before and had scrawled out a map on a paper napkin. It was great see him again. He was still interested in the site, explaining that it was still quite a mystery and strange the place had yet to be excavated/identified. Click here for part I.
Anyway, I decided then and there to visit Lost City again. I mentioned it to Brett & Sarah- an Australian couple I was hanging out with- they were keen, as was Johannes- a young, gangly bespectacled German. The word got around and by the time we hit the track the next day there were 13 of us- an auspicious number- and the pressure was on for me to take them up into the hills and find the Lost City.
Some extracts from my 2005 travel journal:
“The track followed in a more or less south/south westerly direction- passed 2 rock avalanches & the valley to our right. It’s quite flat at first with a scattering of pine trees spaced widely apart, but still only enough to let indirect sunlight thru. Johannes & I had got way ahead of the rest of the group so stopped at a point when I figured it begins the zig-zag climb. Everyone caught up, a bit sweaty already. After a brief stop I suggested we move on again- careful to make sure I didn’t sound like a tour guide- but dropping in the remark that “you can pay me YTL 5 on the return trip.”
“Reached a unique rock with a drop into the ravine on the right , and shortly after went through the rocks on both sides of the way-marked path, which I call the ‘gate’. Soon after there is a natural rock wall on the right blocking off the drop to the valley floor. Then that opens to give views through the trees to the valley below. The climb had steadied out by now to become almost flat- with small ups & downs sections. The trees also opened up a bit- sparser to allow more light in. We had a slight climb again still heading in a south/westerly direction. Then I spotted what I was looking for- the “Gatehouse”, a series of stone buildings to the right of the path. The group thought this was the ‘lost city’, & seemed to be disappointed.”
“We moved on up & soon after the path takes a turn to the right in a direct south-west turn, eventually breaking out onto a a broad saddle with clearings and a hut. Two and half years before there had been a bearded man in his 40’s called Mustafa living in the hut & selling drinks to the odd hiker. We had a rest & I was quizzed as to where was the lost city. I was sure it was very nearby, so we headed off again- all 13 of us- lucky for some. After leading the group on a steep climb up to the top of a ridge said that I’m certain it’s just a bit further up thru the scrub & pine-needled undergrowth to the east. I said I’d reconnaissance ahead, so headed on up. “
“I was anxious that this was the way when I found a goat path heading Nth-Est. I scanned the hill to my right for any human remains of civilization- spot on, a rock wall came into view between the pine trees- the so-called lost city was found. I shouted down to the others that I’d found it- relieved as I was to not only find the LC again- but that I hadn’t taken the group on a wild goose chase. Some of the crew just had a brief look around and then headed back down. Julie, Johannes & I stayed and investigated the site thoroughly- even mapping a section. Found a Sth-Nth rock-wall/defense, what seemed like a bridge and a couple of chapels. “
The “Lost City” covered a much larger area than I had originally thought- difficult to put into scale a decade or so later- but if I was pushed to make a call I’d say the remaining structures covered an area of approx 100m wide by 2-300 meters long. So not large on any scale but when you take into account that these ruins are way up in the mountains in the middle of no-where, and there would have been a sizable town of timber buildings surrounding – it must have been a fairly significant outpost.”
I remember what Smiley had told me in 2003 while he scratched out a map to LC on a paper napkin. The stories he had heard were that the city of Olympos- [named after the nearby Mt Olympos (Taurus), one of over twenty mountains with the name Olympos in the Classical world] – were tired of being perpetually attacked and pillaged by pirates, so created a safe haven up in the hills to store it’s riches. He also said that they had created ‘decoy’ city- to attract and fool the invaders. This fits in with Cicero’s description of the ancient Lycian city as full of riches and works of art.
In the 2nd century BC the city became one of the six leading cities of the Lycian League, but in the following century Olympos was invaded and settled by Cilician pirates- just as they had feared. This ended in 78 BC, when the Roman commander Publius Servilius Isauricus, accompanied by the young Julius Caesar, took the city after a victory at sea, and added Olympos to the Roman Empire. The pirate Zenicetes set fire to his own house and perished, and later the emperor Hadrian visited the city after which it took the name of Hadrianopolis for a period in his honor. In the Middle Ages, Venetians, Genoese and Rhodians built two fortresses along the coast, but by the 15th century Olympos had been abandoned.