Kayaköy, Turkey, April 2003: My first visit to the abandoned Greek village of Livissi in South-West Turkey. A previous post on this location can be found here.
Livissi/Kayaköy, is a village 8 km south of Fethiye in southwestern Turkey. In ancient times it was a city of Lycia. Later, Anatolian Greeks lived here until approximately 1922. The ghost town, now preserved as a museum village, consists of hundreds of rundown but still mostly standing Greek-style houses and churches which cover a small mountainside.
Livissi was built probably in the 18th century on the site of the ancient city of Lebessus, a town of ancient Lycia. Lycian tombs can be found in the village and at Gokceburun, north of the village. Livissi is probably the place where the inhabitants of Byzantine Gemiler Island fled to protect themselves from pirates. It experienced a renewal after nearby Fethiye (known as Makri) was devastated by an earthquake in 1856 and a major fire in 1885. More than 20 churches and chapels were built in the village and the plain (Taxiarhes – the ‘Upper’ church – and ‘Panayia Pyrgiotissa’ – the ‘lower’ church – St. Anna, St. George, etc.). Most of them are still standing in ruinous or semi-ruinous condition. The village population was over 6.000 people, according to Greek and Ottoman sources.
At the ending of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), Livissi was completely vacated and abandoned. The persecutions of Livissi inhabitants as well as Greeks of nearby Makri, were part of the wider campaign against all Ottoman Greeks and other Christians of the Empire. In 1916, a letter in Greek addressed to Sir Alfred Biliotti- the Consul General of Great Britain at Rhodes- explained the murders and persecution of Livissi and Macri Greeks who asked him for intervention. Unfortunately, the letter was intercepted in Livissi by Turkish authorities. Later that same year, many families of Livissi were deported and driven on foot to Denizli around 220 km away.
Two more exile phases followed in 1917 and 1918. In 1917, families were sent from villages near Denizli, such as Acıpayam, through forced marches of several weeks, consisting mainly of the elderly, women and children, who had remained in the area. During that death march, the roads were strewn with bodies of dead children and the elderly who succumbed to hunger and fatigue. The exiles of the next year were no less harsh. In September 1922, the few remaining Greeks of Livissi and Makri abandoned their homes and embarked on ships to Greece. Some of them founded Nea Makri (New Makri) in Attica.