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Rhodiapolis, as a Unique Example of Lycian Urbanism
Nevzat ÇEVİK*
Süleyman BULUT***
Rhodiapolis stepped into the academic literature for the first time in 1842 with the British scholars Th. Daniel, T. A. B. Spratt and E. Forbes. The city was actually discovered by the Austrian scholars. O. Benndorf, and his team. The first comprehensive archaeological research on the city was initiated by N. Çevik in 2006 through excavations and surveys.
Rhodiapolis is located on a hill rising 300 m above the sea level behind the Sarıcasu Village to the north of Kumluca township of Antalya. The north and east slopes facing the Kumluca plains and the Mediterranean are full with buildings. Rhodiapolis stands out with her urbanism – a very compact city successfully planned within a narrow and difficult terrain. Buildings are located organically close to each other without leaving any empty space other than the streets. In the sloping terrain terraces needed for urban fabric were formed mostly by cisterns. This clever solution both supplied the water demand and created flat areas for constructions.
Looking at the urbanism of Rhodiapolis individually in every period reveals a different picture for each period. Although the area is the same, the city and buildings are different. In every period, geography and climate were the determinative elements for the site selection and formation of the macroforms and textures. There is sufficient evidence for understanding the Roman and Byzantine settlement characteristics but it is difficult to claim the same for the pre-Roman periods. Particularly, for the late 8th century BC and thereafter, which is attested with pottery finds, we have not encountered any architectural remains yet. Thus, for the time being, it is not possible to talk about the earliest settlement itself, which is documented with small finds only. It is seen that the Roman and Byzantine periods’ urbanism comprises several phases.
In the Classical period, presence of 26 rock tombs and Lycian inscriptions clearly indicate a medium size settlement. However, no architectural remains revealing information on the lives of the owners of these rock tombs have been encountered. It is expected that the inhabitants of the Classical period lived also on top of the hill. Remains of houses in the north valley with the rock tombs suggest that a lesser settlement was established there. Existence of a Hellenistic settlement is verified by remains, statue bases, inscriptions and coins. Certain masonry works indicate the presence of terraces in front of the theatre in this period. Architectural elements belonging to Hellenistic monuments uncovered in the rubble of terrace wall in the lower layer of the Meeting Hall further support this presence.
New constructions, annexes and revisions are observed in every century of the Roman period and particularly the 2nd century AD steps forth as the most brilliant period of urbanism at Rhodiapolis, as inferred from the remains that constitute the majority of what is visible today. It is considered a Roman city model is entirely designed according to the terrain. This model is the urbanism with Hellenistic-Roman character, seen only in Asia Minor. Exploring all the buildings and particularly the locations of the reservoirs and cisterns it is seen that the city developed from the top of the hill down the slope; this is further verified by the urban road network. All the building types typically found in a Roman city are also found at Rhodiapolis, though smaller in scale. Most of the buildings that form the city are widely known buildings like theatre, bathhouse, and stoa, similar examples of which are known in other settlements; however, structures like the round temple, Asklepieion and library are the first examples attested in Lycia to date. The sebasteion is unique in Anatolia for the present layout/structure. The ancestral cult hall of Opramoas built adjoining the east side of sebasteion, as part of the same complex, is an unparalleled special building in the region, dedicated to a local leading family. The Asklepieion, no other examples of which are known in Lycia, on the other hand, was built due to physician Herakleitos of Rhodiapolis, who established this cult in the region. The functions of these public buildings and their functional relations with each other determined their locations within the city. For instance, Asklepieion, library and sebasteion constitute an insula (religious insula) while the theatre, stoa and agora constitute another insula (social insula). Mostly there are buildings that are not entirely independent of each other; there are some combined buildings sharing some walls or rooms. Therefore, the functions of the buildings also overlap. For instance, the Opramoas stoa and the theatre adjoin in the west creating an unparalleled example for arranging the circulation of entrance and traffic outside the theatre. Numerous terraces were formed with cisterns and reservoirs, thus also creating the space for urban constructions. This clever solution both created terraces for construction and supplied the water demand of the settlement. The flat areas formed by cisterns are generally used for courtyards of the buildings, or, as is the case with building G both as courtyard and substructure.
All the buildings are accessed via their entrance from the streets. This was not only functional but also the result of efforts for a common aesthetic living space. Big cities have more than one centre of social attraction, thus, people are not obliged for a single centre. However, as there is only one area for social recreation at medium size settlements like Rhodiapolis all the structures were positioned around this area, at the possible closest point. It was the duty of urban planners/architects to present the settlers a liveable city with respect to visual, aesthetic and functional aspects. The cities were structuralized in parallel to the administrative policy as a powerful and basic tool that structuralized and harmonized the society. The urban spaces and the activities in them were designed in order to make the people to appropriate their city. What was foremost important was that the architecture was to answer all the personal and public needs. The Roman period urbanism seen at Rhodiapolis displays the high limits and powerful trend of a city with liveable visual value even under the most unfavourable circumstances. The resistance of the topographic and morphologic conditions faced by the architecture and planning was overcome by the extraordinarily well-developed construction and material engineering of the Roman period and the local skills. Despite the fact that the axes could not be developed as desired at Rhodiapolis that has a difficult terrain a settlement most suitable, feasible and impressive was planned and implemented. This concern is felt even in the later additions and revisions. The sebasteion, Asklepieion, two-story stoa and the rich colonnaded façade of the Opramoas’ stoa altogether create an extraordinarily dense and qualified Roman settlement character in the centre. The desire for and choice of a Roman style settlement was shaped both by the dominant urban and architectural tradition of the period and the desires of local powers like Opramoas for taking advantage of Rome’s power and Romanization. The leading figures of the cities rivalled with each other in order to be able to undertake important public offices and to win the people’s appreciation. In addition the cities rivalled with each other to get honorary titles. The formational and developmental processes of the cities usually depended on the cultured and select elites. Therefore, the rises and declines experienced by the wealthy usually reflected on the fates of their cities.
The first thing to be mentioned for the Byzantine period is that a new city was not formed anew but rather a new and smaller settlement developed on top of the Roman city, shaped on the local formats of the new religion and the period, making use of the Roman buildings. The biggest difference between the two periods is the new settlement is centred on the church and it lacks the public buildings reminiscent of the Roman period. The pagan-Christian transformation observed in almost all the sanctuaries in western Anatolia did take place at Rhodiapolis in its own dimensions. In the Byzantine period the church shaped an urban fabric developing arbitrarily and centred on the church located in the heart of the public administration and dominated over the other social and economic functions. The most determinative area for the Byzantine period is the castrum encircling the church and surrounding buildings. Following the 11th century, there is no evidence at hand for any Turkish settlement on the hill of Rhodiapolis. The only find from the post-Byzantine period is a coin of the Hamidids dated to 1322 and it is not known how this coin arrived here. Kumluca known as İğdir in the Seljuk period and as İğdir nahiye of the Teke sanjak or İğdir mah. Kardıç kaza in the Ottoman period was re-settled by the Seljuk beys who captured Elmalı in 1158 and by the Ottomans who conquered Teke in 1393. Spratt and Forbes provide us with the earliest scholarly information regarding the Turks thanks to their visit in 1842. This source states that “Haggi-vella [Hacıveliler] is a small village made up of Urook [Yörük] tents, and a blacksmith’s shop, with a row of sheds erected for a bazaar held here weekly. The village lies at the foot of [Rhodiapolis]”. Turks settled in the Kumluca plains and these settlers “removed truckloads of ancient stones to build their own” as witnessed by Bean in 1952.
Consequently, Rhodiapolis could only develop to become a medium size city due to her unfavorable location in the political geography of Lycia, her distance from the main inter-city routes and lack of sufficient natural water sources. The fact that the brightest period was in the 2nd century AD is because the renowned, rich and philanthropist Opramoas and his family as well as other aristocrats like Herakleitos all lived in this century. A compact settlement was developed with a very successful cistern-terrace model and organically tight-connected buildings in order to keep the settlement alive and develop it despite the scarcity of water sources. This authentic character puts Rhodiapolis at a special position among the Roman cities in Anatolia. Authenticity in planning and materials pushes Rhodiapolis to the fore among the urbanisms in Lycia. The most significant point is that beside her well-protected condition, the high rate of legibility from the surface as well as the fact that most of the major sites have been uncovered to a great extent allow us to understand a Lycian city’s urban structure in the Roman period.

* Prof. Dr. Nevzat Çevik
Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü, Kampüs, Antalya
E-mail: ncevik@akdeniz.edu.tr

** Yrd. Doç. Dr. İsa Kızgut
Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü, Kampüs, Antalya
E-mail: ikizgut@akdeniz.edu.tr

*** Uzman Süleyman Bulut
Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü, Kampüs, Antalya
E-mail: sbulut@akdeniz.edu.tr

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