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Isında: the Isında Pillar Tomb

Lycian art mainly consists of the relief decoration of pillar tombs, among which the Isinda Pillar Tomb can be considered as the most outstanding example, because of the variety of themes depicted on its reliefs. The monument is a monolithic pillar, rising on a stepped platform carved from the natural bedrock and surmounted with a burial chamber crowned by a reverse pyramidal lid. The burial chamber is decorated with a relief frieze. Although the pillar remains today in situ, the lid has disappeared.

These reliefs were first recorded by R. Hebercley and E. Kalinka and were later taken to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Numerous proposals have been made for the restoration and reconstruction of the missing parts and of the burial chamber; yet, none has been satisfactory. The scope of this article is to report the research made to provide solutions to this problem. The pillar block was measured in situ and with the aid of some traces to be found on these reliefs and the original dimensions of the burial chamber were determined.

The reliefs on the monument, which obviously formed the burial place for a local ruler, depict scenes from the daily life of the deceased: combat, hunting and feasting. The combat scene starts on the south side and ends on the east. The ruler stands on a horizontal moulding at the right corner on the south side, and his enemies before him are shown to be defeated. The more shields in the right hand of the ruler, the more the enemies he has defeated, providing in this manner a sign of his victory. On the east side of the monument the relatives and his commanders are shown in the same manner. This type of depiction is widespread throughout the history of Lycian art. The theme of victory, symbolizing a historical event and shown by the victor holding the shields of the vanquished enemy is a symbolic feature peculiar to Lycian art.

Another occupation of the ruler, hunting is depicted. This frieze starts on the left corner of the south side and ends on the west side. The dog and the horse accompanying the ruler and his comrades, indicate his status and lifestyle. The Ionic style ot craftsmanship employed is typical.

The scene of the feast depicted on the north side follows the reliefs of victory and the hunting scenes and is shown to display the generosity of the ruler. The wrestling competition is led by a referee and is accompanied by a lyre and a tambourine player. These scenes do not fit together symmetrically. Although the figures fit within the frame, their helmets protrude over it. Mythological subjects do not form an element of these relief depictions.

The difference between the winners and the losers are clearly articulated by the sculptor. As mentioned above, the themes deployed and the technique clearly differ from the Hellenic mentality with the choice of subject and treatment of relief sculpture in a similar setting.

No symmetry can be observed in these scenes. Contrary to the arrangement whereby the frame is established to enclose the figures, here the helmets protrude beyond the frames. This, together with the lack of mythological scenes and the emphasis on the victor and the defeated, clearly show that these reliefs belong to a different tradition from those works produced under the contemporary Hellenic influence.

In all these scenes the Lycian ruler is shown as a triumphant warrior, hunter and a ruler, generous to his citizens. Moreover, by building his burial chamber on a high pillar, he exalted himself for posterity.

These reliefs which combine Lycian scenes with the Ionic style do not have any implied Persian features, which in turn suggest that the monument was erected before the arrival of the Persians in Lycia. Based on stylistic comparisons with other contemporary works, this monument can be dated to around 550 B.C.

*Arş. Gör. Mehmet Özhanlı, Akdeniz Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü, 07058 Kampüs-Antalya.

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