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Dascylium (Ergili)


The acropolis of Dascylium. Photo Jona Lendering.
The acropolis of Dascylium
Dascylium: capital of the Persian satraps of Hellespontine Phrygia, modern Ergili.

Dascylium (satellite photo), situated to the southeast of Lake Dascylitis on a bank of a river, was rediscovered in 1952 and had been excavated in 1954-1960 and since 1988. The excavations have shown that the town was already settled in the Bronze Age, which confirms the reports by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who mentions the town at the time of the Trojan War (Roman Antiquities, 1.47), and by Strabo, who says that it was settled by Aeolian colonists after that war (Geography, 13.1.3).
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Terrace wall. Photo Jona Lendering.
Terrace wall

In the first quarter of the first millennium, Phrygians settled in Dascylium; from this period, walls and the foundations of a temple of Cybele have come to light. Later, the city was under Lydian suzerainty. According to legend, it was named after one Dascylus, who was the father of king Gyges. When the Persians took over the Lydian Empire (an event often, but incorrectly, dated to 547 BCE), the town became the capital of the Persian satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia and the residence of the Pharnacid dynasty (Artabazus, Pharnabazus, Pharnaces, Pharnabazus, Ariobarzanes, and Artabazus).

Magians performing a sacrifice on a stela from Dascylium. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering.
Magians performing a sacrifice on a stela from Dascylium (Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul)

The architectural remains from this age are not very monumental - Dascylium is not a major tourist site - although a terrace wall was found, similar to the retaining walls of the citadel of Pasargadae and the terrace walls of Persepolis. In 395, the site was captured by the Spartan king Agesilaus, who was waging war against the Persians in Asia Minor; during the Corinthian War, it became Persian again, until it was captured by Parmenion, a general of Alexander the Great, after the battle of the Granicus (334; Arrian, Anabasis, 1.17.2). The town appears to have been assigned to Cyzicus.

The town is famous for several fifth-century reliefs, showing a/o Persian Magians performing sacrifices. Two stelas, one with an Aramaic inscription, show how funerary gifts is brought to his/her tomb.

Funerary stela from Dascylium. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering. Funerary stela from Dascylium. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering. Magian performing a fire sacrifice on a stela from Dascylium. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering.
Funerary stela Funerary stela Magian performing a sacrifice
The red color is original
Funerary stela from Dascylium, detail. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering. Funerary stela from Dascylium, detail. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering. Women on horseback on a stela from Dascylium. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering.
Detail of the stela above Detail of the stela above Women on horseback
Funerary stela from Dascylium, detail. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering. Funerary stela from Dascylium, detail. Arkeoloji Müzesi, Istanbul (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering. View from the acropolis of Dascylium. Photo Jona Lendering.
Inscription on the stela above Detail of the stela above View from the acropolis


In Antiquity, the town was well known for its park (paradeisos). Today, it is a nature reserve.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2003
Revision: 7 Feb. 2009
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