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Xanthus (Kınık)


Payava's tomb. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
Payava's tomb
Xanthus: town in western Lycia; its original name was Arňna, its modern name is Kınık. The first part of this article can be found here.

Another Lycian tomb from Xanthus made in the classical age is the tomb of Payava, which is also in the British Museum. It dates back to the first quarter of the fourth century and combines Greek and oriental motifs.

The most famous Lycian tomb from this period, however, is the Nereid Monument (photos below), which offers the same combination of motifs and is in the British Museum too. It seems to have been the tomb of a Lycian prince named Arbinas and may have inspired the better-known Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the tomb of Maussolus, the famous satrap of Caria.

It consists of a podium and a building that resembles a Greek temple in Ionian style. Between the columns are three statues that have been identified with Nereids (water goddesses), from which the monument takes its name.

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Payava's tomb. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
Payava's tomb, detail

It is the sculpture surrounding the base that makes it special. We see, for example, soldiers, in a phalanx. They may be Greek mercenaries, because their arms are those of a hoplite; see the photo below. Note the helmet of the man to the left, which should cover his face but does not. It is possible that the artist wanted to show the soldier's face, and in that case, it may be a portrait. As so often, we do not know.

The Nereid monument in the British Museum. Photo Marco Prins.
The Nereid monument

Another relief shows a Persian official, probably a satrap, receiving an embassy. Are they surrendering their city? A young servant shades his master with a parasol, an attribute that is also known from Persepolis, where it is a sign of royalty.

There's also a banquet scene, possible the festivities after the war. The reclining man drinks from both a flat cup and a rhyton: the first one is Greek, the second one is Persian.

The site of the Nereid monument at Xanthus. Photo Jona Lendering. Nereid Monument, detail. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering. Phalanx soldiers, shown on the Monument of the Nereids from Xanthus (Turkey), now in the British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins. A satrap receiving a visitor. Relief from the Monument of the Nereids, British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins. Banquet scene. Relief from the Monument of the Nereids, British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Nereid monument: podium Nereid monument Nereid monument: phalanx Nereid monument: satrap Nereid monument: banquet
The theater at Xanthus. Photo Marco Prins.
The theater at Xanthus

As already indicated, the local dynasty lost power to Pericles of Limyra, who did not survive the Revolt of the Satraps (366-360). Xanthus became now part of the zone of influence of the Carian leader Maussolus. The city, which already was hellenizing itself, became increasingly Greek, and this process was sped up after the conquest by Alexander the Great (334/333).

After his death, the city successively belonged to the Ptolemaean and Seleucid empires, was controled by Rhodes, was a founding member of the independent Lycian League, and finally became part of the Roman Empire. In 42 BCE, the city was sacked by the Roman general Brutus, the assassin of Julius Caesar (Appian, Civil Wars, 4.76ff). Officially, the city retained some of its independence, but during the reign of Augustus, it stopped minting its own coins, and in 43, the emperor Claudius added Xanthus to the province of Lycia et Pampylia.

The arch of Vespasian at Xanthus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Arch of Vespasian

The Roman theater of Xanthus was built in the mid-second century CE by a man named Opramoas of Rhodiapolis. It was a giant project that forced the inhabitants to redesign their city center completely.

Another monument from the Roman age is the honorific arch that was dedicated to the Roman emperor Vespasian (69-79).

The city is named as the see of a bishop in the fourth century and continued to flourish during the fifth and sixth centuries. The crises provoked by the war against the Sasanians at the beginning of the seventh century and the rise of Islam in the second quarter of that century, marked the end of prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean, and meant the beginning of the end of Xanthus after the mid-seventh century.

Terracotta elements of the sewer system of Xanthus. Photo Marco Prins. Terrace wall behind the theater. Photo Marco Prins. The theater at Xanthus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Terracotta elements of the aqueduct Terrace wall near the theater Theater

A satellite photo can be seen here. Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2003
Revision: 22 April 2010
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