Many readers will already be aware that the Lycian League is possibly the best known fact about Lycia. The League constituted the world’s earliest known democracy when every settlement within Lycia had the right to elect a representative (sometimes more than one) to the parliament that met in Patara.
What’s more this was also all about proportional representation, from 205BC when the League was first formed to some time, in the 4th century AD when Lycia was absorbed into the Byzantine Empire.
The League comprised some 23 known city-states as members with votes in the League according to population size. Xanthos, Patara, Myra, Pinara, Tlos and Olympos each had 3 votes; smaller communities had 2 or 1 vote and there is one known instance of 5 villages sharing one vote.
The ‘senate’ of elected representatives chose a leader, the lyciarch, at their first meeting.
Our picture shows the senate building, the bouleterion, at Patara when it was first uncovered. It is currently undergoing a major reconstruction.
However, whilst excavating the building inscriptions were found stating that two women: Marcia Aurelio and Crision Nemeso both used the title lyciarchissa, but there is no way to know whether or not they were female elected leaders of the senate, or merely using the title because they were married to the lyciarch.
And the League had an unexpected influence in the eighteenth century which we’ll tell you about next time.