If you’ve not visited Patara for a while, like Fethiye Times, you’ll find it’s been undergoing some major changes and developments…
The first thing we noticed as we drove towards the village was that a new junction has been built on the main road with an impressive, and a bit incongruous, brand new stretch of tarmac road to the village, bypassing all those twisty-turny bits past the farmhouses with the geraniums outside.
The world’s first democratic parliament building
But it’s at the site itself where the most activity is going on. Archaeologists could be seen working on the Palm Baths, taking measurements, drawing plans etc., but the main effort has gone into the area around the Bouleuterion – the world’s first democratic parliamentary building (yes, really).
This building was the ancient parliament building where ancient and powerful Lycian League met. Xanthos, Patara, Pinara, Tlos, Myra and Olympos each had three seats in the parliament; smaller places had two; even smaller a mere one and there is some evidence to show that tiny villages would be grouped together with one shared vote.
Restoration work shows that the semi circular arrangement of the building and the tiered stone seating for the representatives has been heavily borrowed from when compared to the chambers of the American Congress.
The leader of the parliament, or lychiarch, was elected from within the representatives at the start of each new parliament. The main entrance with its vaulted stones can be seen along with the special seating ledge for the lychiarch, about half way up.
The earliest documentary evidence of the existence of the League is dated to 205 BC but it is presumed that the League had functioned well before that date. After the Romans moved into the area they let the League continue to govern matters religious, economic and legal whilst they took over military affairs. The League continued to rule well into the first millennium.
And centuries later it was cited as an example of good republican government when the Founding Fathers in America were working to write the US Constitution. Documents show that both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison referred to the League as a good model.
There were portakabins galore, a marble cutting workshop and two cranes. Swarming workmen everywhere, digging out, repairing, renovating and rebuilding. New blocks are going in and the broken and missing seating has been replaced.
Moving on to the main street, there has been extensive clearance of the ‘shops’ located behind the columns, also walls have been reconstructed. It’s down here you’ll also find the large, stone carved phallic symbol, which has been repositioned.
Dr Havva İşkan Işık, who is leading the archaeological team from Akdeniz University, intends to have the main street returned to as it was in old times
The oldest lighthouse in the world
Work is also going on restoring the ancient lighthouse, which could well turn out to be the oldest in the world. Bronze inscriptions found indicate that it was constructed around 60 – 64 AD and was dedicated to Emperor Nero. When rebuilt it is expected to stand between 10 – 20 meters high.
Interestingly a skeleton was found in the doorway of the ruins, which has led to the theory that the building was destroyed by a tsumani rather than an earthquake, and that the lighthouse keeper was killed trying to escape.
Patara must be an archaeologists dream, as the sand and silt has done so much to conceal and preserve the artifacts.
Inscriptions discovered are suggesting that a second lighthouse is still waiting to be unearthed on the other, eastern, side.
Now is a perfect time to get your boots back on and go for a rummage around the ruins.