Did you know that Lycia was the world’s earliest known democratic union?

We all know that, here in Fethiye, we are actually living in ancient Lycia which, from the physical evidence, would seem to have been famous for carving tombs.  In fact Lycia was the world’s earliest known democratic union with 23 cities being members of the League and voting representatives to the parliament according to their size.  So the six biggest: 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.  The parliament building can be seen at Patara, next to the theatre – it also has tiers of seats for the representatives.  The leader of the parliament, or lychiarch, was elected from within the representatives at the start of each new parliament.

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.  So next time you think that all Lycia left behind were carved rock tombs, remember the system of government they pioneered.

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