Lycia, ancient country, SW Asia Minor. Egyptian sources ally the Lycians to the Hittites at the time of Ramses II; the Lycians spoke an Anatolian language. Lycia was frequently mentioned by Homer in Greek mythology. In historic times it was held by the Persians, the Seleucids, and the Romans (from 189 B.C.). Its chief towns included Xanthus, Patara, and Myra. Ruins include many rock-cut Lycian tombs and later Grecian sculptures dating from the 5th cent. B.C.
"Sidyma" redirects here. For the moth genus named thus, see Sidyma (moth).
Ancient Region of Anatolia
Lycia (Λυκία)
Location Southern Anatolia
State existed: 15-14th c. BC (as Lukka)
1250-546 BC
Language Lycian
Historical capitals Xanthos
Roman province Lycia
Lycia (Lycian: Trm̃mis; Greek: Λυκία; Turkish: Likya) was a region in the modern-day provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey. It was a federation of ancient cities in the region and later a province of the Roman Empire. Lycian League was the first federation in the world with democratic principles which later inspired the American Constitution.



Lycia is a mountainous and densely forested region along the coast of southwestern Turkey on and around the Teke Peninsula. Turkey's first waymarked long-distance footpath, the Lycian Way, follows part of the coast of the region.


Lycia was bounded by Caria to the west and north west, Pamphylia to the east, and Pisidia to the north east. The principal cities of ancient Lycia were Xanthos, Patara, Myra, Pinara, Tlos and Olympos (each entitled to three votes in the Lycian League) and Phaselis.

Features and sights of interest

Though the second-century AD dialogue Erotes found the cities of Lycia "interesting more for their history than for their monuments, since they have retained none of their former splendor", many relics of the Lycians remain visible today, especially their distinctive rock-cut tombs in the sides of cliffs in the region. The British Museum in London has one of the best collections of Lycian artifacts. Lycia was an important center of worship for the goddess Leto and later, her twin children, Apollo and Artemis.

Ancient language

The eponymous inhabitants of Lycia, the Lycians, spoke an Indo-European language, belonging to its Anatolian branch. The closest language to the Lycian language is the Luwian language, which was spoken in Anatolia during the 2nd and early 1st millennium BC; it may even be its direct ancestor.


Bronze age

Ancient Egyptian records describe the Lycians as allies of the Hittites. Lycia may have been a member state of the Assuwa league of ca. 1250 BC, appearing as 'Lukka or Luqqa. After the collapse of the Hittite Empire, Lycia emerged as an independent "Neo-Hittite" kingdom. According to Herodotus, Lycia was named after Lycus, the son of Pandion II of Athens. The region was never unified into a single territory in antiquity, but remained a tightly-knit confederation of fiercely independent city-states.

Lycia was frequently mentioned by Homer as an ally of Troy. In Homer's Iliad, the Lycian contingent was said to have been led by two esteemed warriors: Sarpedon (son of Zeus and Laodamia) and Glaucus (son of Hippolochus). Elsewhere in Greek mythology, the Lycian kingdom was said to have been ruled by another Sarpedon, a Cretan exile and brother of the king Minos; Sarpedon's followers were called Termilae, and they founded a dynasty after their conquest of a people called the Milyans. As with the founding of Miletus, this mythical story implies a Cretan connection to the settlement of Asia Minor. Lycia appears elsewhere in Greek myth, such as in the story of Bellerophon, who eventually succeeded to the throne of the Lycian king Iobates (or Amphianax).

Classical period

Lycia came under the control of the Persian Empire in 546 BC when Harpagus of Media, a general in the service of Cyrus conquered Asia Minor. Harpagus's descendants ruled Lycia until 468 BC when Athens wrested control away. Following the ousting of the Persians, as Athens and Sparta fought the Peloponnesian wars, the majority of Lycian cities defaulted from the Delian League, with the exception of Telmessos and Phaselis.

In 429 BC, Athens sent a expedition against Lycia to try to force it to rejoin the league. This failed when Lycia's leader Gergis of Xanthos defeated General Melasander. The Lycians once again fell under Persian domination and by 412 BC, Lycia is documented as fighting on the winning side of Persia. The Persian Satraps were re-installed, but (as the coinage of the time attests) they allowed local dynasts the freedom to rule. Persia held Lycia until it was conquered by Alexander III (the Great) of Macedon during 334-333 BC.

Hellenistic period

After the death of Alexander the Great in 324 BC, his generals fought amongst themselves over. Lycia fell into the hands of general Antigonos by 304 BC. In 301 BC Antigonos was killed by an alliance of the other successors of Alexander, and Lycia became a part of the kingdom of Lysimachos, who ruled until he was killed in battle in 281 BC. By 240 BC Lycia was part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and remained in their control through 200 BC. It had apparently come under Seleucid control by 190 BC, when the Seleucids' defeat in the Battle of Magnesia resulted in Lycia being awarded to Rhodes in the Peace of Apamea in 188 BC. It was then granted independence by Rome in 168 BC (see Lycian League below) and remained so until becoming a Roman province in 43 AD.

Lycian League

The Lycian League was established in 168 BC with democratic principles. It comprised some 23 known city-states as members. Lycia, which had been under Rhodian control since the Peace of Apamea in 188 BC, was granted independence by the Roman Empire at the conclusion of the Third Macedonian War. These city states joined together in a federalist style government that shared political resources against larger nations. A “Lyciarch” was elected by a senate that convened every autumn at a different city, where each member sent one, two or three representatives, depending on the city's size, to the senate, or Bouleuterion, as it was called. The major cities of the League included Xanthos, Patara, Pinara, Olympos, Myra, and Tlos, with Patara as the capital. Phaselis joined the League at a later time. The league continued to function after Lycia became a Roman province in 46 AD. Lycia ceased being a federation in the fourth century AD, when it was taken over by the Byzantine Empire.

Roman period

In 43, the emperor Claudius annexed it to the Roman Empire and united it with Pamphylia as a Roman province. The heir of Augustus, Gaius Caesar, was killed there in 4 AD.

Byzantine era

It subsequently was a part of the Byzantine Empire.

Turkish era

It was overrun by the (Turkish) Ottoman Empire and eventually became part of Turkey. The last Greeks were displaced following the Greco-Turkish War in the early 20th century.



Primary sources

  • “Poem on the Battle of Kadesh” 305-313, Ramesses II
  • “Great Karnak Inscription” 572-592, Merneptah

Breasted, J. H. 1906. Ancient Records of Egypt. Vol. III. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • “Plague Prayers of Mursilis” A1-11, b, Mursilis

Pritchard, J. B. 1969. Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Secondary sources

Refers to many different sea peoples and their contact with Egypt and Anatolia. Also tells about the Philistines during the reign of Ramesses III.

Discusses Lukka's relations to other regions (like Miletus) and where they inhabited.

Covers the Lycians and where they lived, their history, language, culture, cults, and their language.

A description of the Egyptian evidence on the Sea Peoples.

See also

External links


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