The Ancient Rock-Cut Tombs of Myra’s Lycian Necropolis

rock-cut-tombs-myra (Image: Saffron Blaze, cc-sa-3.0)

The ancient town of Myra in the Lycia region of Anatolia, modern day Turkey, boasts a number of breathtaking ruins including the Acropolis on the Demre-plateau, the Roman theatre and Roman baths.

rock-cut-tombs-myra-3 (Image: Caleb Maclennan, cc-sa-3.0)

Steeped in history, the settlement has come under the control of various empires throughout the ages, from Persian and Greek to Roman, Byzantine and Turkish, while the wider geopolitical region was recorded in the writings of ancient Egypt and the Hittite Empire of the Late Bronze Age.


rock-cut-tombs-myra-2 (Images: Elena PleskevichCaleb Maclennan; cc-sa-3.0)

Perhaps most striking of all the ruins in Myra are the rock-cut tombs of the ancient Lycian necropolis. Two burial sites, the river necropolis and ocean necropolis, with frontages resembling classical temples, have been hewn from the cliffs towering above the town.


myra-roman-theatre (Images: ElelichtHippolytecc-sa-3.0)

The ocean necropolis lies to the north-west of the theatre. Meanwhile, the river necropolis boasts the “Lion’s Tomb”, also known as the “Painted Tomb” due to Charles Fellows‘ report that it was painted red, yellow and blue during his visit of 1840.

rock-cut-tombs-myra-6 (Images: Anders B, cc-3.0)

Early Greek citizens worshipped Artemis, but by the 4th century AD Nicholas of Myra served as the town’s bishop. Venerated as St Nicholas, his reputation for secret gift-giving made him the model for Santa Claus. The 8th century church of St. Nicholas is currently undergoing restoration, while the rock-cut tombs and other ruins are popular tourist attractions.

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