Kaunos, one of Turkey’s unique and impressive ancient cities, which cannot compete with the city of Ephesus equipped with magnificent marble structures, but stands out with its architecture, architectural material, its culture, and character.
Located in the Dalyan neighborhood of Ortaca district of Muğla, Kaunos has a history of 3,000 years and is spread over a wide area with its rock tombs and cut stone structures. Arriving here by boat or walking through the forest is an experience not to miss. The view of Dalyan on the main canal that connects Köyceğiz Lake and the Mediterranean Sea can be seen from the acropolis. Dalyan is a touristic destination with its magnificent Iztuzu Beach, which is known for its boat trips, mud baths, and caretta caretta turtles. The ancient city of Kaunos is a must to see for this trip.
Indication of power
The archaeological research and excavations began in 1966, the geographer Strabon mentions Kaunos, “The city has a harbor and shipyards.” Although the city is a 9th-century Carian settlement, the rock tombs that appear from the canal and add splendor to the usual views of Dalyan with reeds are an important indication of the Lycians. In addition, the Hellenic temple, which has never been seen before, attracts attention with its original appearance reflecting the facade architecture. These rock tombs on the coast of Çandır Alagöl, carved into the mountains rising at an angle of 80 degrees from the sea and some of them reaching nine meters, point to the strength and wealth of the ancient city of Kaunos.
Traces in history
According to Herodotus, the people of the city of Kaunos, which was inhabited during Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods but later abandoned, were Carian. It is known that in the 6th century BC, during the attack of Persians in the region, Kaunos formed an alliance with the famous Lycian city Xanthos and only these two cities opposed the Persian attack. During the reign of Carian Mausolos, the influence of the Hellenistic era began to be seen in many areas in Kaunos. The fact that no inscriptions in the city were written in the Carian language in later dates is an indication that Mausolos succeeded in this effort. After the Hellenistic period, the Roman period begins. The city changes hands one after another, from Alexander the Great to Ptolemy, then to the Rhodes rule… It is known that Kaunos tried to be closer to Rome to get rid of the Rhodes rule.
The fate of a port city
The people of Kaunos made their living mostly from fig and slave trade. Salt, which was believed to be healing for the eyes, was also at the top of this list. An inscription found in Kaunos also points out that the fish caught from the lake has been eaten since ancient times. Kaunos was especially famous for its fig, which had an important place in the public eye. However, this did not prevent others from showing the fig as the cause of malaria in the city. The main reason for malaria to occur, until 1948, was the mosquitoes continued to exist in the swamps around the city. In addition to malaria, another problem was that the port at Sülüklü Göl, which is down the acropolis, was filled with alluvium and constantly threatening the commercial life of the city. Once upon a time, the Mediterranean Sea stretched to the bottom of the hill where the acropolis of Kaunos stretched and surrounded the ancient city. However, this trade city began to lose its importance as a result of the formation of Dalyan delta that connects Köyceğiz Lake to the Mediterranean Sea and the city harbor was filled with alluvials.
Architecture of power
From the rock tombs to the theater with a capacity of 5,000 people, the ancient city of Kaunos is a historical journey through nature. And it is also known that there are many more under the ground. The city, which was built and repaired in different periods, was built on terraces. On one side there is the Temple of Baselius Kaunios, the Temple of Apollo and the Sanctuary of Demeter, and on the other side, there is a large terrace called the Upper City, where there are baths, theaters and other important religious structures, including the palaestra, a Greek wrestling school. Paleolithic stone cutlery and arrowheads were found in many parts of the ancient city. They reveal the power and prosperity of the city. In this region, especially in the first half of the 5th century BC, coins minted on the front face of a winged figure behind a large piece of pyramid-shaped stones. In addition, the letters K and B on them are also important in terms of referring to the first two letters of Kaunos’ first name, Kbid. Just in front of the ticket office is the Roman Bath and the Domed Church. Some of the well-preserved city walls in the north of the city were built by Mausolos in the 4th century BC. At the foot of the acropolis at a height of 152 meters, the Hellenistic and Medieval city walls are also striking, and the theater of the 2nd century BC is the most impressive ruin here. Although it is leaning on a hillside, it has a large semi-circular structure that is not found in Hellenistic theaters. Between the theater and the Byzantine church are the remains of the recently uncovered Temple of Apollo. The well-preserved structures of the ancient city include the Byzantine Basilica and the Roman Baths. It is also worth watching the view from the platform set up here. Immediately behind the platform, there is a Measurement Platform of 150 BC, which was used for the determination of wind directions, which was taken into account in the direction of the streets and streets of the city. A stone path down the baths leads to the round, doric-style Terrace Temple and the Round Building. This area, surrounded by columns, probably had an altar or sacred pool. A road from here leads to the Agora below. There is a restored fountain structure with an inscription of Vespasian. Today, where Sülüklü Göl was once was the old port. No boat can enter this pond at the foot of the ruins of Kaunos. According to some sources, the lake was blocked to enter with a chain in case of danger.
Journey to the ruins
The easiest way to get to Kaunos from Dalyan is to take the boat of the villagers from Geçit Street in the center to the opposite shore in 15 minutes and walk to the west hillside with rock tombs and walk about 1.5 km on the stabilized road. One of the highlights of the ancient city is its lively natural life. This is almost like a reptile park. It is possible to see numerous turtles and different kinds of lizards, storks, and herons in summer, and various water birds that come here in winter. Most tourists take photographs of the ruins as well as observe birds with binoculars. Thanks to the awareness of the gendarmerie and the municipality, natural life is consistently protected. A little further away from the ancient city of Kaunos, the Çandır village on the shores of Alagöl, surrounded by pine forests is a 15-20 minute walk. In addition, the excursion boats departing from Dalyan, stop at Kaunos and approach the piers at the foot of the ancient city. As in Dalyan, boat trips from Köyceğiz and Ekincik to Kaunos are made. Trekking enthusiasts can use the forest roads to walk from Ekincik to Kaunos through Çandır village and then to Dalyan.