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MYRA

MYRA

Ancient Lycian City 

Myra was a Lycian city that became in order ancient Greek,  Greco-Roman, Byzantine Greek and Ottoman town in Lycia, which became the small Turkish town of Demre, in Antalya Province of Turkey. In 1923, the Greek inhabitants of the town had been forced to leave by the population exchange agreement between Greece and Turkey. It was when its church was totally abandoned. It was founded on the river Myros  in the fertile alluvial plain between Alaca Dağ, the Massikytos range and the Aegean

Category:         Ancient City

Region:            Lycia /Asia Minor

Myra Exterior of theatre

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Although some scholars equate Myra with the town, of Mira, in Arzawa, there is no proof for the connection. There is no substantiated written reference for Myra before it was listed as a member of the Lycian League (168 BC–AD 43); according to Strabo (14:665), it was one of the largest towns of the alliance.

The ancient Greek citizens worshiped Artemis Eleutheria, who was the protective goddess of the town. Zeus, Athena and Tyche were venerated as well. Pliny the Elder writes that in Myra there was the spring of Apollo called Curium and when summoned three times by the pipe the fishes come to give oracular responses. a closeby sanctuary Sourai was the oracular center of myra city during Lycian times. (Click here for Sourai page)

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In the Roman period, Myra formed a part of the Koine Greek speaking world that rapidly embraced Christianity. One of its early Greek bishops was Saint Nicholas.

Alluvial silts mostly cover the ruins of the Lycian and Roman towns. The acropolis on the Demre-plateau, the Roman theatre and the Roman baths have been partly excavated. The semi-circular theatre was destroyed in an earthquake in 141, but rebuilt afterward.

There are two necropoleis of Lycian rock-cut tombs in the form of temple fronts carved into the vertical faces of cliffs at Myra: the river necropolis and the ocean necropolis. The ocean necropolis is just northwest of the theatre. The best-known tomb in the river necropolis, 1.5 km  up the Demre Cayi from the theatre, is the "Lion's tomb", also called the "Painted Tomb". When the traveler Charles Fellows saw the tombs in 1840 he found them still colorfully painted red, yellow and blue.

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Andriake was the harbor of Myra in ancient times, but silted up later on. The main structure there surviving to the present day is a granary built during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian. Beside this granary is a large heap of Murex shells, evidence that Andriake had an ongoing operation to produce purple dye.

Excavations have been carried out at Andriake since 2009. The granary was turned into the Museum of Lycian Civilizations. The granary has seven rooms and measures 56 meters long and 32 meters wide. Artifacts found during the excavations in the Lycian League were placed in the museum. The structures in the harbor market as well as the agora, synagogue, and a six-meter deep, 24-meter long and 12-meter wide cistern were restored.

(Click here for Andriake page )

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"Lion's tomb", also called the "Painted Tomb"

New Testament
The author of the Acts of the Apostles (probably Luke the Evangelist) and Paul the Apostle changed ships here during their journey from Caesarea to Rome for Paul's trial. They arrived in a coastal trading vessel and changing to a sea-faring skiff secured by the Roman centurion who was responsible for Paul's transportation to Rome.
Bishopric
The Acta Pauli probably testify to the existence of a Christian community at Myra in the 2nd century. Le Quien opens his list of the bishops of this city with St. Nicander, martyred under Domitian in 95, who, according to the Greek Menologion, was ordained bishop by Saint Titus. In 325, Lycia again became a Roman province distinct from that of Pamphylia, with Myra as its capital. Ecclesiastically, it thus became the metropolitan see of the province. The bishop of Myra at that time was Saint Nicholas. The 6th-century Index of Theodorus Lector is the first document that lists him among the fathers of the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Many other bishops of Myra are named in extant documents, including Petrus, the author of theological works in defence of the Council of Chalcedon quoted by Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem and by Photius. Theodorus and Nicolaus were both at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, the former recanting his previous iconoclast position, the latter being the Catholic bishop whom the iconoclasts had expelled. The Notitia Episcopatuum of Pseudo-Epiphanius, composed in about 640 under the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, reports that Myra at that time had 36 suffragan sees. The early 10th-century Notitia attributed to Emperor Leo VI the Wise lists only 33.

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Siege in 809
After a siege in 809, Myra fell to Abbasid troops under Caliph Harun al-Rashid. Early in the reign of Alexius I Comnenus (ruled between 1081 and 1118), Myra was again overtaken by Islamic invaders, this time the Seljuk Turks. In the confusion, sailors from Bari in Italy seized the relics of Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) , over the objections of the monks caring for them, and spirited the remains away to Bari, where they arrived on May 9, 1087, and soon that city became a pilgrimage center for visitors of Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus).

 

Tomb of Saint Nicholas

Tomb of Saint Nicholas

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Saint Nicholas Church interior

Church of Santa Claus
Demre is known as the hometown of saint Nicholas who is commonly known as Santa Claus. The earliest church of St. Nicholas at Myra was built by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century. The present-day church was constructed mainly from the 8th century onward for the city's Byzantine Greek inhabitants; a Greek Orthodox monastery was added in the second half of the 11th century.

In 1863, Emperor Alexander II of Russia purchased the building and began restoration, but the work was never completed. In 1923 the church was abandoned when the city's Christian inhabitants were forced to leave for Greece by the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. In 1963 the eastern and southern sides of the church were excavated. In 1968 the former confessio (tomb) of St. Nicholas was roofed over.

The floor of the church is made of opus sectile, a mosaic of coloured marble, and there are some remains of frescoes on the walls. An ancient Greek marble sarcophagus had been reused to bury the Saint; but his bones were stolen in 1087 by merchants from Bari, and are now held in that city, in the Basilica of Saint Nicholas.

The church is currently undergoing restoration. In 2007 the Turkish Ministry of Culture gave permission for the Divine Liturgy to be celebrated in the church for the first time in centuries. On 6 December 2011 Metropolitan Chrysostomos, who has the title of Myra, accordingly officiated.

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Archaeologists first detected the ancient city in 2009 using ground-penetrating radar. Over the next two years they excavated a small, stunning 13th-century chapel sealed in an uncanny state of preservation. Carved out of one wall is a cross that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto the altar. In February 2021 it was announced the discovery of dozens of 2,200-year-old terracotta sculptures with inscriptions. Archaeologists also revealed some material remains of the Hellenistic theater made of ceramic, bronze, lead, and silver. The figurines with partly preserved paint contained the appearances of men, women, cavalry, animals, some Greek deities and the names of artists.

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