The ancient city of Caunos stands
midway along the channel facing Dalyan. Settlement here is believed to
date from 3000 BC by Caunos, the son of Miletos and it later grew into a
major port on the border between Lycia and Caria. Sprawling over a broad
sloping site overlooking the sea and the delta, the principal monuments
to be seen in Caunos are the Acropolis surrounded by city walls, a
theatre, four temples, an agora, stoa, nymphain, baths, palestra,
churches and a cistern.
The imposing Lycian rock tombs with their facades curved into the
form of temples were the last resting place of the kings of Caunos. The
city had two harbours, one for military use and the other for merchants.
Inscriptions discovered on the nymphain have been found to cite customs
regulations and have thrown valuable light on the economic life of the
city. The Lycians developed this form of art to perfection, no doubt
facilitated by the soft limestone of the region.
The quality of stonemasonry of the Lycian people is noteworthy and is
especially significant in the construction of tombs. Today the entire
landscape of Lycia is still dotted with their fascinating funerary
The most recent count has revealed one
thousand and eighty-five examples still intact, rock-cut tombs being the
most common form. Lycia is famous for the sheer number of tombs and
One thing that sets Lycian tombs apart from Hellenistic tradition is
that whereas in Hellenistic culture the dead were placed outside of
liveable areas (often flanking main roads into the cities), Lycian tombs
are integrated often integrated right into cities, displaying Lycia's
ties with eastern traditions.
The Lycians seem to have held a belief that the souls of their dead
would be transported from the tombs to the afterworld by a sort of
winged siren-like creature, and so often placed their tombs along the
coast or at the top of cliffs when they were not integrated into the
liveable areas of the cities.
Kaunos (Caunus) is perhaps one of the most spellbinding of
ancient cities for its landscape as well as its history with roots in
the remote past. Situated in a mysterious landscape formed by the Dalyan
river (Calbis), which connects Lake Koycegiz with the Mediterranean, the
Dalyan delta and Mt. Olemez (Imbros). And the astonishing findings that
are being recovered almost every year in the archaeological excavations
that have been under way here since 1966 are generating increasingly
more unknowns out of the city's stony silence.
The story of Kaunos's eponymous founder as related by the Roman poet
Ovid is helpful in acquainting us with this mysterious city like a quiet
stranger with a secret. Kaunos, the son of Apollo's son Miletos and the
water nymph Kyanee, was in love with his twin sister Byblis. Running
away from home in an attempt to flee this extraordinary yet illicit
passion, he founds a city in a faraway place.
Byblis meanwhile sets out in search of her twin brother and is
transformed into a spring by water nymphs while she lies stretched out
prone on the earth in tears of desperation and exhaustion. Another
source of detailed information about the natives of Kaunos is the
ancient historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century B.C. We can
conclude from his account that Kaunos was the capital of the region
between Caria and Lycia, which was home to several cities. According to
Herodotus, the natives of Kaunos, who believed they came from Crete like
the Lycians and Carians, were actually an Anatolian people. Moreover,
their language, which was entirely unique to them, had in all
probability influenced that of Caria.