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Kaunus - an Ancient City and Tomb Views from a Boat Tour

Join us for a visit to an exciting former port today some eight kilometres from the sea - the city of Kaunus with a fascinating Persian, Greek and Roman history.

Kaunos is located on the right bank of Dalyan Stream (Calbis), which connects Köyceğiz Lake to the Mediterranean, opposite the current Dalyan Town. The city was originally a port but due to the formation of the Dalyan delta over the millennia, it has moved away from the sea shore.

Pottery shards indicate that Kaunos already existed at the 9th century BCE. A legend says that Caunos, the founder of Kaunos, was the son of Apollo’s son Miletos from Crete. Caunos founded the city after he fled his home because he was hopelessly in love with his twin sister Byblis. Byblis shared the passion and followed Caunos, only to collapse in tears which water nymphs later turned into a spring. Basileus Kaunios, one of the leading Caunos gods is mentioned in the trilingual (Lycian, Greek, Aramaic) inscription found in Letoon in 1973 and exhibited in the Fethiye Museum.

Although this story suggests a Greek origin, the Caunians might have been an indigenous tribe as evidenced by Herodotus: "their beliefs were different from their neighbours".

In 540 BCE the Persian general Harpagos conquered the region despite bitter resistance from Kaunos. After the Greek victory over Persia, Kaunos joined the Athenian dominated Delian League. In the 4th century BCE Persian rule was reestablished.

After Alexander the Great conquered the area in 334 BCE, the Seleucids, the Ptolemies, Rhodes and finally Rome ruled Kaunos in succession. Kaunos was Christianized in the 4th century AD. As the Dalyan River slowly silted up, the surroundings turned to marshland and became increasingly unhealthy due to malaria. From 625 AD onwards Kaunos was faced with attacks by Muslim Arabs and pirates and eventually, the 13th century brought invasions by Turkish tribes. Eventually, many Kaunians moved elsewhere. In the 15th century the Turks captured the entire area north of Caria and Kaunos was hit by a malaria epidemic resulting in the city being abandoned. The ancient city was badly devastated in an earthquake and gradually got covered with sand and a dense vegetation and the city fell into oblivion until it was refund in 1842.

When you arrive at Kaunos, the first noticeable ruins are the King Tombs carved into the rocks on the steep limestone façade of Balıklar Mountain, which surrounds the North Bay from the north direction. They are grouped in seven different areas towards the southwest. The King Tombs were made not only for the kings themselves but also their families as you can see in some of the tombs where there are several places.

Another area that draws attention in the city is the upper acropolis. You will see at the top that the southern slope very steep but here is a medieval fortification wall supported by towers.

The easiest way to reach Kaunos is by boat from the small harbour of Dalyan. The 15 minute boat trip leads to a small quay from where you can follow a good walking path to the site. If you take a boat trip to the dunes, you can also admire the beautiful carved temple type tombs above the bay.

There is a toilet and a small cafetéria next to the ticket office where you can also buy some books and mementos. Kaunos is not a place for visitors in wheelchairs or with prams.

Muğla Kaunos Archaeological Site

Çandır Mah. Köyceğiz/MUĞLA


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