22 May 22:34


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Kaunos  was a city of ancient Caria and in Anatolia, a few km west of the modern town of Dalyan, Muğla Province, Turkey.

The Calbys river (now known as the Dalyan river) was the border between Caria and Lycia. Initially Kaunos was a separate state; then it became a part of Caria and later still of Lycia.

Kaunos was an important sea port, the history of which is

supposed to date back till the 10th century BC. Because of the formation

of İztuzu Beach and the silting of the former Bay of Dalyan (from approx. 200 BC onwards), Kaunos is now located about 8 km from the coast. The city had two ports, the southern port at the southeast of Küçük Kale and the inner port at its northwest (the present Sülüklü Göl,

Lake of the Leeches). The southern port was used from the foundation of

the city till roughly the end of the Hellenistic era, after which it

became inaccessible due to its drying out. The inner or trade port could

be closed by chains. The latter was used till the late days of Kaunos,but due to the silting of the delta and the ports, Kaunos had by then

long lost its important function as a trade port. After Caria had been

captured by Turkish tribes and the serious malaria epidemic of the 15th century AD, Kaunos was completely abandoned.

In 1966 Prof. Baki Öğün started the excavations of ancient

Kaunos. These have been continued up to the present day, and are now

supervised by Prof. Cengiz Işık.

The archeological research is not limited to Kaunos itself, but

is also carried out in locations nearby e.g. near the Sultaniye Spa

where there used to be a sanctuary devoted to the goddess Leto.


According to mythology Kaunos was founded by King Kaunos, son of the Carian King Miletus and Kyane, and grandson of Apollo. Kaunos had a twin sister by the name of Byblis

who developed a deep, unsisterly love for him. When she wrote her

brother a love letter, telling him about her feelings, he decided to

flee with some of his followers to settle elsewhere. His twin sister

became mad with sorrow, started looking for him and tried to commit

suicide. Mythology says that the Calbys river emerged from her tears.


The oldest find at the Kaunos archeological site is the neck of a Protogeometric amphora dating back to the 9th century BC, or even earlier. A statue found at the western gate of the city walls, pieces of imported Attic

ceramics and the S-SE oriented city walls show habitation in the 6th

century BC. However, none of the architectural finds at Kaunos itself

dates back to earlier than the 4th century BC.

Kaunos is first referred to by Herodotus in his book Histories. He narrates that the Persian general Harpagus marches against the Lycians, Carians and Kaunians during the Persian invasion of 546 BCE.Herodotus writes that the Kaunians fiercely countered Harpagus' attacks but were ultimately defeated. Despite the fact that the Kaunians themselves said they originated from Crete, Herodotus doubted this.

He thought it was far more likely that the Kaunians were the original

inhabitants of the area because of the similarity between his own Carian

language and that of the Kaunians. He added that there were, however,

great differences between the lifestyles of the Kaunians and those of

their neighbours, the Carians and Lycians. One of the most conspicuous

differences being their social drinking behaviour. It was common

practice that the villagers -men, women and children alike- had

get-togethers over a good glass of wine.

Herodotus mentions that Kaunos participated in the Ionian Revolt (499–494 BCE).

Some important inscriptions in Carian language were found here, dating to c. 400 BC, including a bilingual inscription in Greek and Carian found in 1996. They helped to decipher the Carian alphabets.

Greek influences

After Xerxes I was beaten in the Second Persian War and the Persians were gradually withdrawn from the western Anatolian coast, Kaunos joined the Delian League. Initially they only had to pay 1 talent

of tax, an amount that was raised by factor 10 in 425 BC. This

indicates that by then the city had developed into a thriving port,

possibly due to increased agriculture and the demand for Kaunian export

articles, such as salt, salted fish, slaves, pine resin and black mastic

– the raw materials for tar used in boat building and repair 

and dried figs. During the 5th and 4th centuries BC the city started to

use the name Kaunos as an alternative for its ancient name Kbid,

because of the increased Hellenistic influence. The myth about the foundation of the city probably dates back to this period.

Second Persian rule

After the Peace of Antalcidas

in 387 BC, Kaunos again came under Persian rule. During the period that

Kaunos was annexed and added to the province of Caria by the Persian

rulers, the city was drastically changed. This was particularly the case

during the reign of the satrap Mausolos

(377–353 BC). The city was enlarged, was modeled with terraces and

walled over a huge area. The city gradually got a Greek character, with

an agora and temples dedicated to Greek deities. Alexander the Great's 334 BC brought the city under the rule of the Macedonian empire.

Hellenistic period and Roman rule

After Alexander's death, Kaunos, due to its strategic location, was disputed among the Diadochi, changing hands between the Antigonids, Ptolemies, and Seleucids.

Because of differences between the Hellenistic kingdoms, the Roman Republic was able to expand its influence in the area and annex a considerable number of Hellenistic kingdoms. In 189 BC the Roman senate put Kaunos under the jurisdiction of Rhodes. At that time it was known as the Rhodian Peraia.

In 167 BC this led to a revolt by Kaunos and a number of other

cities in western Anatolia against Rhodes. As a result, Rome discharged

Rhodes from its task. In 129 BC the Romans established the Province of

Asia, which covered a large part of western Anatolia. Kaunos was near

the edge of this province and was assigned to Lycia.

In 88 BC Mithridates

invaded the province, trying to curb further expansion by the Romans.

The Kaunians teamed up with him and killed all the Roman inhabitants of

their city. After the peace of 85 BC they were punished for this action

by the Romans, who again put Kaunos under Rhodian administration. During

Roman rule Kaunos became a prospering sea port. The amphitheater of the city was enlarged and Roman baths and a palaestra were built. The agora fountain was renovated and new temples arose.