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An eaglsos eyrie in the Toros Mountains Termessos
2003 / AUGUST

Termessos is an ancient city perched like an eaglsdt eyrie high in the Toros Mountains overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean. When it was originally founded is a mystery, the only clue being the name Termessos, which is thought to be Luwian, a language spoken in the second millennium BC. The city's inhabitants were an indigenous Anatolian people, warlike and fiercely independent. The Hellenic Greeks referred to them as 'Solymian barbarians.' Ever wary of the danger from invaders, the Solymians built their city at the head of a deep gorge at a height of 1050 metres near the summit of Mount Güllük. From this impregnable fastness they hunted wild goats living on the steep slopes of the mountain and fallow deer and wild boar in the Yenice Valley north of the city. Here they also cultivated olives and wine grapes, and exacted taxes from the caravans using the trade road linking Pamphylia and Pisidia which passed through the valley.

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An eaglsos eyrie in the Toros Mountains Termessos
2003 / AUGUST

When Alexander the Great of Macedonia marched across Asia Minor conquering every city in his path he passed through the Yenice Valley and resolved to capture Termessos. It was then, in 333 BC, that the city first made its appearance on the stage of history, the only previous mention of the Solymians themselves being Homer's reference in the Iliad to the people with whom the Lycian hero Bellerophontes battled. Alexander marched against the city but soon gave up any hopes of conquest. According to one account, when he realised the impossibility of breaching its strong natural defences he withdrew, and his army felled and burnt the olive trees in the valley; while according to another version he was repulsed by the heroic Termessians. Whatever the truth of the matter, Termessos was one of very few Anatolian cities which Alexander failed to capture. Throughout the following Hellenistic period the Solymians constantly warred with their neighbours, first with the cities of the Lycian Federation and then with the city of Isinda.

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An eaglsos eyrie in the Toros Mountains Termessos
2003 / AUGUST
However, the Termessians were evidently on good terms with Attalus II of Pergamum (b. 220 - d. 138 BC) who founded Antalya, since they built a colonnaded street in his name in the centre of the city. When the Romans seized control of Asia Minor they wasted no time in reaching an amicable agreement with the people of Termessos, even allowing them to mint their own coins and pass their own laws. In return the Solymians showed their gratitude by trapping Anatolian leopards in the Taurus Mountains and sending them to Rome for use in gladiator fights. This was a period of peace and prosperity for Termessos. The fate of the Termessians is as much a mystery as their origin. According to some historians they disappeared during the Byzantine period in the 4th century AD. Like the inhabitants of so many ancient Anatolian cities, they probably fled after their city had been destroyed by an earthquake and dispersed. In 1970 Termessos and the surrounding forest were declared a conservation area by the Ministry of Forests and became Güllük Dagi National Park, also known as Termessos National Park.
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An eaglsos eyrie in the Toros Mountains Termessos
2003 / AUGUST

The entrance to the park is situated 25 kilometres out of Antalya on the road to Korkuteli and once in the park the road follows the ancient King's Road through Yenice Valley, the same route taken by the army of Alexander the Great nearly two and a half thousand years ago. From time to time the remains of this ancient paved road can be seen beside the new road which partially overlays it, as it winds through forest of Eastern Mediterranean pine. In spring the sides of the road are bright with yellow broom, and in autumn the sumak, bay and mastic bushes turn every shade of yellow and red. Nine kilometres later the road ends at a carpark. Termessos lies at the head of the Mecine Gorge, 6.5 km in length and 500-600 metres deep, situated 34 kilometres northwest of Antalya. The carpark is situated on the city square, beneath which the ancient drainage system passes. The Roman period ruins are in a remarkable state of preservation, even earthquakes having failed to demolish the entrance to the Temple of Hadrian to the west side of the carpark.

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An eaglsos eyrie in the Toros Mountains Termessos
2003 / AUGUST

On the left side a path through clumps of white-blossomed chinaberry trees leads to the military necropolis, one of three in the city. Animal figures carved on the sarcophagi here illustrate the wide diversity of wildlife in this mountainous region. The path continues southwards to the gymnasium, a walk of 20 minutes, following the road which led from Termessos to Attalia (the modern Antalya). West of the gymnasium is the ancient Roman period theatre seating 4200 people. This structure has also proved its durability against the ravages of time. Behind the theatre rises Toptepe, one of the 1265 metre high peaks of Mount Güllük, and behind it stretches Antalya Plain. Past the agora southwest of the theatre is the Temple of Zeus and Artemis. Along the street dedicated to King Attalus II of Pergamum you come to a Corinthian order temple, and turning north from here takes you to the mausoleum of Alcetas. Turning west instead takes you to the second largest ancient necropolis in Turkey, with a rich array of carved sarcophagi.

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An eaglsos eyrie in the Toros Mountains Termessos
2003 / AUGUST
Above rises Atbasi hill and behind it the mouth to Mecine Gorge. Here you may see a short-toed eagle, sparrowhawk, buzzard or falcon hunting for partridges, rabbits or young wild goats. The other path back to the carpark leads past rock tombs in the hillside. Güllük Dagi National Park is like a wild botanical garden, with a huge diversity of plants growing here. Ranging between 250 and 1665 metres in altitude, the park is home to 680 different plant species, of which 80 are endemic, that is, unique to the region. Some of the grasses found amongst the city ruins are species dating from the last ice age. Juniper and oak trees, wild carnations and hyacinths bedeck the wild landscape. Several visits at different times of year, particularly spring and autumn, are needed to get an idea of the wealth of its flora and fauna.

* Süleyman Kaçar is a freelance writer
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