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On the edge of a precipice
One of the major cities of ancient Pisidia, Kremna stands today like an eagle’s eyrie within the boundaries of Burdur province.
In ancient times, when war, conquest and looting were rife and human life hung by a thread, the concepts of city and security always went hand in hand. Almost all the cities of antiquity were situated at spots that were easy to defend. The city of Kremna, surrounded by a precipice on three sides and vulnerable to siege from only one, is no exception.
SILENT CITY OF PISIDIA
Warlike in nature unlike their neighbors the Lydians, Phrygians and Carians, the Pisidians settled in the area known today as the Lakes region. Owing to their love of freedom, these brave warriors of the Taurus were never able to form a state, sustaining their existence over the years as a loose confederation of cities instead. These cities, which stretched across the deep valleys that join the Bay of Antalya to Central Anatolia, simultaneously had an autonomous structure under a popular administration. As Mehmet Özsait describes it, because they fell outside the great military campaign trails and commercial byways, this courageous tribe of the high plateaus never bowed its head to a single invasion right up to the first century B.C.
A city as important as its neighbors Sagalassos and Pisidia Antiokheia, Kremna took its place on the stage of history when it came under the sovereignty of the Galatian king Amyntas. The city, which was naturally influenced by the rule of Persia, Macedonia, Seleucus and Pergamon over the Anatolian peninsula, became a Roman colony in the time of Augustus. Known in this period as ‘Colonia Lulia Agusta Felix Cremnensium’, it was seized by Lydius, who occupied Pamphylia, but restored to colony status a short time later. We learn from Strabo that Kremna, which suffered severe starvation during the early years of the rule of Aurelianus (270-275 A.D.), only managed to overcome its food shortage thanks to aid it received from the empire. The city, which appears inside the borders of Pamphylia during the Byzantine period, waned in importance over time and, concluding its role on the historical stage, was eventually abandoned in mute silence to the arms of nature like many of its ancient counterparts.
TRACES OF THE ROMAN PERIOD
Kremna was founded on a 1200-meter-high hill overlooking the deep valley of the Aksu (Kestros) River. Viewed from below, the hill where the city is situated has a rough and grandiose appearance like an eagle’s eyrie. Its name, which means ‘precipice’ in Greek, befits its position. The giant 7 to 8-meter high defense walls that surrounded the city are the first signs of its presence. These partially toppled walls encircling the slopes were a virtual symbol of Kremna’s unassailability in its time. A large part of the ruins, which have been excavated by Prof. Dr. Jale Inan, are protected by a natural overgrowth of dense brush and heath. We enter the city through the Western Gate, which can be reached down an ancient path formerly paved with stone. The present-day remains of the city, which was situated on the eastern face of Mt Boğadiç, date primarily from the Roman period.
The city’s library, which was as famous as the those of Alexandria and of Celsius at Ephesus, is the most important structure amidst the ruins. This rectangular building, located south of the theater and dubbed by archaeologists the Q building, continues to inspire a sense of awe despite its ruined appearance. Noteworthy in the structure, which lies below road level, are the columns where the footprints of statues from the period are still detectible even today. Rescued by Prof. Dr. Jale İnan’s meticulous efforts, these sculptures are on exhibit in the Burdur Museum. To the east of the monumental avenue littered with fragments of shattered columns is the forum, which is reminiscent of an open-air museum with its extensive remains. Immediately adjacent to it, a structure with two surviving arches announces the presence of the basilica. Outside the basilica the ruins of, in order, a monumental fountain, a stoa, a gymnasium and countless houses are scattered at random in the lap of nature. We proceed now along a path lined with brush towards the acropolis at the highest point of the hill on which the city stands. The theater, which lies below the acropolis, was constructed at a point commanding a view of the entire city. Despite the uneven terrain on which Kremna is situated, the streets laid out among the low hills have been masterfully adapted to the city’s grid plan.
A splendid view is to be had in the open air from the dizzying slope over which the acropolis spreads. The Valley of the Aksu, the Karacaören Dam reservoir which, with its tiny islands, dominates the verdant forest environment, the lake known as Sarp-Bozburun Dedegöl, and the white summits of the Davraz mountains and the ruins of neighboring Keraitae are the lead actors in this panorama. As clouds enfold the towering mountains opposite, preparing to conceal them from anyone and everyone, we head down to the city to see Kremna’s other historic treasures. The church was built outside the city limits by the local people since the uneven terrain left no room for it. Several underground springs have their origin on the hill over which the historic city is spread, and canals carved out of the rocks ensured that the water was distributed to the city from the points where it reached the surface through fissures. Meanwhile, on the part of the slope inside the still extant defense walls, small caves evidently used as altars catch our eye. The city’s necropolis is spread over its western and southern slopes. Climbing to this area, with its literally dozens of sarcophagi, is extremely laborious due to the dense scrub. The most noteworthy aspect of the grave site, which offers an extraordinary view, is this collection of sarcophagi, all carved out of natural rocks. Among them a group of three without lids is especially noteworthy.
HOW TO GET THERE
Çamlık or, by its former name ‘Girme’, which plays host to Kremna, is a hamlet consisting of four quarters. Sixty km from Burdur, the ancient city can be reached by two different roads. Those who choose the Antalya-Burdur highway will come through Bucak township while those who take the Antalya-Isparta route will follow the sign for Çamlık next to Karacaören Lake. Kremna’s historical heritage today is under threat of being overrun by marble quarries. The city, which conceals its rich past under a natural plant cover, waits forlornly for a miracle that will put it on its feet again.