Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Peoples of the empire: The Lycians

By rights, this week's update should be about the Libyans.  However, I've run into the usual issue of the area being at the edge of the literate world in ancient times meaning that there is not sufficient information for anything like a comprehensive summary.  Onward to better-documented lands.

Geographical definition
Lycia (Luwian Lukka via Greek Lykia) was centered around the Teke Peninsula, a rounded landmass on the southwestern coast of modern Turkey.  It lay southeast of Caria.  It was a poor hill country with little urbanization; the people were known mainly as herders and (in the Bronze Age) pirates.

Lycia first appears in Hittite records as a member of the Assuwa League in the late Bronze Age.  With the Bronze Age collapse, the "Lukka lands" disappear for a time, but evidently survived as a traditional name and reappear with the Greek histories.  While the natives continued to live mostly as shepherds, Rhodian Greeks colonized the coast, founding Phaselis in the east.

According to Herodotus, Cyrus sent Harpagus to reduce western Anatolia after conquering the Lydian empire.  This happened after 547 BC.  The failed defense of Xanthus in southern Lycia is famous; the men there were driven back, put all their families and property in the citadel, burned it down and then returned to the field where they fought to the death.  Other conquests within Lycia are not mentioned and were probably less tenacious or even peaceful.

The new rulers (khñtawati) of Xanthus became the most important in Lycia; Lendering suggests that "the great king had appointed the Xanthian prince as representative of all Lycians, responsible for the payment of tribute."  A stele discovered there in 1838 was apparently a monument to a son of Arppakhu and this led to the theory, widespread for a while but no longer accepted, that Harpagus was awarded the satrapy of Lycia and founded a "Harpagid dynasty."

In truth Lycia did not have its own satrap.  It was grouped in the empire's first tax district, with Ionia, Magnesia, Aeolia, Caria, Milya and Pamphylia, paying 400 talents total.  During this time, Persian influence began to appear in Lycian architecture, particularly elite tombs.

It is possible that fighting continued after the conquest.  A Persepolis Fortification tablet from 509 mentions prisoners of war called Turmirla, which may be a rendering of the Lycian endonym Trm̃mili.

Nonetheless, Herodotus says that Lycia sent 50 ships to Xerxes' invasion in 480.  He gives their endonym as Termilai (Lat. Termilae) and incorrectly believes them to be of Cretan descent.  Among the officers to whom he attaches importance was a Cyberniscus, son of Sicas, who has often been interpreted as the commander of the Lycian contingent.  We are not told what role they played in the war, but as sailors they would have been important and probably took part in both Artemisium and Salamis.

A further note on Cyberniscus:  The phrase in Greek is Kuberniskos Sika, which Anthony Keen has proposed is a misreading of Kubernis Kossika, possibly a Greek rendering of the Lycian names Kuprili and Kheziga.  The Lycian monarchy has been rather sketchily reconstructed for most of the Persian period.

At some point after the Peloponnesian phase of the wars, control of Lycia switched to the Delian League.  The circumstances under which the empire lost Lycia are unknown.  During the latter half of the fifth century, Greek cultural influence in Lycia became stronger:  Cities grew, Lycians began to build Greek-style rock tombs and create bilingual inscriptions.

Lycia defected from the League during the Peloponnesian War.  In 429, Athens sent General Melasander to reconquer Lycia, but Gergis (Lyc. Kheriga) of Xanthus defeated him.  Soon, Lycia reverted to Persian influence, and Xanthus was able to conquer Telmessus, Lycia's westernmost major city.

During the Revolt of the Satraps, Pericles, a king of the southeastern Limyra, declared himself king of Lycia and drove out the Xanthian ruler Arttum̃para.  Pericles is regarded as the last king of Lycia.  After the revolt failed, the land once again reverted to the empire.

Alexander the Great marched through Lycia in the winter of 334-333 in his campaign to capture coastal cities, which were of strategic importance during the Persian-Macedonian war.  He appointed his general Nearchus as rule of Lycia and Pamphylia.  Telmessus, Lycia's westernmost city, revolted in 333 but Nearchus quelled it easily enough.

In 329, Nearchus was temporarily relieved of his post to join Alexander's eastern campaign.  What followed at the Partition of Babylon after Alexander's death is somewhat unclear:  Diodorus and Arrian say that Lycia and Pamphylia were given to Antigonus, but Justin says that they were given to Nearchus.  From the Partition of Triparadiscus onward they were definitely with Antigonus.

Lycia changed hands several times during the Wars of the Diadochi.  It spent its longest period under the Ptolemies, from 275-197, when it was briefly taken by the Seleucids, and finally came under the Roman sphere of influence as a result of the Syrian War, 192-188.

I can find no clear indication of what became of native Lycian culture, but it is reasonable to suppose that it faded under Greek influence over the Hellenistic period.  Thereafter the nation would only be a traditional and administrative name.

Lycian belonged to the Luwian subgroup of Anatolian, a major Indo-European branch.  It was distinct from the Luwian language and first appears in inscriptions during the Achaemenid period.  Two dialects are known, standard Lycian or Lycian A, and Milyan.  It was written in the Lycian alphabet, derived from Greek but with additional letters for its unique sounds.  The last inscription in Lycian dates to about 300 BC.

Naturally, Greek was also spoken in the coastal cities and gradually replaced Lycian throughout the country.

According to Annick Payne, Lycian religion is known mainly from epitaphs referring to various deities.  The most well-known is the "mother of the gods" (˜eni mahanahi), whom the Greeks identified with Leto (called L˜at˜ai in Lycian).  The major sanctuary near Xanthus known as the Letoon, dating from the sixth century, may have originally belonged to the Lycian deity before she was conflated with Leto.

Likewise, most written sources identify native deities with Greek ones:  Trqqas with Zeus and Maliya with Athena.  The names of Padrita (Aphrodite) and Ertemi (Artemis, of whom the theophoric name Erttimeli was borne by a governor of Xanthus) appear to indicate adoption of the Greek goddesses by the Lycians rather than conflation.  In the fourth century, Lycians began to worship Apollo as part and parcel with Leto and Artemis; he may have absorbed a minor god named Natri.

Due to the nature of the texts, not much is known about Lycian religious practice, but they appear to have favored altars cut into living rock rather than constructed ones.

Unfortunately, native clothing appears is not well-attested in Lycian art; most anthropomorphic art comes from Greek-dominated areas and thus reflects Greek clothing styles.  The chiton and himation appear frequently in royal tombs.  Certain Persian elements are seen here and there, like the kidaris.  The so-called Harpy Tomb from Xanthus, dating approximately to Xerxes' invasion, shows women's dress as being very finely draped with voluminous sleeves or caped uppers and plain, stiff-looking circlets.

Herodotus says that the Lycians "wore cuirasses and greaves, and carried cornel-wood bows and unfeathered arrows and javelins; goat-skins hung from their shoulders, and they wore on their heads caps crowned with feathers; they also had daggers and scimitars (drepana)" (VII.92).  I know this isn't good historical practice, but offhand I find it extremely difficult to believe that anyone used arrows that were not fletched.

Graeco-Lycian art shows military equipment that is pretty much Greek in appearance.

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