Amongst The Ancient Ruins Of Gelemiş & Patara (Part 2)

In our last post, Exploring Gelemiş and Patara, we were mooching about around the ruins that lie just outside the village of Gelemiş, along the approach road to Patara Beach. In this post, by way of lots of photos, we’re going to continue along the approach road and then veer off to the right to go deeper into site.

The Arch of Mettius Modestus, Patara, Turkey

The Arch of Mettius Modestus, Patara

Because, as you can see, as we approach the Arch of Mettius Modestus, there are lots more significant ruins to be explored beyond the road we’re walking along. But let’s stay at the arch for a moment. The information boards here tell us that pipes and a pool found closer to the arch reveal that this was once part of an aqueduct that brought water to the city of Patara. As the city was a major port, the Arch of Mettius Modestus was also a symbolic gateway welcoming people to the city. Inscriptions found on the arch also show that the people of Patara, capital of the Lycian nation, built the arch in honour of the governor general, Mettius Modestus.

Today, in 2013, it’s the most prominent structure visible from the road as people drive towards the beach – and a welcome clue that the beach is not too far away.

Patara Agora

Patara Agora

We veer off to the right where the signs point us and follow the pathway around the city. There’s so much work going on here and it’s maybe not to everyone’s taste. We’ve mentioned in the past about the difficulties with newly restored ancient ruins. As with the obvious recent stonework at Antiphellos in Kaş, new additions are very much a part of the restorations at Patara. For example, some of the columns lining the agora here are topped with gold coloured decorative capitals.

Assembly Hall, Patara, Turkey

The restored assembly hall

And the Assembly Hall is almost completely rebuilt, right down to the wooden doors at the entrances. This section of the ancient ruins of Patara is restoration and recreation. But we’ve debated this in our heads and we like it more than we dislike it – it’s a more clear picture of what this ancient city looked like and how it functioned. You get more of a feel of its previous importance.

Ancient Theatre, Patara

Ancient Theatre, Patara

Peering over the walls from the Assembly Hall, we can see the theatre. Strange how memories can deceive you. Last time we were in Patara was eight or nine years ago and the theatre was the only part of the ruins we looked at. I wasn’t overly impressed (we’d paid a visit to Ephesus a few days before so it’s not surprising) but looking at it today, it’s much bigger than I remember. Small amounts of restoration have happened here in years gone by – wonder if there’ll be more…

Lighthouse Ruins, Patara, Turkey

Looking up at the lighthouse base from below

But then we see the sign for the lighthouse. If there’s a lighthouse, then we must be able to see the sea from there, right? We head off to follow the signs. Again, it’s an exposed, sunny path and a bit of a trudge in the heat along fine sand dunes. We’re still a way from the sea but we can hear the waves crashing beyond the dunes and the trees. After a few minutes, we come across the site of the lighthouse. Wow, this thing must have been massive!

Lighthouse Engraving, Patara, Turkey

Engraved stonework at Patara

As with the rest of the ruins around Patara, archaeological work is ongoing here, too. The square base is being strengthened and, on the ground by the base, there’s a ring of huge stones engraved around the edge. We think this was the decorative top of the lighthouse. Other numbered rocks are dotted about the area and we’re hopeful that more of the lighthouse will be rebuilt eventually.

But what happened to it to cause it to be in this state? Well, the ruins of the lighthouse were only uncovered in 2003 and archaeologists now think a tsunami may have hit it in ancient times, causing it to tumble. They have also dated the stones to Emperor Nero’s reign in AD 64-65 and so it’s thought this could be the world’s oldest lighthouse.

Patara, Turkey

View of the sea and Patara Beach from the lighthouse

We’re not sure if we’re supposed to, but we climb to the top of the part of the lighthouse that is there. It’s a bit of wobbly walk along a plank of wood to get there but we’ve come to see the sea so I brave it. Patara Beach isn’t too far away now. That’s good news because the lighthouse was a tad further than we envisaged and we’re now very hot and very thirsty. Time to press on towards the beach…

For more information about the ancient lighthouse at Patara, you can read this article at Lycian Turkey.

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  1. Just love Patara and the beach isn’t bad either!

  2. I love rummaging through old ancient ruins….when I’m there I wonder to myself….what were they doing here that day????
    Yes…after you have been to Ephesus nothing to me compares. When I was there a few months ago in Ephesus I noticed that in the last few years they have done lots of restorations, I almost didn’t recognize it.
    Never been to this site….so thanks for sharing your photos and story. 🙂

  3. Your lovely pics have reminded that I’ve been there!!! Lovely!

  4. . . my appetite is still whetted – on lighthouses, the tendency to claim ‘oldest/biggest’ is refuted by by Alexandria which was up and running by 247BC – not many people know that!

  5. Nice photos. Would love to spend some time exploring here.

  6. Wow! Patara ruins have changed – Will have to visit soon.

  7. @ Jack Scott: It’s a great chilled out place. Loved Gelemiş. So peaceful. 🙂

    @ Erica (Irene): Yes, we’ve seen lots of photos of all the new excavations at Ephesus. We really need to get back up there soon. 🙂

  8. @ Claudia: Ha ha, good. Yeah, it’s a lovely place.

    @ Alan: No, apparently not. 🙂 Hope you get to go back again soon.

  9. @ April: It’s a great place to spend a few hours, certainly.

    @ BacktoBodrum: Yeah, the archaeologists have done so much at Patara over the last few years. We like what they’ve done. 🙂

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