Assembly of Lycians awaits grand opening
ANTALYA | 8/28/2011 12:00:00 AM | Taylan Bilgiç - [email protected]
Dozens of scientists and workers are working to finish the restoration of the Lycian League’s parliament. Professor Havva İşkan Işık says Turkey will present the parliament building ‘as a gift to humanity’ as of April next year
Efforts to restore the ancient parliament of the Lycian League in Antalya are nearing an end, as the headquarters of one of the most advanced republics in human history is preparing for a new opening in April 2012.
“It’s important for us to say that we, as a nation, have undertaken this task and now are giving it as a gift to humanity,” Professor Havva İşkan Işık, head of the Patara excavation efforts and a renowned academic at the southern province’s Akdeniz University, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 18, adding that the Lycian League had been an inspiration for people of thought and action throughout modern history.
Speaking above the hum of construction machinery, Işık said the efforts that dozens of scientists, historians, archaeologists and workers have been making at the site since 2009 would set a new standard in restoration.
The Lycian League, whose capital was Patara, was formally established in 168 B.C. under democratic principles. According to historians, the federalist union comprised 23 known city-states as members. A “Lyciarch” was elected by a senate that convened every autumn at a different city, where each member sent one, two or three representatives, depending on the city’s size, to the senate, known as the “Bouleuterion.”
The major cities of the league included Xanthos, Patara, Pinara, Olympos, Myra and Tlos, whose remains are scattered throughout western Antalya. The restoration of the parliament building is sponsored by the Turkish Parliament itself, and the government is showing keen interest in the work as it is eager to promote Anatolia’s long tradition of democracy. In August, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay visited the site once again to observe the latest developments.
The opening ceremony, which is expected to be held after the completion of the restoration, could include statesmen and lawmakers from many other countries. Işık leads an expert team of more than 60 people, plus around 80 workers.
In, 1748, French philosopher Montesquieu praised the Lycian model, saying, “If one had to propose a model of an excellent federal republic, I would choose the republic of Lycia.” Later, Alexander Hamilton, one of the United States’ founding fathers, said, “Of all the confederacies of antiquity … the Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them, … were … those which have best deserved, and have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political writers.”
According to Işık, the restoration efforts have been closely scrutinized by a science committee that was created after a 2009 workshop established the principles of the ongoing work. “This is an ideal restoration,” said Işık.
“We have a scientific responsibility to the Turkish Parliament itself.” As if to counter some criticism that the building’s façade looks “too polished,” Işık said the ratio of new stones used in the giant building is at around 6-7 percent, when the “cavea” section is excluded.
The larger excavation efforts throughout Patara, which have been continuing since 1988, have uncovered magnificent reminders of ancient history, including a largely intact Main Road, an ancient theater, baths, temples, necropoleis, underground chamber tombs, a granary, a dynastic mansion, a Lycian Road Guide Monument, churches and a lighthouse.
Işık said this wider effort would continue for centuries to come. “The excavations in Ephesus and Pergamon have been going on for more than a century now,” she said, highlighting the importance of Patara. “The Pompeii excavations have been continuing for more than 150 years.
“What strikes the academic most in these turbulent days of bloodshed is that the team here has not uncovered a single piece of weaponry. There is none,” she said.“No bows, no arrows, no spears. I think the possibility of a very peaceful life is very high. As a port city, Patara has always been open to different cultures and different peoples. This place is full of historical relics that have come from every part of the Mediterranean.”