Ancient City of Korykos
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
Mediterranean Region, Province of Mersin, District of Erdemli
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The ancient city of Korykos extends east-west alongside the highway at a distance of 65 km from Mersin and 25 km from Silifke. It sits on the slopes of the mountain where it reaches the coast. As the mountain approaches the sea, two small bays are formed. The city lies alongside northeast and southwest axis reaching Elaiussa-Sebaste at the east and Hell-Heaven Caves at the west. It is surrounded by a natural harbor, where it has been always settled around in all periods. Remains of the ancient city are spread through 113.4 ha area reaching to the northeast of modern Kızkalesi settlement and including the fullest extent of the Necropolis valley at the west and lying 2 km alongside the coast to the east.
According to Heredot, the city was founded by a Cyprian Prince namely Korykos. The name of the city was firstly recognized on the coins in the beginning of the 1st century BC when they proclaimed independency following the political unrest after the Seleuokus King Anthiokos IV death.
The first records about the property are dated back to the Hittite period but the main finds are as early as the Hellenistic period. Polygonal braided stone places on rock formations and the first city walls are remains from this period. The city was enlarged to the east in Roman period and new walls were built in the 4th century AD, the time that the city reached the heyday. Another very important face of Korykos is its Christian period. Fourteen churches from the 4th – 7th centuries A.D. are preserved within this quite small area. These are located at north of the highway leading from Mersin to Silifke, just before entering the center of Kızkalesi, side by side with the Roman necropolis.
Following the Roman and early Christian period, the Byzantine and Armenian periods have to be cited, as well. Its importance as a port city continued during Byzantine times. The city was surrounded by walls again to prevent the city from the Arab attacks. Pieces of Roman period structures were used as spolia in construction of this double row city walls. The water channels built in Roman Period on the line within the Latmos Valley was rebuilt and used in early Byzantium period.
The city was then captured by the Seljuks and Cilician Armenian Kingdom. The fortress and castle of Korykos was built on previous fortifications by the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in the 12th century. The castle has taken its final form in the 13th century after various additions and arrangements. The city was then sold by Armenians to Cyprus Kingdom in the 14th century due to the attacks by Karaman Dynasty. In 1471, it was captured by the Ottomans and started to lose its importance.
As a result of this construction program, it consisted of a castle on the land, together with a castle on the sea and they formed a single defensive system. The chain between the two was pulled up in case of a threat, thus preventing enemy ships from entering the port.
The sea castle (Kızkalesi = Maiden Castle) on the small island was built on rocks at a distance of 200 meters from the shore. It was planned to prevent the bay standing in a strategic location from enemy attacks by building the sea castle as a first control point. Land castle was then constructed as a supportive defense structure. The length of the walls is 192 meters which are supported by eight towers. The entrance is provided by the north through a towered gate. There are differences in plan types of the towers which is related to the repairs held in different periods.
The land castle was built on flat ground and it had a double circuit walls covering an area that is almost square. It is surrounded by a water-filled moat. Access to the castle was provided by a bridge which could be raised or lowered over the moat and this was also the entrance to the castle. There are several square towers within the circuit walls and three chapels within the castle, but only the southeastern one is Armenian in origin, the other two chapels are Byzantine. The apse, northern wall and a section of the western wall of the Armenian Chapel are preserved.
10 km north of the sea castle, Adamkayalar (man rocks) are placed on the rocky slopes of the Şeytan Deresi (Devils’ Valley), which are the reliefs of 11 men, 4 women, 2 children and 1 goat carved out from the rocks. This very unique place is the monumental tombs of the rulers of Korykos. However, Adamkayalar is not the only tomb of Korykos. North of the highway leadingfrom Mersin to Silifke, just before entering the center of Korykos we can observe various types of graves and tombs belonging to the Roman period. Some have the form of temple tombs, reflecting the importance of the buried person, while others are simpler, such as undecorated sarcophagi. These tombs give us an idea of how big the settlement of Korykos once was.
Villae Rusticaes (Roman Farmhouses) are other architectural components that can be seen on the site. The unique Roman type settlements, where land owner and the farm laborers live together, include crop processing and storage units, sacred places and necropolises in Korykos.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The archaeological and cultural values of Korykos, starting with the Hittite period and continuing with the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Armenian periods follow each other uninterrupted in sequence. Many of the finds show unique character of values such as the Adamkayalar reliefs, different grave types, eclectic church plans and the Armenian castle as they reflect a local characteristic. It’s one of the best preserved cities of Mountainous Cilicia which lies alongside the Mediterranean coast.
Korykos has been an important center for trade during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods for vine and olive oil export. Particularly, it has become one of the most important trade cities in Cilicia for nearly 500 years during the Roman Period, developed in olive production and became an export center for olive oil. This has resulted in formation of roads and pathways throughout Cilicia so that grapes and olives harvested in the ‘hinterland’ could be transferred from the coasts of Cilicia to other oversea countries. This trade links, roads and even urbanization, traces of which can still be observed in Korykos, have been a part of all historical layers in Korykos.
Positioning of the sea and land castles, necropolis areas including monumental tombs with reliefs which are situated alongside the coastal road, religious structures with high visual quality thanks to the topographical structure and still used ancient road which provides connections with surrounding ancient cities carry as a whole an exceptional universal value.
Criterion (ii): The churches in Korykos all exceptional because of their eclectic plans, showing influences from Syria, Constantinopolis and even Egypt, besides owing a character of their own. Considering its taking part at the Councils of Constantinopolis and the relation of Korykosian tradesman and priests with Egypt, this interaction should not be surprising. Korykos churches have side narthexes which is a characteristic of Egyptian churches. Having an upper floor (emporio), on the other hand, is an architectural feature seen actually in Constantinopolis churches. Furthermore within a very close distance from each other, all churches reflect various characteristics, without being bond to a special plan. We can follow this case in Syria in its basilica and round formed churches.
Criterion (iii): Korykos has been a host for the Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Roman and Byzantine Empires and the Armenian Kingdom. Traces of all periods are visible on inscriptions, reliefs or architectural monuments. The importance of Korykos stems from its strategically located harbor which was crucial for Mediterranean trade and also its urban pattern that has been expanded around since the Hellenistic period. The city grew in the Roman period and its harbor developed as an important trade center beginning from the 4th century. Although the sacred places from the 5th and 6th century are rarely found in good condition, 14 religious buildings from this period exist in the site.
Criterion (iv): In Korykos, a safe city was created by taking the advantages of the geography with hard living conditions by constructing a single defensive system consisted of two castles – one in the sea and the other in the shores – which was supported by the surveillance towers located alongside the way to north. It is among the unique examples of port cities with this special feature of having a defense structure in the sea, which also distinguishes it from many ancient coastal settlements.
The eleven reliefs in Adamkayalar standing next to each other within a conceptual frame are glamorous as they carry artistic value by reflecting their time’s life style (furniture, clothes, jewellery).
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Korykos is registered as the 1st Degree Archaeological and Natural Conservation Site in conformity with the Conservation Act Numbered 2863 and it stands under the protection of the Ministry for Culture and Tourism. The architectural remains revealing the outstanding universal value of Korykos is standing on the site and stay within this conservation boundary while nothing is left outside. Nearly all finds are visible on the ground as the site sits on a rocky geography where no excavation is possible. The conservation state of the site is quite good while it has not undergone a restoration yet. However, the ancient settlement of Korykos is threatened by overrun of new constructions in the modern city of Kızkalesi, as a result of rapid growth in industry and tourism.
Comparison with other similar properties
The sequence of many cultures in Korykos, the unique reliefs, religious buildings, tombs and necropolis areas, harbor, the sea and land castles and many other architectural traces make the property outstanding. For this reason it is not possible to compare a component separately from the others but still, the comparison material of grave tombs can be found in the neighboring Elaiusaa-Sebaste or in a far distance, in “Hierapolis (Denizli)”. The reliefs of Korykos bear a native character and cannot be directly compared to other examples like the reliefs of “Belkis (Gaziantep)” and “Palmyra (Syria)” which also show their own native character. Individual Armenian Castles found in the area of Adana, “Yilan Kale” and “Toprakkale, are the most outstanding ones. Similarities in their techniques, measures, locations and their state of preservation can be observed but the castle in Korykos differs from the other by having its counterpart in the sea, which is outstanding and unique among similar examples.