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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in May 2010.

Coast of the Pirates Silifke

Seleucia ad Calicadnus, today's Silifke, was founded by Seleucus, a general of Alexander the Great, who, after the death of his commander, ruled over most of Anatolia and Syria. At that time the Calicadnus, the river near the town was navigable.

Silifke Kalesi
The Calicadnus River and Silifke Kalesi (castle)

Similar to many other ancient towns, Seleucia was made up of an upper town on a fortified hill (acropolis) and of a lower town along the river with markets and warehouses.
The Romans, who conquered the region in the IInd century BC, built a bridge across the Calicadnus; its foundations can still be observed in the current bridge.

Silifke Kalesi
(above) Silifke Kalesi; (below) view over the Calicadnus from the fortress

The valley of the Calicadnus was important because it allowed communication between the Anatolian tableland and the Mediterranean coast; the upper valley was controlled by a fortress in Mut (ancient Claudiopolis), whereas the lower valley was controlled by the fortress of Silifke.
During the Third Crusade, German Emperor Frederick I, Barbarossa led a large army trough the Anatolian tableland, where he sacked Iconium (Konya), before moving towards the coast via the Calicadnus valley. On June 10, 1190, at the age of 67, he drowned while crossing the river.

Silifke Kalesi
Western walls of the fortress

The fortress which we see today is mainly a Byzantine/Armenian fortress, with only minor additions made by the Ottomans.

(left) Entrance; (right) Armenian cross and inscription

In the late XIIth century Armenian noblemen established a feudal kingdom in Cilicia, a territory which nominally belonged to the Byzantine emperors; by taking advantage of the Crusades, the Armenians managed to control most of the coast between Cilicia and Pamphylia, including Silifke; their kingdom is known as Kingdom of Lesser Armenia.

Buildings inside the castle
Building at the northern side of the fortress

The Kingdom of Lesser Armenia was a loose alliance of local rulers of Armenian descent; they lived in a series of vaulted rooms and halls in the most protected parts of their castles; buildings similar to those at Silifke can be seen at Lampron Castle and at Sis.

Tekirambari (cistern): (left-above) the cistern seen from the fortress; (left-below) winding staircase allowing access to the lower part of the cistern; (right) view of the cistern and of the fortress

Byzantine Seleucia had a water supply system based on a large cistern at the foot of the acropolis. Pipes led the water to fountains in the lower town.

Temple to Zeus

Ancient Seleucia had several temples, but only one of them is left and only one column is not broken. The temple was dedicated to Zeus, but today it is commonly referred to as the Temple of the Storks.

Resadiye Camii
Resadiye Camii; (left) main portico; (centre) rear portico; (right) detail showing the use of two capitals for each column

Ancient columns and capitals were used in 1328 for the construction of a mosque; at that time Silifke was controlled by the Emirs of Laranda (Karaman).

Aya Thecla
Aya Thecla: apse of the basilica

According to an apocryphal tradition, Thecla was a virgin who was converted by St. Paul the Apostle; she escaped being killed by hiding in a cave which after her death was turned into a shrine. It is generally thought that Byzantine Emperor Zeno, who was born in the mountains north of Silifke, built in the late Vth century a large basilica above the cave.

Aya Thecla
Aya Thecla: (left) entrance to the cave; (centre) main chapel; (right) an ancient capital and a christogram (a monogram symbolizing Jesus Christ)

Move along the Coast of the Pirates:
Introduction and Alanya
Mamure Kalesi
Olba (UzuncaburÁ)
Korykos and Kizkalesi
Map of Turkey with all the locations covered in this website.

SEE THESE OTHER EXHIBITIONS (for a full list see my detailed index).

A Roman Spa - IerapolisRoman SmyrnaLondon's Roman Flavour