Sunday we had a lovely swim in the Mediterranean and explored a Roman city.
The Mediterranean is wondrously clear, and very salty. I’ve never seen water (outside of a swimming pool) that clear before. I’m used to swimming in fresh water so I could really feel the resistance of the saline water and I could tell that it was easier to float there than back at home. The main problem with salt water of course, is that you can’t drink it and you don’t really want it in your mouth or up your nose. But after a week of frantic touring it was nice to sit back and doggie paddle in the big blue sea.
Although that was my first swim in the Mediterranean the real highlight for me was exploring the Roman city of Pharelis.
It wasn’t a Roman city at first. It was first settled by the local Lycians in the 4th century BC before being conquered by the Persians and then “liberated” by Alexander the Great. Apparently the locals actually welcomed Alexander because they felt the Persians were oppressive. So “liberated” indeed.
With it’s good natural harbours and strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean the city later became a haven for pirates. It’s not common knowledge but piracy dominated the Mediterranean sea during the 1st century BC. The Romans had conquered all the local kingdoms that used to police these waters without setting up a Roman government to replace it. Without anybody keeping a close eye on the islands and bays that dot the eastern Mediterranean it became a real “badlands”. Piracy thrived on merchant galleys and grain ships carrying Rome’s main food supply. It was similar to modern terrorism.
It got so bad that the people in Rome were worried that they were going to run out of food, so they appointed Pompey the Great (a Roman general) with extraordinary military and civilian powers over both the land and the sea to deal with the problem.
Pompey’s military genius (especially his ability to organise massive armies) wiped out the pirates in only a few months, but the campaign had created a precedent for giving a single Roman noble almost absolute powers- something that later generals like Julius Caesar and Augustus would use to create a dictatorship.
Anyway, after the Romans conquered almost the entire known world Pharelis became a Roman city and then a Byzantine (eastern Roman) city until the Turks captured it and decided that they would rather use a different harbour that was harder to invade. The city became far less important after that.
But it is still very important to me because of all the amazing ruins you can see! Pictures speak a thousand words, so I’ll just scroll through a few of the photos I took.