Explore the World of the First Democratic Union Known to Man

August 09, 2011
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There is a reason the sparkling shoreline of Turkey is called the Turquoise Coast. Not because of any abundance of a certain mineral, but rather for the bright green-blue of its Aegean and Mediterranean waters. However, an even more apt name for the area may be something that pays homage to its historical roots, as everything in the region — from its cliffs to its bays — is steeped in the history and culture of the Lycians, an ancient group of people who made history for their peaceful democratic societies and institutions.

Although these people were not as solidly documented as the ancient Greeks and Romans, they had solved a problem that those in the warring city-states had not been able to – the Lycians figured out how to reconcile free government with their need for a larger political unity. They established the Lycian Federation, which was the first democratic union in known history.

Sailing along the Dalyan, Turkey's only navigable river which is also environmentally protected, guests on International Expeditions’ new Turkey & Greece cruise can see the ancient Lycian rock-cut tombs of Kaunos. The Roman-inspired tombs and other ruins of the 4th century B.C. city can be seen on the cliffs from afar by boat, though they were once at sea level. The city's harbor gradually filled with silt and fell out of use. Although the area has only been partially excavated, its colorful history can still be explored through the angora, temples and baths accessible to visitors.

Further down the river is Aga Limani, offering nature travel enthusiasts an opportunity to savor the sweet smells of rosemary and eucalyptus while hiking along a trail fringed with oleander blossoms and pines. The climb offers exceptional views of the cove before emptying out at Lydea, a Greco-Roman site so remote that Lycian ruins from ancient nomads are still visible. Returning to the Aga Limani cove allows for a swim in what many believe to be the Sunken Baths of Cleopatra. According to legend, Mark Antony built these baths for the Egyptian queen, and gave her the entire Turquoise Coast as a wedding gift. More recent research has proven that the baths in fact date back later than Cleopatra, around the 6th century A.D.

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