Kyaneai of the Lycian League


Kyaneai tomb with details

Ancient Kyaneai was one of the Lycian League cities. Kyaneai (or Cyaneae in Greek) means “dark blue” and also “clashing rocks”, though nobody knows why it was so named or which meaning it is supposed to have. In ancient times it was presumed that modern-day Kekova was the harbor for Kyaneai. Most of the remains here are Roman Imperial according to Peter and Nurçin Talloen, a pair of archaeologists who met while on an archaeological dig in Turkey, and now live in Çukurbağ village near Kaş.

Kyaneai is famous for its many sarcophagi which surround the site. There may be over 300 of them and this place has the most sarcophagi of any Lycian site.   Google Photos of Kyaneai.

A theatre dating to pre-Roman times, built into the slope of a hill on the west side of the acropolis is well-preserved. According to Peter, the Romans staged gladiator fights of men against both men and animals in their theatres in the absence of coliseums. Major sanctuary buildings were built close to theatres and during Byzantine times (5th-6th Century) were converted into churches. These sanctuaries were built to accommodate public executions of criminals and Christians; they were later used to note martyrs to the Christian cause.


Kyaneai antique theatre

According to the measurements taken on site, Kyaneai theatre has a capacity of around 2,500 people…The theatre has two levels and a central walkway. The uppermost row of the first level, the stone bench with a backboard along the edge of the central walkway, helped the sound to travel up to the second level by reducing the damping effect of the void of the central walkway. There are 12 rows and 6 radial stairways in the first level and 14 rows and nine radial stairways in the second level. The orchestra has a radius of 29 feet. The height of the stage edifice must have been approximately 38 feet.
(From The Collection of The Museum of Architecture: Kyaneai)


Kyaneai view of the road below

Kyaneai is situated on a plateau with a rocky slope to the north descending very steeply to the plain of Yavu village below. To reach the site take the road to Demre from Kaş. There are two signs for Kyaneai, one before and one after Yavu village.

There is a VERY rough road up from either of the signs so you can drive (carefully) direct to the antique theatre.

Kyaneai seems to have been one of Lycia’s important cities, given its strategic location and its large settlement area. Kyaneai reached its greatest point during the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. Reconstruction work was done and many new buildings were constructed (mainly churches). Kyaneai went into decline between the 10th and 11th Century and was abandoned in the 14th century AD. Although no one knows for sure why, it is believed in part, due to the pressure of the advancing Seljuks.

Kyaneai Driving Directions from Kaş in a larger map

Pausanias, the Greek historian/geographer of the second century AD tells us of an oracle near the city: “Close to Cyaneae by Lycia, where there is an oracle of Apollon Thyrxeus, the water shows to him who looks into the spring all the things that he wants to behold.” Pausanias 7.21.13

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