The ancient civilisation that inspired US democracy

Most Damaging Culture that is affecting American democracy the most.

Culture That Inspired US Democracy

A 540-kilometer long trek along the coast of Turkey introduces you to the culture of Croatia, which is along the Mediterranean Sea’s coast. It was an ancient land where the concept of a republican government was first initiated.

“Lycians? But who were they?” Alexander asked.

“When we arrived in Turkey, we only saw ruins. What do they call the place where dead people reside?” I said.

“Graves,” he nodded in agreement.

It was May, and despite being the month of May, the coastal village of Turkey alongside the Mediterranean Sea was experiencing extreme heat. This region is historically known as Lycia. I had been traveling for two weeks along this 540-kilometer route that connects Antalya and Fethiye. It was here that I met Alexander.

Alexander pointed towards the walls of Simena Castle and asked, “How did these people place such massive stones here thousands of years ago?”

Alexander shook his head and said that even five people together cannot remove the lids on these graves. I had seen these graves which are present in dozens in this area.

Lycia, the ancient name of this region, is mentioned through the ancient book “Iliad,” where it was introduced as the land of the Xanthos River.

This hill was the stronghold of the people, known for their freedom-loving and seafaring culture, but not much information is available about them.

ALASTAIR GILL top view

The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the ancestors of the Lycians came from Crete, while modern scholars believe they were Anatolian people who were under Greek influence when Alexander the Great took control of the region in 333 BC.

Lycia had vanished from the pages of history a long time ago, but their political legacy remains alive due to a strange historical reason.

On June 25, 1787, James Madison, the future President of the United States, delivered an address in Philadelphia. This event was held to better understand the effective system of government in America.

In his speech, James Madison used the example of Lycia.

In the 2nd century BC, Lycia was a state consisting of 23 cities and was the first republican union, serving as a model of a strong alliance among different cities.

Six cities, including Patara, which was the capital, had three votes in the Lycian Council, while middle-ranking cities had two votes, and smaller cities had one vote.

ALASTAIR GILL beautiful view

The origin of this league is not clear, but it might have been a response to the hegemony of Rhodes, which Rome had granted control over Lycia for a period in 190 BC.

This league couldn’t formulate foreign policy, but it elected a governing executive. Additionally, it had the authority to appoint local judges and collect taxes.

The 18th-century French philosopher Montesquieu regarded it as the best constitution of antiquity.

Professor Anthony K. M. Kinik, an expert in Lycian culture at the University of Notre Dame, suggests that this system was a blend of Greek ideas of democracy and Lycian concepts, where communities of citizens could work together.

The paths I walked on were once roads that were the means of communication between the different cities of Lycia. The story of these cities came to an end when the Roman king Claudius captured the region in forty-three BC

However, due to the intriguing nature of these roads, in 1990, the British Kate Clow created the Lycian Way, saying, “I am interested in seeing old roads and learning about them.”

ALASTAIR GILL beautiful girl

There were few passers-by on the road to Lycia, but the road was full of life. Along the way, there were cute hairy goats and huge turtles. Along with it, black snakes were also seen crawling here and there, which was a worrying thing.

The mountain villages of the area were abundant with orchards and wildflowers, while women in wet pants brought me fresh cheese made from goat’s milk, fresh honey, and gözleme flatbread.

We ate them with tea. After which I jumped into the sea for a swim as the heat increased during the day.As evening descended, a thick silence enveloped the land, and my campfire crackled among the pine trees as if whispering to me about the people who had built these roads.

In fact, such a settlement of memories spreads along the paths of Lishian that you walk, rest, and sleep in the company of ghosts.

Despite its dramatic beauty, it is a land of ghosts. In the 1950s, the tourist Freya Stark described it as ‘the most haunted coast in the world’, recounting a trip along the peninsula by sea.
There are empty graves in every bush and ravine, and it seems as if they are dumb envoys sent from a lost embassy.

A visible part of Lycia’s civic fabric were their tombs, which were an expression of the veneration of their ancestors and their central role in the afterlife.
Strangest of all was the tower-pillar tombs found in the ruins of Xanthos, the capital of Lycia under the Persians.

The Lichen Way splits at this point and heads inland where the pillars are located on a cliff surrounded by greenhouses and orange groves. Two pillars dominate the top of the tomb.

Among them is a harpy tomb and another pillar is a Xanthine obelisk with an inscription in the Lycian script that has not yet been fully deciphered.

ALASTAIR GILL hill beautiful view

The largest pillared tomb in Xanthos is the Tomb of Piava.

From the 4th century BC onwards the Lycians built rock-cut ‘house’ tombs, often with burial sites carved into the rocks, raised rock facades around the main entrance to the house-tomb and woodwork has been done on it.

Durham University archaeologist Dr Catherine Dracott explained that in Lichen tombs the deceased were buried in the upper sarcophagus while relatives or slaves were buried in the lower chamber.

He said that ‘in Lysia, it is believed that the status of important people is elevated after death and they are making the person buried in it a hero.’

While the existing tombs everywhere provide experts with ample opportunities to understand the extensive iconography of Lycian burials, there is relatively little representation of everyday life in the depictions.

Finding personal items or jewelry there is incredibly rare. ‘The difficulty is that most of the hard evidence is Roman and very little from earlier periods,’ Dracott said.

BERK OZDEMIR/GETTY IMAGES

Two days after leaving Xanthos the trail brought me back to the coast near the ruins of Patara, the capital of the Lycian League.

Patara was once a flourishing port but it gradually became deserted due to siltation of the river. The pillared main road now looks like a pond and the walls of the shops that once stood in a row have long ago collapsed. The most important building here is the Council Chamber.

Consisting of a semi-circular auditorium with 20 rows of stone benches, this recently restored chamber was apparently the political center of the Lycian League.

Sitting on the high dais in the council chamber, it was not difficult to imagine hundreds of robed delegates discussing public affairs while Leshiark conducted the proceedings.

It is thanks to Madison that today the US House of Representatives is based on Leachian principles, with 435 seats distributed among the 50 states in proportion to their population.

 

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