The Longest Beach in the Eastern Mediterranean and an Ancient City with a Political History that inspired Modern Ideas.
The 20 km beach is simply splendid. The ancient city of Patara, from which the rear gets its name, was perched by the sea, by the mouth of the Xanthos River and encompassed by rolling green slopes and valleys. Patara always was, and still remains an idyllic location. The city boasted an important harbour, and its destiny was firmly entwined to the sea, its tides, and currents. These tides brought to Patara an extraordinary international array of visitors including thinkers, pioneers and mystics of the day, a tradition that is continued to the present Patara, as guests from varying backgrounds come to explore the city and its famous beach.
Patara, in ancient times, was the main light in the formation of a genuinely equitable society. Some of its political history was a major influence for the founding fathers of the USA and recently all the foreign ministers of the EU assembled here to honour that thinking. Patara, favoured as it was by being founded by Patarus, the child of Apollo, was doubtlessly fated to be a centre of innovation and political collaboration. All through the ages, the city matured and developed, withstood the ravages of time and was adored by all who visited here.
As one of the most powerful urban communities of the Lycian League, Patara, was a city noted for its majority rule and its association with nature. The old Council House, the Bouleuterion, housed the representatives of the 23 city-states of the Lycian League, which existed along the Mediterranean shore of Turkey from around 167 BCE until 400 CE. The city established a thriving democracy, using relative representation, which was unrivalled in the ancient world. The sea, the river and the verdant woods in the area underpinned its political ascendancy by endowing it with a thriving economy all which led to it becoming a shining example and motivation for urban settlements and far lung states both in the world of antiquity and in our modern world.
As the city improved culturally and financially by means of trade its population prospered and became famous throughout the civilized world. Visitors were motivated by the city's leadership, democratic ideals and its close association to nature.
Today we generally live in urban areas that are connected the one to the other by trade and commerce, visitors (whether they be tourists, new locals or old friends and family) all bring specific flavours and delight to our lives. What is missing, however, is a genuine connection and bond with nature. Considering what a better future could look like, may mean re-tracing the paths taken by older successful societies and Patara is the ideal spot to consider what that was and what that can be.
As visitors walk around the ruins of this old city, relics of previous cultures blend into the natural surroundings, reminding us that nature is ever present and persevering. While strolling along the old colonnaded roads, you can imagine the merchants calling out whilst prospective customers clients inspect their goods. At the same there is birdsong all over the valley and the waves crash onto the beach - not a vehicle horn to be heard! Proceeding along the ancient roads, guests will discover thermal baths, filled by mountain springs. In ancient Patara, as at the local modern hammam (Turkish Bath) this was an opportunity to socialize with neighbours and friends and the tradition has persevered to the modern era, it’s just that the setting of the ancient baths is a bit more memorable. Isn't it interesting to imagine that, though knowledge and technology have driven us this far forward, our feeling of community and the intensity of community have endured through the ages?
Guests to Patara will cross the overgrown old streets to arrive at the Bouleuterion, where parliament met. With room for at least 1,000 representatives the Bouleuterion offers panoramas out over the city towards the sea. It was doubtless a scene once of lively discussion and debate. Walking here today is both wonderful and utterly inspiring. Those ancients Lycians made communities that really thrived and upheld each other, creating a city that arrived at shared objectives and cooperation to address any issues.
Montesquieu, the famous French man of letters and one of the greatest political philosophers of the Enlightenment, summed it up perfectly in his praise for Patara and the Lycian Federation: “Were I to give a model of an excellent confederate republic, I should pitch upon that of Lycia.”