Labranda - Sacred City of Caria

North Stoa

History and description

Labranda or often spelled Labraynda, was a Karian city, famous with great plane tree forests, its water and the Zeus temple.
The temple was a place for pilgrimage. Labranda was joined to ancient Mylasa (Milas) with a sacred road which is 13 km long. The suffix (-nda) was the place word used by Karians and Lykians in old Anatolia. Labrynthos comes from the word Labrys which means two-sided axe. The axe is also the symbol of Head God Zeus.

The oldest things found in Labranda belonged to 600 B.C. The temple. Where the Antiques were more, was dwelled between 600 B.C. and 400 B.C.

Main Buildings:
The temple of Zeus: It was built in the time of satrap Hidrieus who lived between 351 B.C and 344 B.C. The dimensions are 25 x 16 metres and 6 x 11 metres one row columns with Attica.
South and East Entrances: (Propylaea) It was also build by Hidrieus and located on the road which joined the Sacred Road with the city,.
The Doric House: It is called thus because of the four Doric style columns in front of the building, built by Hidreus.
The Stadium: It is 176 metres long and the two ends of the building are still whole.
Great Grave: The building includes a front courtyard and two rooms one after the other. It was built in the soft rock technique in the 4th century BC.
The Houses of the Monks: On the Architrave there is a script saying: „Hidrieus, the son of Hekatomnas from Mylasa has devoted these house to the God Zeus."
The Androns: These are some kind of clubs where met. There are tree Andron, (A) was built by Maussolos between 377 and 352 B.C. Andron (B) and (C) were built by Hidrieus.
The North Stoa: This was built by Maussolos.
The East House: It was built in the 5th century B.C.
Old House with Terrace: It was built in the 5th century B.C. and the New House was built in the 4th century B.C. The bath and the East Church were built in Byzantine period. The fountain and the West Stoa and the bath were built in the 1st century A.C.
Between Milas and Labranda the remainders of the Sacred Road can be seen.

Sacred City of Caria - Labraynda
In ancient Turkey the Iron Age corresponded to the first millennium BC. At that time western Anatolia was inhabited by three civilizations, Lydians, Carians and Lycians. Caria encompassed all of today’s province of Mugla and part of Denizli and Aydýn, extending westwards as far as the Menderes (Meander) river and eastwards to the Dalaman river, and with a littoral on the Aegean. Carians were proficient seamen and farmers, and the economies of their inland cities were based on olive cultivation. Their twenty cities, which had sophisticated plans, were each of equal importance. They included Bargylia, Halicarnassus, Euromos, Stratonikeia, Lagina, Gerga, Thiangela, Alinda, Alabanda, Aphrodisias, Hierapolis and Laodikia. In the 6th century BC the Persians invaded Anatolia and the Aegean islands, appointing governors to each region.

In 499 the Ionian cities, backed by the Carians, rebelled against Persian rule, but were defeated by the Persian army led by Darius. The Carians suffered huge losses and took refuge in the sacred precinct of Labraynda, where they reformed their army and attacked the Persians again, but were defeated again. All of Caria now fell into the hands of the Persians, who appointed two brothers, Mausolos and Idreius as satraps. They adopted the local gods in place of Persian deities, and built many fine buildings around the temple to Zeus Stradios in Labraynda.

The sanctuary of Labraynda lay in the mountains around Milas Plain, and festivals were organized here several times a year. A paved Sacred Way led here from Mylasa (Milas), winding through meadows carpeted with daisies in spring, and through groves of olives, figs, pomegranates, pines and plane trees. Along this 13 kilometre long road the processions from Mylasa had made their way to the sacred precinct of Labraynda since very ancient times. The long paving stones were laid diagonally on the nearly 8 metres wide road, distinguishing it from those of Roman construction. At intervals were small shelters where pottery jars were kept filled with cold spring water for thirsty travelers, and some of these shelters are still standing today.

Labraynda is built on terraces carved in the steep hillside. As well as the great temple, there are gates, flights of steps and houses to accommodate those participating in the splendid festivals dedicated to Zeus. Stairs which shone gold in the sun led up to the temple, and thousands of people from Mylasa and other more distant cities would wait in line for their turn to enter the temple and make their sacrificial offerings of goats and cattle. Jars of wine and olives, and baskets of fruit and grain would be carried up here on the backs of animals. The young temple priestesses would chant prayers, and the nobility would attend feasts for men only in the androns or ceremonial rooms, while the ordinary people ate food cooked in kitchens set up in the squares.

The highlight of the festival was receiving messages from Zeus from the oracular eels, which were adorned with necklaces and earrings and kept in a pool at Labraynda. Questions about the future were asked to the eels, and if they ate food held out to them the answer was considered to be favorable. The priests of the temple also served as soothsayers, being appointed for life in earlier centuries and later only for terms of one year. Being buried near Labraynda was very important for the Carians. At the festivals the dead would be commemorated, and their relatives and friends held small ceremonies in their honoree. It is thought that various sports events were also held at Labraynda, and this has been substantiated by the discovery of a large stadium by Swedish archaeologists excavating the site. At festival time Labraynda was tranquil by day, but at night lit up by torches which burnt until daybreak. From its position high in the mountains overlooking the fertile plain below, Labraynda was sacral ruler over Caria.


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Labranda - a place for pilgrimage

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