|SILIFKE AND TAŞUCU|
Silifke is a developed tourism centre that has not lost its natural charms.
Silifke is the biggest town in the province after Mersin and once was also the provincial centre
before Mersin was made the centre.
Its sea, its shores, its Taşucu port that connects Anatolia to Cyprus, the historical
characteristics of its settled areas, and its archaeological and cultural wealth, make of Silifke
one of the most impressive tourism centres of the Eastern Mediterranean shores.
The old centre of the town is a little further back from the shore, while the shore itself is
developing thanks to touristic activities. Also the Taşucu neighbourhood is quickly becoming
a tourism centre, from every point of view.
Silifke has always been settled throughout history. The Göksu (Chalychadnos) River, which
originates in the Taurus Mountains and after flowing through a deep valley for 260 kilometres
passes through Silifke and from there flows into the sea, has been the source of the vitality of
the area throughout history, and remains so even nowadays.
Taşucu – Girne (Cyprus)
From the port in the centre of Taşucu there are regular fast ferry and ferry trips to the Girne
port of Cyprus.
You can also take along your car in the ferry trips organised by private companies, the offices
of which are located just by the port. The tickets are return tickets.
The schedules are different in summer and in winter, with more trips during the summer.
There are reductions for groups, students, soldiers and children.
(Cyprus does not require passports from Turkish citizens and a simple identity card is
Kızkalesi (Fortress of the Girl) / Ancient city of Chorychos
The ancient city of Chorychos is located at a distance of 70 kilometres from Mersin and 25
from Silifke, on an east to west axis parallel to the highway. It extends towards the foothills
of the mountains nearer to the coast. One of the mountains juts towards the sea and in
doing so forms two inlets.
During Roman times for almost 500 years the city kept its position as one of the important
cities of Kilikia.
It also continued to b an active port during Byzantine times. The churches with a basilica like
plan that have survived to our days, the two forts and the remains of the port are all of
The fortress of Chorychos
The fortress on the shore has a square plan, and is surrounded by an outer and an inner wall.
The outer wall is surrounded by a moat. In ancient times there was a drawing bridge to
access the fortress by going over the water filled moat. This bridge has not survived. The
fortress was used during the late Hellenistic and Roman periods, but also by the Turks. It
must have been restored and restructured many times. The present day shape of the fortress
reflects the characteristics of medieval architecture.
Kızkalesi (Fortress of the Girl)
This fortress that serves as today's symbol of Mersin was built on rocks forming a small island
at a distance of 200 metres from the shore. Its walls are supported by eight towers.
It became famous thanks to a popular legend, which you will find in this publication a little
It is thought that Chorychos must have been a Greek colony. Piracy, which had become quite
a nuisance in the Mediterranean and on its shores, to the point that at times the inhabitants
of seaside towns had to emigrate, threatened Chorychos, just like it did other ports in the
The great orator and legislator Cicero was appointed governor of Kilikia in 51 B.C. and was
militarily successful in his war against pirates.
The fortress on land and the one on the island formed a single defensive system. Whenever
there was danger the chain between the two was pulled up, thus preventing enemy ships
from entering the port.
The first settlements in Silifke: Seleucia and Chalychadnos
To distinguish ancient Seleucia on the Göksu River from the other cities with the same name
it was called “Seleucia Chalychadnos”. In other words Seleucia on the Chalychadnos (Göksu)
It was founded in the early 3rd century B.C., during the reign of the Syrian king Seleucus I
Nicator. Its first settlers were the inhabitants of Holmoi (Taşucu), who moved there. Due to
strategic considerations, a hill at a distance of eight kilometres from the sea was chosen as
the site of Seleucia.
This forced immigration must have been caused by the increased activity of pirates on the
Mediterranean shores and the consequent, never-ending plunders.
It must also have been designed as a fort against the plundering raids of the tribes living in
the Taurus Mountains.
The city saw its most glorious days during Roman times, when 33 smaller towns depended on
During Christian Byzantine times it became a religious centre. Thanks to its association with
Saint Thecla it became also a destination of pilgrimages. The fact that a “Religious Council”
assembled here in 359 AD underlines its religious importance.
Uzuncaburç is one of the most important archaeological sites of Silifke, which is very rich
from this point of view.
The place of the ongoing excavations was the site of the sacred area of the Kingdom of Olba.
The Kings of Olba were vassals of the Seleucides.
When Rome conquered this region, it separated this sacred area from Olba and granted it the
status of free city. This city was named Diocaesarea (City of the Divine Emperor) and it
developed rapidly. It was encircled by walls with the dimension of 400 x 300 m. It was
embellished with colonnaded avenues, a Temple of Fortune, a theatre, a gymnasium,
fountains and other imposing monuments. It minted Roman coins, on which the city’s name
Uzuncaburç is at an altitude of 1184 metres. The buildings of the ancient city and those of
the present day settlement are all mixed together. It seems that the ancient city has got a
new lease of life as Uzuncaburç.
Narlıkuyu, located 20 km. to the east of Silifke at a distance of 5 km. from Kızkalesi, is
famous for its fish restaurants.
Narlıkuyu is also an interesting place for scuba divers. The underground river passing
through the Hell depression flows into the sea at Narlıkuyu. True enough, when swimming
near the point where this river flows into the sea one notices that the water is colder. If you
taste the water you will also notice that it is less salty. All this is caused by the underground
river coming from the famous Hell Depression.
The Mediterranean Sea is very salty, so you need to take a shower after having swum in the
sea, to get rid of the salt. In this inlet however, you may not need a shower as much.
The fish of less salty seas are tastier, because cold and less salty water firms up the meat of
the fish, which in its turn makes it tastier. The fact that Narlıkuyu’s fish restaurants are so
famous may be due to this lower saltiness of seawater.
The Three Graces / Poimenios’s bath
Inside a stone building very near to the sea, there is a very artistic mosaic dating from the
4th century AD. Poimenios, who must clearly have been a very high level dignitary of the
Eastern Roman Empire, had a bath built here to take advantage of the “mysterious” sweet
water source in the inlet. He had the pavement of the bath covered with a mosaic depicting
the Three Graces.
The Three Graces Mosaic
This mosaic, the dominant colours of which are white, black and golden yellow, depicts the
Three Graces or gratiae in Latin (the sisters Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne), who were young
and beautiful half goddesses, dancing.
The bath is decorated with images of local birds and flowers. It is as if the partridges and
turtledoves were shyly following the dance of the Three Graces. The Three Graces symbolised
prettiness, beauty and attractiveness and were close friends of the Muses, who were the
protectors of the arts and sciences. The Three Graces sang, and in a state of abandon danced
to the tunes of the lyre played by Apollo. They were also known as “Zeus’s daughters” and
entertained the gods on Mount Olympus. However even mere mortals could touch them
lightly and in that moment their hearts would fill with happiness.
Heseidos, who was a writer of ancient times, describes them thus in his book titled Theogonia
(Birth of the Gods):
”These were graceful girls born to the relation between Zeus and Eurynome (……) and
Eurynome, the beautiful daughter of Okeanos, had from Zeus three red cheeked girls like
balls of light. When they danced love would pour forth from her eyes.”