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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 enough.)

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 Byzantine times.

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 further on.

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 same area.

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) River!

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 it administratively.

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 (Diocaesarea)
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 was stamped.

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.

Susanoğlu, Narlıkuyu
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.”




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