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Beşparmak Mountains (Latmus; (Ancient Greek Λάτμος)) is a ridge of many spurs running in an east-west direction along the north shore of the former Latmian Gulf[1] on the coast of Caria, which became part of Hellenised Ionia. The city of Latmus, located on the south slopes of Mount Latmus Template:Convert east of Miletus,[2] was originally a port on the narrow gulf, as reported by Strabo.[3] He also states that Latmus is the same as Mount Phthires in the Catalogue of Trojans.[4]

The mouth of the Gulf of Latmus began to fill with sediment from the Maeander river, which emptied into it, even in classical antiquity. By 300 CE Lake Bafa had formed behind the estuary marshes.[5] It gradually diminished in salinity and would now be fresh water except that canals to the Aegean introduce a saline element. The ecology remains a brackish-water one and the lake has been made a bird sanctuary. Its area of Template:Convert with a maximum depth of Template:Convert still extends from the base of the west spur of Mount Latmus, although, having lost its port, the ancient medium-sized town of Herakleia (Latmus) has declined in size and facilities to the small village of Kapikiri.

Beşparmak looms far beyond Kapikiri to the east for a total distance of about Template:Convert, Template:Convert to Template:Convert wide. It is deeply eroded by various streams into spurs. The spur that can be seen from Kapikiri is one Dağ, or "mountain", but the entire ridge with all the spurs is Dağlar, "mountains", in the sense of "range." The ancient writers generally recognized the western spur over the gulf as Latmus, but Strabo reports that the ridge east was called Mount Grium and extended through Caria.[3]


File:Aegean Sea and Anatolian Plates map-fr.png

The morphotectonic configuration of Anatolia and the Aegean is a result of continental drift movements associated with the Alpine orogeny, a zone of mountain-building caused by the collision of the African and Arabian Plates with the Eurasian Plate. The former have been slipping under the latter compressing and lifting the edge and creating zones of metamorphic rock from previous layers of sedimentary rock. These zones in the Aegean are represented by a number of massifs that were originally buried by crustal subduction: the Rhodope, Kazdag, Menderes, Cycladic and Crete.

For various geologic reasons, modelled differently by different geologists, the zone of compression in the Aegean became one of extension: the region widened and dome-like or ovoid massifs were uncovered, or exhumed, from the subduction zones and rose by isostasy. In the case of the Menderes Massif, which is Template:Convert, the reasons are better known due to geologic research in central Turkey. Anatolia is a triangular block created by the intersection in central Turkey of the North and East Anatolian faults. As the northward-pressing Arabian Plate pushes against this wedge the latter slips to the west but the broad end opens along fault lines like the rays of a fan, extending the massif to the north-northeast and south. This is being called a bivergent (diverges in two places) model.

The entire massif is divided or nearly so by a karst topography into three sections: the Gordes Massif north of the Alasehir or Gediz graben, the Cine Massif south of the Büyük Menderes graben and the Central Massif between. The latter is split like a forked tongue by the Küçük Menderes Graben into the Kuzey Detachment to the north and the Guney Detachment to the south. Mycale is part of the Guney Detachment, while Latmus is in the Cine Massif.

The Graben are low-key rift valleys. There have been some small intrusions of magma into the graben appearing now as granito-diorite outcrops. Dates on thin sections of monazite obtained from the earliest exhumed rocks of the graben suggest "... that the Cenozoic extension in the Gordes Massif, and possibly the entire Menderes Massif, might have begun in the Late Oligocene."[6] Despite the rare intrusions, the massif is not of volcanic origin. Most of the visible layer is light, metamorphic rock of various kinds, especially marble and schists.

Except for alluvial fans of impermeable clay the rock is highly porous due to a network of small faults, which dips into the warmer regions below the surface. Warm springs and vapors are common, giving the appearance of volcanic activity. The ancients cross-culturally viewed these phenomena as being caused by divinities, which rock-paintings indicate they worshipped. The north slopes of Latmus are subject to heavy and damaging mudslides, which also would have contributed to the idea that it was a god.


Latmus appears in Greek mythology as the site of the cave where Selene's consort Endymion lies forever young and beautiful in blissful sleep.


Beginning in 1994 about 170 rock paintings have been discovered in shallow caves and overhangs near springs at the foot of Mount Latmus overlooking Lake Bafa.[7] They came to light in a survey conducted by Anneliese Peschlow of the German Archaeology Institute.[8] Peschlow dates the earliest to about 6000 BCE and believes from other findings that the region has been continuously occupied since then. She is currently working to get Mount Latmus reserved as a national park.

The paintings, which are done entirely in red, depict mainly social and religious scenes. Different representations of the mountain include a dragon, indicating that it was worshipped as a god; that is, Latmus was a sacred mountain at least as early as the Early Bronze Age.

A 2004 palynological study of two sediment cores taken from Lake Bafa near Kapikiri (Baf S1) and from the western depth (Baf S6) suggests a habitation sequence of the Büyük Menderes River valley and the shores of Latmus that appears to support the early history of the region. Baf S1, containing the oldest sediment, is layered in four subsections, the first carbon dated to before 4000 BCE.

From the pollen of subsection 1 a model can be constructed[9] of a lightly-grazed climax forest of deciduous oak and pine: 27.6% Quercus pubescens, 14.6% Pinus and lesser concentrations of Isoetes histrix. Low levels of the pasture weed, Plantago lanceolata, indicate a low level of grazing by animals belonging to indigenes that lived somewhere else. There is no evidence that they settled or grew crops in the region.

Subsection 2, dated 1240/1126 BCE to 710/558 BCE, represents a settlement from the Beyşehir Occupation Phase of southern Anatolia, dated there 3500/3000 BP to 1500 BP.[10] It has a specific palynological profile of "secondary anthropogenic indicators;" that is, not pollen of cultivated plants but of other species growing on cultivated land: certain percentages of Plantago lanceolata, Sanguisorba minor, Pistacia, Platanus, Quercus calliprinos and Juniperus.

The Lake Bafu profile shows the replacement of deciduous oak and pine with maquis species: Phillyrea, Cistus, Ericaceae; fruit trees: Olea, Castanea; and farm weeds: Plantago lanceolata and Juniperus. Carbon in the sediment suggests the forest was cleared by slash and burn. This period corresponds to the settlement of the Carians in the area, who apparently moved in from southern Anatolia. There is a semi-legendary tradition that they subdued another Pre-Hellenic people, the Leleges, but the evidence is not precise enough to say if the indigenes were all or partly Leleges. As the Carians worshipped Endymion, he may have been brought in at this time.

Subsection 3 reveals an abandonment of the cleared areas, the decline of Olea, and the spread of Pistacia, Pinus brutia and Quercus coccifera (instead of deciduous oak) on formerly cleared land and in the maquis. As this is the time of the rise of Ionia, the palynological scenario suggests a movement of population from the land to the newly settled or expanded big cities of the Ionian League. Subsection 4 and Baf S6 go on to catalogue the return of the fruit trees, re-clearing the land for pasture, planting of rye and other cereals, ultimate destabilization of the soil through over-use, denudation and acceleration of sedimentation. After the sealing off of the bay to form the lake, population and land use declined to their current low levels around Latmus, but the river valley is cultivated.


File:Miletus Bay silting evolution map-en.svg

With the expansion of Greek culture, Latmus became a member of the Delian League in the fifth century BCE. In the fourth century the Persian satrap (a Carian) Mausolus of Halicarnassus captured the city by a ruse[11] and fortified it with a circuit wall;[12] under Hellenising influence the city was refounded a kilometer to the west[13] on a rectilinear grid system[14] as Heracleia under Latmos,[15] dedicated to the hero Heracles.[16] The modern village of Kapıkırı is built among the ruins.

The temenos, or sanctuary of Endymion, with pre-Greek origins, was rebuilt in Hellenistic times, and may still be seen on a rise to the south of the ancient city.[17] The building faces the southwest; it has a cella with a horseshoe-shaped rear wall partly cut out of the bedrock, with an entrance hall and columned forecourt.

A temple of Athena at Heracleia reveals its earlier foundation by not being aligned with the Hellenistic street pattern.

In the seventh century CE the many caves in this karstic terrain attracted communities of Christian monks supported by the plentiful fish in Lake Bafa. Endymion was Christianised as a mystic saint, whose coffin was opened annually and whose bones emitted musical tones[18] and the site drew pilgrims. In the ninth century, Joseph the Hymnographer was tonsured in the monastery of Latmus.


  1. Латмійська затока
  2. Turkish Milet, not to be confused with Turkish Milas.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Template:Cite web
  4. Iliad Book II line 868.
  5. Template:Cite journal
  6. Template:Cite journal
  7. Template:Cite news
  8. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.
  9. Template:Cite journal
  10. Template:Cite journal
  11. Polyainos 7.23.2 reports the capture of Latmos by Mausolos, and 8.53.4 by Artemisia as sole ruler.
  12. The wall, originally with sixty-five towers (Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites 1976), is one of the best-preserved urban fortifications of Antiquity.
  13. The old city site became a necropolis.
  14. The rectilinear grid of streets typical of Hellenistic foundations is traditionally credited to Alexander's architect Hippodamus of Miletus.
  15. Whether or not Alexandria by Latmus was identical to this Heracleia is still an open question, according to Getzel M. Cohen, The Hellenistic Settlements in Europe, the Islands, and Asia Minor. (Hellenistic Culture and Society, 17) (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1995: 245f; the city was called s also called Pleistarcheia for a while (pp. 261-263).
  16. Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites 1976; see also P.M. Fraser, Cities of Alexander the Great (Oxford 1996:28-29) and A.W. McNicoll, Hellenistic Fortifications from the Aegean to the Euphrates (Oxford 1997:75-81).
  17. Pausanias remarked "The Eleians and the Herakleians near Miletos tell different stories about Endymion's death; the Eleians show you Endymion's tomb but the Herakleians say he went away to Mount Latmos, where they honour him and have a holy place of Endymion." (v.1.5).
  18. Peter Levi, ed. Pausanias, Guide to Greece 1979:198 note 7.

See alsoEdit

Template:Mountains of Turkey

External linksEdit

Template:Former settlements in Turkeyca:Latmus de:Beşparmak Dağları

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