Famous Citizens of Lycia
Fresco of St. Nicholas in the Church of St. Nicholas, Demre
Lycia's celebrity. St. Nicholas was a popular bishop at Myra in the 4th century AD, born in Patara between 260 AD and 280, famous for his miracles and known for his kindness. His parents died of the plague and he was left a wealthy young man.
It is said that he was thrown into prison by Emperor Diocletian, perhaps participated in the Council of Nicaea, implored Emperor Constantine for a large tax reduction for Myra which was granted and destroyed Myra's renowned temple of Artemis (among many others). After the death of St. Nicholas, Myra became a rich pilgrimage centre with many new churches built, including the beautiful Church of St. Nicholas.
In 1087 Italian merchants, during the confusion of the Seljuk invasion, stole his body at Myra and transported it to Bari in Italy, which became a pilgimage center and where his relics are still preserved today. An oily substance called Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them. Venetian sailors also claimed to have taken the body.
St. Nicholas' cult spread beyond the Byzantine Empire in the 6th -11th centuries, celebrated especially in the East Church under Russian imperial patronage. He later became the patron saint of Greece and Russia as well as of children, sailors, merchants, scholars, those unjustly imprisoned and travelers.
St. Nicholas was known for his charitable nature and humility. Several legends about him have been based on his kind and giving nature and have led to the development of Santa Claus.
His representations in art are as various as his alleged miracles.
For more infomation about St. Nicholas, see the website St. Nicholas: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus.
Antiochis was a doctor at Tlos in the late first century BC or early first century AD. Galen, the most famous physician of antiquity, stated that she developed an effective medicine for rheumatism and sciatica as well as treatments for dropsy and diseases of the spleen. A book about hemorrages was dedicated to her, written by Heracleides of Tarentum. The city council of Tlos allowed her the right to erect a statue of herself in the city. The statue base, found in the forum of Tlos, reads: "Antiochis, daughter of Diadotos, of Tlos, marked by the council and people of Tlos for her achievement in the medical art, erected this statue of herself."
Opramoas was a very wealthy Lycian citizen who lived in the first half of the second century AD in the small town of Rhodiapolis in eastern Lycia near present day Kumluca (Eskihisar). He is well-known for his philanthropy and lived during a period when the Roman Empire provided peace in Anatolia and public works in cities were highly developed. It is not known exactly how Opramoas became so wealthy, but it is known that the rents he received from his lands and the interest he received from commercial ventures made up a portion of his wealth.
Not much is left of Rhodiapolis besides a theatre, but the remains of Opramoas' mausoleum were found there and among the rubble long inscriptions were discovered which once decorated the walls of his tomb. These long inscriptions describe the good deads Opramoas performed during his lifetime, letters from the emperor and records of the assembly. They are the longest known inscriptions in Anatolia in the Greek language where information is provided regarding administrative, social and economic activities and relations. Other inscriptions found in other Lycian cities give other details about this esteemed man.
Based on inscriptions it is known that Opramoas:
- Was promoted to prominent posts from
110-155 AD and acted as an administrative, military and religious
learder in the Assemby of the Lycian Federation and in important cities
of the region. He was honoured many times in the Assembly of the
Federation, many of which were approved by the Roman emperors.
- Donated much money for the rebuilding of
more than 30 Lycian cities following the catastrophic earthquake in 141
AD in which many cities were demolished. At Myra he donated 200,000
denarii to repair the theatre,
temple and gymnasium and to decorate the gymnasium and surrounding
peristyle with marble.
- Donated money for civic building, such
as baths and certain oracular shrines. Many cities received money such
which received 7,000 denarii towards a stoa and an
Augustus temple. He is also known to have
funded the construction of the theatres of Xanthos, Tlos, and Limyra. At
Tlos, he donated 60,000
denarii for the "exedra in the baths" and towards the amphitheatre.
- Distributed wheat to needy citizens and
donated money for the education and nourishment of needy children
- Provided dowries for some government
employees and young girls and funeral expenses for some elderly
- Assisted in the funding of festivals and
ceremonies organized in honour of the gods and emperors and held
festivals in his name every four years to help pay for these
- Owned lands in many Lycian cities, some
of which he donated directly for charitable purposes and others from
which he donated the income.
Researchers have determined that during his
lifetime Opramoas contributed approximately 2 billion denarii for these
activities. Quite an enormous amount, considering that the wage of a
shepherd or menial worker was about 10 denarii during this period.
Another wealthy man of Lycia who gave great
donations to the city of Myra. Following the earthquake of 141 AD
Licinius Lanfus donated 10,000 denarii for the rebuilding of the theatre and
Yet another Lycian philanthropist and a contemporary of Opramoas and Licinius Lanfus, said to have contributed to the development many cities - 16 Lycian cities issued honorific decrees for him. He is said to given handsome monetary gifts to the city of Myra. He was an important man and became the Lyciarch (the head of the assembly).
Theodora was a lobbyist for Lycian
interests at Corinth in the mid-1st century AD and was a Roman citizen.
The Lycian Federation issued two decrees in her honour and presented her
with a crown of gold, her portrait painted on a gold background and five
minas of saffron. Myra, Patara and Telmessos also honoured her with
decrees of gratitude for her assistance. According to the decrees, did
excellent work in gaining the favour with authorities for Lycian interests.
She also provided hospitality ambassadors and private citizens from the
Lycian Assembly and from Lycian cities in her home. Upon her death,
her will favoured the Lycians. Sextus Julius, her agent and heir,
assisted her in her work.
Diogenes of Oenoanda was a philosopher and prominent citizen who lived in the second century AD and is famous for making one of the most exraordinary inscriptions of ancient times. He had found peace of mind in the teachings of Epicurus and in order to show the people in Oenoanda the road to happiness, he commissioned a inscription 80 metres long and more than 3 metres high which set out Epicurean doctrines in about 25,000 words. The huge inscription was placed in the agora and its large inscribed letters were painted - nobody could miss it. This inscription is one of the most important sources for the philosophical school of Epicurus. Today it is broken but its fragements are being studied. Many of its blocks were used for building houses, paving streets, etc. – most probably during the early Christian era. They have been discovered one by one since the late 19th century.
Read more about the inscription in: Epicurus in Lycia: The Second-Century World of Diogenes of Oenoanda by Pamela Gordon. University of Michigan Press (February 1, 1997).
Epicurism assured people that there was nothing to fear from death, for the reason that there is no afterlife: death is the end of us, because the only reality is physical reality. It conveyed the ultimate conviction that individuals can live in serene happiness, fortified by the continual experience of modest pleasures.
This short summery of Epicurism is part of Diogenes' inscription:
No fearing God.
No fearing Death.
Good is attainable.
Evil is endurable.
Another section of the inscription (fragment 30) states in a transcription by professor M.F. Smith:
WE contrived this [inscription] in order that, even while sitting at home, we might be able to exhibit the goods of philosophy, not to all people here indeed, but to those of them who are civil-spoken; and not least we did this for those who are called "foreigners," though they are not really so. For, while the various segments of the earth give different people a different country, the whole compass of this world gives all people a single country, the entire earth, and a single home, the world.
I am not pressurising any of you into testifying thoughtlessly and unreflectively in favour of those who say "this is true" for I have not laid down the law on anything, not even on matters concerning the gods, unless together with reasoning.
One thing only I ask of you, as I did also just now: do not, even if you should be somewhat indifferent and listless, be like passers-by in your approach to the writings, consulting each of them in a patchy fashion and omitting to read everythng.
Some of Epicurism's ethical maxims as paraphrased by Ken Mylot
(from his website about Epicurism):
1. Extravagant wealth is of no more benefit to men and women than water is to an already full glass. Both are useless and unnecessary.
2. We can achieve great satisfaction when we look upon the wealth and vast possessions of others by remembering that we are not troubled by those desires nor are we a slave to the labors and duties necessary to fulfill such wants.
3. These are the root of all evil: fear of god, of death, of pain, and desire which goes beyond what nature requires for a happy life.
4. Nothing contributes more to serenity than a simple lifestyle that is not too busy, that does not demand that we engage in disagreeable tasks, and that does not require us to push ourselves beyond our power and strength.
Note: Some of the information regarding Opramoas on this page was obtained from an article in landoflights.net "Immortal Opramoas" by Hüseyin Köktürk (archaeologist), Feb. 4, 2006 and from Cultural Heritage Language Technologies chlt.net. Information about Antiochis and Junia Theodora is from Femina Habilis: A Biographical Dictionary of Active Women in the Ancient Roman World from Earliest Times to 527 CE by Dr. Kathryn E. Meyer of Washington State University History Department and M.J. Engh, author and an independent scholar of Roman history.