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A History f Fethiye
Fethiye is a coastal town in southwest Turkey endowed with a rich classical history. Scholars believe that more than 2000 years ago is was a significant town on the boarders of Lycia and Caria when it was called Telmessos, or the City of Light. There are also those that support the theory that this area of the Mediterranean Coast has been a continuous centre of habitation since ancient times. One widespread and popular, but unsubstantiated legend is that, “In the early years of the Trojan War, the Lycian god Apollon fell in love with the daughter of Antenor, who was host to Odysseus and Menelaus. In order to capture the heart of this shy girl, he assumed the appearance of a small, lovable dog. When the girl was attracted to him, he revealed his true identity and they make love. Eventually a son was born to them whom they called Telmessos. A city was established in his name along the Lycian border and Apollon appointed his son as the prophet and soothsayer of the city.”

Coins attributed to the 5th Century BCE, bear the name of the city as Telebehi in the language of Lycia. Suidas was a Greek lexicographer living in Constantinople in the 10th Century CE and according to his writing the settlement has a history going back to the Trojan War. Herodotus specifically uses the name Telmessos as a famous centre of prophecy in Asia Minor and beyond. Alexander the Great is said to have survived being betrayed by of one of his men following the interpretation of one of his dreams, as told to him during his time in Halicarnassus, by the soothsayer Aristander of Telmessos, who accompanied Alexander during his expeditions.
Strabo describes the place of the city of Telmessos by saying, (in the Loeb translation) "After Daedela, then (I mean the mountain in Lycia) one comes to a Lycian town near it, Telmessus...". Research suggests that the place of the antique city of Telmessos the Fethiye of today. This is also confirmed by the word ‘Telmessos’ as the name of the antique city in many inscriptions, which have been found on the Fethiye’s borders.

Telmessos has been described as independent from Lycia during much of its existence but it seems that it did not differ so much from Lycia in terms of its political aspirations. Telmessos appears to have had the same legendary spirit of freedom as Lycia when confronted by Croesus, the King of Lydia, who conquered much of Anatolia and other Lycian cities in the 6th century BCE. In addition, it absorbed Greek colonisation like the other cities of Lycia but did not forsake its own traditions.

Persians, under Harpagos, entered Lycia circa 545 BCE, and 545 to 333 BCE is the span of time between the Persian conquest and Alexander's conquest. It appears that the extent of Persian control varied during that period. The War of Eurymedon was circa 466 BCE. After the Persians were defeated at the Battles of Salamis in 490 and Plataea in 489, their control over Lycia (and other parts) weakened, and Lycia (Telmessus is named separately) joined the Athenian Confederacy, aka the Delian League. This was set up to protect Greece and surrounding regions from further Persian attacks. Lycia (and Telmessus) are known to have paid their dues (taxes?) to the Confederacy in 452-451 BCE, 451-450 BCE and 446-445 BCE. Lycia broke with Athens at about 440 BCE but did not resume its close association (one source says "alliance") until sometime around the last decade of the 5th and the first of the 4th C BCE (i.e. 410-390).

Simmering discontent among the Persian Satraps in Western Anatolia came to a head in around 368 BCE. The diversion of Persian troops from Lycia encouraged Perikles of Limyra to invade western Lycia. Perikles seems to have been the ruler (some say "king") of eastern Lycia. He appears to have "conquered" as far west as Telmessus and in doing so fought and beat Artumpara. The date of Artumpara’s defeat is not known, nor is the fate of Perikles known - but the end of the Satrap's revolt is given as 362 BCE. Sometime thereafter, but before 352 BCE, the Persians handed control of Lycia to Mausollus - a Carian who had served as a Persian Satrap. He died in 352 BCE and his brother Pixodaros took his place. Alexander ended the control of Lycia by the Carians. After Alexander conquered Halicarnassus, Telmessos allegedly opened the doors of the city to him. Alexander had stood down his navy and the main purpose of his campaign along the Carian/Lycian coast was to occupy cities/ports thus denying them to the Persians. Nearchus, one of Alexander's supporters had been appointed local satrap by Alexander.

In 43 CE, the Province of Lycia and Pamphylia was established under Claudius and thenceforth the Romans exercised direct administrative control over the Province. The Council of Chalcedon (town on the Asian side of the Bosphorus) was a meeting between Bishops of the Christian church marking the final separation of the Orthodox Christians from Rome. Telmessos became less important at this time but there is nothing to suggest that this followed from Chalcedon. It certainly became weaker following the Arab raid in the 7th C. Anastasius II was emperor 713-715. It is likely that the citizens of Telmessus renamed it Anastasiopolis in gratitude for the funds provided by the emperor to repair the city's defences. There is some speculation about when the city was renamed Makri (Macre or Megre) - 9th, 10th or 13th centuries CE. One source suggests that Macre was the original name for Şovalye Island and the name came ashore when the island's defences proved inadequate and the island was abandoned.

In 1071 the War of Manzikert (or Malazgirt as it now is) opened the Anatolian highlands to the Seljuk Turks and Turkish tribes were seen in Makri from the end of 11th century. At the beginning, this does not appear to be a continuous occupation. Turkish colonies and dervishes introduced Islam to Anatolia superseding the Byzantine culture of the Middle Ages. Later Seljuk Turks conquered Anatolia as far as the Aegean coast and settled in the high valleys and rich savannas of Makri. By 1204, a border of sorts had appeared between the Byzantines and Turks. The Mongolian invasion that came during the second half of the 13th century resulted in division of the Seljuk Empire into scattered principalities as well as empowering the principalities of the area with help from the new Turkish clans and let them conquer the areas with non-Turkish populations. In this period, Meğri (The name of Makri was used during time because it is more inclined to Turkish) was conquered by Menteşe Bey and became part of the Menteşe Principality.

By this time, the Principality of Ottoman that lived in İznik and its environs widened its lands by its forming a government structure that has organization in a short time and Yıldırım Beyazıt made the Principality of Menteşe fall under the Government of Ottoman in 1390. But Ahmet Gazi who is the ruler of Principality of Menteşe defended Beçin and Meğri areas against the Ottomans. After the death of Ahmet Gazi who built a madrasah that was collapsed by Venice later, Menteşeoğulları was left without their lands and they supported Timur against the Ottomans and they took all of lands of the Principality of Menteşe back in 1402 in return to their support.

Menteşe Bey built a madrasa (Islamic religious school) in Meğri and died there in 1282. Following his death his sons inherited a great emirate (territory). Byzantium, which was troubled by this new Turkish power, sent General Filantreopus Alexius to re-conquer the area. The General regained Meğri and its surrounding areas and later rose in rebellion against Byzantine, uniting with the Turks but during this time General Alexius was defeated and killed. Menteşeoğulları (part of the Menteşe Dynasty) subsequently protected the area against the Knights of St. John and hindered its being re-captured many times.

By this time, the Ottomans, whose capital was the city of İznik, increased its dominance of the region by forming a government structure and in a short time, under the command of Yıldırım Beyazıt ensured that by 1390 the Principality of Menteşe fell under Ottoman control. But Ahmet Gazi who was the ruler of Principality of Menteşe defended Beçin and Meğri areas against the Ottomans. After the death of Ahmet Gazi, (who had also built a madrasa) conquering Venetians destroyed it. The first of seven Ottoman/Venetian Wars raged from 1463-79 and in 1473 the Venetians captured Makri. The sons of Menteşe were left without their lands but following their support for Timur against the Ottomans in 1402 they took back their lands in return for their support.

But later Menteşeoğullari changed allegiances and supported İsa Bey. The ensuing power struggle for the throne between the sons of Yıldırım Beyazıt resulted in Mehmet Çelebi laying to waste the whole region. In the period of Murat II, who ruled after Mehmet Çelebi, the Principality of Teke was lost in 1424 and the Principality of Menteşe was lost to the Christians in 1426. As a result the dominance of the Papal Forces, Venetians and the Knights St. John were increased in the area. In 1473, the Venetians conquered Makri, establishing a castle. They then moved to an island just of the Fethiye coast, which dominates the harbour. The island became known as the Island of Chevaliers and is still known to this day as Şovalye Island. The area only found peace following the conquest of Rhodos by Kanuni (Suleyman the Magnificent) in 1522.

Throughout this period, Livissi or Kayaköy as it is now called, was inhabited by ‘Rum’ or Greek Othodox Christians. The area was fertile and healthier than the coast; being away from the malarial swamps but Makri remained as the port town. The traveller and writer Charles Texier wrote that the population of Meğri was about one thousand in 1850. In the last decades of 19th century, the name of Menteşe was abolished and the area became part of Muğla. Meğri that was made a district in 1864, the first municipality organization was established in 1874 and Hacı Mehmet Agha of Rhodes was chosen as the first mayor. During the 1900s, Meğri was re-populated with Turks who came from Crete and Thrace. In 1914 following a decision by the town council, the name of this area was finally changed to Fethiye, in dedication to Fethi Bey; the first Turkish airplane pilot to die for his country although this was not officially recognised until 1934.

The district of Fethiye was once called Beşkaza, although quite when it became known as that is not altogether clear, although there is some evidence to suggest it was in frequent use during Ottoman times. The name of Beşkaza comes from an era when local jurisdiction was under the rule of five Muslim judges, possibly due to central government having a difficult time controlling the area. Historians have said that this was probably in the time of Menteşe; the government’s command being implemented by the assistants of Muslim Kahdis or judges (kadı or kaza meaning ‘jurisdiction’ or ‘district’ in Ottoman Turkish). The districts covered by the name Beşkaza comprise Yeşilüzümlü, Yaka-Doğa, Yakabağ-Esen, Ören and Kayaköy. During the division of land following the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the WWI, Venizelos, wanted the area to be given to Greece because of the great number of Greek Orthodox Christians living there but in the end Italians occupied Fethiye on 11 May 1919. The Italians tried to develop a good relationship with community during the short time they were there but departed after a short time, leaving Fethiye on 21 June 1920. Although many of Fethiye’s men fought and lost their lives in both WWI and the War of Independence the area itself did not witness any battles, even though the male population was decimated as a result of their fighting in the army.

 Arguably an even more tragic event for the region in the 20th century was that the loss of its Greek Orthodox population in Fethiye and Levissi to Greece following the forced exchange agreed in the treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk finally visited Fethiye by ship – the Aegean – on 22nd February 1935, by which time the town was developing rapidly and becoming a significant trading centre in the area. However, when a powerful earthquake struck the area on 24 April 1957 more than 90% of the houses in the town were destroyed. In spite of this disaster only 19 people lost their lives. This was mainly due to the wisdom of Nezih Okuş* who was the Governor of Fethiye at the time, and other local officials.

The devastation of the earthquake had a negative impact on the town’s economy and it took Fethiye a long time to recover. Fortunately, some parts of the town did survive and Paspatur is even today distinguishable from the rest by its traditional architectural style. The tomb of Amyntas still watches over the bustling modern centre of Fethiye, as it has for more than 2,000 years and overlooking the harbour a classical amphitheatre reveals the town’s historical significance.

 KAMİL NEZİH OKUŞ (1923-1990)

Kamil Nezih Okuş was a son of the Republic; born in 1923 (the year that the Republic of Turkey was created) in Izmir. He graduated in politics at university and later joined the Civil Sevice and during the course of his career he became the local Governor (Kaymakam) of Karlıova from 1949 to 1952 before moving to Hacıbektaş where he stayed from 1952 to 1956. Then he became the local Governor of Fethiye in 1956 until 1957 and was of course there when the earthquakes struck the town. On the night of 24th April and the morning of 25th 1957, two earthquakes shook the town. Okuş sensed that these quakes would be devastating and ordered the population to leave their homes and assemble in open places. This minimized loss of life considerably and he is honoured for his foresight and planning to this day. His reward was to be promoted and subsequently sent to London to study, before being assigned to another governorship. Okus Nezih Kamil, also distinguished itself as a fine athlete. He was selected for the National basketball Team even when he was posted to Denizli (1964/67) as the Regional Goveronor (Vali). He then moved on to Rize (1967/70) then Kütahya (1970/72) before finally becoming the Regional Governor of Adana (1972/74). Okuş retired in 1974 and died in 1990.



 
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