Sited halfway up the ancient Mount Kragos – the modern coastal peak of Avlankara Tepesi – Sidyma is the remotest of the Xanthos valley’s ancient cities. Indeed, it’s scarcely in the valley at all. Set in a striking landscape astride the Lycian Way, it’s a rewarding, understated site that was only “rediscovered” by Europeans during the mid-nineteenth century, and has never been properly excavated.
Sidyma is one of many ancient sites in this part of the world to have been reoccupied at a much later date by local people, who have used the remains as a handy depository of ready-hewn stone blocks to build their own homes. Today’s settlement is known as Dudurga, and the village mosque not only occupies the site of the baths but reuses pillars from the agora’s stoa. Indeed the principal charm of Sidyma is how ancient masonry crops up everywhere: incorporated into house corners, used as livestock troughs, sprouting incongruously in courtyards next to satellite dishes. An exceedingly ruined castle, garrisoned in Byzantine times, sits on a hill to the north; scattered in the fields to the east, and requiring some scrambling over walls to reach, the necropolis holds various tomb types, though most have angular gabled roofs rather than the “Gothic” vaulted ones seen elsewhere.
Near the centre of the agricultural plain is a group of remarkable, contiguous tombs: one has ceiling panels carved with rosettes and human faces, while the adjacent tomb sports a relief of Eros on its lid and Medusas at the ends (a motif repeated elsewhere). Another spectacular cluster, including one tomb with two storeys, covers the low ridge beyond the fields.
The enormous, fairly intact, square structure in the middle of the necropolis is probably a Roman imperial heroön or temple-tomb. There’s a walled-up doorway on its north side.