Modern Fethiye is located on the site of the ancient city of Telmessos, the ruins of which can be seen in the city, e.g. the Hellenistic theatre by the main quay. A Lycian legend explains the source of the name Telmessos as follows: The god Apollo falls in love with the youngest daughter of the King of Phoenicia, Agenor. He disguises himself as a small dog and thus gains the love of the shy, withdrawn daughter. After he reappears as a handsome man, they have a son, who they name 'Telmessos' (the land of lights).
The city became part of the Persian Empire after the invasion of the Persian general Harpagos in 547 BC, along with other Lycian and Carian cities. Telmessos then joined the Attic-Delos Union (Delian League) established in mid-5th century BC. and, although it later left the union and became an independent city, continued its relations with the union until the 4th century BC.
Very little is known of the city during Byzantine times. Surviving buildings attest to considerable prosperity during late Antiquity, but most were abandoned in the 7th–8th centuries due to the Arab-Byzantine Wars. The city was fortified in the 8th century, and appears as "Telmissos or Anastasioupolis" ca. 800. By the 10th century, the ancient name was forgotten and it became known as Makre or Makri (Μάκρη, "long one"), from the name of the island at the entrance to the harbour. In the 12th–13th centuries there are signs of renewed prosperity: the city walls were enlarged, a report from 1106 names Makre a centre for perfume production, and geographical works from the 13th century describe the city as a commercial centre. The area fell to the Turks in the late 12th or early 13th century. It became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1424, and was called مكرى Meğri until 1934. The town grew considerably in the 19th century, and had a large Greek population at this time. Following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the Greeks of Makri were sent to Greece where they founded the town of Nea Makri (New Makri) in Greece. The town was resettled with Turks from Greece. At nearby Kayaköy, formerly Levissi, the abandoned Greek Orthodox church is still standing. In 1934, the city was renamed 'Fethiye' in honor of Yüzbaşı Fethi Bey [de], one of the first pilots of the Ottoman Air Force, killed in 1914 by Al-Samra.
Fethiye has experienced many earthquakes. Last significant ones date to 1957 and 1961, with 67 casualties and 3200 damaged buildings after 25 April 1957 earthquake. The town has been rebuilt since then and now has a modern harbor and a marina.
On 3 August 1953, Air France Flight 152, while en route from Rome to Beirut, ditched into the Gulf of Fethiye off Kızılada. Of the 8 crew and 34 passengers on board, four drowned. The survivors were hosted by the residents during their stay in the town.
Kayaköy, anciently known in Greek as Karmilassos, shortened to Lebessos (Ancient Greek: Λεβέσσος) and pronounced in Modern Greek as Livissi (Greek: Λειβίσσι), is presently a village 8 km south of Fethiye in southwestern Turkey in the old Lycia province. From Ancient Greek the town name shifted to Koine Greek by the Roman period, evolved into Byzantine Greek in the Middle Ages, and finally became the Modern Greek name still used by its townspeople before their final evacuation in 1923. In late antiquity the inhabitants of the region had become Christian and, following the East-West Schism with the Catholic Church in 1054 AD, they came to be called Greek Orthodox Christian. These Greek-speaking Christian subjects, and their Turkish-speaking Ottoman rulers, lived in relative harmony from the end of the turbulent Ottoman conquest of the region in the 14th century until the early 20th century, when the rise of nationalism led to persecution of minorities within the Ottoman realm and the eventual creation of modern Turkey by the Turkish National Movement. The massacres of Greeks and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire during World War I (1914–1918) led to the almost total depopulation of the town's 6,500 Greek inhabitants by 1918. These former inhabitants were bereaved of their properties and became refugees in Greece, or they died in Ottoman forced labour battalions (cf. Number 31328, an autobiography by a Greek-speaking novelist from a similar coastal town in Turkey).
Following these events the Allied victors in World War I authorized the occupation of Smyrna, which still had many Greek inhabitants, by Greece in May 1919. This led to the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, the subsequent defeat of Greece, and the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. That treaty contained a protocol, the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which barred permanently the return of any prior Greek Orthodox refugees to their homes in Turkey (including the previous Livissi refugees) and required that any remaining Orthodox Christian citizens of Turkey leave their homes for Greece (with an exception for Greeks living in Istanbul).
The treaty also required that Greece's Muslim Turkish-speaking citizens permanently leave Greece for Turkey (with an exception for Turkish Muslims living in Greek Thrace). Most of these Greek Muslims were used by the Turkish state to settle its now empty Greek Christian towns, but Greek Muslims did not wish to settle in Livissi due to rumors of ghosts of the Greeks killed there.
The ghost town, now preserved as a museum village, consists of hundreds of rundown but still mostly standing Greek-style houses and churches which cover a small mountainside and serve as a stopping place for tourists visiting Fethiye and nearby Ölüdeniz.
Livissi/ Kayaköy village
The village is now empty except for tour groups and roadside vendors selling handmade goods. However, there is a selection of houses which have been restored, and are currently occupied. Much of what remains of Livissi was built in the 18th century. Lycian style tombs can be found in the village and at Gokceburun, north of the village. Lebessus is mentioned as a Christian bishopric in the Notitia Episcopatuum of Pseudo-Epiphanius composed under the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in about 640, and in the similar early 10th-century document attributed to Emperor Leo VI the Wise, as a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Myra, the capital of the Roman province of Lycia, to which Lebessus belonged. Since it is no longer a residential bishopric, Lebessus is listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.
Livissi is probably the place where the inhabitants of Byzantine Gemiler Island fled to protect themselves from pirates. It experienced a renewal after nearby Fethiye (known as Makri) was devastated by an earthquake in 1856 and a major fire in 1885. More than 20 churches and chapels were built in the village and the plain (Taxiarhes – the 'Upper' church – and 'Panayia Pyrgiotissa' – the 'lower' church – St. Anna, St. George, etc.). Most of them are still standing in ruinous or semi-ruinous condition. The village population was over 6.000 people, according to Greek and Ottoman sources.
The persecutions of Livissi inhabitants as well as Greeks of nearby Makri (Fethiye) were part of the wider campaign against all Ottoman Greeks and other Christians of the Empire (cf. Armenian deaths in World War I). The persecutions in the area started in 1914 in Makri. In 1916, a letter in Greek addressed to Sir Alfred Biliotti, the Consul General of Great Britain at Rhodes, explained the murders and persecution of Livissi and Macri Greeks who asked him for intervention. Unfortunately, the letter was intercepted at Livissi by Turkish authorities. Later that same year, many families of Livissi were deported and driven on foot to Denizli, around 220 km away. There, they suffered various extreme atrocities and tortures, facing even death.
Two more exile phases followed in 1917 and 1918. In 1917, families were sent in villages near Denizli, such as Acıpayam, through forced march of fifteen days, consisting mainly of the elderly, women and children, who had remained in the area. During that death march, the roads were strewn with bodies of dead children and the elderly who succumbed to hunger and fatigue. The exiles of the next year were no less harsh.
At the start of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) Kayaköy was already nearly empty of its former inhabitants. When this war ended in September 1922, the few remaining Greeks of Livissi and Makri were forced to abandon their homes and embark on ships to Greece. Some of them founded the refugee settlement of Nea Makri (New Makri) outside of Athens.
Many of the town's empty buildings were damaged in the 1957 Fethiye earthquake.
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