The Lycians were an Anatolian people living in Lycia.

Historical accounts

According to Herodotus, the Lycians originally came from Crete and were the followers of Sarpedon. They were expelled by Minos and ultimately settled in territories belonging to the Solymoi (or Milyans) of Milyas in Asia Minor. The Lycians were originally known as Termilae before being named after Lycus who was the son of Pandion. Their customs are partly from Crete and partly from Caria. Herodotus mentions a particular custom where the Lycians name themselves after their mothers instead of their fathers.[1] Strabo, on the other hand, mentions "Trojan Lycians" and suspects them to be different from the Termilae already mentioned by Herodotus.[2][3]


Throughout the 1950s, P. Demargne and H. Metzger meticulously explored the site of Xanthos in Lycia, which included an acropolis.[4] Metzger reported the discovery of Geometric pottery dating the occupation of the citadel to the 8th century BC. J.M. Cook concluded that these discoveries constituted the earliest form of material culture in Lycia since the region was uninhabited throughout prehistoric times. The Lycians may ultimately have been nomadic settlers that descended into the southwestern areas of Asia Minor only during the 8th century BC.[5]

See also


  1. Macaulay, G.C. and Lateiner, Donald. The Histories. Spark Educational Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-59308-102-2, p. 63. "The Lykians however have sprung originally from Crete (for in old time the whole of Crete was possessed by Barbarians). When the sons of Europa, Sarpedon and Minos, came to be at variance in Crete about the kingdom, Minos having got the better in the strife of parties drove out both Sarpedon himself and those of his party. Those expelled came to the land of Milyas in Asia, for the land which now the Lykians inhabit was anciently called Milyas, and the Milyans were then called Solymoi. Now while Sarpedon reigned over them, they were called by the name which they had when they came thither, and by which the Lykians are even now called by the neighbouring tribes, namely Termilai; but when from Athens Lycos the son of Pandion came to the land of the Termilai and to Sarpedon, he too having been driven out by his brother namely Aigeus, then by the name taken from Lycos they were called after a time Lykians. The customs which these have are partly Cretan and partly Carian; but one custom they have which is peculiar to them, and in which they agree with no other people, that is they call themselves by their mothers and not by their father; and if one asks his neighbour who he is, he will state his parentage on the mother's side and enumerate his mother's female ascendants. If a woman who is a citizen marry a slave, the children are accounted to be of gentle birth; but if a man who is a citizen, though he were the first man among them, have a slave for wife or concubine, the children are without civil rights."
  2. Strabo. Geographica, 12.8.4. "The existence of two groups of Lycians arouses suspicion that they were of the same tribe, whether it was the Trojan Lycians or those near Caria that colonized the country of the other of the two."
  3. Strabo. Geographica, 12.8.5. "Not only the Carians, who in earlier times were islanders, but also the Leleges, as they say, became mainlanders with the aid of the Cretans, who founded, among other places, Miletus, having taken Sarpedon from the Cretan Miletus as founder; and they settled the Termilae in the country which is now called Lycia; and they say that these settlers were brought from Crete by Sarpedon, a brother of Minos and Rhadamanthus, and that he gave the name Termilae to the people who were formerly called Milyae, as Herodotus says, and were in still earlier times called Solymi, but that when Lycus the son of Pandion went over there he named the people Lycians after himself. Now this account represents the Solymi and the Lycians as the same people, but the poet makes a distinction between them."
  4. Cook, p. 54. "The remainder of this survey is of necessity sketchy and selective. In LYCIA P. Demargne and H. Metzger have carried out an extensive exploration of the site of XANTHUS in the years 1950-1959. They have devoted special attention to the so-called Lycian acropolis which rises sheer above the river; this seems to have been the citadel of Xanthus in early times, with monumental tombs of its occupants on the shelf to the north.
  5. Cook, p. 55. "Professor Metzger now kindly informs me that Geometric pottery has been found at the citadel, thus dating the occupation back to the eighth century (and so to the time of Homer). This is the earliest stratum encountered at Xanthus—despite the recent researches in the field—in Lycia as a whole. The problem of Lycian origins is a baffling one. The country may have been uninhabited in prehistoric times; but it is strange if the Lycians did not descend into south-west Asia Minor until the eighth century. It may be that nomadic settlement, leaving virtually no trace behind, is in part the explanation here."


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