The Legend of Caunus and Byblis

There are different versions of the legend, however, they all have to do with the incestuous love of Caunus and his twin sister, Byblis. Caunus was the son of Miletus and Eidothea, daughter of the Carian king, Eurytus. Byblis fell in love with her brother. But when she declared her love, Caunus rejected her and ran away to a far off land. He named that land Kaunos. In her desperate passion, she went to look for him but had no luck in changing his heart. She wept many tears of despair that became the Dalyan River.

A Brief History of Kaunos

Human activity in this region dates back to around the tenth century BCE. The Kaunians settled there beginning around the sixth century BCE. But real architectural structures did not surface until around the fourth century BCE. The Greek historian, Herodotus, wrote that he believed the Kaunians were the indigenous people of the region. Their language and culture indicated that they had a close association with their neighbors, the Carians. However, Herodotus pointed out differences between the two cultures in their social customs.

Kaunos peaked during a time of expanding maritime trade. It was in a strategic place between the two seas, and there were many desirable goods at Kaunos that could provision a long overseas journey. They traded dried fish, salt, dried figs, agricultural products, materials for shipbuilding and repair, and slaves. Many governments wanted control of this wealthy port city. Thus, it changed political hands many times during its existence.

From roughly 500 BCE to 600 CE this port city flourished. It was conquered repeatedly by different forces until the Romans finally took control around 85 BCE. Eventually, the inhabitants abandoned the city circa 1500 CE, and it lay forgotten for roughly 500 years.Although scholars knew about it from old texts, they were never able to find it. That was until a British Naval Officer, R. Hoskyn, discovered it in 1842. Since then, archaeologists have been uncovering the city’s melting pot of cultural influences and artifacts.

Decline of Kaunos

The Dalyan Delta had been depositing large quantities of silt at the ports over time, and a large amount of landmass was added to the original coastline. This slowed and eventually stopped all maritime trade and the city became impoverished. Muslim groups and raiders began attacking the area from about 600 CE. After the Turkish invasion in the fifteenth century, swamps caused a malaria epidemic, and Kaunos was abandoned for good. The city fell victim to the forces of time, erosion, and destructive earthquakes. Then Hoskyn, who worked for the British Navy surveying the coastlines and waters of the region, discovered it in 1842, as noted.