The Story of Myndos

The classical city of Myndus is located with complete certainty at Gumusluk. There is a direct road from Bodrum, or a longer and slightly better road by Karatoprak (Turgut Reis); both are passable for a car. But Gumusluk is not the site of the Lelegian town of Myndus. This was a much smaller affair, paying only one-twelfth of a talent in the Delian Confederacy in the fifth century, and was remembered in later times as Old Myndus; it may be confidently identified with the ruins on the hilltop at Bozda¤ about two miles (3,22km) to the south east of Gumusluk. Nothing survives beyond a ring-wall and the foundations of a large tower on the summit; but the sherds reveal occupation from prehistoric times to the early fourth century.
Mausolus’ new foundation at Gumusluk was on a much more ambitious scale. It had a well-sheltered harbour and a wall-circuit over two miles long. But the problem was to man it. The Lelegian inhabitants of the peninsula had mostly been transplanted to Halicarnassus, and for a long while Myndus was severely under-populated, and much of the space inside the walls was unoccupied. It is said that the philosopher Diogenes once visited Myndus, and observing that the gates were large but the city small, advised the Myndians to keep their gates closed, or their city would be running away. In later times it was alleged that Myndus was colonised by the descendants of Aëtius, king of Troezen, at the same time as Halicarnassus, but this is clearly a fiction.
Alexander’s halfhearted and unsuccessful attempt upon the city was mentioned above, but the Persian hold on it lasted only till the next year, when it was ended by the defeat of Orontobates. In the third century Myndus was mostly in the hands of the Ptolemies, and was still so in 197 BC when the Rhodians, as friends of Egypt, undertook to protect her ‘allies’ against Antiochus III of Syria, and gave their freedom to Myndus and others. It was after this, apparently, that the Myndians first began to issue their own coinage. The city was for a short while held by the rebel Aristonicus about 131 BC, and after the murder of Caesar in 44 the ‘tyrannicide’ Cassius kept his fleet there; the city is likely to have suffered from his exactions. After the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi Mark Antony gave Myndus to the Rhodians, but she was soon taken away again owing to the excessive harshness of their rule. Imperial coinage of Myndus is noticeably scanty, and it may be that the city did not prosper under the Empire as much as most. The silver-mines, traces of those working have been found in the neighbourhood, and which have given its name to the village of Gümüslük, are not mentioned in any ancient source. Indeed, the only Myndian product of which we hear is vine, and this had a poor reputation. It was one of those which were mixed with sea-water a not uncommon monstrosity in ancient times; it is described as relaxing the stomach. Causing flatulence, and leaving hangover. This unattractive beverage led to the Myndians being dubbed ‘brine-drinkers’.
The site of Myndus is most attractive; there is hardly a better on the whole coast. The harbour is enclosed and well protected against the prevailing wind, the meltem, by the peninsula on the north-west. The fortification-wall on the mainland may be followed for its whole length, and is best preserved on the south-east, the most vulnerable side, where it is strengthened with frequent towers. It is about 9feet (2,74m) thick, of regular ashlar, constructed in part at least of the green granite which was also used for the Mausoleum. The quarries from which this stone was cut may be seen close to the shore at Koyunbaba, about two miles to the north.

The fortification also included the peninsula; a hundred years ago the wall could be traced all round, but has now disappeared. There remains, however, another wall running from north to south up the spine of the hill. It has the same thickness as the mainland wall, but is built of larger blocks less regularly fitted. It has been called ‘the Lelegian wall’, but this name stems from the old belief that the Lelegian Myndus stood on this site; in fact the masonry is quite unlike that of the genuine Lelegian towns. This wall has always been something of a puzzle. As it stands, it appears meaningless; with the peninsula walled all round, what could be the point of dividing the interior down the middle with a wall of this solidity? It makes sense only as a continuation of just such a main-land wall as in fact exists, and must (in the writer’s opinion) be the beginning of an earlier fortification system which was almost immediately abandoned in favour of a wall encircling the whole peninsula. Its position is comparable with that of the wall on the western extension of the acropolis hill at Caunus. It and the mainland wall will belong respectively to the earlier and the later years of Mausolus’ reign.
Otherwise hardly anything remains of ancient Myndus. Rock-cut stairways and house-foundations may be seen on the hillside, but virtually all the ruins seen in the early nineteenth century, including theatre and stadium, have totally disappeared; all that survives is a ruined basilica and, at the highest point of the peninsula, what may have been a church. There are, however, numerous ancient stones to be seen in and around the village, and at the school about a mile inland there are some column capitals and Roman mosaics.