City in Caria by the lake of Koycegiz. Kaunos was purely Carian in origin; its earliest appearance in history is in the 6th c. B.C., when the city was captured by the Persian general Harpagos after a defiant resistance. In the Athenian tribute lists Kaunos paid the surprisingly low tribute of half a talent; in the assessment of 425 B.C. this was suddenly and probably unrealistically raised to ten talents. In the Peloponnesian war both sides used Kaunos as a port. In the 4th c. the city was still called Carian by Pseudo-Skylax, but from the time of Mausolos on it began rapidly to acquire a Greek character, and by the 3d c. was fully Hellenized.
During the wars of the Diadochi, Kaunos changed hands a number of times, passing in turn to Antigonos, Ptolemy, Antigonos, Demetrios, Lysimachos, and Ptolemy. Early in the 2d c. it was purchased by Rhodes from the generals of Ptolemy for 200 talents, and remained unwillingly Rhodian until 167 B.C., when the Senate declared it free. Included in the province of Asia in 129, Kaunos supported Mithridates VI in 88 and took part in the slaughter of the Roman residents; for this she was given back to Rhodes, but by the end of the 1st c. B.C. was again free, though it seems from Dio Chrysostom (31.125) that the Rhodians later regained some sort of control. In Byzantine times, when Kaunos was attached to Lycia, her bishop ranked 15th under the metropolitan of Myra. Known coins begin in the 4th c. and continue through the Hellenistic era, with the exception of the period of Rhodian domination from 189 to 167; no Imperial coinage seems to be known.
Herodotos distinguishes the Kaunians from the Carians and from the Lycians, and believes them to be indigenous, though they themselves claimed to have come from Crete. Their language, he says, is similar to, but not identical with, the Carian; and in fact a Carian inscription found at Kaunos includes characters which do not occur in those from other parts of Caria. The earliest Greek inscriptions found at Kaunos are those on the bases of statues of Hekatomnos and Mausolos. The later inscriptions reveal a thoroughly Hellenic city, not one of whose citizens bears a Carian name.
Throughout her history Kaunos suffered from two permanent troubles. It was notoriously unhealthful owing to the prevalence of malaria from the mosquito-infested marshes surrounding the city. These marshes, caused by the deposits of the river which leads from the Kaunian lake (now the lake of Koycegiz) to the sea, produced the second trouble, the silting-up of the harbor, which is now 3 km from the coast. A donation of 60,000 denarii by private citizens in the 1st c. A.D. for the remission of harbor dues reflects the increasing seriousness of the problem. Kaunian exports included fruit (especially figs), salt, fish, resin, and slaves.
According to Strabo (651) Kaunos had a closed harbor and dockyards, with the river Kalbis flowing nearby; above, on a height, was the fort Imbros. The harbor is now a small round lake below the acropolis hill; the Kalbis must be the present Dalyan Cayi connecting the lake with the sea, though its course has probably changed since antiquity; Imbros is a large fort on the summit of Olemez Dag just N of the city; the position of the dockyards remains uncertain. The acropolis hill is in two parts, a higher and a lower, corresponding respectively to the Heraklion and Persikon mentioned in Diodoros' account (20.27) of the capture by Ptolemy in 309 B.C. A ruined fort still exists on the higher summit, but nothing remains of the Persikon.
The city wall is in two unequal parts. The shorter connects the two acropolis hills S of the harbor; the other, some 3 km long, runs from the other side of the harbor over the hills to N and E, ending at a precipice above the river. Of this vast area only a small part by the harbor and acropolis was inhabited. The masonry of the wall shows great variety; the earliest part is the most remote from the city and dates apparently from the time of Mausolos; the lower parts near the city are Hellenistic and presumably represent one or more rebuildings.
The theater stands on the lower slope of the main acropolis hill, facing W across the slope, and has recently been cleared. The cavea is more than a semicircle and has 34 rows of seats and one diazoma; it is entered on the N side by two arched entrances. There is no entrance on the S where the theater is cut out of the hillside. The foundations of the stage building exist, but have not yet been excavated. On the ridge N of the theater three buildings stand in a row, a church, baths, and a building of uncertain character; all are fairly well preserved and are being excavated.
The main area of occupation was close to the harbor. A building near the water's edge carrying the long customs inscription mentioned above has proved to be not a customs-house as previously supposed, but a nymphaeum. It has been completely restored with its own blocks, with the inscription on the outer face of the S wall. The building measures ca. 8 by 5 m, and was approached on the W by three steps. A dedication to Vespasian was found in front of it.
Not far from the nymphaeum is a stoa of rather poor quality, and a circular building of unusual form and uncertain purpose. This has a sunken floor surrounded by a double row of columns, with a platform on one side raised on steps and in the middle a curious round flat stone. A reservoir or bathing pool has been suggested. Elsewhere the existence of at least four temples has been determined; these are not yet excavated.
Tombs at Kaunos are in general either rock-cut or built of masonry; there is one group of Carian type, sunk in the rock with separate lids, but sarcophagi are rare if not unknown. Most conspicuous is the splendid series of tombs cut in the face of the cliff between the site and Dalyan village: no less than 150, of which some 20 are temple tombs with columns and pediments; most of these have two Ionic columns, but one unfinished tomb has four. Pottery found in these temple tombs dates them to the 4th c. B.C. They have a passage cut all round them in the rock, and were usually closed by a door slab imitating a studded wooden door working on a hinge. The pediments have akroteria, but except in one case no decoration in the tympanon. The interior normally has a flat roof, and benches on three sides hollowed out in sarcophagus form. The smaller tombs are plain rock-cut chambers; most of them had originally elegant doorframes and door-slabs. Epitaphs are remarkably scarce; three of the temple tombs are inscribed, but the inscription in every case relates to a reuse of the tomb at a much later date. (G. E. BEAN)
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)