MYRA (mod. Dembre), an ancient town of Lycia situated a short distance inland between the rivers Myrus and Andracus. In common with that of most other Lycian towns its early history is not known, and it does not play any part of importance in either Greek or Roman annals. Its fame begins with Christianity. There St Paul touched on his last journey westward (A.D. 62), and changed into " a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy." In the 3rd century the great St Nicholas, born at Patara, was its bishop, and he died and was buried at Myra. His tomb is still shown, but his relics are supposed to have been translated to Bari in Italy in the 11th century. Theodosius II. made Myra the Byzantine capital of Lycia, and as such it was besieged and taken by Harun al-Rashid in 808. The town seems shortly afterwards to have decayed. A small Turkish village occupied the plain at the foot of the acropolis, and a little Greek monastery lay about a mile westward by the church of St Nicholas. The latter has formed the nucleus of modern Dembre, which has been increased by settlers from the Greek island of Castelorizo. Myra has three notable sights, its carved cliff-cemetery, its theatre, and its church of St Nicholas. The first is the most remarkable of the Lycian rock-tomb groups. The western scarp of the acropolis has been sculptured into a number of sepulchres imitating wooden houses with pillared facades, some of which have pediment reliefs and inscriptions in Lycian. The theatre lies at the foot of this cliff and is partly excavated out of it, partly built. It is remarkable for the preservation of its corridors. The auditorium is perfect in the lower part, and the scena still retains some of its decoration both columns and carved entablature. The church of St Nicholas lies out in the plain, at the western end of Dembre, near a small monastery and new church recently built with Russian money. Its floor is far below the present level of the plain, and until recently the church was half filled with earth. The excavation of it was undertaken by Russians about 1894 and it cost Dembre dear; for the Ottoman government, suspicious of foreign designs on the neighbouring harbour of Kekova, proceeded to inhibit all sale of property in the plain and to place Dembre under a minor state of siege. The ancient church is of the domed basilica form with throne and seats still existent in the tribunal. In the south aisle as a tomb with marble balustrade which is pointed out as that wherein St Nicholas was laid. The locality of the tomb is very probably genuine, but its present ornament, as well as the greater part of the church, seems of later date (end of 7th century ?). None the less this is among the most interesting early Christian churches in Asia Minor. There are also extensive ruins of Andriaca, the port of Myra, about 3 m. west, containing churches, baths, and a great grain store, inscribed with Hadrian's name. They lie along the course of the Andraki river, whose navigable estuary is still fringed with ruinous quays.
See E. Petersen and F. v. Luschan, Reisen in Lykien, etc. (1889).
(D. G. H.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)