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  • Writer's pictureFrank Klaus Jordan

Patara ... 'let them say I lived in the time of Achilles'

Princess of Troy

Finally, after three days and nights at sea, the lighthouse of the city came in sight. The helmsman of the Dardanian warship shouted orders to reap the sail and to lower the mast. The sixty oarsmen got into position to row the ship safely into the harbor. The Trojan princess stood quietly on deck, looking at the plateau stretching out in front of the mountains. Between the plateau and the sea, surrounded by stone walls, lay the massive city of Patara. Eventually, they reached the harbor beach where many ships were pulled up in the sand. The place was bustling with activity and noise. Bales of bright cloth, pottery, amphorae big and small, and life stock in wooden crates were being piled onto carts and donkeys.

The sun was passing down through the sky by the time they stepped safely on the wide road that came down from the residence of the Lycian Federation. In a two-horse carriage, they plodded up the main street, which was thronged with men and women in rich and colorful clothing. The glitter of jewelry shone at every neck and arm. Between brightly painted buildings there were potters with goods piled high on wooden racks, metal workers plying their trade and textile workshops with dyed cloth drying on racks out in the open. There was the smell of hot metal, baking bread, flowers and perfumes and the noise all around was of laughter and complaint, the creak of cartwheels and the calls of street vendors.

The carriage moved up the road, protected by six fearsome soldiers, 'Trojan Eagles', garbed in bronze breastplates and high helmets with cheek guards inlayed with silver. Each had one hand on his sword hilt, with the other grasping a spear while the white plumes on their helmets waved in the wind. Two women in long white cloaks were coming out of the shaded gallery decorating the city hall when the princess and her entourage arrived. Instructing her guards to wait outside, the princess enters the assembly hall of the Lycian Federation. Inside this theatre like building, the princess presents herself in front of the common council of the Lycian League. Sixty men and women, representing the government of the Lycian city-states, assembled in a matter of urgency.

The princess, garbed in a long orange-red gown and a thin veil covering her head and face, addresses the 'Lyciarch', sitting in a throne-like semicircle in the middle of the theatre. "My Lycian brothers, … Mycenaean warlords and their allies have landed their ships at the shores of my homeland. Our villages are burning, the city of Troy is besieged. Chaos and piracy have taken control of the great green sea and our trade routes. I'm here to ask for an alliance against the invaders. I'm here to remind you of the oath of the 'Sea People', our common ancestors have sworn in the battle of Kadesh." The Lyciarch rises from his seat. "If our Trojan brothers are at war, it is our duty to send an army to their aid. But how can we be sure that the threat is real? It is Trojan custom to send a royal ambassador in diplomatic matters of such significance!"

The princess, shrouded in silence, removes the thin veil from her head, uncovering the royal headdress of the Trojan king's family. A noise of astonishment grows between the senators until the Lyciarch takes the word and the assembly is silent again. "My dear council, in this matter of war I hereby open today's assembly of the Lycian Federation. Be welcome Andromache, princess of Troy."

Lycian civilization

We know from many references made by the Egyptians and Hittites that Lycia (called Lukka "land of light"), had established an independent state already in the late bronze age. It is noteworthy that the ancient Lycians themselves never used the term Lukka, but instead calling themselves Trmmli and their country Trmmisa. In records about the famous battle of Kadesh, the Egyptians called them "Lukkies, the Sea People".

However, the Lycians of the bronze age were a confederation of city-states known today as the 'Lycian League'. Major cities of this federation were Patara, Xanthos, Pinara, Olympos, Myra, Tlos and later Phaselis. The Lycian League's capital was Patara, where it is still possible to see the remains of the assembly building. Until 300 BC the Lycians spoke their own language and had their own alphabet featuring 23 consonants and six vowels, which were written left to right in horizontal lines. Starting from the time of Alexander the Great, Lycia adopted Greek as their main language.

Besides the Lycian unique form of government, Herodotus notes in his work "the histories" something rather extraordinary about Lycian culture and society. He claims that the Lycians adopted matrilineal descent, taking their names not from their fathers, but from their mothers. When a Lycian woman married a slave her children were allowed full citizen rights. But if a male citizen married a female slave their children had no civil rights. This reinforces the conclusion that in Lycia, women were central to the society, reflected both in law and in the tracing of descent.

American constitution - a Lycian copy paste

Depending on the size of their cities, either one, two or three votes represented a city in the common council of the Lycian League. The judges and magistrates of all cities were elected in the general assembly in Patara. It is remarkable that millennia before the Romans established their first Senate, the Lycian League was already practicing a democratic government. This not enough, the laws of this confederation were used in the 18th century as a role model for a democratic system of modern times - the American Constitution.

James Madison, the father of the American Constitution, gave a speech at the constitutional convention 1787 in Philadelphia, in which he appealed to the Lycian confederacy. Today we know that the Lycian League made three contributions to the American constitution. First, it was a federal union giving strength in the council proportionate to the size of its cities. Second, it was a representative government. Third, it formed a strong national government with the power to make laws that applied directly to individual citizens.

However, most astonishing for me is the fact that the Lycian League was for millennia a successfully applied democratic parliamentary system, already existing at the time of 'Hector and Achilles'.

Ashes of Troy

if they ever tell my story let them say I walked with giants

men rise and fall like the winter wheat but these names will never die

let them say I lived in the time of Hector, tamer of horses

let them say I lived in the time of Achilles

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