Aspat (Strobilos), a brief history of the city

THE ORIGIN OF ITS NAME AND THE HISTORY OF ITS SETTLEMENT

Even though some researchers point to Aspat as the location of the city of Termera which was mentioned in Athenian tax lists, in fact there is no definite proof of Aspat or Mandıra Village on the northern side of Akyarlar being the location of the city of Termera. That is why we have to postpone making our decision as to whether the remains in Aspat belong to Termera until we get detailed results from surveys and excavations to be done in the future. However, we are sure of the name found in Byzantine Period records: Strobilos.

Strobilos means cone or conical in Greek and comes from the topographical structure of the city.

During the research we conducted in the region, important remains dating back to 7th century BC were found on the upper north side of and around the Aspat Hill. These remains belong to the Lelegian Period and are related to the city walls and round planned residential areas. These data demonstrate that the region was an important settlement housing military and agricultural structures during the time of Lelegians, the first settlers of the peninsula.

According to antique sources, Strobilos founded on and around Aspat Hill was one of the trade and harbor settlements of the Aegean and Mediterranean regions in Middle Ages. The name of Strobilos was mentioned for the first time in three documents dating back to the 8th century which was known as the dark ages of the Byzantine Period. The first one of these records is the observations of Saint Willibald during his pilgrimage to holy lands between the years of 721-727.


Another piece of information comes from Saint Theophylaktos of Nicomedia who rebelled against the iconoclasm movement (726-842) during the reign of Emperor Leon 5th. Theophylaktos was exiled to Strobilos in 815 and spent the rest of his life for 30 years in exile. Another record that mentions Strobilos is an apocryphal Bible. This fake Bible tells about the coming of the end of the world by wars, fires and destruction but comments that only the people living in Rome, Rizzo, Armenopetro, Strobilos and Kariopolis will be saved from this fatal end. There are some guesses as to why these cities were selected. The reason could be rewarding them for their attitudes during the iconoclasm period and their survival of Muslim attacks.

The city’s name was mentioned frequently in the sources until the 13th century. It was an important harbor and castle of the Byzantine Empire.

The settlement is known as Aspat as well as Strobilos. Even though the origin of the name Aspat is not known definitely, it could come from “spathe” in Greek meaning “like a sword” or “sharp.”

The earliest redaction that has the name “Aspat” is in the handbook of Piri Reis. In the book, “Uspat Castle” is described as a conical hill on the north of the island of Kos, 3 miles east of Kumburnu.

The famous traveler Evliya Celebi has also seen Aspat. He describes the city as “a small castle under the rule of Mentese Beylic, on a steep rock created by a talented master.”

ASPAT DURING THE TIMES OF MENTESE BEYLIC AND OTTOMAN PERIOD

Even though there is no detailed information about the city falling under the Mentese Beylic, it is known that the city together with the region was under the Turkish rule in 1270s.

Starting from the beginning of 16th century, the name “Sıravalos” was mentioned among the districts under the Mentese flag but the status of the city during the time of Mentese Beylic is not known with any certainty. However, there are some signs of the Mentese Beylic period especially on the outer castle walls. Possibly the walls had been destroyed during the invasion of the city and were fortified right after the invasion. Also some public buildings and examples of civic architecture must have been built in this period. For now, it is extremely difficult to differentiate the structures according to periods here as it is in the whole peninsula.

In 1472, when the king of Cyprus and the ruler of Rhodes got together against the Turks, they pillaged Antalya which was the biggest harbor on the Mediterranean and attacked Strobilos/Strovili and defeated the city. The Venetian historian Domenico Maligiero writes that during this sudden Christian attack, 400 houses were destroyed, and all kinds of animals, grains, flaxi and a great number of slaves were taken.

In “Portalan Rizzo” dated 1490s, Strobilos was marked as a castle 10 miles northeast of Hüseyin Cape and on the southwest side of Pitasso/Bitez Bay. In a document by Ioannes Sakellion dating back to 1890s, Strobilos was mentioned as the “Jewish Castle.”

The earliest Turkish period document where “Aspat” was mentioned is the handbook of Piri Reis. Here “Usput Castle” is mentioned as the conical hill on the north side of the island of Kos, 3 miles east of Kumburnu. It is told that the castle is located on a conical, high hill and on the slopes there are some run down structures and a river. It is also told that nobody drank the water of this river and that water was provided by cisterns around the run down buildings. The book mentions that there were suitable places for mooring at the harbor providing ships with shelter from the northeast winds.

More detailed information about the castle can be found in the Travel book of Evliya Celebi. While he is describing the city in his travels with 5 people and 6 mounts, he says that it is a small castle on a rocky slope created by a talented master. He says that the circumference of the castle is 700 steps, that there is a gate at the north side, and that there is no castle warden, canon or rifles. He calls the water of the river in an exaggerated way “elixir of life” and mentions that the river was used to operate 10 mills and that the boats were also using this water. He adds in his notes that they were also being cautious against Christian pirate ships.