18 March 2012

The Castles of Kizkalesi

Kizkalesi has two castles: one floating in the Mediterranean waters off shore named Maiden’s Castle and one on land named Korykos Castle.  Small cruise boats will take you out to the Maiden's Castle, or you can paddle yourself in a paddleboat, or you can even fly over it by parasail. 

Photo by Beth Ann Bortles, Main Photo Courtesy of Erhan Cirik

Entrance Fee - 3 TL Each

Getting There
36° 27' 28.12" N  34° 8' 37.34" E  About 2.5 hour drive from Incirlik.  Outdoor Rec has maps, GPS and trips to this location.
Physical Difficulty - EASY

The Legend of Maiden’s Castle
The website www.bigloveturkey.com, tells a tale of the Maiden’s Castle. The legend says,  “a fortune teller told the king of Korykos that his only and most loved daughter would be killed through a bite of a snake. The king decided to built his castle in the sea and let his daughter live in the castle in order to prevent the dreadful fate of his daughter. But unfortunately even the king can’t change what is destined to happen. A snake was brought into the island through a basket filled with fruits, bit his daughter, and died. The same tale was also told for the Kizkalesi in Istanbul which was built on the Bosphorus which serve as a light house to guide ships.” 

History of Korykos Castle
and Maiden’s Castle 
The following description of Maiden’s Castle is found at http://www.castles.nl.  The author calls it “an amateur, one man operated website ... that describes over 500 castles, castle ruins and other fortifications in Europe and beyond.”  This self-proclaimed amateur history buff has a vast knowledge of castles and only writes about those he’s actually visited. 

Photo by Caleb Kartha Bortles
“Korykos Castle, together with the opposite Maiden’s Castle, a supplementary castle on a small island in the bay of Kizkalesi, this coastal castle protected the port of Korykos and of course their histories are linked closely together and almost identical. Korykos Castle was also the principal guardian of the strategic coastal road between the towns of Silifke and Tarsus. 

In ancient times there was an antique harbor city named Korykos or Corycus here. It is possible that the site of Korykos was heavily fortified prior to the Arab invasions, but there is no evidence to confirm this. 

Around 1099 Korykos was conquered by the Byzantines. The erection of the castles can probably be credited to the reign of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos. Except for reconstruction during and after the Armenian period of occupation in the late 12th century (far more extensive in the sea castle than in the land castle), the circuit walls and towers of both castles date from the early 12th century. 

The emperor’s daughter, Anna Comnena, tells us that the royal eunuch Eustathius was dispatched as an admiral and was directed to fortify Korykos and more southerly Silifke. The strategy was to defend it from any possible seizure by the Crusader Bohemund I de Guiscard. A large garrison was maintained at Korykos and Silifke under the command of a certain Strategus Strabo. Exactly when the Armenians occupied the Byzantine castles at Korykos is unknown. 

By 1198/99 the site seems to have been under the control of Leo I, King of Armenian Cilicia, as Simon, the Baron of Korykos, was in attendance at his coronation. Following Vahram’s brief tenure as Lord of Korykos (1210-12), the Hethumid Baron Oshin held the position until the late 1260’s. In the 4th quarter of the 13th century the Armenian historian Hethum followed Grigoris as master of the port. Some years later he died tragically in a battle against the Mamluks. In 1318 Hethum’s son, another Oshin, took 300 troops from the garrison at Korykos Castle and succeeded (temporarily) in driving out a band of Turks. 
In 1360 Peter I, the King of Cyprus, assumed control over Korykos when it became clear that the Mamluks were soon to conquer all of Cilicia. Robert of Lusignan was dispatched from Cyprus to administer the port. With Cypriot assistance the residents of Korykos were able to repulse a Karamanid attack in 1367. This fortified port proved to be a profitable toll station until its capture by the Karamanids in 1448. 

Korykos Castle is built on the relatively flat ground of the rocky shore and is characterized by the almost square shape of a tight double trace with square towers. This is the only fully concentric plan for a fortification in Cilicia. In the southern corner there is a sea gate and the north east side of the castle is protected by a deep ditch cut out of the rock. 

Kizkalesi Castle or Maiden’s Castle, lies some 400 meters from the coast.  The name Kizkalesi dates back to early 20th century.  Since Kizkalesi castle is protected by a natural water barrier as well as the formidable shoals of the island, the Byzantine constructed only a single, somewhat geometrical circuit with square towers. The smooth ashlar in the castle consists entirely of materials taken from the neighboring abandoned late antique city. This original construction survives only at the south and east and is in sharp contrast to the Armenian reconstruction (with rounded salients) at the northwest. The plan conforms to the topography of the island.”

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