Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Friday, May 25, 2012

Byzantine Fortress of Maiden's Castle

Maiden's Castle off the southern coast of Turkey.

Byzantine Fortress  -  Kizkalesi Castle or Maiden's Castle and Korykos Castle 

Corycus  was an ancient city in Cilicia TrachaeaAnatolia, located at the mouth of the river called Şeytan deresi; the site is now occupied by the town of KızkalesiMersin Province,Turkey.
The town of Corycus is mentioned by Livy, and by Pliny, and Pomponius Mela, and Stephanus of Byzantium. In antiquity Corycus was an important harbor and commercial town. It was the port of Seleucia, where, in 191 BCE, the fleet of Antiochus the Great was defeated by the Romans. In the Roman times it preserved its ancient laws; the emperors usually kept a fleet there to watch over the pirates. Corycus was also a mint in antiquity and some of its coins survive.

Corycus was controlled by the Byzantine EmpireJustinian I restored the public baths and a hospital. Alexios I Komnenos re-equipped the fortress, which had been dismantled. At the beginning of the 12th century the Byzantines built a supplementary castle on a small island. 
This castle was later called "maidens castle", because it was told that a king held his daughter here in captivity until she was killed by a venomous snake. It was prophesied she would die by a snake bite. So she was taken to the sea castle to protect her, but a serpent was taken by basket to the castle, she was bitten and died. 
Corycus was conquered by the Armenians soon after it was rebuilt by the Byzantines. The Armenians held it until the end of the 14th century, as the last stronghold of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. The city was then handed over to the Lusignans of Cyprus. It was taken by the Mamelukes, and again by Peter I of Cyprus. In the late 14th century it fell again to the Turks. From 1448 or 1454 it belonged alternately to the Karamanlis, the Egyptians, the Karamanlis a second time, and finally to the Osmanlis.

Maiden Castle  -  Castle in the Sea

The castles are located near Mersin on the south coast of Turkey.

The ruins of the city are extensive. Among them are a triumphal arch, a necropolis with a beautiful Christian tomb, sarcophagi, etc. The two medieval castles, one on the shore, the other in an islet, connected by a ruined pier, are partially preserved; the former was reputed impregnable. 
The walls of the castle on the mainland contain many pieces of columns; and a mole of great unhewn rocks projects from one angle of the fortress about a hundred yards across the bay. Three churches are also found, one decorated with frescoes. The walls of the ancient city may still be traced, and there appear to be sufficient remains to invite a careful examination of the spot.

 Korykos Castle on the mainland. 

Kizkalesi Castle or Maiden's Castle, locally known as Kizkalesi, lies on a small island, some 400 meters from the coast, in the bay of the town with the same name in the province of Mersin in Turkey.
Together with the opposite Korykos Castle on the mainland, this sea castle protected the port of Korykos and of course their histories are linked closely together and almost identical.

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. The strategy was to defend it from any possible seizure by the Crusader Bohemund I de Guiscard. A large garrison was maintained at Korykos 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 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.
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.

(Maiden's Castle)                (Wikipedia - Corycus)

A plan of Kizkalesi Castle taken from 'The Fortifications of Armenian Cilicia' by RW. Edwards.

A plan of Korykos Castle taken from 'The Fortifications of Armenian Cilicia' by RW. Edwards.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You don't suppose that the name has been any influence on the author of Game of Thrones, do you? I mean, "Maidens Castle" or "Princess Castle"--Kizkalesi...Khaleesi... the maiden and serpents, I mean Dragons...