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Everything You Need to Know About Ancient Knidos

Exploring Turkey's Turquoise Coast with Arkadaslik Yachting

Updated: December 13, 2019

The site of ancient Knidos (or Cnidus, if you prefer) is located on Turkey's Carian coast, just a few kilometres from the modern-day town of Datça. Positioned between the Greek islands of Kos, Nisyros, Tilos, Rhodes, and Symi, the specific town site was most likely selected for settlement because of the two naturally occurring harbours created by the position of the small island of Cape Krio alongside the mainland.

Now an open air museum operated by the Turkish government, the site covers approximately 80 hectares and is surrounded by about 4 KM of stone walls, probably built to defend the city from invasion. Rather than follow the natural contours of the land, Knidos was designed and built in terraces following a precise grid pattern with streets running north to south, and east to west. Historic excavation of the site is minimal, but thus far, archaeologists have discovered Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine-era ruins, including:

  • Colourful stone mosaics from early Christian churches
  • An agora (marketplace)
  • Two theatres – the fully excavated "little theatre" built into the slope overlooking the commercial harbour has an estimated seating a capacity of 4,500 to 5,000 people, and the larger theatre could seat about 20,000!
  • An odeum (a building used for artistic performances)
  • Several temples, including:
    • Temple of Dionysus
    • Temple of Aphrodite – which, partially due to a now-missing statue of the goddess, was a famous pilgrimage and sanctuary. The statue, originally commissioned by the nearby island of Kos, was crafted in 365 BC, was the first depicting Aphrodite in the nude. However, the people of Kos were scandalized by her nakedness and opted for a more conservative, clothed version, giving the statue to Knidos.
    • Temple of the Muses
  • Knidos sundial – first built during Hellenistic times, the use of sundials for monitoring the passage of time was advanced by Eudoksus, a Knidos astrologist and mathematician, and Euryphon, a Knidos physician.
  • An extensive necropolis (cemetery) with dozens of elaborate tombs surrounding the city.

While history in the area goes back as far as 3000 BC, there is archaeological evidence that this site was originally established in 7th or 8th century BC, becoming an important Greek in 4th century BC, and eventually abandoned in the 8th century AD. Knidos was considered a wealthy and prosperous community, whose main industries included agricultural products like olive oil and wine, and ceramics and pottery. And, based on the number and diversity of buildings on-site, Knidos was an important cultural and political hub in the region.

Accessible by land and sea, there is still so much to learn about the ancient city of Knidos. We think it's well worth a visit if you're in the vicinity!

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Additional Resources

If you're interested in reading more about this fascinating site, please take a look at the following resources:

Have you had the chance to visit the ruins of ancient Knidos? We'd love to hear about your experience and see your photos.