The Beşparmak Dağları, known as “Latmos” in antiquity, is one of the most fascinating and archaeologically richest regions in western Turkey. As early as prehistoric times the Latmos was already revered as a sacred mountain in Anatolia. Upon its peak the Old Anatolian weather god together with a local mountain deity were worshipped. The mountain peak was the centre of weather and fertility rituals. Despite socio-cultural changes that transformed religious concepts, the cultic tradition there continued into Ottoman times.
Latmus appears in Greek mythology as the site of the cave where Selene’s consort Endymion lies forever young and beautiful in blissful sleep.
Mount Latmus in Greek Mythology
Endymion’s parentage varies among the different ancient references and stories, but several traditions say that he was originally the king of Elis. According to one tradition, Zeus offered him anything that he might desire, and Endymion chose an everlasting sleep in which he might remain youthful forever. According to another version of the myth, Endymion’s eternal sleep was a punishment inflicted by Zeus because he had attempted to have a sexual relationship with Zeus’s wife, Hera. In any case, Endymion was loved by Selene, the goddess of the moon, who visited him every night while he lay asleep in a cave on Mount Latmus in Caria; she bore him 50 daughters. A common form of the myth represents Endymion as having been put to sleep by Selene herself so that she might enjoy his beauty undisturbed.
Ancient Rock Art
Mount Latmos is famous for wall paintings dating back 8,000-6,000 years ago that have been the subject of numerous archaeological work led by the Aydın Culture and Natural Artifacts Protection Committee and Aydın Archaeology Museum.
Among 160 groups of rock paintings, which had various depictions, 500 of them were determined as paintings made by humans.
Hurriyet Daily News reports two new inns and a rock shelter have been discovered on Mount Latmos (Beşparmak), located between the western provinces of Aydın and Muğla. The wall of the inns are decorated with paintings, dating back to 8,000 years ago, and the rock shelter is decorated with frescoes.
The first rock paintings were first discovered on Mount Latmos in 1994 by German archaeologist Dr. Anneliese Peschlow.
The Association of Ecosystem Protection and Nature Lovers (EKODOSD) president Bahattin Sürücü said the paintings in the inns had been given damage by people.
“In one of the inns, the wall paintings are in pretty good condition. They consist of non-human figures. In the other cave, the paintings have been destroyed because of climate conditions through time and fire burned by people in the cave. Locals have told us hunters and other visitors have burned fire in the caves in Mount Latmos, which has damaged the walls. The mount is not under conservation status except for its well-known archaeological sites,” said Sürücü, adding that those wall paintings should be taken under protection.
The EKODOSD president said the frescoes in one of the caves had also been damaged by insensible people.
“Another newly found painting was the Byzantine-era frescoes located under a rock shelter. Unfortunately, these paintings are full of damage caused by treasure hunters, as well as drawings made by people with ceramics,” he said.
Sürücü said the rock paintings and frescoes in Mount Latmos were not only under threat by treasure hunters but also mine pits.
“There is much undiscovered heritage in the mysterious geography of Mount Latmos, which is home to many Byzantine-era monasteries, churches and defense castles. It will take surface surveys that will continue for dozens of years to unearth this heritage in thousands of castle structures. But the virgin geography of Latmos, its unique geological structure and natural and cultural values are under threat because of new mine pits. While we can see the damage caused by current mine pits, new ones will put them under more danger. The Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board, Aydın and Milet Archaeology Museums and other relevant ministries should show the same sensibility,” he said.