Town in Lycia, ca. 4 km W of Myra (Kale, formerly Demre) and still
known by its ancient name. Sura was not an independent city, but a dependency
of Myra; as such it naturally struck no coins. It is in fact virtually unknown
apart from its celebrated fish oracle.
The village extends around a low hill which on the E rises only some 12 m above a small level plain, but on the W descends steeply over 100 m to sea level at the head of a marshy inlet. The buildings on the hill seem all to be tombs; several are rock tombs of Lycian type, and two carry inscriptions in the Lycian language. On the S side of the hill is a row of stelai with inscriptions listing the names of Prostatae of Apollo Surius; there seem to be 21 names in each case. Scattered about the plain to the E are a dozen Lycian sarcophagi with Greek inscriptions.
The Temple of Apollo still stands up to 8 m high at the W foot of the hill close to the marshy inlet. On its interior walls are a number of inscriptions recording the devotions paid by suppliants--not, however, to Apollo Surius but to Sozon and in one case to the Rhodian deity Zeus Atabyrios. The site of the fish oracle is clearly recognizable from the ancient accounts (Ath. 8.333-34; Plin. HN 32.17; Steph. Byz. s.v. Sura; Plut. De sollertia animalium 23). It appears that a whirlpool arose on the shore of the harbor; into this consultants threw spits bearing pieces of meat, whereupon the pool swelled up and a variety of fishes appeared, from whose species and behavior an oracle was drawn. Pliny also mentions a fountain of Apollo whom they call Curius (or Surius). These features are still identifiable. The harbor is the marshy inlet, which was certainly sea in antiquity; the fountain, with an abundant head of water, issues from the ground a few paces from the temple and forms a stream which flows through the marsh to the sea, 1-2 km away. In this stream, just in front of the temple, a number of springs well up, creating a swirling effect which resembles a whirlpool; this answers exactly to the account given by the local inhabitants in Athenaeus (l.c.). The swelling of the pool was presumably managed by the priest's controlling the flow of water from the large spring. No actual oracles obtained at Sura are recorded.
G. E. Bean, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
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