Endymion was a young, handsome shepherd living on the slopes of Mt. Latmos, a place in Western Anatolia considered sacred since Neolithic times. According to an ancient legend, Endymion grazed his flocks one Spring Day amongst the sweet green grasses and fragrant flowers of the slopes and inspired by nature, played his pipes.

Lake Bafa

Unknown to him, his music caught the attention of more than the creatures of the mountain slopes and wooded glades. When evening came, he took his rest in a cave, one of many, on the lower slope of the mountain near the shore of Bafa, at that time a calm inlet of the Aegean Sea.

The Moon Goddess, Selene, who had journeyed across the sky since the dawn of creation, bathed Latmos in light and on this night, heard his music and glimpsed Endymion. Because of his beauty, she fell in madly love.  Riding across the night sky in her chariot, whenever Selene saw Endymion she would visit him secretly, known to him only as the ethereal figure in a dream, real but yet not real.

Selene admiring Endymion – Louis Jean François Lagrenée

Selene wished to be with Endymion every night but as she was immortal and as Endymion was mortal flesh and blood this was not possible; she petitioned Zeus to bestow ageless, eternal sleep on Endymion to preserve his beauty for ever, so that she could visit him every time that she passed overhead in the night sky on each full moon.  In the ecstasy of his beautiful dream, could Endymion resist?

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Did you know that when The Turks start a story they say

“ Bir varmış bir yokmuş”….”Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t…….

But every time there is a full moon Selene comes down from the skies to lie with Endymion and, so the story goes, gave birth to 50 daughters and that today, when the moon is full, her light embraces and kisses the slopes of Latmos making the waters of Bafa shimmer…… and if you listen very carefully you might just faintly hear their voices through the night air.

Endymion Sanctuary, Lake Bafa

There can be no question that Kapıkırı is a perfect romantic getaway and with a history like this threaded through the fabric of the place, love is in the air.

The unusual semi-circular plan incorporated into the natural rock formation of the site may have been an attempt to replicate the atmosphere of the cave in which Endymion slept and where his romantic trysts with Selene could continue uninterrupted for ever.

Endymion Sanctuary

It is certainly a tranquil place situated on the slope overlooking Lake Bafa. It is a notable feature of Carian architecture, the people who built this sanctuary and the city here, regularly incorporated natural rock formations into their architecture, working with nature rather than against it.

Endymion Sanctuary

It is a fairly unusual feature of cultures building in stone, but it appears to be a feature of an ancient Anatolian tradition that one sees in sites venerated by the Hittites at their rock Sanctuary of Yazilikaya near Hattusa in the fastness of Central Anatolia.

Sanctuary of Yazilikaya

The tradition of working with and within natural rock is also to be seen in Cappadocia and is a central feature of Urartian architecture especially tombs and religious sanctuaries.

Underground sanctuaries and Church at Derinkuyu, Cappadocia

Wherever you see it, whether it is the intimate setting of the Sanctuary of Endymion here at Herakleia on Lake Bafa, at the intriguing Hittite Sanctuary of Yazilikaya or the imposing Urartian Rock Portal, Mehr Kapısı or “The Gate of God” in Van, Eastern Turkey, it always provokes wonder and serves to remind us that we are connected to the earth.

Mehr Kapısı

While this empathy with the earth through the medium of stone is a feature of ancient Anatolia, it is not unique to Anatolia; the Inca in the Andes of South America, another lithic environment, also used stone and topography and are a notable example of a culture communing with stone to express belief and faith.

Important sacred structures or sanctuaries often begin as natural shrines in places that seem to have an intuitive value or spirituality and this Carian practice has gone on to influence religious architecture in many locations across the Aegean and the Mediterranean area. This is a practice continued by Christians, even today, where caves and grottos have become either places of spiritual refuge and contemplation or a focus for pilgrimage.

Prehistoric Rock Paintings, Latmos

We have always enjoyed ourselves here. The food is delicious and fresh from the lake, oven or farm. We walk the Lycian Way and explore the Prehistoric Rock Caves and nearby castles, temples and sanctuaries. This is a place where one can be entertained by nature or simply kick off your shoes and soak up the sun and swim. We’ve already booked our flights for next year.

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Hope to hear about your next holiday here at Bafa. Best wishes Sally and Nick