Livisi: The Greek ghost village in Turkey

Livisi (Kayakoy today) is located in the region of western Lycia, a few kilometers south of Fethiye (Telmissos-Anastasioupoli-Makri). Livisi can be considered as one of the most important Greek villages of western Lycia and was depicted on many maps of the 17th and 18th centuries. There are also plenty of testimonies about the village from European travelers of the 19th century.
Livisi, 2020

Livisi or also Livissi, Levissi and Levissi, is a village 8 km south of Makri (Fetiye) in southwestern Turkey, where Anatolian Greeks lived until about 1923. 
The ghost village, now preserved as a museum, consists of hundreds of houses and two churches, which cover a small part of the mountainside and serve as a parking place for tourists visiting Fethiye and Oludeniz.

The area where Livisi is located was inhabited since the early Archaic times, as mentioned by ancient authors. In the same area where Livisi was located, scholars place the Lycian city of Karmylissos. Karmylissos was a small town near the beach, on Mount Antikragos.

During the 1990s, a group of Japanese archaeologists excavated the neighboring island of Gemiler Adasi (the island of Saint Nicholas of the Livonians). This island was identified with the Levisso of the Byzantine sources. Levissos is witnessed in Neares from the 7th century until 1120. Accepting these testimonies we can say that Livisi is the evolution-relocation of Byzantine Levissos, in an attempt by the inhabitants to take refuge in the safer interior, in a place where they are not the settlement was visible from the sea and the pirates. According to Sodini, this movement inland took place in the 2nd half of the 17th century or the beginning of the 18th century.

There are reports that Livisi was built on the ruins of the ancient city of Karmylissos. But according to Byzantine scholar Jean Pier Sodini, "The identification of the place with Karmylissos, based on Strabo, is at least bold. The identification of Livisi with Karmylissos on the western slopes of the mountain does not agree with Strabo. Some burial monuments found north of Livissi, in the outskirts of Kechiler and Kelemter, mainly belong to people who lived in Telmessos, while there is no allusion to Karmylissos. In particular, the owners are from Telmessos and Sidima." The area changed demographically after the earthquake, which leveled nearby Makri in 1856, as well as the great fire of 1885. After the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), Livisi was abandoned following the population exchange agreement signed by the Greek and Turkish governments in 1923.

The importance of Livissi already in the 19th century for this region of southwestern Asia Minor can be seen from the dozens of maps on which it was depicted. The development of the settlement into one of the most important in Lycia is naturally related to the migration of populations from the vulnerable to pirate Dodecanese, while the relations of the inhabitants with the neighboring Kastellorizo until the 20th century are known. The relations of Livisios and Makris with Kastellorizo can also be seen in the music: two obituaries of Kastellorizo have similarities with those of Makris.

Livisi administratively belonged to the vilayet of Aydinio/Smirni, to the sanjak of Mendese and to the kaza of Makris. Ecclesiastically, the village belonged to the Metropolis of Pisidia, which led many to the mistake of including Livisi and Makri geographically in Pisidia. The development of Livissi in one of the most important Greek settlements in south-western Asia Minor can be seen in the many testimonies of the 19th century by foreign, mainly English, travelers. Although these travelers moved to the area mainly or exclusively for archaeological interest, we can still find interesting information about Livisi in their books.

In 1851, Livisi and the surrounding area were heavily damaged by a devastating earthquake. Related is the reference (indicative)

“Levisi, a large Greek village of Asiatic Turkey, in the sanjak of Mentasha, built on a sloping plain near the coast, 5 miles north-east of Cape Angistro and 3 miles south/south-west of Makris. It was largely destroyed by an earthquake in February 1851, which, it is stated, leveled all the houses in the village, 1500 in number, and buried 600 inhabitants in the ruins.

This report confirms the earlier touristic testimonies and is a valuable source for the dating of the buildings that are preserved today.
Districts and parishes
The village was divided into three districts-parishes, the upper neighborhood (with the church of Taxiarchis and the cobbled square of Stoumbos, the cafes and the Arrenagogeio), the middle neighborhood (with the church of Agia Anna-"Middle Panagia" and the Parthenagogeio -"lower school") and the lower neighborhood with Panagia Pyrgiotissa-"lower Panagia".
The lower neighborhood was considered by the Livysians of Taxiarchis to be a more popular neighborhood and accordingly were the playful couplets: "In the upper neighborhood swords are playing, in the lower neighborhood cats are drowning".
Other neighborhoods were Ai Paraskivigi, Kamara, Orouja, Alama, Kounousata, Purtin, Fournari, Vounarin, Lia tou kyr Palio, Skyllarouda, Hanin, Vourvouri, Xira Perivolia and Stavrin..
The persecutions of the inhabitants of Livisi, but also of the neighboring Makris, are part of the wider plan of the Young Turks to evacuate the rich coasts of their Greek inhabitants. The persecutions in the area began in 1914 with the incarceration of the residents in Makri. In 1916 many families were taken to Denizli, after a six-day march. In 1917, other residents were taken to the villages of Hurutum, Aji Payam and Stepheni, also near Denizli.

In 1919 the men aged 13-70 were deported and in 1921 the remaining 480 were deported to Iconium, Caesarea and finally, after a 55-day trek, to Hamitieh in Syria, where they remained until November 1922. The refugees from the region of Makris they settled in Attica establishing the Municipality of Nea Makris, while the residents from Livisi founded Neo Livisi (/ Neo Livyssi), which belonged to the community of Markopoulos. Also Libyans settled in Boeotia (St. George Amfissa), Phocis (Itea) and Evia (Farakla).
After the village was abandoned by the Greek population, it was never inhabited again. According to popular tradition, the Turks refused to settle in Livisi, because it was haunted by the spirits of the massacred Greeks. So to this day it remains in ruins.

As is the case with almost all Greek settlements in Asia Minor, the information we have about the number of inhabitants is conflicting. About Livisi the information can be quoted: from Julius August Schönborn for 2,000 inhabitants and (of the first quarter of the 20th century) from the "Geography of Asia Minor": Greeks 6,000, Turks 500.
from the magazine of the Association 'Anatoli' 'Xenophanis': 4,500 Greeks
by Ioannis I. Kalfoglous, "Historical Geography of the Asia Minor Peninsula": 4,000 Greeks.
Musaios mentions about the population of Lycia: "Today the wrecks of the Lycians amount to about seventeen thousand Greeks, and about five thousand of Makri and Levision" and elsewhere "To the south of Makri at an hour's distance lies a large valley and to the south of it on one side is the town of Levision, inhabited by approximately 650-700 Christian families, pure of all other races". Newer scholars give the number of 6,500 Greek residents or 4,500 Greeks / 550 families
Today the settlement is uninhabited, apart from groups of tourists and village vendors selling handicrafts and objects excavated from the village.

As in the rest of Asia Minor, until the middle of the 19th century the only educational effort was teaching by priests.

In Livisi the children gathered in the narthex of the church of Agia Anna. An important role in the development of education in Livisi was played by Michael Moussios, who remained in the memory of the Libyans until after the Catastrophe with the characteristic name "the teacher". He tried, among other things, to improve the language of the inhabitants of the region by writing the "Vattarisms i.e. vocabulary of the Levisian dialect", a valuable and rare source for Lycia in the 19th century. The first school was founded in 1864 at the location of Kounousata through the efforts of Moussaoui.

In 1878 the finances of three churches (Panagia Pyrgiotissa, Agia Anna and Taxiarhon) were merged in order to better manage money for education and the Ephorate of schools and churches was established. Among the teachers who taught in the schools of Livissi, we know Paulinos Ioannidis, A. Spanos, Stamatiadis, Vasilios Sarafi and Kyriakos Tsakiris. Until 1850, the students attending the (primary) schools of Livissi reached 20-25. By 1868, they had increased to 200 students of the co-educational school and 53 of the Greek school. In 1896 the students of both schools were 400.

In the 1910s at the Boys' School the students were 420-440, the teachers 5 and the annual expenditure 280 Turkish liras. Correspondingly, in the Girls' School, the number of female students was 240-250, the teachers were 3 and the annual expenditure was 130 Turkish liras. Another testimony from the beginning of the 20th century (Xenophanes magazine) gives the number of 398 students in 6 classes, 5 teachers and an annual expenditure of 270 Turkish lira for the Boys' School. The teachers of the village were organized in the Livisi Teaching Association, as evidenced by documents/codes from 1907.

The costs of education were covered in many and varied ways: by donations, by tuition fees, by dowry taxation at 2%, by contributions from the churches, by renting communal estates and buildings, by fines for those who violated communal decisions. The contribution of Hatzis Nikolaos Louizidis, who acquired a significant fortune from the chrome mines, was important. He helped to build an Urban School in Makri, repaired the old school and in 1886 founded a school on the hill of Agios Georgios. He also granted scholarships to teachers to study in Athens. His generosity was similar to the Turkish and Jewish community of Makri. The offer of Vasilios Vasiliadis with the purchase of a house, its conversion into a Girls' School and the granting of 300 francs for teachers' salaries was also noteworthy. The last chronological information we have comes from the Directorate of Military History.

In the map accompanying the "Brief History of the Asia Minor Campaign" of the Army History Directorate, it is stated that in February 1919, there were a total of 1053 students and 6 churches in Kaza Makris.
The wealth of the Livisians as well as their increased religious feeling led to the building of a total of twenty-one churches and chapels in the village and the surrounding area.
Of these, nine were located within the settlement: Panagia Pyrgiotissa, Taxiarchis, Agia Anna, the ruined church of Agios Georgios, the second church of Agios Georgios, Agios Ioannis, Agia Marina, Agios Tharannos and Agios Georgios. Also the anonymous church east of Panagia Pyrgiotissa with a founding inscription and surviving frescoes.

Better preserved and very satisfactorily published are the two largest, Panagia Pyrgiotissa and Taxiarchis. These two churches belong to the type of cruciform churches of the Dodecanese. They were probably built by Dodecanese itinerant craftsmen. Panagia Pyrgiotissa is the oldest of the two, it was built in 1840 and survived the devastating earthquake of 1851. The date of construction of the church of Archangel Michael - Taxiarchis is not known. It is, however, older than the pebbled one (in the square of Stoumbo) with the date 1910. It is a single-aisle basilica with five cross vaults and in the second phase a gynekonite was added (total dimensions 27 x 9.45 meters). Externally, the surfaces are of plastered stonework and the southern and main view is more refined. The iconostasis was probably of marble, but only a few traces of its base survive.

The church of Agia Anna is considered to be the oldest in the village and was called Palia Panagia, while around it were the oldest houses of the village. The Efkolon Monastery - to the west of the village - got its name as a euphemism, because the area where it was located was difficult and steep. There is also the opinion that it was named so because women giving birth invoked the patron saint of the monastery Agios Eleftherios to facilitate childbirth. Two caves belonged to the monastery, "Katafugin" in honor of Agios Nikolaos and Panagia.
Levissi is said to be the village that inspired "Esquibahçe", the fictional village chosen by Louis de Bernier for his 2004 novel Birds Without Wings.

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