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Keywords:

  • Aperlae;
  • Lycia;
  • cabotage;
  • murex trunculus;
  • purple dye

Aperlae was a small remote maritime city in ancient Lycia with a millennial floruit (late 4th century BC through the late 7th century AD). The harsh terrain of its hinterland forced a reliance on the Mediterranean from its founding to its demise. The Aperlites stabilized and enhanced their urban waterfronts in modest ways over the centuries, but basically they maintained and sustained their intimate relationship with the sea without elaborate docking or harbour installations. Fishing, probably a primary industry, centred on the harvest of murex trunculus, the marine mollusk from which purple dye was made. This valuable commodity appears to have been produced in Aperlae for export to Andriake, the international emporium of nearby Myra, for transshipment to textile centres throughout the Mediterranean. There, coastal traders also acquired the necessities and luxuries the city needed but did not produce. Proxy evidence, impressive archaeological features on land and under the sea, speaks to moments of prosperity for Aperlae well beyond mere subsistence. Cabotage was this secondary port's enduring lifeline.