The ancient city of Caunos which is set along Dalyan canal connects Lake Koycegiz to the Mediterranean coast starts from the north of the harbour and ends at the top of the cliffs of Dalyan Village.
According to the myth, Byblis the sister of Miletos fell in love with him, but he refused her love. For that reason, she hanged and killed herself. That is why Caunos was expelled from the area to Caria at where he established the city. Since that time, it is a tradition to call relationships ending in a misrable way as “Caunos Love”.
Caunos, was first discovered by British Rd Hoskyn. During his visit in 1840,Hoskyn found that "Caunos people and parliament" was wirtten a tablet and that is how he concluded that the city belonged to Caunos. The most important feature of the ancient city are the rock tombs standing still even today. According to Strabo the geographer, there were Shipyards and Acropolis (the castle and city walls, city centre) in Caunos. At that time the sea was coming up to the Acropolis. In time, Caunos ancient city was ruled by Persia, Egypt, Rhodes, Pergamum and the Roman empire. After the subsidence of land was formed due to the withdrawal of the sea, the city lost its importance. The northern walls of the city are alike medieval walls. The theatre of the city is at the bottom of the Acropolis has 33 rows. There are also Roman baths, temples, basilica, meeting hall and a plinth in the city..
The ancient city was built on a small peninsula, extending into the sea like a tongue which was formed by the north west outskirts of 152 meters high Acropolis and a 50 meters high small castle on the south west of Acropolis. During Archaic and Early Classical ages, Caunos was located between the city walls behind both the skirts of Acropolis and of small castle and the city walls behind fountain building at Agora.
Since the beginning of the 5th century, the area of Stoa had been especially used for religious architecture. Hence, both of two Acropolis on the isthmus that connects to Sivrihisar Hill and Balıklar Mountain was spreaded at the earliest period of Hekatomnids. Caunos had been started to build mainly on the terraces. Following the subsequent periods, while previous terraces were restoring, new and large terraces had also been constructed. The natural plains on the Agora and its Stoa lies on a narrow area along the harbour.
Caunos that was mentioned for the first time during the Persian Wars (546 BC) according to written documents, was first determined in 1842 by Hoskyn British Archaeologist. He found a tablet of the citizen assembly in the ruins of Dalyan and by translating this tablet, he found out that this place appeared to be Caunos. The archaeological excavations in the city were first launched by Chairman Baki Ogün and his team in 1966. After the death of Baki Ogün in 2001, the archaeological excavations have been carried out by the chairman of Cengiz Isık.
'Harpagos who subdued Ionia, attacked towards Carians, Caunos and Lycians' (Herodotus 1.171). This passage informs us about the historic geography and political significance of the city during the war with the Persians in the first quater of the 6th century BC. Caria and Lycia have large regions which include many cities and villages and the name of Caunos are mentioned here as a separate region between these two important regions. As a result of this, the city of Caunos used to be a self-dependent city including many cities and villages and it was the centre of the region that named its name. Although they say that they came from Crete, the founders of the city who are from Anatolian residents. Because, their languages, customs and traditions and even their beliefs in gods are distinctive from its neighbours and they come up the history as one of the other anatolian indigenes. It was documented by archaelogical findings in which the founders of Caunos were the local Anatolian people and its local name 'Kbid'. The Caunos's local name 'Kbid' had been used until the end of the 4th century BC however, after Hellenians colonized the area, they changed the name to 'Caunos' in the 6th century BC. It can be explained that it was a kind of Hellenistic application as they implemented it the other anotalian local cities where they dominated.
The city had a long and important history during Christian era, too. The city was committed to the state of Lycian and Eastern Roman Church between late antiquity and the middle of medieval times. The city was represented by two Bishops: According to Kalkedon Council documents and Epiphanieus, a Basilieos and a Antipatros referred to the bishops of Caunos. The city has been known as these two names since then; namely Caunos and Hagia. Caunos city that became a village was dominated by Ucturks in the third quarter of the 13th century and then by Anatolian Beylik of Menteşe from the beginning of the 15th century.
Where to visit in Caunos?
The main structures which can be seen on this rugged land are: Acropolis ( the castle and city walls) , the city walls , theatre, church, bath , storage , fountains , Agora, Stoa and urban roads, temples and sacred sites, ports, and tombs. Besides, the structures that are not presented today such as military harbour, shipyards, sport centers, houses, the ruins are not revealed and they are still underground artifacts, can be considered as the ancient city had a great importance and the most largest city in its term. Caunos minted its own currency, is considered to be an independent city and the surrounding cities such as Pisilis (at Sarıgerme), Sultaniye (at Koycegiz Lake shore ) and many small the ancient cities are known to be committed to it. During the excavations have been done so far in Caunos, except the architectural pieces, quite lots of sculptures, pedestals, coins, amphoras, pediments (diadem), ornaments, vases, lamps, figurines, pottery have been found.