The scant ruins of the ancient Greek city of Nagidos are situated on a hill above the town of Bozyazı, on the Mediterranean coast of Anatolia. They were excavated by a team of archaeologists from Mersin University who discovered the traces of settlement reaching back to the Hellenistic times, i.e. the 4th century BCE. At that period, when Nagidos was an outpost of Samos and Rhodes, as a small harbour founded to trade goods from Cyprus and Egypt.
The location of Nagidos was recorded by Strabo: "Now the coasting-voyage along Cilicia from the borders of Pamphylia to Anemurium is eight hundred and twenty stadia, whereas the rest, as far as Soli, is about five hundred stadia. On this latter one comes to Nagidos, the first city after Anemurium; then to Arsinoe, which has a landing-place; then to a place called Melania, and to Celenderis, a city with a harbour."
In the ancient times, Nagidos was situated in the region called Cilicia, between Arsinoe and Kalenderis to the east and Anemurium to the west. Today, the ruins can be seen on Paşabeleni hill, at the mouth of the Bayat Creek, near Bozyazı, a small town of the Mersin Province of Turkey. The hill also provides an excellent view over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea with a tiny island called Nagidoussa with the ruined fortress from the Ottoman period.
According to the Greek tradition, Nagidos was founded as the colony of Samos. The earliest material evidence from Nagidos are coins minted in the city from the late 5th century and the 4th century BCE, with Aramaic and Greek inscriptions. Nagidos was then under the Persian dominance. These silver staters showed a bunch of grapes on the reverse - as the symbol of the city. One of these coins shows the name Pharnabazus, the Persian satrap, recorded in Aramaic. Pharnabazus was one of the best known satraps among the Greeks, frequently mentioned by ancient authors such as Xenophon and Thucydides. It is possible that the coin found in Nagidos is one of many such coins minted in Tarsus to pay for the Greek troops under Iphicrates, hired by Pharnabazus for his failed Egypt expedition in 373 BCE.
Finally, the deity that appears most frequently on Nagidos coins is the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. This fact suggests that she was the most important goddess of the city and must have had her sanctuary there. Another deity depicted on the coins is Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine, ritual madness, and theatre.
When Alexander the Great conquered Cilicia in 333 BCE, also Nagidos became a part of his vast but short-lived empire. After his death, Cilicia was initially controlled by the Seleucids. An inscription discovered in Nagidos recorded that this city together with Mallos, an ancient city of Cilicia Campestris located near the mouth of the Pyramus, participated in the foundation of the colony called Antioch by the Meander sometime in the 270s. Because the tradition stated that Nagidos had been founded by the settlers arriving from the island of Samos, the Samians later treated the citizens of Antioch by the Meander as their kinsmen. There is also a decree issued by Samos, and dated to the period after 321 BCE, that honours two brothers from Nagidos, but it fails to mention the relationship between these two cities.
Soon afterwards, around 270 BCE, Cilicia was captured by the Ptolemaic Kingdom during the First Syrian War. Ptolemy II Philadelphus extended his rule as far as Caria and into most of Cilicia. This event was marked with the foundation of the city of Arsinoe around 260 BCE, on the land taken from Nagidos by certain Aetos, the Ptolemaic general or military governor of Cilicia. The new city, located just four kilometres to the east of Nagidos, was named for Arsinoe II of Egypt, Ptolemy II's sister and wife.
The Nagidians were unhappy with the territorial loss and refused to recognize the citizens of Arsinoe as the new owners of their land. This dispute was resolved by Thraseas, the son of Aetos, who simply requested the Nagidians to formally cede the land to Arsinoe. The agreement was reached - Arsinoe and Nagidos concluded an isopoliteia agreement, i.e. a treaty of equal citizenship rights between these cities, cementing amicable diplomatic relations. Moreover, the citizens of Arsinoe became so-called apoikoi of Nagidos, meaning that their city was formally founded by the Nagidians and Nagidos was their mother city. This idea was probably introduced to appease the Nagidians for their territorial losses. The decisions were recorded in the inscription now called simply the "Arsinoe decree", containing a letter from Thraseas son of Aetos and a decree of Nagidos.
The exact date of the events described above is uncertain because of the tumultuous events of the 3rd century. It is possible that Cilicia was temporarily lost to the Seleucids sometime in the 250s BCE. Possibly, Nagidos subordinated its new neighbour of Arsinoe in that period, or even reabsorbed it as a part of their city. When Ptolemy III Euergetes recovered the region in 246 BCE, he had to resolve this problematic issue. If it was the case, that the negotiations of Thraseas could take place in the 230s BCE. Then, in 197 BCE, Nagidos was again taken by the Seleucids during Antiochus III the Great's campaign of the Fifth Syrian War.
Nagidos was soon abandoned for some period, as demonstrated by the archaeological excavations. The most possible explanation for the end of the Hellenistic settlement is the increased activity of the Cilician pirates in the middle of the 2nd century BCE. It was a widespread problem of this period of history of Rough Cilicia. The inhabitants of the region, who had served as mercenaries in the Hellenistic times, lost this opportunity with the decline of the Hellenistic kingdoms.
However, the small settlements of Nagidos and Arsinoe continued to exist for many centuries afterwards, as attested by the finds from the Roman period. However, quite probably Nagidos was by then only a village dependent on Anemurium.
The ancient site of Nagidos was first identified by the Austrian archaeologists Rudolf Heberdey and Adolf Wilhelm in 1891. The identification of the site was conducted on the basis of the local topography, such as the island Nagidoussa situated offshore from the city, and has never been disputed.
Then, in the 1930s, a Swedish expedition carried out the surveys of the site. The most important finds were the potter sherds typical for the Iron Age period of this region of Anatolia before the Greek colonization. These finds suggest that there had been a native Anatolian settlement there before the colonists from Samos arrived in the 8th century BCE.
Half a century later, 1979, a large inscription in black marble was brought to the Mersin Museum from an unknown location. It is practically complete, and consists of 56 lines of Hellenistic Greek. Dated to around 238 BCE, it provides information about Nagidos and the founding of the neighbouring city Arsinoe. It details their borders, but also offers the clues about the sacred precincts of Aphrodite and Arsinoe. It is now housed in the Mersin Museum.
Then, in 1986, a salvage excavation was conducted by the Anamur Museum before the new constructions planned on the west bank of the Bayat Creek. The sensational discovery was then made as the excavations revealed an ancient necropolis with 24 graves. Within the graves, the archaeologists found 19 terracotta sarcophagi, three marble sarcophagi, and two large hydria burials. Moreover, three of the burials were enclosed within an ashlar masonry wall, suggestion a burial precinct of one family. Each grave held one body except for one sarcophagus where two people were buried.
The burials also consisted of multiple grave goods, mainly of excellent quality. These objects allowed the dating of the necropolis to the period from the late 5th century to the 3rd century BCE. Among the discovered goods, there were many vessels of different kinds, such as "hydriai, kantharoi, alabastra, unguentaria, amphoriskoi, plates, a baby's feeding vessel, and one-handled jars of Phoenician type" as recorded by C. P. Jones and J. Russell. There was also some jewellery, including a golden diadem, and two badly corroded coins.
Just one year later, in 1987, a local farmer Bay Zeynel Sakinan discovered two fragmentary inscriptions in his field, near the summit of Paşabeleni hill. He delivered them to the Museum of Anamur. The inscriptions, in local dark blue limestone, contain a fragmentary religious dedication and a decree of the city of Nagidos.
The modern town of Bozyazı developed over time below the hill of the ancient site but the summit of the hill where the ancient settlement once thrived is protected as an archaeological site.
There is not much to see during the visit to the site but some stretches of a defensive walls from the 5th or the 4th century BCE are still visible in several places, reaching the height of six courses of ashlar and polygonal masonry. There are also some retaining walls and a cistern of uncertain age. Across the site, many pottery fragments can be glimpsed, attesting to the density and longevity of settlement. Local farmers also reported the finds of lead sling-bullets typical for the Hellenistic times, and suggesting the existence of a military barracks or arms warehouse within the acropolis.
The only other evidence of ancient occupation nearby can be seen on the small island located opposite the acropolis about 180 meters off-shore. It was identified as the Nagidoussa of the early sources such as Stephanus of Byzantium. This islet probably served as a secure shelter for the ships moored along the shore. Apart from the sparse remains of ancient structures on the island, there is a ruined fortress from the Ottoman period that was erected with the use of large blocks, probably spolia from the ancient city wall.