Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Derebucak, a new discovery in Turkey

One of my favorite TV programs is still Zor Yollar that airs every week on TRT Tϋrk and there are times the landscape and sites cannot entice me, but this week was different. The group of adventurous guides and archeologists went to Urϋnlϋ, a place above Antalya I didn’t know and where they showed a house with intriguing walls made of stone alternated with wooden pegs.

From there they drove into a National Forest whose treasure was a turquoise blue pool that tunneled in and out of a greater lake. I was lucky enough to find some pictures to illustrate what I saw here.

After that the 4x4 cars drove on to Derebucak that I also had to look up on a map and that is located further north just inside the borders of the province of Konya.
Here I really got excited for they took me to a Roman road. It is always an amazing and exciting event to discover a stretch of antique road running in the middle of nowhere and it definitely was not easy to see (click here for location on the map) it in the landscape even. Eye catcher were the stairs! My goodness, what a road that must have been! My knowledge of the language still falls short in those precious moments but I understood that even Apostle Paul had walked here on his way to or from Perge.

Well, I have a couple of new places to add to my sightseeing list next time I’ll visit the area.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The shipwreck of Kızılburun, Turkey

It was only recently that I heard the name Kızılburun for the first time. I already know the shipwreck from Uluburun on Turkey’s southwestern shores where a huge amount of treasures was recuperated which are now exhibited at the Archeological Museum of Bodrum, but the cargo ships from Kızılburun?

It didn’t take too long before I found out that the promontory of Kızılburun, meaning as much as Crimson Cape, is located a few miles southwest of Izmir. It seems to be a rather dangerous point for maritime traffic since, beside the so-called Colum Wreck I’m interested in, at least five more wrecks have been located in the same area, including an amphora carrier from the 4th century BC, two Byzantine wrecks and a medieval millstone wreck. Sailing in antiquity, although frequent, was certainly not without risks!

Remains of a late Hellenistic ship were first discovered here in 1993. The ship was sailing from Proconnesos Island (near old Constantinople) with freshly quarried marble intended for the Temple of Apollo in Claros (about 40 miles from Kızılburun), but it sank before reaching its destination. On board were eight drums for an entire column and its capital in Doric style - an estimated total load of at least fifty tons! Until now, there was little or no information about the quarrying process, the long distance hauling by sea and the lively marble constructions that occurred during Hellenistic times in Asia Minor, now Western Turkey, but this find is changing all of this. Luckily, this wreck could be dated thanks to the amphoras found with the cargo to late 2nd or 1st century BC, which is quite interesting as in those days, architects generally preferred Ionic or Corinthian columns. Divers identified a wide range of smaller artifacts also, including black glass bowls, oil lamps and several types of amphoras.

During the 2006 diving season, underwater archeologists located more than a dozen large marble blocks, several steles, a marble pedestal and a 230-pound lead anchor stock, beside smaller items like plates, pans, cups, jugs, etc. They also lifted a cluster of intact amphoras of the typical Lamboglia type, the largest group on board of this vessel, beside another set of amphoras made in ancient Colchis near the Black Sea.

The most difficult task then was to raise the massive marble column drums, each weighing between 6.5 and 7.5 tons! A system was developed whereby nylon straps put around the drum were attached to heavy duty balloons. That year, the divers were able to salvage four of the eight columns. The remaining four as well as the Doric capital were lifted a year later, in 2007.

Interestingly next to the drum pile, portions of the ship’s secondary cargo has been discovered, i.e. large blocks probably to be used as building material; marble items like two large basins with pedestal, a roughly worked out but fine hand basin, and an unfinished stele; also some pottery and amphoras originating from Eastern Greece, the Adriatic and even Egypt!

The tie with Claros occurred in due course. The column elements pointed towards a monumental construction and after serious investigations, archeologists were able to make the connection with the nearby Temple of Apollo at Claros. This is where I’m getting all excited for when I was in Claros a few years ago, I was utterly amazed by the size of one of the drums lying in the grass. I even took a picture of it, leaving my camera cover on top of it to show the shear size! Wow! At that time, there were approximately a dozen of archeologists at work, digging and removing dirt from a building next to the very temple. It may be worth another trip one of these days, just to see what the latest excavations have been revealing. By then, there might be more news about the ship’s construction itself, but I suppose this will take quite some time.

Progress of the excavations around Kızılburun can be followed via the link of the University of Texas, updated in 2008 and the one of National Geographic, updated in Feb 2009. 

[picture of the divers is from National Geographic]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

From Bodrum to Marmaris. Sunflower Guide

Just like the Sunflower Guide covering Antalya to Demre, this is another wonderful book in the same series.

Bodrum to Marmaris (ISBN 978-1856913683) generally covers the area known as Caria in which the coastal cities of Bodrum and Marmaris are central. Additionally, the book also provides a guide to Ephesus and Aphrodisias although this historical sites are much further to the north and no longer part of Caria. Again, we find plenty of useful hints about food and lodging, but also about the signs to look for while getting where you want to go. The sightseeing is arranged around several walks: Bodrum and the wider peninsula above the city, the Gulf of Gökova with Cleopatra’s Beach, Marmaris and surroundings including the Bozburun Peninsula, Datça and the Dorian Peninsula and finally excursions to Pamukkale and Hierapolis, Aphrodisias and even to Ephesus. A beautiful fold-out map of Caria is attached to the back cover providing clear detailed maps along the way.

Besides that, it contains an extensive introduction with all kinds of practical information, such as phone area codes, newspapers, buses, events, shopping, cafés, restaurants, night-life, laundry services, police, entrance fees and opening hours of the archaeological sites and parks, you just name it. A comprehensive history of Turkey and a list of useful Turkish words make this guide complete.

The book is a high standard teamwork of Michael Bussman and Gabriele Tröger, with walks by Brian and Eileen Anderson and Dean Livesley. The seasoned traveller can even check their online update service to make sure he/she has the most recent information when planning a trip to Caria.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Knidos. A guide to the Ancient Site by Christine Bruns-Özgan

Knidos (ISBN 9759798123), a most practical and complete little guide (115 pages) to the site of Knidos, located at the western tip of the Dorian peninsula, some 18 miles due south of Bodrum, Turkey.

It contains several aerial views to show the selected location of the city founded around 360 BC with its two well-protected harbors and the place where the first nude statue of a woman ever was presented to the Knidians in the shape of Aphrodite. This statue has been copied time and again for several centuries because of its undisputable beauty.

Enhanced with plenty of pictures and drawings, this book takes you step by step through the streets of Knidos, stopping at those temples, churches and other monuments that have so far been excavated. It dates from 2004 and is by far the most update and most comprehensive guide to take you around this unique site. The British archeologist Charles Newton spent time digging here as one of the very first and obviously his best pieces went to the British Museum, but other statues and artifacts have been moved for safe-keeping to the museums of Bodrum and Marmaris. The pictures in the booklet show exactly what you have to look for.

Although Knidos is accessible by land, the best approach in my eyes in by boat – a unique experience to drop the anchor in the same harbor as the one that has been used for more than two thousand years!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The surprise of Caunos - Caria 7

Caunos is one of those places that is always being advertised with the rock-hewn tombs high above a reed-filled Dalyan River crowded with day-trippers in flat boats of all sizes and shapes. Not the most inviting prospective as far as I’m concerned, but then, how can I judge the site to its right value if I haven’t seen it for myself? So, here I go!

Our gulet throws her anchor at some distance from the shore and soon one of the riverboats steams up to take us all on board. The wind is pretty strong and as long as I was on the gulet Almira I didn’t feel what it meant, but on this flat riverboat, it is an entirely different story. Each curly wave hits the boat and at times, it is like being on a rollercoaster. However, as soon as we reach the mouth of the Dalyan River, the water surface is smoothing out and we make steady progress. The river is so calm that sky and clouds and reeds are reflected in pure mirror effects. How well-protected and inviting Caunos must have been to the sailors of antiquity!

This coastline is a protected site for the Carreta Carretas turtles that come here each year to lay their eggs. This turtle varies in size from one meter to one meter and a half and can reach the respectable age of seventy! But protected or not, a local fisherman is throwing in some crabs on a line and soon enough I see one of those wonderful turtles emerging! Quite a sensation, I must say! Our boat continues her course and the first city walls appear on top of a knobby mountain on my left, apparently a two miles long stretch. We stop at a jetty to walk over a nicely paved path towards Caunos and its walls grow bigger as we get closer. In the lush green of spring the place seems rather overgrown, but once at the heart of the old harbour, the overview becomes pretty clear. The lesser Acropolis on the left and the Eastern Acropolis with the city walls I saw from afar on the right are the harbour’s sentinels.

I’m standing at the very heart of the port where a lake revives the picture of the waterfront that has now silted up. Behind me, nearly over the entire length of the bay, runs a Stoa flanked at each end by a Nympheion and constituting the background to several rooms in front of which are the remains of several monuments erected in memory of important Caunians. To the far left of this Stoa and Agora lies a Basilica and at the far right a partially reconstructed Fountain House decorated with two columns at the entrance – a pleasure to the eye!

Sitting here in the peace of the afternoon, the floor of short-cut grass and scanty relics of columns and buildings come alive. It is not difficult to imagine the hustle and bustle of people coming and going, ships being loaded and unloaded, merchants talking feverishly with buyers and sellers while seafarers seek the distractions common to every port - temples, taverns, and brothels are the same all over the empire. Sacrifices to the local and foreign gods are being made to thank them for their safe arrival and to pray for a safe journey onward. It is surprising to hear ancient writers like Homer and Strabo telling us that Caunos was a notoriously unhealthy city to live in, observing the people’s greenish complexion. This was due to widespread malaria; a condition that was not known at the time but lasted till far into the 1970’s when the Turkish government launched a thorough campaign to eradicate malaria from this marshy area. In antiquity, the harbor came right to the city’s edge but has now receded some three miles back. In any case, I don’t see or hear any mosquito – thank Zeus! What once was the busy harbor is now a lake, but it is not difficult to see how easily its entrance could be closed off with a metal chain if needed.

Caunos was generally considered to be a Carian city, yet Herodotus himself has his doubts and concludes that it was neither Carian nor Lycian. This statement seems to be confirmed by an inscription found in the city center showing a number of characters that are not found in any other Carian text. In the 4th century BC, Caunos was under Persian control but King Mausolos eagerly put a Greek stamp on it. Statue-bases of him and his father, King Hecatomnos, have been found and it is generally accepted that he was responsible for building the long city walls.

It is a pity that I found no trace of Alexander’s presence here for he was in the area in 334 BC, besieging Halikarnassos and eventually putting Queen Ada back on the throne. After Alexander’s death, his successors entered a long dispute. In 313 BC his general Antigonus took hold of Caunos, but Ptolemy captured it for himself in 309 BC. Three years later, as Ptolemy was being defeated in Cyprus, Caunos returned to Antigonus and his son Demetrios-Poliorketes. That did not last either, and as early as 286 BC they had to surrender the city to Seleucos, another of Alexander’s generals, then King of Syria, and was later on handed over to Lysimachus. This is one of those messy situations that occurred during the Wars of the Diadochi that lasted for some forty years! Rhodes demanded its share but inevitably Caunos became part of the Roman province Asia in 129 BC. Yet the inhabitants were unhappy with this rule and requested to be a free city, which was granted some time between the end of the 1st century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD. By then, Caunos was a fully Hellenized city and none of its inhabitants bore a Carian name.

This coincides with the first financial crisis due to the silting up of the harbor. In order to encourage foreign merchants to continue stopping at Caunos, the city granted a full remission of taxes, except on slaves who were highly prized, and on salt, which was known to be of the highest quality. An inscription confirms these measures, and also mentions the trade of resin imported from the pine forests in the hinterland used essentially in shipbuilding.

I now climb to the higher terrace from where the position of the harbor and today’s silting up is clearly visible. Here I find the strangest of buildings in the shape of a horseshoe dating from the 1st century BC, set inside a colonnade gallery in Doric style. The inner walls of poor masonry and the column drums still show traces of plaster. The outer circle is built in white marble carrying fluted columns. At the open side of this horseshoe of this construction, three steps lead to a semi-circular podium trimmed with a row of unfluted columns in the back. This sanctuary probably was dedicated to Zeus Soteros but the presence of a strange purple stone at the foot of these steps, in the middle of the inner circle seems to indicate that this was a sacred area as early as the 5th century BC. At first, this stone was a riddle for the archaeologists till they started digging. They discovered that this round altar stone stood directly on top of a huge limestone monolith that had been broken into two pieces. This monolith stands on the bedrock, some 6.5 meters below the present floor level. This was called a baetyl, a kind of pyramidal sacred stone which, when still intact would have stood 3.5 meters tall. The pyramid is, in fact, an abstract representation the god-king of Caunos, Basileus Caunios. This baetyl is the emblem of the city as found on coins of Caunos until the middle of the Classical Period. I simply can’t get enough of this place, it’s so unique!

There is still another terrace above this one, whose entrance is framed by an imposing doorway and where I find three main buildings. To the left are the rather poor remains of a massive Roman Bath (more excavations needed); next to it, a good recognizable Basilica with rounded apse and three distinctive aisles; and finally a smaller building that is either defined as a temple or as a library. And then there is another odd construction! The remains of a quarter-circle with two steps with carved lines running across its flooring. This may indicate that this stone was used as a reference layout by the architects of the city, a system that is known but that has never been recovered simply because it was always destroyed after the city was completed. Another enigma that needs to be solved! Caunos is definitely full of surprises.

And then I find myself right next to the theater entrance. It is always exciting to walk the stairs under the original vault – it takes me straight back in time. The theater is definitely Greek in shape but has been adapted by the Romans later on with an elevated skene behind the orchestra. It had a seating capacity of 5,000 people, not excessively large but as always the spectator had a sweeping view over the harbor, the Acropolis on both framing hills and the rest of the city.

I am so entirely taken by the unexpected surprises of Caunos with its highly intriguing buildings that I nearly forgot about the rock-tombs which everybody knows and everybody comes to see! I must admit that their shear location comes straight out of a fairytale. They are more or less lined up in two rows, the bottom row being simple square holes. The upper row is the most spectacular part where the facades of the so-called temple tombs are cut from the rock in the shape of a temple with columns and all. I don’t visit the inside but I’m told that they contain the usual three benches where the dead were disposed. Pottery found inside the tombs seems to date them to the 4th century BC. A spectacular view which reminds me of Petra in Jordan – although on a smaller scale.

By now it is time to return to the gulet and as our riverboat steams towards the open sea, I keep seeing the big knob with Caunos’ city walls till we have reached the open sea – it must have been a true beacon for any seafarer. The winds have picked up even more by now and this flatboat is certainly not the most comfortable way to ride the choppy waves. My admiration for the ancient skippers and pilots is rising once again. What a day!

Click on the Label Caria 2012 to read the full story.
[Click here to see all the pictures of Caunos]

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Phoenix, wild and grand – also on the Loryma Peninsula - Caria 6

On the same Loryma Peninsula we anchor in one of the many picture-perfect coves and set out to discover the remains of Phoenix, a city of which I find no information whatsoever. As so often the case in Turkey, places have names and are put on a map but nothing or close to nothing is done to disclose the history and background of the place. Phoenix is no exception and I have the feeling to be the very first one to lay eyes on the stones, the walls, the ruined houses used over and over during the eons past. You can let your imagination run freely among these wild and crumbled hills.

“A river runs through it” would be another name for this remote town, although all that is left is the rocky riverbed that may or may not be filled with water after some heavy rain-showers. I truly takes plenty of imagination to bring this place to life for all I see is evidence of ordinary daily life with bits and pieces of tiles, amphora’s and other ceramics. The vague remains of cisterns and wells catch the eye beside stone slabs with half-worn Greek inscriptions that have been reused in the walls of more recent constructions. The careful observer will discern the city walls, partially swallowed up by the landscape and the high grasses, buildings leaning against the rocky background or nestled in between big outcrops that cannot be moved but have been integrated in the walls of some building.

If not for the scanty remains, the climb is definitely worth the view from atop this hill!

Click on the Label Caria 2012 to read the full story
[Click here to see all the pictures of Phoenix]

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Loryma, a Rhodian fortress, a source of inspiration - Caria 5

I must admit that fortresses are not my forte, but they are always helpful to picture the kind of strongholds Alexander the Great had to take, even if that didn’t happen exactly right here.

Approaching the fortress of Loryma from the sea is a most impressive experience and you don’t have to be a general to realize its strategic location, due north of Rhodes. I definitely need some historical background here for I admit that I’m not at all familiar with what happened in and around the island of Rhodes.

Homer tells us that the Dorians migrated to Asia, settling mainly on the Island of Rhodes where they created the cities of Lindus, Ialysus, and Camirus which were part of the Dorian hexapolis. These cities remained independent until 408 BC when some sort of Rhodian state emerged and the city of Rhodes was founded. From the very beginning the individual cities possessed territory on the mainland, and obviously, the Loryma peninsula was close-by. Although the people on the mainland were governed by Rhodes, they never became Rhodian citizens. About the end of the 2nd century BC, the Romans gave all of Lycia and Caria to the Rhodians whose control lasted until the 2nd century AD – making up the so-called Rhodian Peraea. The rocky and steep Loryma Peninsula lies at its very heart.

The well-preserved fortress that comes into view is crowning the southern end of the narrow headland, sheltering the deep bay behind it. George Bean in his precious book “Turkey beyond the Maeander” describes the fort as an elongated enclosure of approximately 320 meters long and 27 meters wide, with a wall that was about 2.5 meters wide counting nine square towers at regular intervals and a round tower at each end. The climb up to today’s ruins is not a difficult one and I’m truly impressed by the sheer width of the walls still standing up to one meter and the size of the construction blocks that reach lengths of more than five meters in some places. Five small gates gave access to the interior and halfway there also is an outlet for water. Since no remains of housing have been found, it is generally agreed that the structure was pure military. There is, however, a partly rock-cut cistern close to each round tower, an indispensable asset for any fortification. Some speculate that the fragmentary ruins on the north hill may have been the residential quarters of Loryma.

From atop the peninsula, it is absolutely clear that the harbour of Loryma was well protected under all weather conditions. As far as we know, it was used by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War in 395 BC, and again in 305 BC by Demetrios-Poliorketes, son of Antigonus-the-One-Eyed (one of Alexander’s generals), when he set out on his unsuccessful conquest of Rhodes. Exciting to be in a place where so much history has been written!

Click on the Label Caria 2012 to read the full story
[Click here to see all the pictures of Loryma]

Monday, September 3, 2012

Turkey beyond the Maeander by George Bean

"Turkey beyond the Maeander" (ISBN 0719547652) is simply the best and most complete book one can find about southwestern Turkey, in spite of the fact that information about accessibility and state of the excavations may be outdated since George Bean died in 1977.

George Bean is a legend in this country where everybody seems to know him, has met him or their parents, relatives, neighbors have. He was a broad shouldered man of almost six foot tall and that alone was enough to impress whoever saw him. But apparently he had a most pleasant character and unlike today’s hurried archeologists, he would simply make his way to the local coffee-house for a chat with the villagers about their daily business, the harvest and their way of living. Slowly winning their confidence, he then would bring up his interest in archeology with surprising results.

He definitely loved this country and his deep interest for its past transpires through every line. It is surprising to discover how much history, facts and figures he manages to cramp in the story of each town he describes while at the same time he keeps things simple enough to make it passionate reading. Clear drawings, often just a few lines, illustrate his vivid tales and the book is further enhanced with a handful black-and-white pictures. No bombastic language that only an initiate can decipher, but plain words and sentences we can all understand.

In this book, George Bean mainly covers Caria in southwestern Turkey, where King Mausolos and his dynasty were leading figures and the main cities were Mylasa (today’s Mylas) and Halicarnassos (today’s Bodrum). Yet George Bean mentions about every single city and town. As a bonus, he has even extended his story as far as Aphrodisias, Hierapolis and Tralles which are in fact situated beyond the northern boarder of Caria.

Beside his “Turkey beyond the Maeander”, George Bean wrote another three books, “Aegean Turkey”, “Lycian Turkey”, and “Turkey’s Southern Shore”. You may have a hard time finding any of them though; best chance is a second hand acquisition. Each and every one of these books is a precious tool and an unequalled jewel very much worth the effort looking for.