March 28, 2013
Weather once again played a part during the day but only a small part.
Thursday was another busy day. We started in Bodrum and finished in Selçuk with four stops along the way. We had a few raindrops, but nothing major. The temperature was comfortable and there was very little wind. That was important because once again we were outside most of the day and we did some climbing so the cooler weather was appreciated.
We started out in Heraklia. It is a Carian town which has been there for a very long time. It is so old (how old is it?) that the “new” fortification walls were probably constructed about 280 B.C. It is near Lake Bafa. The walls that surrounded the city were more than 6.5 km long. There were 65 guard towers protecting the wall and the city and its port.
We stood in the city’s agora to get our orientation. Yıldırım thought he had a deal with the ladies of the town who sell their handicrafts to visitors that would keep them from following us around and that they would all gather in one place at one time instead. But we were one of the first groups in Heraklia this season so it seems that all deals were off.
A unique aspect of today’s Heraklia (Kapikiri) is that it is built in, on, and amongst the ruins of old Heraklia. As we walked from location to location we were walking through local neighborhoods and word spread quickly. At one point we visited the bouleuterion which is in someone’s back yard so she set up shop as John and Yıldırım talked and some people mixed shopping with listening and looking. We visited the remains of the temple of Athena which overlooks the port. While there are three walls still standing, the altar and the columns which would have been there are no longer visible.
We hiked up to a couple of the guard towers. To get there we had to walk a path through fields that have been heavily used by cows and sheep. I think it was here that someone used the descriptive term “dairy air.” The paths change from time to time so Yıldırım had to ask directions a couple of times to make sure the way was passable. Once we got to the towers we had a great view. The towers are in various states of disrepair, but seem to be in remarkably good shape for things that are a couple of thousand years old. We also had a good view of the surrounding area which gave us an idea of how the town might have been laid out. On our way back through town we passed by the stoa (marketplace) whose walls still appear strong and straight.
From Heraklia we drove to Didyma. Before seeing the ruins of Apollo’s Temple we had a quick lunch at a restaurant outside the site. I mention that because this was the first time we had really seen any other tourist groups and the restaurant was the first time we had to dodge other tourists. The temple, which was built around an oracle, was amazing for its scale. The columns were the largest I think we have seen to date. The pictures Patricia and I took probably will not show the scale well.
I felt like I was the size of a child as I walked around. The walls you will see in one of the pictures were once three times higher than they are now, so they must have impressed all but the most jaded of visitors and people who came for a reading from the oracle. Didyma is a temple site and is not within a city which makes it unusual, but far from unique. It was the most important sanctuary/temple close to Miletus
We followed our usual model of getting some background (often a reading from Strabo) and then being turned loose to wander the site for a while. It was here that we had to dodge a few raindrops. The grounds of the site had quite a few puddles but we had no trouble. It was clear from the quality of the work here that a huge amount of time/effort/resources had been used to build and maintain the site. I can easily see why it would draw modern crowds.
Note: It is hard to believe we have spent a little bit of time at all these sites and a) have only scratched the surface of each site and b) only sampled a small number of the sites that exist. As we drive from place to place John or Yıldırım will say “look over there” or “near here…” or “if we had time…” ENDNOTE
We next stopped at Miletus (noted above). Miletus was an important city for a very long time. Recorded history goes back to at least 1900 B.C. It was an important colonizer and had colonies as far away as the Black Sea. After being held by the Persians for some time, Alexander took the city (he visited other places we saw on this trip) in 334 B.C. We had only a short stop here. While there have been excavations here for some time (since at least 1873), we only had time to walk around the theater. Once again, we sent most of our time there learning about the immediate environs but also about the connection of this site to others—some of which we have visited.
Back in the bus for today’s final leg. We moved to Priene.
The original city location is not known. This location was chosen by Alexander (did he never take a day off?) and he wanted to make it a model city. It is laid out on a grid plan and the ruins are reputed to be the best example of a Greek town of that era. John L told us that there was a slight uphill climb on sort-of paved surface to get form the bus to the site but we have learned by now to discount “slight, “flat,” and “short” when he uses those terms. In fact, for most of the trip up, we were accompanied by goats (no joking!) who could go only a little faster than we could up this “slight” incline on a “semi-paved” road. But the road we took was one that was in use more than 2,000 years ago, so it was fitting that we were following the same path. When we reached a more-or-less level spot there were goats grazing in the ruins. The goats wandered off, but we regrouped in the Theater, where we got more background and John and Yıldırım answered questions. After a group stop at the “Bishop’s House,” where early Christian ceremonies were held, and which had some of the same features we saw at Iasos. Then we just moved as individuals from place to place according to our own wishes. It wasn’t quite like walking through a ghost town, but it was interesting to walk through streets that many hundreds of years ago must have been filled with thousands people going on about their daily lives. Patricia and I clambered about on the ruins of the Temple of Athena. I took some pictures of the columns as they were restored and re-erected against a backdrop of Mt. Mycale. As impressive as the columns are, they are about 10 feet shorter now than they were originally. We walked down what had been a residential street. These must have been houses for rich people, though, because they were very large. The sun was getting close to the horizon, so walking through the trees on the old streets with the late afternoon light was very pleasant.
There are pictures on the pictures page.
Here is a map that shows the tracks of our day’s activities. Be sure to go to the larger version and zoom in to get enough detail to actually trace our steps in most of the sites.