The Turkish Aegean
August 1999

At this point in our trip, we turned north and began our drive back to Istanbul roughly following the Aegean coastline. The weather remained just as hot but the humidity was slightly less. (Note: BCE is the non-Christian designation for BC and CE is equivalent to AD)

1999 Turkey Trip Web Pages

In the modern city of Bodrum on the Aegean coast are the ruins of King Mausolus’s tomb (350 BCE), the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the fifth of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Very little is left of the Mausoleum much of it having been destroyed in the 16th century by Christian invaders to fortify the Castle of St. Peter.

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Model of how the Mausoleum might have looked before being destroyed by the Christians. A portion of the marble relief from the Mausoleum. What’s left of King Mausolus’s tomb today.


Castle of St. Peter, also in Bodrum, is a terrific castle overlooking the city and the Aegean and museum (award-winning and considered one of the best in Europe [though it is in Asia]) to underwater archeology. It included an extensive amphorae collection, but had a recently-opened and pretty stupid dungeon exhibit which showed some mannequin in irons, flashing red lights, and clanky-moany sound effects.
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Amphorae, used for transporting wine, oil, and grain, recovered from under the sea.

Gold coins recovered from ship wrecks.


Just off the road on the way to Ephesus was Euromos (site of a 6th century BCE Lycean and a 4th century BCE Greek city) with the ruins of the 2nd century CE Temple of Zeus (built under Hadrian) set in an olive grove. It is perhaps the best small site we saw on the trip. We arrived late in the day when there was virtually no one else there. The temple has striking Corinthian columns among other ruins such as a nearby theater. Euromos1.JPG (67780 bytes)
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Nutty tourist either trying the Sampson bit or providing scale.


Next we came to Turkey’s best known Greek and Roman city—and a huge tourist attraction—Ephesus. Founded and famous before 800 BCE and once capital of the Ionian civilization, Ephesus is now considered the finest classical city in the world still standing. To beat the heat and the crowds we arrived at 8 am and this was worth it because by the time we left (three hours later) it was crawling with people and was quite hot. Supposedly St. Paul preached and the Virgin Mary retired here. The Library of Celsus (below) is probably the most spectacular ruin. There were a lot of Greek inscriptions, a long marble street, a great theater, gates to Hercules, Hadrian, and Augustus, the Trajan fountain. Among the popular attractions are the Roman public toilets (all the tour groups stopped there to allow the tourists to sit in place and have their photos taken) and the brothel advertisement carved in the marble road. There was an adjoining museum for the blind which of course had to feature a replica of Artemis and her many breasts. Ephesus_statue.JPG (25583 bytes)
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toilets.JPG (22419 bytes) American tourists “trying out” the Roman  public toilets (right). Above left is the Grand Theater which could seat 25,000. And directly above is the Marble Road that connected Ephesus to the Temple of Artemis.


About a mile from the main Ephesus ruins (and next to a police station) was the massive Temple of Artemis (Diana), the site of the fourth Wonder of the Ancient World and the largest structure in the ancient Greek world (four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens). Erected in the 6th century BCE, it was the first major structure built entirely of marble. Not much is left now but the odd column (with a stork’s nest atop) and “bits”—not even the ubiquitous ticket booth and hawkers of merchandise. We were the only ones there. Artemis_temple.JPG (27025 bytes)


Pamukkale.JPG (25930 bytes) Pamukkale is another of those sites featured on tourist literature, this time not ruins as such but natural travertine pools (white calcium formations with overflowing water) on the hillside. Images of Turkey usually include this with people wading around in the white pools, however, swimming in them is no longer permitted. Nonetheless it is very striking.


Hierapolis is the ruins of a 2nd century BCE Greek, later Roman (still later, Byzantine), city and spa adjoining Pamukkale with a spectacular Roman theater (below right) and an extensive series of sarcophagi in their enormous necropolis. A motel between Hierapolis and Pamukkale has a natural pool with ruins on the bottom around which tourists can swim (right), so tourist buses were continuously unloading bikini and swimsuit clad tourists (do they change on the bus or ride all the way dressed like that?). Shown below are the ubiquitous hawkers of merchandise, this time women selling lace table cloths to tourists leaving the theater. pool_ruins.JPG (29559 bytes)
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Aphrodisias—This 8th century BCE Greek city features the Temple of Aphrodite (which once housed a purportedly “shocking” statue of her, now long since destroyed), an enormous oval stadium (“most well-preserved ever excavated”) with 30,000 seats, a theater with individually labeled seats, gateway arch, and a marble odeum. In the Roman era, the city was home to a famous school of sculptors, and this is clear from the number of terrific carvings of faces, busts, and sarcophagi.

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The Tetrapylon (above) was the gateway to Temple of Aphrodite (below). Ruth holds onto her hat in the stadium during a very windy and very hot day (above right).

Relief on a sarcophagus (below).

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Pergamon, dating back to the 9th century BCE, this ancient Greek city (“one of Turkey’s finest archeological sites”) which hit its peak around the time of Alexander the Great and was the birthplace of the ancient Greek physician Galen, sits on an acropolis towering 1000 feet above the modern city of Bergama. We found it the most impressive setting of all the ruins we visited—a fantastic view. It had the second biggest library (after Alexandria) of the ancient world, where parchment was invented (because of the Egyptian monopoly of papyrus). The site includes a rather steeply tiered (the guidebook says “vertigo inducing”) theater built into the hillside. Athena_Pergamon.JPG (20454 bytes)


Assos.JPG (20525 bytes) Assos, founded in the 6th century BCE, was once a mecca for intellectuals including Aristotle. Its Temple of Athena is situated on an acropolis high on a hill with a great view the island of Lesbos (left). The modest ruins have very few visitors. We entered at the necropolis at the lower part of the site which was undergoing excavations, and had to do a bit of scrambling through thick bramble up the hillside (past a dead goat that smelled awful—but Ed got a photo of it, to Ruth’s disgust) to the acropolis.


Troy, a complex site because it contains the ruins from Troy I (3200 BCE) through to the classic Homeric city of Troy VI (1300 BCE or so) up to the Troy IX of Julius Caesar’s era, each built one upon the other. The ruins of the site, discovered late in the nineteenth century by an amateur German archeologist, are modest, but have far and away the best design of any of the ruins we visited in Turkey. The signs and attached museum are well organized and have clear explanations (in Turkish, German, and English). The hokey and not very authentic-looking wooden horse near the entrance is big enough to permit climbing inside. Below is a sketch of the Homeric Troy, to the right is a wall from that city, and below right are Ruth and Ed posing with a ceiling tile. Troy_wall.JPG (23659 bytes)
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We drove to Canakkale in order to take the ferry across to the Gallipoli Peninsula (site of Ataturk’s World War I claim to fame), for the most direct return to Istanbul. Aside from vast fields of sunflowers (for the common oil of Turkey, though they do produce a lot of olive oil) and the odd concrete bunker, we did not see much of note having skipped the battlefield memorial.

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