Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sura: Fish Oracle of Apollo

Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Sura, which was a dependency of nearby Myra, and closer still to the ancient port at Andriake, must be one of the most overlooked sites of the known ancient cities within modern Turkey.  The highway that divides the city in two allows little chance to catch the ancient monuments hidden among the greenhouses and overgrowth.  I myself might have missed this rarely visited site had I not approached the ancient city from the coastal road that begins at Cyaneae and ends at Sura.  As I approached, I found myself high up on a ridge overlooking a deep valley fronted in the distance by the sea coast.  At its bottom, a small river flowed from nowhere, but appeared to lead from an ancient structure that I had no idea at the time, was the Temple of Apollo Surios (pictured above in the lower right corner), which stills stands approximately 8 meters high.  The city center sits atop the ridge about 100 meters above the temple (pictured in the upper left of the same photo).
Though I have now passed this site twice, I have yet to make my way down the steep incline to the temple, which I was to discover later was known in ancient times for its Oracle Fish of Apollo, and further, that there is a rock-cut staircase that leads down to the site, and to the spring that still fills the pool where the fish would predict future events for those who inquired.  The Hellenistic writer Polycharmus described the workings of the oracle:
"When they come to the sea, where is the grove of Apollo by the shore, on which is the whirlpool on the sand, the clients present themselves holding two wooden spits, on each of which are tens pieces of roast meat.  The priest takes his seat in silence by the grove, while the client throws the spits into the whirlpool and watches what happens.  After the spits are thrown in, the pool fills with sea-water, and a multitude of fish appear as if by magic, and of a size to cause alarm.  The prophet announces the species of the fish and the client accordingly receives his answer from the priest."
I am looking very forward to the day when I anchor my sailboat off this ancient harbor and make my way to the Oracle Fish of Apollo, where I will then perform the ancient mystery and receive my consultation, and, observe the interior inscriptions attributed to the deities Apollo Sozon/Surios and Zeus Atabyrios of Rhodes.
A little further up the road where the valley meets the upper plain, the ancient city begins to raise its head.  Pictured above, a Watch Tower guards the north east section of the city just beyond the city wall.  And again, the overgrowth of thorny brush kept me at bay from further investigation, because cyclist bib-shorts are not the best gear to ward off thorns, needles, snakes and scorpions, though I do think I often test them to the limit.
In search of further evidence of the ancient city, which at the time of visiting I had not a clue as to the name of, I found a dirt path leading into the rows of greenhouses and tall trees.  I first happened onto a well preserved Exedra Tomb Monument (pictured above) that appeared to be located within a necropolis, though one could not be sure, as the ancient Lycian's often located tombs in and around the areas of the city where people lived.
Near the Exedra Tomb there is a well preserved Lycian sarcophagi with an ornately carved lid decorated with lions emerging from within the tomb head and paws first.
The only monument that can partially be seen from the main highway is an outcrop that is home to an extremely well preserved Lycian Pillar Tomb that is elevated on a high platform of sculpted rock that takes the shape of a Lycian House Tomb (pictured below).
This is a unique looking 4C BC Lycian tomb for having an elevated Pillar Tomb rise above a flat-roofed House Tomb.  The patron of the family was most likely buried in the Pillar Tomb, while the chamber within the lower section of the tomb or house would probably have been a place of internment for family members, who were often buried together as to keep the unit close before and after death.
At the base of the large outcrop or acropolis are two inscriptions on rock carved stele (pictured below).
Though I didn't take the time to photograph all of the rock carved stele around the Acropolis, there are twenty plus such examples to be viewed.

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Bucak: Lycian House Tomb

Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Near the village Cevreli, along the old coastal road between ancient Cyaneae and ancient Sura, sits a beautiful 4C BC Lycian rock cut house tomb.  Finely sculptured images can be seen on the face of the upper story or pediment; a testament to the ancestor worship practiced in ancient Lycia.  An old man reaches out, perhaps to receive the recently deceased relative into the afterworld.  A women rises from her bed with arms in the air . . . , is she overcome at the site of her father, or grandfather?  Often, a funerary feast is depicted, perhaps as a preparation for the journey.  It is a common theme that even after death, family ties are maintained and well represented in Lycian funerary culture.
The tombs would often provide a resting place for extended family members, again reinforcing the bond between relatives.  The deceased were usually cremated, with the remains being placed in large funerary jars, or, inhumed.  Carved representations of wooden poles can be viewed supporting the upper section of the roof of this and many other rock cut house tombs, just as real wooden poles would have done in an actual Lycian house (a reproduction of a similar type Lycian house is pictured below, this one sits next to gushing spring at ancient Limyra).  The easily sculpted soft limestone throughout the region provided a ready medium for fine detail sculpting.
Lycian tomb locations can often be seen in and amongst the living area of the ancient cities, whereas the Hellenes or Romans preferred to inter their prominant deceased citizens in necropoli along, and/or along the main roads leading into the city.  When instead placed high up on a cliff, or near the sea, it was believed that a winged siren would come and carry the soul of the departed into the afterworld.
The inner chamber of Lycian rock cut tomb would often have beds carved from the interior where the deceased would be laid to rest and gifts could be placed for their life beyond this world.  Such tombs were then sealed with sliding stone doors with notches that would assist in the movement of these very heavy objects.
Pictured below, a view of the Bucak Tomb from the old coastal road . . . , a road very much less traveled.  I followed this road to the ancient city of Sura, and I can say that this route is among the most relaxing cycling paths I have taken thus far, as it circumnavigates the main highway that runs between the same points A and B higher up in the mountains.

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Cyaneae: City of Sarcophagi

Photos by Jack A. Waldron
With Kos (ancient Antiphellus) as my base, I jumped on a dolmus (mini bus) that would take me 20 km north east to the small village of Yavu, which sits below the cliffs of ancient Cyaneae.  From there, it is a 2 km trek up and around the backside of the mountain along a path that follows a dry river bed deep in a ravine.  As you ascend, a plateau at the top begins to expand into a wide plain covered in tall thorny brush.  A brush it turns out, that could even hide a massive ancient theater only meters away (pictured below).
On extremely hot days such as the one I chose to visit Cyaneae (though, the days in July don't vary much in this part of Turkey), there is a subconscious urge to hurry, climb as little as possible, finish quickly, and conserve water.  Looking at the city plan drawn by Spratt's company in 1840 (pictured below), it becomes obvious that they spent many days surveying the site, as it is completely overgrown even today.
Sometimes I dream of the day when each ancient site in Turkey has a full staff of gardeners and excavators on site year round.  So much of this city is completely inaccessible, that I almost feel cheated by the hand of mother nature.  Still, will power and passion intact, I do my best to crawl through the thicket, while avoiding cisterns, snakes and scorpions, at which I am mostly successful.
As I approached the site from behind the theater, I became quite excited when I saw the polygonal/cyclopean outer walls that support the 25 rows and single diazoma of the cavea.  The theater, which seats around 2,500, is of a more basic type when compared to most other mid-to-large size theaters, and I imagine that it served its function well with the most cost effective construction.
Dating the construction of the theater is somewhat precarious, as the larger-than-semi-circular design is of Hellenistic origin, whereas it has been argued that decorative styles found in and around the theater point to the Roman Imperial period.  Lycian history expert Bayburtluoglu writes:
"I believe that the theater was constructed at the time of two Lycian Lyciarchs, Opramoas from Rhodiapolis and Jason from Kyaneia, who lived around the same time.  Without going into any details, the architectural decorations within and around the theater permit us to say that it must date to the time of Antoninus Pius, after the earthquake of 141 AD." Bayburtluoglu (2004), p. 218.
I wanted to climb to the top of the theater, but the orchestra was completely overgrown with brush that sat atop a massive amount of rubble . . . , and it was scorching hot.  No excuses, now I must someday return for those photos I didn't get . . . , including the Eastern Gate with the shield sculpture within its arched pediment!
A deep and deadly cistern is located just in front of the theater (pictured above).  As most literature written about the site makes reference to the numerous cisterns throughout the city, I will attest to the need, due to the heat.  People I talk with about tour cycling usually comment on the unbearable heat I subject myself to, however I must say, it is never an issue until the wheels slow to a snails pace or stop turning completely.  The 50+ sunscreen I wear in combination with a breeze really takes the heat off.
Turning away from the theater to get a full view of the city walls atop the blanket of overgrown brush is hardly an incentive to jump right in (pictured above).  However, there is a path that winds its way up the slope through the necropolis, which is home to what must be one of the largest collections of ornately decorated sarcophagi from the ancient world, and if not, then perhaps the largest collection of Lycian sarcophagi.
With magnificent lion head sculptures jutting out at the visitor from the lids of the sarcophagi, along with the quantity of such exquisitely decorated tombs, it is the necropolis in particular that gives great reward to those who venture off the beaten path to ancient cities.
The sarcophagi thus far catalogued mostly range from the 4C BC through to the 3-4C AD, or, early Hellenistic to Roman Imperial.  There can be no doubt however, that the Lycian sculptural style carried through these periods and established a unique and powerful aesthetic to be considered.
Pictured above, a view of the theater on the lower acropolis taken from the main path through the necropolis that leads up to the western section of the city wall.  It wasn't far past this point where the challenge to navigate around under and over the thorny brush begins.
With sarcophagi clinging to the southern precipice in the foreground, and Yavu village nestled below the cliff face of the city, the Kas/Finike road winds through the valley.  At the elbow shaped bend (pictured above), there is a road that follows the ancient pathway to the harbor city of Teimiussa, which sits at a distance of approximately 6 km from Cyaneae.
Pictured above, the western section of the city wall can be seen above the sarcophagi.  The holes beneath the lids are evidence left by the grave robbers and the lost treasures that were buried with the deceased.
Reaching the city western city wall felt like quite an accomplishment, and only needed to be breeched by a commonplace balancing act performed by anyone who has ever climbed over giant square-shaped blocks (pictured above).  Good gripping shoes are not a requirement, however, they can be bone saving.  After observing the stone blocks used for the city wall, it appears to be of a newer construction as opposed to an older, that might have used a polygonal/cyclopean type block, such as in the outer support walls of the theater, which really adds to the debate over the actual construction date of the theater.  Were they still building with polygonal/cyclopean type block during the Roman Imperial period?
The view of the theater (middle right of photo above) and the distant sea over the mountains makes the climb to the top of the city wall well worth the effort.  If one were to draw on a map a 20 km circumference around the city of Cyaneae, no less than 20 observable ancient sites could be located.  And, perhaps one of those sites was home to a known oracle in ancient times.  The famous Greek geographer and traveler Pausanias writes:
"Close to Cyaneae by Lycia, where there is an oracle of Apollon Thyrxeus, the water shows to him who looks into the spring all the things that he wants to behold."  Pausanias Book 7.21.13
Now within the city walls, dicerning the shapes of buildings, their function and which decorative member belongs to which becomes a very difficult and time consuming task.  It becomes very apparent that building members have been repurposed in the construction of other efforts, and that this occurred over the centuries until the final abandonment of the city sometime in or around the 14C AD.
Pictured above, not far into the city from the western fortification wall, an arch spans a deep subterranean structure that is most likely a cistern (pictured above).  The further I went through the city the more disappointed I became, as the overgrowth is so thick that it keeps hidden most of what you come there to find.  I took very few pictures within the city, though I know there are monuments and structures that are well worth finding.  Unfortunately, I did not have an unlimited period of time, nor supply of water that would be required to find some of the structures I came to see.  One of those structures that I failed to locate was the Trysa Heroon, while another was the Eastern Gate with a shield sculpture within its arched pediment.
Pictured above and below, having succeeded in finding my way through the city to the eastern wall, and straddling the top of a terraced section with eight feet down to my right and six feet down to left that ran along several deep arched cisterns, I was greeted by three frenzied partridges that nearly knocked me off my perch, and certainly put the fear of the underworld in me.
There are numerous finely ornamented building members in this area, though it is unclear from where or how they landed here.  Were they part of the Library?  The Heroon?  This site requires more than one day to explore.  I had already spent four hours going one way, and the return journey would be no less arduous.
With a site as difficult to access as this, I wasn't surprised to find evidence of treasure hunting underway.  Just under the eastern wall I discovered this two meter deep exploratory pit (pictured above and below).
Looking down the slope from the exploratory hole there was a multi-roomed building (pictured below, with zoom).  I can imagine that this building was present when the Spratt expedition explored the site in 1840, and may even be legible on the site map that was drawn at the time.  There is another building in the lower right side of the upper photo.
Thirsty and tired, I made my way back through the ancient city to the main path that runs from the theater to the east and down into Yavu.  Taking the viewpoint from the photos above, it seemed at the time that I could just head straight down the slope into the village, but with the overgrown brush, the heat, and any possible false decent, that would have most likely been a misguided decision.
Back in Yavu, I began to notice these small wooden huts or shacks (see photos below).  If I had patrons, I would at this point propose a contest, that anyone who can tell me what these little shacks are used for, I would be glad to send the first five with the correct answer an ultra cool Bike Classical T-Shirt as a reward!  Feel free to leave your best guesses in the comment section below.
Someday, I will return to Cyaneae.  Surprisingly, I drove right past it only a few weeks ago on my way to Datcha (August 2017, yes, I am two years behind in my posts!), but couldn't inspire nor excite my travel partner into taking yet another detour away from the beach to yet another ancient site . . . , I shall return!

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Antiphellus: Port of Sea Sponges

Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Following the Demre River from where it meets the sea at Andriake (the port and site of Hadrian's granary), up through the fertile valley past the ancient city of Cyaneae, one arrives at the site of ancient Phellos.  Wishing to have their own port independent from the ports at Myra, Andriake or Sura, Phellos established Antiphellos, meaning, in front of Phellos. Pictured above, the Hellenistic theater (restored) at the site of Antiphellus, modern day Kos.  This is my second time to visit Kos, and I have more complete photos of the theater as it appeared in 2005, prior to its restoration.  Those photos are on film, and must be scanned and added to this post in the future . . . , yet another future project.  
The one photo I have already scanned from 2005 (pictured above) is on the rooftop of the pension where I stayed.  I cooked a whole chicken to share with new acquaintances, and ended up on a new friends sailboat at 3:00 am the following morning on my way Fethiye. Over weight and computer bound, I started tour cycling to address my growing physique.  I stopped by the pension to say hello to the owners in 2015, an old couple who said they remembered me . . . 
According to Pliny the elder, the Lycian port town was named Habessus during pre-Hellenic times, and was famous for the quality of the sponges fished from the local seas.  4C BC inscriptions in the Lycian B language have been identified around the site.  Upon exploration by Sir Charles Fellows in 1840, an ancient Greek inscription was found containing the name Antiphellus.  Furthermore, post-Hellenic Roman era coins from the city contain the name Antiphellus.  What is fascinating with regard to the name of the site, is that prior to the forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922-23, the city was known as Andifili, which is near in pronunciation to the cites ancient name, but not as close as its 19C AD name, Andiffelo.  Pictured below, the outer wall of what was once thought to be a Hellenistic temple, but is now described as a 4C BC monumental tomb.
Pictured above and below, the interior of the 4C BC tomb.  Evidenced by the building of such structures during this period, Antiphellus grew in importance, while Phellus saw its inhabitants gravitate more and more to the prosperous port city.
Lycian sarcophagi can be found in and around Kos, though the British explorers did remove antiquities to England for display.  The drawing (pictured below) of Graves' crew dismantling the Tomb of Payava at Xanthus for display at the British Museum in London is one of numerous examples of antiquities export during this period.  The Kings's Tomb (also pictured below) in Kos (Antiphellus) bares a striking similarity to the drawing.
Pictured above, a close shot of the Lycian inscription on the base of the King's Tomb.  Below, a rock face tomb on the cliff that rises above the city.  This tomb was illustrated during Spratt's expedition to Lycia (pictured further down).
The tomb pictured above is situated atop the acropolis behind the theater, and was honed from the solid rock that comprises the hill. Though the ancient site of Antiphellus is almost completely covered by modern Kos, if one takes the time to walk, hike and climb around the city, the antiquities show themselves, and offer a good understanding of the ancient city.

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)