Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nothing like us ever was...

Traveling through time and climbing over ancient ruins always brings me back to a poem I learned years ago (no, really!! 48 years ago!)  I don't remember it all anymore but certain poetic phrases still stick.  It was called Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind and the point it made to me anyway was that whatever we build and however amazing we think we are, doesn't last as long as time.

Still I have to say that the three ancient cities we visited, Priene, Miletus and Didyma are really spectacular ruins!

We left Izmir, with good driving advice from our friends from dinner the evening before, and we up and out early Sunday morning with hopes of seeing all the sights and getting back in good time to put our feet up a bit before dinner.

classic columns

Our first stop was Priene (and the new highway really did make a difference in the time it took to get there!).

We were actually very surprised that there were as many people at the site.  I had been there many times in all the different seasons and I had never seen it as busy!  There were about three tour buses worth of people, German, French and Turkish.

once the view was water
I'm guessing that it was a pleasant Sunday excursion trip by bus (since it was a very nice excursion for just the four of us.  The weather was finally co-operating and it warmed up pleasantly.

It is such a peaceful spot, and the city is what I always think of as human scale, which just means that I don't find it to overwhelming, but can actually visualize people going about their day to day business there.  Well, once they climb up to it. (It seems to have been very well defended and tho it had three ports at one time, it doesn't seem to have been a frequent target in wars or takeovers AND it's sort of vertical).


One of my favorite spots in Priene, is this nice little 'city council' building or Bouleuterion. it's dated to the 2nd century B.C.

"... one of the best preserved examples of an ancient bouleuterion. ... it was surrounded by tiers of seats accommodating 640 citizens. In the centre stood an altar with a decoration of bulls´ heads and laurel leaves... The speakers addressed the meeting from a podium carved in the south wall between the two entrances."   

Unless of course someone unforseen shows up and needs to say something "from the heart"... (or perhaps something he memorized for a forensic competition a gazillion years ago...)

Deciding to leave (unfortunately about the same time as several buses) We drove back to the main road down from Priene, and followed the signs to Miletus.

The ground is cultivated for farming (predominantly cotton, I think) but in the winter is very much wetlands.  It's very rich land as it's all based on the silt of the Meander/Menderes River We saw a lot of birds.  I remember once, years ago, seeing three or four varieties of herons and egrets.

theater in the afternoon winter sunlight
Miletus was a sprawling huge city. It was one of the 12 Ionian cities of Asia Minor in it's heyday.  But its origins go back to Neolithic times.  One of its claims to fame, it rebelled against the Hittite Empire in the late 13 century BC!  By 1000 BC it's was comfortably being settled by Greeks during the Greek Archaic Period.

Being a city on the mouth of a river had advantages and disadvantages.  Eventually by the 14 century AD, the silting of its ports became what really ended it's great history.

Still the thing to see here is the great roman theater...

Except because of all the tour buses disgorging at about the same time, and entering the theater, just as those ancient crowds, I decided we'd go up the right side next to the theater and visit the Baths of Faustina first.
a few people but not crowds

one of the pools with a copy of the statue of Dionysus (the original is in the Izmir archaeological museum)

Baths were quite extensive and included a gymnasium

one of the many tour groups catch up with us in the baths

moving out towards the theater passing a lot more excavation of the baths

and it continues! (of course this is the high ground... everything else is underwater!)

one of the MANY entrances and exits to the theater

ah, where to sit...

well organized to get people in and out- the tiers are very well defined.

obviously this was the good seat area.  the seats are wider!

We crawled all over the theater and marveled at how similar the construction is to modern day amphitheaters. Then it was time for the last leg of our journey, Didyma.  It's not really too far from Miletus and at one time the two places were connected by the Sacred Way, which of course is underwater in Miletus, so I don't have a picture of it.

Temple of the Oracles at Didyma

an enormous building.
inside the temple (sacred spring in center of temple)
what the temple probably looked like

the oracle brothers?

passages on either side to enter the central temple

massive pillars
so many pieces left to put back together

classical medusa head (probably from the architrave inside the temples)

Which of course is a perfect spot to finish for now, as we ended our tour in a little tea house across the road from the temple and sat for a few minutes and  had something to drink while contemplating the building across the way, before we loaded ourselves back into the car for a comfortable ride back to the hotel in Balçova.

We got back in good time to have a little rest, dinner and a splash in the wonderful pool and jacuzzi.  All in all, a wonderful day.

Tomorrow I'll wrap up Izmir and send us back to Istanbul for the final week of giddy excitement (and photographs).


  1. Wonderful photos and description. Thank you.

  2. I love this post. I wish I would have had more time in Turkey so that I might have seen something like this, we were in & out so quickly. I enjoyed it though. xo



Related Posts with Thumbnails