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NAKED APHRODITE

Now that I have your attention, let me introduce you to Knidos, the ancient ruins of a once prosperous city on the end of the Datca (pronounced “Dat-cha” like “gotcha”) Peninsula.  The harbor itself has two bays.  The ancient harbor is perfectly situated for a sunset though exposed to the prevailing wind, and the other more protected harbor sits under the shadow of an ancient amphitheater.  According to scholars there has been a settlement in this location for over 3,000 years, but Knidos became an ancient metropolis in 4 B.C.

So where does a “naked” woman come in?  According to legend, the great sculptor, Praxiteles made two statues of the goddess Aphrodite in the 4th century B.C., one clothed and the other not.  The one with clothes was purchased by the rather conservative people on the nearby island of Kos.

Kos in distance from Knidos City Walls

Kos in distance from Knidos City Walls

The people of Knidos reportedly purchased the unclothed statue to adorn a circular temple to Aphrodite.  The statue was so beautiful it was coveted by many in the millennia that followed, and while copied, the original is not believed to have survived. 

All that remains of the Round Temple is the steps and foundation

All that remains of the Round Temple is the steps and foundation

The curved steps surrounding the foundation of the temple are a reminder of the ingenuity of the people who designed and built it well before modern tools and machines replaced slave labor.  The precision evident in both the cutting of the stone and its creation into enormous perfectly formed walls is a tribute to ancient architects.

Precision cut blocks

Precision cut blocks

Massive stone walls made up city

Massive stone walls made up city

The size and scale of the massive stone structures that survive are impressive, but no more so than the delicate and ornate carving that adorned this ancient city.  Amid the rubble are perfectly formed columns, portions of pediments and cornice moldings, and ornate carvings of animals, flowers and vines.

Ancient pediment

Ancient pediment

Marble Artistry

Marble Artistry

Greek key is a reminder that Knidos was not always Turkish

Greek key from Hellenic period

Vines & flowers

Vines & flowers

Symbols of Abundance

Symbols of Abundance

Words from the past

Words from the past

While the Aphrodite statue that made it famous has vanished, the ruins at Knidos are a reminder of the majesty of the civilizations that occupied this part of the world in 4th century B.C. when the port city was flourishing.  According to a tour guide, it is estimated that 150,000 people occupied the town at the height of its glory.  There is a large amphitheater on the site that seats 25,000 and a smaller one that overlooks the eastern harbor. 

There are marble avenues and steps that survive without much change since they were made.  Walking through the site you can envision the bustling metropolis that once existed, and marvel at the beauty of what has survived after earthquakes, and the ravages of wind and weather.

Marble Main Street

Broad Marble Avenues ran east-west and north-south with intersecting stairs

All that remains is the ornate base. . .

All that remains is the ornate base. . .

while other pillars have been resurrected from the rubble.

while other pillars have been resurrected from the rubble.

Entrance to small amphitheater

Entrance to small amphitheater

Being a sheltered harbor at the end of the peninsula made it (and still does today) a logical stopping off place for protection from the meltemi winds that blow from the N and NW.  A guide reports that the ship carrying St. Paul to trial in Rome was laid over here waiting for a weather window to travel north.

Nightfall over Destiny at Anchor

Nightfall over Destiny at Anchor

Today the former commercial harbor hosts numerous private vessels, like Destiny, and more than its share of day trip gulets that bring tourists from Marmaris and Bodrum to tour the ruins. 

View of Knidos Anchorage from Ruins

View of Knidos Anchorage from Ruins

In the small amphitheater that sits on the south harbor overlooking the modern-day anchorage, there are marble steps that show little evidence of their age amid the ruins.

Step into the Past

Step into the Past

In the very first row, at the very center of the amphitheater is the slightly elevated and elaborately carved base of a seat obviously reserved for a “very important person”.  

Seat of Honor

Seat of Honor

The lighthouse that sits on the end of the peninsula, seen through the arched remains of the amphitheater, has been guiding ships since 400 B.C.

Lighthouse through time

Lighthouse through time

In many cases, the weather has eroded the decoration from the windward side of an urn or column leaving it smooth, while the other side has the depth and detail of its original creation.

Elaborate detail on one side, vanished by time on the other

Elaborate detail on one side, worn smooth by time on the other

The remains of a Temple to Apollo sits high on the hill overlooking the ocean and the Greek island of Kos barely 7 NM away.  

Foundation of Temple of Apollo with altar remains in foreground

Foundation of Temple of Apollo with altar remains in foreground

Remnants of Altar of Apollo

Remnants of Altar of Apollo

Altar close up

Altar close up

There are few areas in Knidos that are cordoned from exploration by interested sightseers, unlike some ruins in Greece and Italy.  Everywhere you see bits and pieces of antiquity—from ornate carvings on all manner of architectural forms, and bits of pottery scattered among the ruins and along the sea bottom near the shore visible only with snorkle and mask.

The old harbor, once used for military purposes, is now silted in and accessible only to small fishing boats.  But it makes for a perfect sunset ending to the day.

Sunset over Old Knidos Harbor

Large earthquakes destroyed Knidos sometime after the 7th century A.D. and the town was abandoned.  What remains is truly remarkable.  Stepping back into the past is a cherished part of our “adventure”.

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