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OFF THE BOAT AND THE BEATEN PATH

November 16th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

We recently joined several other cruisers from Yacht Marina and Netsel Marina (including Seattle friends Judy & Dave on Freebird and Chicago friend Carol, who with husband , Gus lives on Indigo) on a two day tour that went to several archeological sites that are somewhat isolated and therefore not visited as much as Ephesus, for example.

We had been assured by tour organizer, Gwen, that if we liked Ephesus “we would love Aphrodisias”, which was to be our first stop after a three-plus hour ride from Marmaris.

Along the way, however, we passed Tabae, an ancient site just off the Denizli-Mugla Highway which was founded during the Hellenistic Period and contains the remains of a Roman bath and Ottoman mosque.  

We wandered around the ancient walls

We wandered around the ancient walls. . .

and scattered remnants of Hellenistic glory.

and scattered remnants of Hellenistic glory.

A modern mosque now sits near. . .

A modern mosque now sits near. . .

the ruins of an Ottoman Mosque.

the ruins of an Ottoman Mosque.

After stretching our legs, and giving Jolie a chance to run off leash through the grass, we were back on the road and heading for Aphrodisias.

Aphrodisias is a Turkish national treasure.  We started our tour at the museum which houses some of the most well-preserved antiquities that we have seen in this part of the world.  

Aphrodisias Museum displays many artifacts from the site

Aphrodisias Museum displays many artifacts from the site

As you enter the museum you are greeted by a near perfect statue of Aphrodite, the Greek “Goddess of Love”, also known as the Goddess Venus in Roman times.  With her flowing robes and hair, she epitomizes beauty and sexuality.  Many statues of Aphrodite show her in naked or nearly so, but this representation is elegantly clothed but still sensual. 

Aphrodite the "Goddess of Love"

Aphrodite the "Goddess of Love"

Continuing through the museum we saw many life-size, and bigger than life, statues many of which were nearly complete.  We have become accustomed to seeing human figures rendered headless and limbless by marauding invaders, including Christians who wanted to stamp out pagan worship, and natural occurrences like earthquakes.  More about earthquakes later.   

Larger than life. . .this statue is nearly as high as the museum roof!

Larger than life. . .this statue is nearly as high as the museum roof!

Nearly perfect life size statues. . .

Nearly perfect life size statues. . .

reveal dress of the time.

reveal dress of the time.

 

while others are a diminutive. . .

While others are diminutive. . .

at less than 24 inches.

at less than 24 inches.

What makes Aphrodisias remarkable is the amazing condition of many of the antiquities, including large carved panels that adorned buildings and have now been removed to the safety of the museum. 

Nearly life size panels of Gods, Goddesses and mere mortals fill one gallery

Nearly life size panels of Gods, Goddesses and mere mortals fill one gallery

Naked nymphs. . .

Naked nymphs. . .

and lovers. . .

and lovers. . .

and warring gods are captured in the marble panels.

and warring gods are captured in the marble panels.

Jolie was permitted into the museum as an accessory

Jolie was permitted into the museum as an accessory

The sculptured marble panels have been replaced with reproductions that now fill the void in the buildings that remain.

 

Reproductions of the panels replace the originals

Reproductions of the panels replace the originals

During Roman times Aphrodiasis attracted sculptors because of the abundance of marble in nearby local quarries.  Not only the sculptures but the buildings, such as the Odeon and Theater were made of marble. 

White marble came from local quarries. . .

White marble came from local quarries. . .

and became works of art.

and became works of art. . .

in the hands of talented sculptors.

in the hands of talented sculptors.

After the museum we next visited the Tetrapylon or monumental gate which dates back to approximately 2 A.D. and was constructed after the Temple of Aphrodite has was converted to a Christian church.

Our travel group in front of the elaborate tetraplyon. . .

Our travel group in front of the elaborate tetraplyon. . .

a monumental gate leading to the Temple of Aphrodite.

a monumental gate leading to the Temple of Aphrodite.

The Temple of Aphrodite dates back to the 8th Century B.C. when pagan worship was suspected to include orgies. But under the Byzantines in approximately 350 A.D. it was transformed into a Christian church and rebuilt into a basilica in 500 A.D. 

Temple of Aphrodite. . .

Temple of Aphrodite. . .

was rebuilt as a basilica in 500 A.D.

was rebuilt as a basilica in 500 A.D.

What remains now is sparse evidence of its real splendor, but is splendid just the same.

Many pillars of the temple still stand. . .

Many pillars of the temple still stand. . .

while others have toppled.

while others have toppled.

The Odeon is a small marble amphitheater like structure that was the seat of government.  The original structure would have been covered by a roof and not open air as it is now. 

The Odeon was the seat of government

The Odeon was the seat of government

The marble is pure white, with little sign of its actual age because it was buried in mud for centuries and perfectly preserved as a result.  Note the delicate carving of clawed animal feet decorating the rows.  This is a motif we have seen repeated in many similar structures of this time period.

Ornate claw carvings on every level

Ornate claw carvings on every level

One of the larger structures on the site is the Stadium which is an elongated oval 270 meters (nearly three football fields) in length and with 30 tiers.  It was built by the Greeks in the 1st Century A.D. to accommodate 30,000 spectators for athletic games.  By 400 A.D. the Romans controlled the city and gladiatorial combat and wild beast fights replaced athletic games. 

30,000 Greeks watched athletic games in the Stadium. . .

30,000 Greeks watched athletic games in the Stadium. . .

 

while Roman gladiators fought each other and wild beasts hundreds of years later.

while Roman gladiators fought each other and wild beasts hundreds of years later.

Aphodisias also has a marble theater, complete with column lined stage that seated 25,000 people.  The theater is located near the highest point on the site and it is a bit of a climb to reach the top.  From the upper reaches of the theater you can see out over the ruins and the mountains in the distance as well as just marvel at the beauty and size of the structure.

The theater has a marble seats, stage and decorative columns

The theater has a marble seats, stage and decorative columns

In the van enroute to our hotel we were able to do a video Skype call with granddaughter, Elizabeth, for her fourth birthday and watch her open her present from us.  Thank goodness for netbooks and 3G internet dongles.

By 6 p.m. we arrived at our hotel in Kusadasi in need of a cocktail and some dinner. 

Tranquil view of Kusadasi Harbor from our 4th flr. balcony

Tranquil view of Kusadasi Harbor from our 4th flr. balcony

Back in our room after a group dinner, we were jolted by several tremors from an EARTHQUAKE.  Gwen had promised us some “surprises” on the trip, but an earthquake was not one of them.  Kent had felt two minor tremors before the one that had the walls of the room moving violently and sent us scurrying into to the street.  At first I thought he was kidding when he said “get dressed we are getting out of here”.  The shock lasted only a few seconds, but never having experienced an earthquake, it was scary. 

After about thirty minutes sitting at a café along the harbor front and watching people strolling by, seemingly unconcerned about what had just transpired we went back to our hotel.  The next morning, everyone had a lot to talk about—including the fact that a group of Turkish doctors and their families who were staying in our hotel for a conference had moved out in the middle of the night to another hotel that wasn’t eight stories.  Yikes!! Glad that piece of information wasn’t available the night before.  The epicenter of the 4.5 earthquake was in Ephesus about 10 km from Kusadasi, but no damage was reported—except to our sleep

 

Our hotel is still standing. . .thankfully

Our hotel is still standing. . .thankfully

We awoke to gray skies that threatened rain the next morning with two more major sites to see, and were on the road again by 9 a.m.

The main attraction at our next stop, the ancient city of Miletus, is its Great Theater.  Originally built during the Hellenistic period the 15,000 seat theater was reconstructed by the Romans in the 1st Century A.D.

 

Great Theater in Miletus

Great Theater in Miletus

Tunnels under the seats

Tunnels under the seats. . .

and multi-story arches are architectural delights.

and multi-story arches are architectural delights.

There is a Byzantine fortification constructed at the very top of the structure.

 

A Byzantine fortification tops the Great Theater

A Byzantine fortification tops the Great Theater

Standing next to the upper part of the theater you look down on other partially restored structures. 

Partially restored temple at Miletus

Partially restored temple at Miletus

By the time we were leaving Miletus, the sky was more threatening but the rain had held off. 

November sky threatens rain

November sky threatens rain

Our final stop before heading back to Marmaris was the seaside town of Didym, site of the Temple to Apollo and site of an ancient oracle as important as the one at Delphi, which we had visited in Greece.

As we trekked up yet another hill, Kent commented that he had seen enough “ancient rock”.  Then we saw the remains of this spectacular structure and he was awe struck.  The temple porch originally held 120 HUGE columns, only three of which currently remain standing, although many have lost only there top portions. 

Historical Drawing of the Temple of Apollo

Historical Drawing of the Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo at Didyma

Temple of Apollo at Didym

 The grounds are covered with sections of the columns that have fallen, and fragments of ornate carving.

Pieces of history

Pieces of history

Our guide, Tas in front of a Medusa sculpture

Our guide, Tas in front of a Medusa sculpture

The bases of the columns were approximately 5 feet in diameter with ornate carvings around the perimeter. 

These columns are the biggest. . .

These columns are the biggest. . .

we have seen ANYWHERE!!

we have seen ANYWHERE!!

Ornate carving on the base of columns

Ornate carving on the base of columns

and along the walls.

and along the walls.

There was an open air courtyard where the sacred spring was located (replaced by a well when the spring went dry) where priests drank from the waters and then prophesied. 

Open air staircase leads to main altar

Open air staircase leads to main altar

Lions and

Lions and

Pairs of Griffins. . .

Pairs of Griffins. . .

and floral motifs adorned the temple.

and floral motifs adorned the temple.

Just as we were leaving the Temple it started to sprinkle and by the time we gathered in a nearby restaurant for lunch the skies had opened and we were treated to a thunder and lightning show fit for the Gods.

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