MIDAS MOUND. A 2700 year old burial tomb in Gordion, the ancient capital of the Phrygian Kingdom. It dates from the middle period (ca 730 BCE) and is the second largest in Anatolia. King Gordias tied a knot (Gordian knot) to the yoke of his wagon and the myth goes that whoever could untie it, would become the ruler of Asia. Along came Alexander the Great (336-323 BCE) who defeated the Phrygians and undid the knot with a single stroke of his sword. Another version is that he just pulled out the peg holding the end of the knot.
Excavated in the 1950’s the archeologists found bronze artifacts, iron drinking cups, pottery, furniture and textiles. It is not confirmed that Midas was buried there but probably his father Gordias. Midas in mythology was the one converted into gold anything he touched into gold; so he had the “golden touch.” All myths have a related basis and it happens that the river Pactolus was rich in gold deposits and it was used in Gordian coinage.
Past the green gate (above) there is a long tunnel that leads into the burial chamber. Once inside there is not much to be seen but the tomb made of large timbers held in place by steel retainers. From the timber dating it was determined that they were cut around 740 BC. The original funeral burial with the artifacts can be seen at the Museum of Anatolian Civilization in Ankara.
Just crossing the road from the entrance to the tumulus is the Gordion Museum where the oldest world’s mosaic is preserved; notice the geometric patterns are not depicting landscapes or people. Next a carved stone marking an historical event or a Roman Tombstone with a figure of an angel.
Gordion was the capital of the Phrygian Empire between 750-600 BC and built upon the ruins of a Hittite city. The Phrygians were an early Iron Age civilization who controlled most of western Anatolia during the 9th to 8th centuries B.C. The river Sangarios (Sakarya) sediments buried parts of the ancient walled city but were excavated and some of the major remains can be seen below. With the arrival of Alexander, the city passed thru a Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman periods to present Turkey. Battles during the Turkish War of Liberation (1921) took place in the area where remnants can still be found. Images of the citadel are below and in the first one in the center of the horizon Midas Mound is visible.
MOUNT NEMRUT. A place I always wanted see and finally got there; just like in Gobeklitepe 20 years late. It is the burial site of Antiochus I King of Commagene (69-36 BCE) and son of King Mithridates - I previously mentioned him in this saga. He built this extraordinary monument on top of a 50 meter high tumulus on top of the Mount…imagine the manpower required to bring all the materials up just by looking at the tourist trail below leading to the top.
One reaches the West Terrace first where one is greeted by the head of King Antiochus – just behind the head of the eagle. The images below show a better perspective; one in color and the other in black and white. This site is an extreme challenge for photography because of its location, number of tourists and accessibility. It is composed of a West side - the most accessible because it will be an afternoon climb and a spectacular sunset view- and an East side is the sunrise and to get there one must start an early morning low temperature climb about 3 AM and will have to make special arrangements with the Park Guides to lead you there people. I gave up the intention of doing the morning climb and photographed the East Terrace in the PM.
Still on the West terrace, heads from the right are Zeus, Apollo (center), and the goddess Commagene at the left. Notice that both the East and West terraces depict slightly different versions of the same deities.
I found the East Terrace the most spectacular where a row of thrones with decapitated seated royals is seen; notice the heads at the foot of the mound…not to mention the tourists. The thrones from left to right represents those of Antiochus I Theos, the King of the Commagene, Goddess Commagene, Zeus, Apollo and Heracles…note that these statues were given different names through history. At the end of the row of thrones there were a lion and an eagle guarding the site.
Next is a public domain photo from a 1890’s German expedition showing that the head of Commagene still in place. Notice the man standing next to the head of Heracles in the left lower corner. Archeological restorations can also be seen of the thrones as well as a wooden sidewalk to make the area easily accessible to the public (compare to above image).
Below a photo of the row of heads looking North. In the first image, the head next to the eagle is that of King Heracles followed by those of Apollo, Zeus, goddess of Commagene and King Antiochus I at the far end.
Next same as above but looking in the opposite direction; notice that there is an eagle head at this end too.
Returning to the West Terrace, tourists congregated to watch the sunset while a wedding party made a video and another visitor dreams of having been a Commagene princess in her previous life. This a site that if I had a bucket list it would have been #1.
PIERNE. This Ionian city located near where the Meander River enters the Aegean Sea is located on of Mykale Mountain and requires a stiff trail climb to reach it. It is near Miletus and founded by the Hittites but not at its present location that was buried by sediments carried by the Meander River. Greeks arrived around 1000 BC and it was rebuilt by Alexander the Great as a planned city. Below are the remnants of the stage and to the left several doors that of rooms where the actors prepared for the shows.
The theater has preserved its Greek origins although it was modified during Roman times and estimated that it could accommodate about 5000 people. Notice that some seats are decorated with Lion’s feet and reserved for the eminent citizens of the time.
It is a best preserved of the old Greek cities and the second most studied one after Pompeii and built of marble from the quarries in Mykale. Built in two terraces and supplied water by an aqueduct from the nearby mountains and distributed thru the city by clay tiles that still can be seen. Below is the Temple of Athena’s built around 335 BCE paid for by funds provided by Alexander the Great and classified as in the Ionic style. The columns were reassembled in the 1960’s but one of the sections was forgotten so they stand shorter than originally constructed.
And the next image is that of the Bouleuterion equivalent to a Senate Chamber or City Council Hall in current times and in the background is the cliff side of the acropolis.
SANLIURFA. The original name was Urfa but in 1984 changed to the present name by adding “sanli” meaning glorious because of its role in the Turkish War of Indenpence. It is one of the oldest cities (back to 9000 BC) in the Crescent of Civilization at the crossroads between Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Starting at the Hazreti Ibrahim Halillah, the cave where legend claims that Prophet Ibraham Halilullah was born in secret from King Nimrod is below. The king was warned of a new leader to be born so he ordered to kill all the newborns…this story sounds familiar. . It is said that the water is among the healthiest but I would not drink it.
Nearby are the Sacred Fish Ponds (Balikligol) formed when King Nimrod burned Prophet Ibraham for preaching about a monotheistic religion. God intervened and a storm lifted Ibraham in the air and where he landed the fire turned into water and the embers into fish. Believers feed these holy carps but if they are killed, the perpetrator will go blind…didn’t see any blind people.
Above and below is the Rizvaniye Vakfi Mosque and Madrassa an important place where pilgrims gather on their hajj to Mecca.
The area around this complex is full of people just having a great time, some just watching tourists going back and giving killing stares. But needless to say during all the time in Turkey never had an unfriendly episode; on the contrary everyone was welcoming.
Around the ponds are small shops mostly selling textiles and food. Below where the building with the Turkish flag is hanging, and to the left, where people are congregated, assortments of colorful scarfs were waiting to be purchased.
The Mevlid-I Halil Mosque is the oldest of the Mosques in Urfa (short for Sanliurfa); it originated as a pagan temple, a synagogue, then transformed into St. Stephon Church during the Byzantine period (150 AD) and finally into a mosque built in 1523. The cave of Ibraham is next to it and Mevlid means “Holy birth.”
Below to the left is the Wudu (washing place) with two minarets in the background and Urfa Castle is where the Turkish flag is flying.
Walking down the streets towards the bazaar where lots of people conducting their daily business crowd the street. One cart pusher is selling cantaloupes while another is bagging what looks like colorful mushrooms.
The Firfirli Mosque also known as the "new frilled mosque" because of its gothic style decoration was formerly the Armenian Church of the Twelve Apostles. By the end of the first World War Armenians were thrown out and the church turned into a prison and later converted into a mosque in 1956.
The Sanliurfa Museum was inaugurated in 1969 and is a magnificent architectural building and the warden of unique archeological treasures. Its geographic location in a rich historical area gives it advantages as a leader of archeological excavations providing with an extensive collection of artifacts from antiquities.
The Haleplibahce Mosaic Museum also here stores the largest collections of mosaics in the world; these can be seen from above from the elevated passageways seen in the image below. Mosaics were made from mostly square cut stones from the Euphrates River. Some of the mosaics depict the earliest representation of the Amazon warrior women (first below) followed a wounded lion and then carpet with a copy of a mosaic that can be seen hanging from the wall in the photo above.
The Urfa Man is the oldest man-size statue that has been found and is 6 feet tall and the eye sockets are filled with square pieces of quartz. Found in Balikligol near Urfa and dated back to 9000 BC and contemporary with Gobeklitepe. Another stone statue that attracted my attention since it resembles the totem poles of the Northwest Coast USA Indians.
The museum holds reproductions of the monoliths from Gobeklitepe and original artifacts. Carvings in the stones are easier to see here than at the original site. Below is one of a pair of cranes near water (represented by the zigzag lines). One appears holding a stick standing in top of the other suggesting that they mated and are building a nest.
Han-EL Barur Caravanserai is near Sanliurfa and dates back to the Asyyubids Christians (circa 1219 BCE); the word barur means goat manure in Arabic. The story goes that the owner supplied the caravanserais with accommodations and dried grapes and used to say “after me people would fill this place with goat manure.”
The underground dwellings were large and allowed for inhabitants to stand erect. Some are still in use but mostly as animal enclosures or storage. Shelving was built into the walls and inscriptions were carved on the walls.
I traced one of the walls graffiti depicting goats but the others may be just plain writing or celestial monsters. Most walls have similar decorations.
SIRINCE. An old orthodox village in the top of a mountain preserves the typical Greek house of the pre-Turkish War of Independence of the 1920’s. It is really the epitome of a tourist town with not much to offer in the way of ancient archeology. A small place of about 600 locals that I bet get overwhelmed by the daily influx of tourists exponentially.
What it has to offer is a refuge of the daily drives and timetables and sit down and relax, eat from a variety of fresh fruits and have ice cream melting before you can eat it…it gets hot in the summer. It is also famous for its wines. Besides tourism it also produces honey, olive oil and wines…did not see any cheese.
The main streets are bordered by a continuous row of stalls peddling souvenirs but mainly food and candies. I bought just out of guilt, these sellers reminding me of spiders that patiently for a fly in the web. In this case the flies are two-legged.
The village was originally settled by liberated Greek slaves and suffered during the period of population exchanges between Greece and Turkey. As a result it reached a state of abandonment that was reversed in the early 1990’s when homes began to be renovated into B&B’s, small hotels and restaurants. These were expecting an economic surge in 2012 when the Mayan Apocalypse was to take place, since the village was considered a “Doomsday Safe Heaven because it has “positive energy” and about 60,000 cultists were expected. But only a few showed up.
SOGMATAR. Two carved figures are located in the Sacred Hill, the bust of a woman (Moon Goddess) at the left and a full bodied man in the center. In top of the man’s head is scallop shell symbolizing the sun god Shamesh. There is an underground temple with reliefs of human figures and stars. It is estimated at one time the hill served as an astronomical site and of planetary worship. Sogmatar is derived from the word matar meaning rain.
A Syriac writing on top of the hill dates the statues to 476 in the Seleucid calendar (164-165 AD) there are several translations and one is below is one.
“I am Tridates, the son of Arab Governor Adona. I built this altar and pillar for Marelahe on February in 476, for the lives of my master King and his sons, for my father Adonna's life, for my own life and for the lives of my siblings and my children.”
Nearby was a school closed at the time but the caretaker allowed us in to use the loo. Very nice and clean - a recent construction since I read in another blog from the early 2010’s as to the poverty of the area and the dilapidated state of the school. The area is still poor but the children look happy - entertaining themselves with watching the tourists but well behaved…did not ask for baksheesh.
STRATONIKEA. This site went thru variations in the spelling of its name and once named Hadrianopolis…yes, in honor of Roman Emperor Hadrian…the one that built the wall in England to keep the savages out. It is dated back to prior to 260 BC during Seleucid times and named after the wife of King Antiochus II Theos. It reminded me of Aphrodisias where I visited more than 20 years ago when still people lived among the ruins. It is still the case here but appears that encroachers are abandoning the archeological site or pushed out. Below are examples of what I am talking about. Second image below shows how an ancient marble entrance was recycled into a gate.
Next two photos further document the present of modern structures among the ruins and the third one show marble stones stored probably for further site reconstructions…what a jigsaw puzzle to put together.
The Roman period brought prosperity to the town as shown by the theater that could accommodate around 10,000 spectators. The rows of seats as can be seen below collapsed during an earthquake but otherwise is good state of preservation.
Below are images of the Gymnasium dating back to 200 BC, notice the circular wall in the rear and the roofs of contemporary homes; these are currently occupied. It is the largest one from the Ancient Period perhaps due that at one time was a center of gladiators training and retirement if they lived that long.
Below is one of the walls of the Agora or interpreted by others as the Bouleuterion that are still standing massive marble blocks. Here ends the longest blog that I have uploaded. Lessons learned from this trip is that one must research the places to be visited before one arrives there. My failure to to so caused me to miss photos of major items of interest in many of the sites visited.
Finally, you may find that images may show the best quality and the reason is that I had seen some been uplifted from the blogs and been sold by others. Also some of the photos are in Black & White to introduce more contrast and detail.