Ancient Memory of the Aegean Region

Having affected the fate of humanity, the imperishable traces of events on these cities keep guiding us today on our struggle to understand various kinds of lives. We continue to follow the trails of ancient and historical ruins in Turkey, with the Aegean Region; unconquered lands, sparks blown to the ashes of an emperor’s vain power vacuum, trade centers and much more.

There are 77 ancient cities in Turkey identified as immovable cultural properties by the Ministry of Culture. This number will go up to 100 when the unlisted ones are included. We have carried the pearls of the Aegean and ancient values that this land has enshrined in its heart for centuries, to our pages for Marmara Life readers.

The Anatolian Trade Center; Erythrai
During its time, the Ancient City of Erythrai had been the key location for trade due to its geographical position. Located on the coast of Izmir, it played a vital part for the regions of the Aegean, East Mediterranean and the Black Sea. As one of the prominent cities of the 12 major Ionian city-states, Erythrai comprises some remains from the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods. Perhaps Erythrai’s location was not as suitable as that of Istanbul, yet it had harbors where sailboats from various regions approached to. Dating back to 3000 B.C. according to latest studies, the city had a strong relationship with the Phoenicians and apparently the two acted together on business operations of many regions. The city that acted as a distributor or a market that distributes products of the East in Ionia cooperated with other city-states while at power struggle with its neighbor Chios. Even Alexander the Great somehow crossed this land and it is believed that remains, such as the theatre and high city walls that you can encounter today, were built in his time with his help.

The City That Alexander could not defeat: Alinda
As far as we know, the city accomplishes great breakthrough during 4th century B.C. however rumor has it that its history might date back to 14th century B.C. It used to be a part of Seha River Land during the time of the Hittite king Mursilis II, but the one who was destined to bring it to its golden era was Queen Ada of Caria. As we mentioned, Alexander had conquered Alinda, and at that time Queen Ada was living in exile, in the city. Alexander failed to access the city walls and canceled the siege. Ada is an elderly woman and with her action one might assume she was a woman of wisdom. Taking advantage of Alexander’s failure, she took the Macedonians in; greeted Alexander like a mother. She asked Alexander to leave Caria to her rule in exchange for Alinda’s surrender. Caria did not mean much to Alexander as he had his eyes on Persian lands. He must have thought that Alinda would have a more strategic function for him, for he accepted the offer. In the forthcoming years the name of the city had become indistinct. It had never witnessed another situation as important as the deal of Queen Ada and Alexander. Even if we do not talk of the high walls, the magnificent watch towers, the long aqueducts of Alinda or show its photographs, it is enough to say that Alexander the Great was not able to conquer the city, to express the city’s glory. You might not even feel the need to visit Aydin, Karpuzlu for that.

Hidden by the Mountains: Stylos Monastery
A hidden monastery lies deep in Latmos Mountain; since it was hidden in between crags this temple where Arabian monks and saints stopped by had become a safe shelter to those who sought refuge from cruelty. In the 7th century, monks who ran away from Egypt and Mount Sina found this place suitable to live in; if you walked by Stylos Monastery without the information of its location, you would not notice it either. The most crucial feature of this monastery near Karakuyu Village of Soke district in Mugla is that Young Paul once lived there. He was called Young Paul in order to avoid confusion with Apostle Paul. After living in a cave dedicated to Virgin Mary in Latmos Mountains for eight months, Paul went to Stylos and stayed there for 12 years. His tomb is located inside the ruined church. Stylos Monastery lost its function when the Turkic tribes of the East conquered the land, and nobody lived there after that.

Traces of Humanity Sparkles: Latmos
One of the qualities that distinct humankind from other living creatures is, without doubt, reifying the image of the spiritual world on this realm through art. First childish signs of this gift of ours are the pictures we paint on rocks. There is also an exhibition of Stone Age artists in the Gulf of Latmos available for everyone, 24/7. Balıktaş Rock Paintings are located in the valley right up the Karahayit Village near Bafa, which had turned into a lake from a gulf, called Latmos in the ancient period. Hundreds of rock paintings are available in various areas of Besparmak Mountain (Latmos Mountain) that ascends from the lakeshore. The paintings offer vital information on West Anatolian people of the Neolithic Age from the end of the latest Ice Age from 12000 B.C. through to 6000 B.C.

Ancient City of Nysa
Nysa’s unnoticeable location and its silent position in Roman politics do not trivialize it, because it won hearts with its architecture and the people it raised. It is a fact that the historian Strabon was from Amasya, yet he was actually raised in Nysa. In fact, he claimed that the artist and scientist Aristodemos who raised him was also from Nysa. Aristodemos who took full responsibility of the education of Pompeius’s children… For that reason, we can name Nysa as a city of wisdom that stood aside. If you are not considering visiting the city in Aydin Sultanhisar, you must know that the area is rich in ruins. A theatre, gymnaison, stadion, bouleterion, library, agora, necropolis, walls, church and many more wait to be discovered. We highly recommend our readers who realize we are living on an incredible cultural background, to pay a visit to all the ancient cities we have or have not covered and the most important cultural values that have hosted countless civilizations throughout history on our lands. And we would like to add that history will carry on as long as it is remembered!


The Remainders of Erythrai
Information provided by different Sub-Geometric, extensively Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman remains and antiques that were found in the excavations during 1965-1979 reveal that habitation played an important role in sociopolitical changes of Ionia starting from 8th century B.C. and especially in 4th century B.C.

Other Ancient Cities in the Aegean Region

  • Gebe Church (of the Pregnant) – Bodrum
  • Arpaz – Beyler Mansion – Aydin
  • Cakiralan – Mugla
  • Ancient City of Alabanda – Aydin
  • Gerga – Aydin
  • Diagoras – Tomb of Aristomakha – Mugla
  • Ancient City of Blaundos – Usak
  • Hydisos – Mugla
  • Larymna – Marmaris and Mugla
  • Sandama – Mugla

How Were the Cities Discovered?

*Nysa: Nysa is a city that had intrigued many explorers during the early period of the tenth century. German Walther von Diest led his excavation and research studies with a team of archeologists and cartographers during 1907-1909 and in 1921, Greeks started working in the area.

*Alinda: One of the first people who visited the city was a European explorer named Richard Chandler. This explorer conducted investigations on the ruins during the spring of 1765. During that time, R.Chandler simply listed Alinda city ruins without making any statements.

Blaundus – Usak
It is believed that the folk of the city that was established by Macedonians who arrived after Alexander the Great’s Anatolian expedition, call themselves Macedonian Blaundus. Having joined first the Kingdom of Pergamon and then the Roman Empire after Alexander the Great, the city’s value had increased during the Roman period. Located on a peninsula, the city’s remarkable structures include a castle, temples, a theater, a stadium and rock tombs. Some examples can be the arch of the northern city wall entrance gate from the Hellenistic period, sections of the mint, administrative buildings, some parts of the city walls, the Ionic style shrine located in the middle of the city, the shrine of the Roman Emperor Claudius, and a stadium with seat levels. Other structures worth seeing are the remains of a theater at the southern side of the city and the rock tombs near it. As for the symbol of the city, it is two horses.

Hydisos – Mugla
The King of Gods and a God of War, Zeus Areios, had been portrayed standing on top of coins as either a bust with a beard or with a helmet, girded with all his weapons. Today, among the remains that are laid mostly amidst thick pine trees, are the city walls that date back to the Hellenistic period, an agora, a bouleuterion, a church and a typologically rich necropolis that is mostly outside the city walls as well as many other unidentified structures.

By: Faruk Kanber

*This article was  published in the  July-August issue of Marmara Life. 

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