Freewheeling reports II (ancient places edition)

In the past week I have sampled the remains and artifacts of at least three different civilizations from three different points in history. I will share them in chronological order. First….

(Above photo by A. Cortada)

… a week ago we visited Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic settlement that existed during the dawn of agriculture, around 5000-7000 BC. The modern day environs are dry, dusty, and blindingly sunny, but according to archaeologists, many millennia ago the region was marshy and fertile–thus the appearance of these settlements. In short, it is an interesting archaeological site for the great number of artifacts uncovered (most of which now live in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara), for the sedimentary nature of the site (it was the culture’s practice to bury old houses and then build new one on top), and lots of other reasons that I cannot remember. Regardless it was profound to see something so ancient yet created by human hands no different from mine.


A colonnade in Perga
Roman stadium

…today (Friday) we took a field trip to Perge and Serik, small southwestern towns whose claims to fame are the remains of Greco-Roman settlements called Perga and Aspendos, respectively.

If you’ve ever learned about, say, early Greek philosophy–Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus–then I might remind you that these Pre-Socratics all lived in cities located in Anatolia, attesting to the fact that for many centuries the focus of Hellenic/Hellenistic culture was in Anatolia rather than the Greek peninsula (although historiographies of both Greece and Turkey might try to convince us otherwise..oh nationalism). Thus, some of the best ruins from antiquity can be found in modern-day Turkey. In fact, the sheer amount of historical material you find here is shocking–you go to these sites, or to any archaeological museum, and there are just hundreds of column and statue fragments laying in ordered rows or piled up.

The Roman theater at Aspendos is the best preserved Roman theater in the world. Back in its day it seated some 7000 people to view plays which included deus-ex-machina effects achieved with its miraculous three-story stage. The structure was renovated throughout the centuries and remained so sturdy and well-preserved that it was continuously used as either a theater, caravansaray, appropriated palace (by Seljuks), dance hall, or concert venue from its construction circa 155 BCE until just a few years ago.

What a fantastic place. It was peaceful to climb to the top and watch the theater of human interaction transpire on the stage below.

(As long as we’re on the topic, Aspendos also has the best-preserved Roman aqueduct in Asia Minor.)

(Photo from Wikipedia)

Finally, we saw more leftovers of the Rum Seljuk Empire both in Konya and Aspendos. Basically, the Rum Seljuks ruled from late 11th to early 14th c. AD, and like other Turkic nomadic rulers that came before and after them, they were highly mobile and loathe to stay in one place too long. Konya was their summer capital, Alanya their winter capital.

Interior of Alaeddin Camii, built by ‘Ala al-Din Kayqubad I, with spolia (appropriated) columns
Awesome early Islamic Anatolian tiles at the Karatay Medresesi Museum in Konya

Kayqubad’s tomb
Rum Selcuk bridge over the Koprucay

The depth of history contained within the borders of this land now called Türkiye is baffling and wondrous. Am eager to see what next week brings, when we stop at Sanliurfa (aka Urfa) on the way to Damascus and Aleppo.

Have a lovely weekend, lovely friends ❤

Kayqubad’s tomb

One thought on “Freewheeling reports II (ancient places edition)

  1. Martin Huennekens October 3, 2010 / 5:58 am

    I can’t wait to read what is next.


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