Published November 22, 2006
Italy and Greece have a fair share of cities and monuments from antiquity, Libya and North Africa might have a few but nowhere have we seen so many as in Turkey. Along its Mediterranean coast, several thousand km long, Turkey is literally peppered with many of the most famous sites from Classic Hellenic culture. To name just a few: Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus and Aphrodisias. Most modern Turkish cities have a Roman past and a good number are mentioned in the Old Testament.
Priene, Miletus and Didyma
Just south of Ephesus and not as busy with tour groups (unlucky but happy looking British tourists with stickers "P&O group 32" proudly displayed on their chests) are the ruins of 3 ancient settlements: Priene, Miletus and Didyma. Priene is on a hill side overlooking the plain of the river Meander, where the Mediterranean used to come. It is a planned city with streets laid out in a grid. All of the planning is very visible today as we walked from street to street to visit the important city buildings: the bouleuterion or city council, the temple, theater and all important gathering places of the times.
Didyma is famous for its temple of Apollo that housed an oracle as important as the one in Delphi. Didyma was never a real town but just housed the priests living a comfortable life handing out good luck cookies of the times. Of the three sites, Miletus was the one we mere most excited to explore. If the theater is the most visible structure left together with the agora and the Baths of Faustina (Emperor Marcus Aurelius' wife), Miletus was used well after Roman times. A Seljuk mosque dating from the 15th century was one corner of the site we had for ourselves.
Hierapolis & Pamukkale
Hierapolis is the name of a large spa city built by the Romans, now better known as Pamukkale, on Unesco's list of world heritage sites. Pamukkale and its gleaming white calcium formations must one of the most famous images on Turkish holiday brochures. From a distance, we noticed the face of a mountain ridge completely white. Warm calcium-rich water poured over the mountain and deposited its calcium on the mountain flank. Over the centuries. this calcium has built pools and stalactites ! Hierapolis was founded around 190 BC as a cure centre and prospered under the Romans and the kingdom of Bergamum.