Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rhodiapolis, a well-kept secret

I stubbornly go hunting for the site of Rhodiapolis, not because the city is so important but I want to pay tribute to my friend Opramoas. He was the great benefactor who contributed lavishly to the reconstruction of most Lycian cities after the devastating earthquake of 141 AD. He must have been terribly wealthy for it seems that every single city mentions his name in thanks and I feel I owe it to him to take a look in his native city.

Well, this day could make a good story for a movie! From what I had read, I knew the place would be hard to find. I got a few hints that after Kumluca, I should look for Haciviler with some roadside cafés, but I saw none of this. Yet I was very determined to get to Rhodiapolis, even if I had to spend the entire day looking for it!

I start asking at a gas station where they tell me I have to turn left and then right at the next opportunity. It seems rather obvious that I should find it after that. Well not so. The road goes on and on in the gorgeous Lycian landscape but I have no indication whatsoever about my destination. I have the feeling this is too far anyway and I turn back. I stop to ask a family working in their fields as I see no road sign or any other clue. In spite of the fact that my Turkish is as good and their English I get the message that Rhodiapolis is just on the other side of the hill. I could either drive left or right but it seems still too complicated to give me clear directions. So I drive back to the mosque, where I have to make a left turn. I figure that if I try every single road going uphill on the left hand side I should wind up finding the one leading to Rhodiapolis sooner or later. I drive on, hugging the hill as closely as possible and I turn left at the first opportunity but to my surprise it ends in the front yard of a private farmhouse! OK, that’s that.

As I’m backing up to return to my road, a middle aged man, obviously the head of the house, steps outside and calls me in for tea. Well, after all I have been driving around for an hour or so and a cup of tea is always welcome. Besides, he might be able to give me further information. So I venture to the house – nearly forget to take off my shoes! Except for the red carpet, I’m being received like a princess. They put up a chair for me in the middle of the room, while the entire family gathers around on the benches along the walls. There are two brothers and their wives, the owner’s sister and her husband, their daughter and son in law, grandchildren, and even neighbors. I certainly am the event of the day! After all this is Sunday, what else can they do but enjoy talking to a foreigner. So here I am, sitting on that high throne with everybody’s eyes on me. I introduce myself and explain my search for Rhodiapolis. Right, a woman alone all the way from Belgium looking for ruins? Am I a teacher or an archeologist (sure, why not)? Do I have a map or pictures of what I want to see? Of course, I have done my homework. They are having a lively discussion over this material while I am sipping my tea, and in the end the pater familias decides that his son-in-law will take me to the site of Rhodiapolis. When I return, there will be a meal waiting for me. This is said in such a way that there is no room for discussion and I accept the guide and the meal with a happy big smile – honestly, I am very pleased to be taken care of. Wonderful!

So we drive off. I have to admit that even with directions in plain English I never could have found Rhodiapolis! There are several crossroads with four or five roads to choose from and there is no way I could have figured this out! When at last the first road sign is pointing uphill, I am already so close that there is no chance to miss the dirt road leading through the pine forest! This track is steep and when its turns into gravel I can feel my car losing its grip. Fiat is not such a good climber as I remember, and I gladly take advantage of the open space in front of a house still under construction to park it there. We are very close to the site anyway.
Lucky me. My guide climbs like a goat and takes me in his wake further to the top avoiding the many cisterns – pitfalls if you are not careful. This is lovely grassland where the bees are having a ball buzzing among the white and purple clover, the yellow snapdragon and the short stemmed marguerites. What a beautiful spot!

I am receiving a private tour that I’ll never forget! He brings me straight to the Theater, and one can easily see how most of this building has been buried for centuries. The pure white stones give the impression that the Theater was built recently while it was constructed between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD. Of course, I climb all the way to the top row of seats noticing the specific decoration at each end of the benches, an oval knob enhanced with an x-shaped cross. Like in Arykanda and now that I know what to look for, I find the holes that held the beams supporting the sunshade. The skene looks rather damaged though with only four entrance gates in place amidst some rubble.

Right behind it lays the imposing Monument of Opramoas in all its glory! Entirely made of the same bright white stones, it is covered with inscriptions to the glory of Opramoas’ deeds (he certainly was not a modest man!). It seems that the archeologists have not figured out the original place of each and every block yet, so for now they are neatly piled up behind a fence. The pediment, on the contrary, has been pieced back together and stands on top of the Stoa wall of the lower terrace. For a while this Stoa was mistakenly called Agora because of the three steps on the side on this Stoa. I feel like meeting Opramoas in person, overlooking this gorgeous valley that runs all the way to the Aegean Sea. He must have seen what I see now, most probably on a clear day and definitely without the plastic greenhouses spoiling the serenity.

Passing a thick wall that may have been part of the aqueduct, I stare into the large Roman bath complex with its sturdy vaults on the lower terrace. It is hard to believe that these buildings were excavated for they are very much overgrown with trees and bushes and even from my vantage point it is hard to figure out what is what. I cannot see the floor even, although I suppose there must still be some mosaics there. I am impressed however by the many traces of paint on the walls, red seems to be favorite. A little further, I find large cisterns with their plastered walls, but here too I have to use my imagination in the lush vegetation.

Still walking in the footsteps of my guide, I suddenly see the apses of a Byzantine Basilica. I cannot see any walls or remains of columns, just the unmistakable curved apses. As we come nearer, I am amazed to find a rather deep square canal running right behind the apses, however still inside the Basilica! I look up and around and somehow figure out that this must be part of the aqueduct higher up the hill. Well, well!
The hillside is dotted with several rock graves and Lycian sarcophagi but I don’t investigate them any further. My main goal and indeed the climax of my visit is the Monument of Opramoas and I surely have seen that! How exciting!

We now drive back to the house where his pretty wife welcomes me with a handshake and a kiss with the usual “Hoş geldiniz”. Soon their two small children were all over me with their toys and schoolbooks which I am interested in (it would be great to learn Turkish this way!). Dinner is served in Turkish style, of course. The tablecloth that has a big hole in it is spread out on the carpeted floor in the middle of the room and we all gather around the big tray. Everybody pulls a corner of the sheet over his knees, and we dig in the goodies served with delicious Turkish bread and tea. It is a simple but very tasteful meal of cheese, cooked onions and broccoli, melted cheese and yekmek (it looks like tomato soup with lots of fresh peas, but they insist it is not soup). Well, I can assure you this is quite an experience for me. It is embarrassing that they don’t want to be paid for their service, not to mention their hospitality. Allah will reward them, they say. It goes without saying that I made up for their gracious welcome later on. Since I had taken pictures of the entire family earlier that day, I had a good excuse to ask for their address.

Useless to say that I am in heaven, for not only have I managed to find the site of Rhodiapolis today, but I enjoyed the entire experience around it! I’ve been singing for happiness, all the way back to the hotel.♫♪♪♪♫

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[Click here to view all the pictures of Rhodiapolis]