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)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Apollonia, Entirely new for me - Lycian Coast 6

Same reveille call as yesterday’s and the minibus brings us from Kaş to the ancient city of Apollonia, at about one hour drive. On our uphill drive, a large herd of angora goats is barring our road in a solid traffic jam. Ancient skills and knowledge of the goat herder is all it takes to whistle the animals to one side of the road so our bus and other cars can move past. Apollonia lies next to the town of Kılınçlıköy, in fact in the middle of nowhere and we should carry plenty of water.
It feels like an early summer morning when we start out at Kılınçlı where time again has come to a standstill. Roman inspired wooden granaries blend in with crudely piled up stone farmhouses. Our marble rubble path meanders between low stone walls till we reach a wide track that we cross. All of the sudden but not unexpectedly I see Lycian sarcophagi dotting the landscape. One sarcophagus has lions carved on the side beams, looking at each other; another proudly shows a starry sun inspired on the Macedonian emblem - probably a legacy of Alexander the Great’s followers and dating back to the 3rd century BC.

Nearly unnoticed and half buried in the terrain lies a sizeable Roman cistern that must have held many gallons of fresh water for the city. Further down our path we come across a Roman temple-tomb, inspired by the Lycian ones but wider with corner ornamentation representing the tree of life and topped with an Ionic capital which in turn is crowned with a Corinthian acanthus. From the edge above, Medusa is looking down on us – just as she did in Roman times. Behind it, runs a polygonal wall that must have been part of a Heroon dating back to the 5th or 4th century BC.

It is not known how important Apollonia was in Lycian times, although we do know that it had a place in the Lycian League, sharing its one vote with Aperlai and Istlada mid 2nd century BC, because of the coins that were discovered carrying the abbreviation AΠΟ. As far as I can see now, Apollonia was not a big city but ideally located on this hill-island in the middle of the valley floor where hundreds of goats are now grazing among the olive trees.

We walk all the way to the top, getting a closer look at the city walls and towers that were built in all sorts of styles: polygonal, Roman, classical, Byzantine, you name it. One of the city gates, obviously Byzantine, shows a lintel from an earlier Greek or Roman temple crowned with a bow of bricks alternating with carved stones in a colorful pattern. Since no noticeable excavations have been done we have to crawl on hands and feet underneath the gate to jump to the lower floor of a well preserved Byzantine Basilica.

The theater of which only five or six rows remaining was built on a natural slope. This seems to indicate that it dates back to Hellenistic times. Further among the ruins we find the bottom part of an antique olive grinder, a perfectly circular grove in the rock with a run off channel for the oil on the side. Fascinating! We have not invented anything new!

We now start off on our walk down to Aperlai and our boat. The terrain is lunar like with spirals and protruding rocks all around us. Soon we meet up with the Lycian Way, meandering between the limestone rocks and Mediterranean shrubs. At times, it is simply rough walking when our feet roll over the scree, at other times we seem to be jumping from one solid rock to the next. Lots of holly-oak trees grow here, mingled with occasional olive, almond or carob trees. They offer a welcome shade in this unforgiving landscape and we seat ourselves in their comfortable shade at regular spaced intervals for a sip of water or a nibble of the fresh almonds or carob pods that Ivşak picked for us.

After a while I gain confidence walking the uncomfortable terrain and I enjoy every step of it till at only 20 minutes from our waiting boat, I trip. I try to catch my balance, only to trip again, grabbing around for a hold of what turns out to be one of the many spiky plants. Ouch! I get a handful of nasty tiny splinters and my whole hand seems to be on fire! Some of the splinters are bleeding even, not a fair sight. But what’s worse, I twisted my foot. My fellow travelers make me sit down. I ask for water on my hand, to sooth the pain and clean off the blood. Peter has his big bottle of water handy, rinses off the blood and applies antiseptic gel. That’s better. Now my foot, that is another story. I can stand on it but not really walk – at least not on this terrain. If I put it down on a flat level it is OK, but with all the rocks and rubble around it is not evident at all. Finally I work it out with two walking sticks, one on each side to support me where the foot fails. I feel stupid but this cannot be undone. Luckily it happened on our last stretch but I am keeping everybody behind, while we were doing so well time wise! One of my fellow-travellers is kind enough to carry my rucksack and to clear the path for me when there are too many loose rocks around. At long last I can see the sea. Thank God! On the beach a lonely half-sunken Lycian sarcophagus acknowledges that I have reached Aperlai. The ruins of this Lycian city are hidden behind the trees. Nothing much has been done here either to clear the site and the few ruins seem to be part of the old castle and city walls, while the only building to speak of is the Byzantine church. I have no wish to set one step more than absolutely necessary. All I can focus on is to reach Peter and the others waiting for me at the end of a narrow lumpy jetty from where the dinghies take us to the Almira in the middle of the bay. I am not really in pain, rather annoyed with myself! Gee, am I glad to be back on board!

While we were away, Mehmet has been dive-hunting successfully for octopus, and the crew caught a decent meal of fish that will soon land in our plates! All sails are hoisted now and we head towards Kekova Island for the night. What a life, just drifting with the winds and the waves!

Three other boats are anchored in our cove that is big enough for all of us though and the captain chooses a spot at the far end. Unfortunately there is a party going on aboard one of the vessels, with blaring junk music. We cannot even hold a basic conversation at our dinner table – very unpleasant to say the least. But, as a good captain, Mehmet speaks to the people on the noisy boat. It takes a while but eventually they tune their music down and we are enjoying a pleasant and peaceful night. The stars are all out again to keep watch over us.

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