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)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Unexpected visit to Tlos - Lycian Coast 15

Because of the storm earlier on our trip (see Peter Sommer Travels), our entire program has been pulled one day forward. As a result, we wind up with an extra day at the end of our tour and Peter is giving us a choice: either take a two-hour walk behind Fethiye or visit the archeological site of Tlos. We all agree on Tlos, which makes me personally very happy – of course!

First, we go to Fethiye, that is after a quick dip in the sea for my companions. Our bus pulls up around 10.30 a.m. to take us there as our boat will join us later on. We will have about 1 ½ hour in town for shopping and I set off straight to the Archeological Museum (where else?). It is a small museum, a little old fashioned but it shows a couple of items that make it worthwhile for me. For instance, this is where I can find the mosaic from the Temple of Apollo in Letoon (4th century BC) and the stele with the law inscription of Pixodaros, satrap of Caria, in Greek, Lycian, and Aramaic, dating back to the time of Artaxerxes – both originals that I have seen in Letoon earlier this Spring. A smaller stele from Tlos, unique in its way, mentions how its citizens paid for the city repairs after being hit by an earthquake. There are, of course, the usual and more common items like glassware, pottery, coins from different times and in different metals, golden jewelry and parts of statues, mostly Roman. As always, I’m happy to see these items with my own eyes. After this most pleasant visit, I have time left for a Turkish coffee and I find a kind of Konditorei that serves it with pistachio baklava on the side, right on the main street. Great! Just what I needed!

Fethiye stands on the site of the ancient Lycian city of Telmessus, whose remains include spectacular rock tombs and sarcophagi dating from the 5th-4th century BC. Other landmarks include the remains of a Byzantine fortress on top of a nearby hill, but somehow I missed noticing it. Much of the town is new, however, having been rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1958. There seems to be a Lycian sarcophagus well worth visiting, the so-called Tomb of Amyntas dating from the 4th century BC built in Doric style. So I’ll have to come back to Fethiye also.

Our meeting point is in front of the Roman Theater at the far end of the main road – easy to find and I am there early enough to make my inspection tour. Fethiye’s theater has been excavated from 1992 to 1995 but still looks very confusing and overgrown. Built in the 2nd century AD, it has been modified in Roman times and even converted into an arena with high walls around the orchestra to protect the audience from wild animals’ attacks. Part of the skene and proscenium has also survived but it all looks very neglected. It provides, however, a sweeping view over the harbor, separated from the sea by a tranquil park where an oversized bronze pilot stares up at the sky. This is Fethi Bey, Turkey’s first aviation martyr, who crashed near Damascus in 1914 in an attempt to fly non-stop from Istanbul to Cairo. In honor of his heroic exploit, the city changed its original name from Meğri to Fethiye.

The Bay of Fethiye is very wide and large, and it seems to be a favorite spot for tourist and fishing boats alike. I spot the Almira with her green trimmings in the middle of the harbor and moments later I see our zodiac approaching with Peter on board. He carries our lunch for today and it is about 1 p.m. when we set out for Tlos. This is a pleasant drive land inwards and I am all excited entering the Xanthos Valley again for this is Alexander territory.

Tlos, known as Tlava or Tlave in Lycian language, goes back four thousand years, and it seems that even the Hittites referred to Tlos as Dalawa in the land of Luqqa. Tlos, was one of the six cities that had three votes in the Lycian League, remember? The devastating earthquake of 141 AD hit the city severely, and once again we have to thank our friend Opramoas of Rhodiapolis as well as Licinus Langus of Oenoanda, another rich Lycian, for the denarii they donated for the reconstruction. After being a diocese in Byzantine times, nothing major happened here until Ali Aga ruled over this region in the 19th century and built his stronghold right on top of the old Acropolis, where it still stands.

We park on a narrow local road and Peter and Ivşak carry our lunches into ancient Tlos where we find the most exquisite picnic place: a series of blocks from the bathhouse that have been aligned in its shade with an eagle eye’s view over the historic valley below. We spread out the food as on a table and help ourselves. This is really something special, sitting here among those ruins savoring the food in a place where Romans, Greeks, Lycians and earlier civilizations lived in centuries past. The ancients must have spotted this place too and maybe savored their own snack watching the scenery. It always makes me feel very privileged to sit in a place where people from times bygone have done so before. What were they seeing? What were they thinking? Whom did they talk to? This is beyond imagination, of course.

After clearing our tables, we take a closer look at this Roman Bath complex. The archeologists have been working here in the past few months and much of the soil and rubble has been removed from the Solarium where apparently precious mosaics have been found and are now covered with plastic and dirt to protect them from the elements. It is remarkable how thick the layer of removed soil is over here, I would say 1,5 to 2 meters? It also shows how white the original building stones were. The different rooms of this bathhouse have not been mapped yet, all we know is that there are several more but it is too early to know their exact location and function.

We pass the Byzantine Basilica where all the trees and bushes have been cut down very recently for the heart of the trunks and branches is still whitish. The overall plan is now plainly exposed and we distinguish three wide naves with a central row of columns lying as they collapsed with even a few traces of plaster left on the walls. This Basilica might be standing on top of an older temple, only time will tell.

Next to the Basilica stands the theater where the loose stones are already inventoried and may some day find their original position again. Parts of the skene and proscenium are still standing to the right with a remarkable window to the outside and that may have been framed by a column on either side and covered with a protruding roof.

Inside the theater, the lower rows of seats have been cleared of rubble and soil. The big blocks are piled up near the skene and the debris is neatly heaped up in the middle of the orchestra waiting for a way to carry it outside. The benches of each row are still neatly aligned with at the corner the lion paws at their feet. All around the top of the theater high slabs are preventing the visitors from falling down as the theater’s back is not leaning against the hillside. The original construction is definitely Greek and adapted to Romans needs in later times like they did in Fethiye and in Patara. The bashed and battered VIP seats are now in the ambulatorium, meaning that here also the theater was turned into an arena. The vomitoriums on either side are still filled with fallen stones and rocks, reminding me of Letoon. It will be interesting to return here in a couple of years to see the results of these excavations and restorations.

There is a group of Germans in the theater and the guide is reciting the history of Lycia for the world to hear. We find this very disturbing and huddle together at one end of the seating rows, hoping that he’ll cut his oration short. He doesn’t and goes on and on about Chimaera and the Hittites and the Persians; where or when Tlos or this theater is fitting in his story remains an open question. Peter whispers a few facts and figures about this theater, and we all are very much relieved when the German group finally moves out. The poet in our group has decided it is time for a proper performance and treats us to some appropriate lines of Brutus from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Wow! That is something else! We all watch and listen in awe. A lonely tourist taking detailed pictures stops in his tracks and watches him with respect. When at the end we all applaud, he shares our enthusiasm and claps with a broad smile on his face. Wonderful!

On the other side of the modern road, the Stadium has been unearthed, showing several rows of seats over the entire length, leaning against the Roman city wall. The floor itself is being used by the villagers for their good looking crop of corn, but the spine of the stadium has been cleared and is plainly visible. It is easy to imagine races being held here, something like in the Ben-Hur movie.

The rocky hillside behind the Stadium was obviously a favorite spot for the Lycians to build their tombs, many showing the early wooden door patterns. I even discover one tomb that still has its sliding door in place! We try to move it but it doesn’t budge. Maybe it needs some waxing to make it slide again, I wonder?

We climb higher up to the Acropolis, past a few typical very weathered Lycian sarcophagi. The Acropolis itself has little to offer from antique times, only the 19th-century walls of the fort that Aga Ali, also called Bloody Ali built here. Yet the view over the Xanthos Valley is breathtaking! We can easily locate the old cities we visited on earlier trips: Sidyma, Pınara, and Patara further south, with at the far horizon the glittering Mediterranean Sea. This was definitely a most fertile valley, and it still is today with the many prosperous fields and healthy fruit trees, not at all touched by fall colors in this part of the country. This is mid-October, isn't it?

Well, so much for Tlos. We return to Fethiye and at the foot of the Roman Theater we say our goodbyes to Ivşak, whose hand is still swollen and itchy from the bee sting but otherwise, he is doing fine. Our poet has composed a short but warm thank you poem and Ivşak is rather moved by the entire event. I guess he did not expect such honor! Well, if you have a poem written especially for you and read to you in public, you would be moved too, wouldn’t you?

We return aboard the Almira and leave Fethiye harbor for a more remote and quieter anchor place, just a little further up north. By the time we get there, darkness has set in already.

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