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 Dragiana/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, January 19, 2008

Discovering Pinara – Lycian Coast 5

It is 8.30 a.m. or thereabout when we weigh the anchor and set out for Kalkan. I’m not under the spell of the many buildings and colorful houses – too touristic if you ask me. The dinghy puts us ashore where the minibus will drive us north into the Xanthos Valley, all the way to Pınara, today’s Minare.

Once again I am impressed by the lush green vegetation of this valley but the scenery is spoiled by the many greenhouses that mushroom all around. Three crops a year is of course very tempting, but at what price! The sight upsets me, such scars in the landscape! It strikes me though that as a rule the greenhouses are in better shape than the houses where the farmers live. Today’s worldwide obsession of making money has reached even this sheltered area!

After about one hour driving, we leave the main road where the sign says Pınara 2 km. This road is still somehow in the making with a good foundation but no asphalt coating yet. Tricky gravel and dirt have not filled all the potholes but we trust we are in good hands.

From the road, we can see the huge round red rock in the landscape full of pigeonholes, all Lycian tombs. In Lycian language, the name for Pınara was Pınala, which was their word for “round”, hence the name of the city. Amazing how neatly the rectangular gaps are aligned. The builders must have dug out the space hanging over the cliff’s edge to cut these burial spaces that seem to measure about three meters high by four or five meters wide – probably as deep. It feels like dozens of hollow eyes staring mysteriously at me! As we drive closer I notice tombs in the opposite mountain wall that are decorated with framed facades and relief bands.

The first tombs we actually visit are the so-called Royal Tombs aligned in a narrow gulley sealed off at the end with rubble from recent earthquakes. The main tomb, or what I believe to be the main one, is very impressive with its reliefs inside the tympanum picturing the deceased surrounded by servants with underneath an entire procession of dancers and all. The burial space itself contains one single bed, an unmistakable indication that this was an important person. I can’t help but comparing these tombs with the ones I saw in Petra, Jordan, also cut in the bare rock, also with a decorating framework on the outside and also having rock beds or benches along the inside walls. Of course, Petra’s heydays started in the 3rd century BC after Alexander’s conquest of the area, but the Nabataeans had lived there for hundreds of years before, carving their tombs in the bare pink rock. I never read anything about the legacy from Petra to Lycia or vice-versa, maybe nobody thought of it? Anyway, I find this exchange of culture quite exciting!

The sliding entrance door is no longer in place but the grove is still clearly visible. Stepping back outside into the narrow front room, Peter draws our attention to the reliefs on the side walls. Well, how do you like that? There are four panels, two on each side, showing clear contours of buildings, square crenelated towers, staircases and passages that seem to refer to a Lycian city – maybe Pınara itself. For some reason, it reminds me of medieval tapestries. Wow! Back to ground level, I also notice that one of the beams supporting the tympanum is shaped as a Medusa head. Amazing, the more you look, the more you see! When we, later on, see the drawings which Charles Fellows made here in the mid-1800’s, the figures and contours were much clearer than they are today.

The tombs to the left are less spectacular in comparison, although very well preserved. The ones further down the gulley may have been worth checking out but are not inaccessible because of the landslides.

As we climb higher, we are met by more sarcophagi standing as they stood since the day they were erected, only worn down by weather and earthquakes. The view from here is very impressive, embracing the entire width of Xanthos Valley all the way to its Eastern slopes. Behind us, a strange Lycian sarcophagus is crowned with carved ears and ox-horns, a bucranium (ox-skull), a classical decoration and sign of power. It seems this is still done today where ox skulls are placed above the doors of the peasants’ huts. Well, the American West carries on this tradition also, I remember, at the entrance gate to the ranches or like in Texas where they put the bull’s horns even on their cars and trucks!

We now arrive at the city center so to speak where a long Stoa once shaded the walkways in front of the shops on either side of the street – apparently the Decumanus. No significant excavations have been carried out here and the layout is just roughly recognizable in the landscape. An Odeon or Bouleuterion across the street is most obvious but otherwise, it is guesswork, especially since Pınara was built on steep terrain and the architects had to make shift with whatever terrace space they had, meaning that any official building along this central street had to fit within the limits of those terraces. At the far end of the street, we reach a sudden drop off point, where city walls once stood as an extra protection against the possible invader. Climbing over walls, we find ourselves within the clear limits of a Byzantine Basilica with rounded apse and a vaulted nave on either side. Even the steps to the preacher’s stand are still in place. But none of the rubble has been cleared and I dare suppose we may one day see the mosaic floor underneath.

Down in the valley, the river Eşen (the Xanthos River from antiquity) has somehow preserved the Roman Theater with its 27 rows still in situ. The supporting side wall seems ready to collapse anytime soon but has survived many earthquakes over the centuries. The major earthquake of 141 AD surprisingly has spared most of Pınara because it was built on a rocky hill. This is confirmed by the fact that our benefactor Opramoas of Rhodiapolis donated only 5,000 denarii to repair the damages, much less than to other cities that were obviously in greater need of reconstruction.

All in all, Pınara was an important city founded by colonists from Xanthos and one of the six great Lycian cities represented at the Lycian League by three votes. After the earthquake of 240 AD, Pınara was even granted the right to mint coins for a while (ΛΥΚΙΩΝ-ΠΙ). We know that the city welcomed Alexander the Great and remained independent afterward, although it was within the limits of the Kingdom of Pergamon. When this kingdom was annexed by Rome in 133 BC, Pınara obviously became a Roman city, which is what we mostly see today. It stayed alive through Byzantine times until the 9th century and then gradually disappeared.

The eye-catching red rock riddled with tombs now is behind us and looks, even more, impressive than before. Walking back we pass a few heart-shaped corner columns, probably belonging to some temple but pending excavations at Pınara this is just a guess.

Today’s trail is more comfortable than what we walked yesterday. At the bottom of our trail, the bus takes us to Eren where our gulet is awaiting our return. This is such a wonderful feeling for not only are we being expected but this is our hotel and our restaurant at the same time, our home away from home. The harbor is busy and the water rather rough so the captain decides to move to the next creek for a lunch on calmer seas.

We spend a leisurely afternoon on the boat where Mehmet steers the Almira towards Kaş, one hand on the wheel and the other holding the fishing line, i.e. a simple nylon wire with a small shiny floater at the end. This hi-tech equipment seems to be enough to catch the local tuna fish, about 30 cm long. It is a happening each time the fish bites for the motor is switched to low gear, and as the boat loses speed we all watch how Mehmet pulls in his catch. It is so wonderful to witness the excitement each time he catches a fish, one of the simple pleasure of life!

Yet our captain also knows how to read the coastline and spots a wonderful inlet near Kaş where we are spending the night. The wind has cleared the haze of the past days and I take a last stroll around the gulet to watch the starry skies – skies which the seafarers from antiquity must have watched also; skies that were familiar to Alexander the Great…

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