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, January 18, 2008

Discovering Sidyma – Lycian Coast 4

So much for Lycia. Now back to Sidyma. The name Sidyma is an Anatolian name, just like Idyma and Didyma, and it is believed that these cities go back all the way to the 10th century BC or so. In the late Hellenistic period, Sidyma must have reached a certain importance since it minted its own coins bearing the inscription ΛΥΚΙΩΝ-ΞΙ. Also during the first years of the Roman Empire, Emperor Claudius felt that Sidyma was important enough to build a temple and a Stoa here - in his honor, I suppose.

Next to the square where we have listened to Peter’s explanations, stands a freshly painted mosque whose whitewashed columns in the front contrast with the bright yellow of the building itself. In spite of their coat of paint, the columns are clearly reused Greek or Roman material and even one of the old capitals has been inserted. The surprise is on the back wall of the mosque where all kinds of Lycian, Greek, and Roman stones have been reused. Some stones still carry their original inscriptions, upside down or not, and we are all fascinated by the beautiful list of gods and goddesses in Greek on one of the cornerstones.

We start out on our quest over rubble corridors framed between stone walls covered with dead wood and dried sticks to keep the goats from jumping over. Today’s way of life is a simple copy and a continuation of yesterday’s, it seems. Houses lean against old Lycian sarcophagi or have annexed doorways that once belonged to some Roman official building. The wheat has been harvested from the field, carefully avoiding the Roman tombs and sarcophagi, or what is left of them. It is clear that the Romans got inspired by the Lycian tombs, copying their general shape but putting a pointed roof on top instead of the overturned keelboats the Lycians used all over the Xanthos Valley. Amazingly enough today’s wooden granaries are still built in the same style as the rock-hewn Roman sarcophagi!

We stop at one of the greater temple-tombs in the middle of a stubby field, a big square construction, definitely Roman, with a monolith slab on top. The ceiling is divided into squares and each square is decorated with a flower motif or a woman’s head, among which we even recognize Medusa.

The tomb was probably too big to be taken apart for reuse elsewhere and it has been mostly left alone, except for a few pieces of the walls. In the shade of an old tree, we find another sizeable temple-tomb, all four walls still standing and its doorway filled with rubble. If you just pay attention the remnants of Lycian and Roman times are all around you: pieces of columns in the field or inserted in houses, nice square cut stones from unchartered buildings, or simply the rubble that covers the footpaths between the fields where lumps of marble have been chopped down and mingled with rocks, pottery, and faience.

Peter now takes us to a cluster of Lycian and Roman sarcophagi, next to the remains of a prismatic tomb. The view from here over the five kilometers wide Xanthos Valley is breathtaking! What a spot for a burial ground! Imagine if you have to choose a place for yourself or your close family, wouldn’t you like to have a view like this?

Back in the quiet village square, the shepherd is still tending his flock, moving his shiny zinc bucket from one goat to the next, making sure they all get their share of water. Our van rides up and seems once again so out of place. It must be noon time and it is rather hot on this mid-October day. I welcome the coolness of our modern transportation but the pleasure does not last as it is only a short distance to our first walk on the Lycian Way, marked with its typical red and white stripes. I don’t know what exactly I expected to find on this Lycian Way, what it would look like or how steep it would be, but anyway, this is worse than what I could have imagined!

The footpath soon turns to a track, zigzagging all the way down to the sea. The terrain is rough and where the Byzantine road is visible, going is reasonable although uncomfortable. The climb down is less than a thousand meters but about halfway it turns into chaos. Landslides have pushed entire portions of soil out of place and we trip over the many loose rocks, slipping and sliding among the long pine needles. The heat of the day is heavy and we are running low on our water supply. Far down the sea is beckoning and it seems to take us forever to get there. Panic, fear and even sickness take over. My own knees are trembling and I fear they’ll not carry me on my next risky step. I sit down on a shady rock, enjoying one more sip of water and reminding myself that time is not the essence when confronted with nature in a precarious situation. The pace doesn’t matter anymore; down there our dinghy will be waiting for us anyway. Two of my companions are far ahead when I meet up with the couple that joined us recently, the husband is not feeling well, he says. He doesn’t look good either: whitish, yellowish, ready to faint at any moment. Peter is behind me helping another couple over the rubble and when he catches up with the patient the diagnosis is clear: dehydration. He has him lie down with his feet higher than his head and advises him to drink as much as he can. I get back to my feet and work my way further down. The scramble seems endless. I remove dirt from stones to get a foothold. I poke the rocks with my stick to make sure they are not loose and will not take me on an unexpected journey. At long last and much later than expected we arrive at the seashore. Thank God! Peter courageously turns back with one of the shipmates to bring the stranded couple down. They all return much sooner than expected as the husband has recovered pretty fast and met his rescuing party halfway.

Back on board, the cool water tastes like the elixir we are all dying for. A good swim or a hot shower puts our bones and muscles back in place. I am hungry, maybe a little too tired to eat? We have lunch later than planned, so maybe we’ll have a late dinner also?

We all are pounding today’s experience and speculate about the risks we may or may not take in the days to come. We are however thankful we made it all in one piece. Earlier than you would expect it, our stomachs start grumbling again and we wind up eating our dinner at the usual time. It is 10 p.m. when I return to my cabin. The chilly winds have blown all the mosquitoes away tonight. This means I can sleep with the portholes wide open and for the first time I’m getting a good night’s rest.

In spite of his sickness earlier today, our patient shows his talents as a poet and this is what he has to say about our visit to Sidyma.

Merhaba! Ingiliz? comes the modern greeting
To seekers of an ancient Sidyma.
A tractor-driver waves. Beside the well
An old man, timeless, waters his black goats.

They live among the rubble of the past,
Recycled blocks of stone in homes and barns,
Tread fractured marble on their village tracks,
See Lycian pillars rear above their fields.

A cow reclines against a fallen column,
Carved capitals shore up the terraces,
The garnered dead, inside their rock-hewn tombs,
Survey the stubbled land where once they reaped.

The curved apse of a lost Byzantine church
Strengthens a farmhouse wall. And in the mosque
Illiterate masons sideways lodged a slab
Inscribed in Greek with Homer’s pantheon.

Apollo, Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite,
Cohabit here with Jesus and Mohammed.
Time, and neglect, have fudged a harmony
Of jumbled stones, of peasants, and of gods.

We all feel that these words reflect our impressions so very well.

[Click here for all the pictures of Sidyma (Dorduga)]
Click on the Label Lycian Coast to read my full story

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