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 Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 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, May 19, 2012

Tlos in the beautiful Xanthos Valley

I find it quite exciting to read that recent excavations have been carried out in the ancient city of Tlos, not too far from Fethiye in Turkey. To me, Tlos is entirely linked to Alexander the Great although there is no proof at all that he ever was here. In fact, this is true for the entire Xanthos Valley which is part of ancient Lycia. All we know is that Alexander crossed Lycia in today’s Southern Turkey after his siege of Halicarnassus in 334 BC. At that point, he sent the newly wed soldiers home to Macedonia for the winter and split the remaining part of his army up with his general Parmenion who would take his men to Gordion whereas Alexander would cross Lycia from west to east to join Parmenion next spring in Gordion.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of having lunch amidst the ruins of Tlos on a most exquisite picnic place: a series of blocks from the bathhouse aligned in its shade with an eagle eye’s view over the historic valley below. This was really something special, to sit there 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 same scenery. It always makes me feel very privileged to sit in a place where people from times bygone have done so too. What were they seeing? What were they thinking? Whom did they talk to? This is beyond imagination, of course.

 Inevitably, I pictured Alexander the Great riding his Bucephalus at an easy pace through this luscious Xanthos Valley that produced and still produces a variety of crops. These fertile fields were dotted with a string of cities from Tlos and Pınara in the north to the more familiar Xanthos and Letoon in the south. Somewhere to the northwest of Letoon lies Sidyma, half buried under and among today’s Dodurga. An abundance of history for the taking!

 [picture from The Hurriyet Daily News]

Turkey is so rich in antique sites, some of them being left mostly untouched, but from time to time archeologists set out for further investigation. This summer apparently is was the turn of Tlos where several Roman statues have been uncovered and moved to the local museum in Fethiye. Time to go back, it seems. From the one picture published with this article in The Hurriyet Daily News in August 2011, one can easily recognize Emperor Hadrian standing in the middle of the group. Other statues, which seem to be life-size, represent Antonius Pius and his daughter Faustina Minor, Marcus Aurelius and the goddess Isis.

Moreover, other artifacts have enabled to date Tlos back 10,500 years while it was previously believed that the site was occupied for the past 2,700 years only. The archeological team will continue its excavations in the next few months, focusing on the city center, the rock tombs around the Acropolis, the Stadium, the Basilica and the Theater tower, while investigating at the same time Girmeler Cave and Tavabaşı Cave.

Tlos is not very well known and evidently much less than Xanthos or Myra, for instance, but it is definitely worth investigating if ever you ever are in the area.

When I was there in 2007, archeologists had been working on the Roman Bath complex removing much of the soil and rubble from the Solarium where apparently precious mosaics were found to be covered with plastic and dirt to protect them from the elements – and unfortunately to my view also. The thickness of the layer of soil that was removed here is remarkable (I would say 1.5 to 2 meters), exposing amazingly white original building stones. The many rooms of this bathhouse had not been mapped yet, but there must be several more rooms although it is too early to establish their mutual connection and function.

Inside the Byzantine Basilica, all the trees and bushes had recently been cut down (the core of the trunks and branches is still whitish). The overall plan now plainly exposes three wide naves with a central row of columns lying just as they have fallen down. There are even a few traces of plaster visible on the walls. This Basilica might be standing on top of an older temple, only time will tell.

The theater is located next to the Basilica. The loose stones have already been inventoried and one day they’ll occupy their original place again. Parts of the skene and proscenium are still standing, including a remarkable window to the outside 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 were cleared of rubble and soil. The big blocks were piled up near the skene and the debris neatly heaped up in the middle of the orchestra waiting to find 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 was adapted to Roman needs, as done in Fethiye and Patara. The bashed and battered VIP seats have been moved to the ambulatorium, meaning that at some point the theater was turned into an arena. The vomitoriums on either side are still filled with fallen stones and rocks. I thought it would be interesting to return some day to see the results of these excavations and restorations and apparently the archeological team is working here again in 2011!

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. From what I saw lately on Turkish TV, diggings have been carried out recently, clearing part of the floor. It is a place that tantalizes your imagination, picturing the races that were held here, something like in the Ben-Hur movie.

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

I climbed higher up to the Acropolis, past a few typical very weathered Lycian sarcophagi. The Acropolis itself had 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! One can easily locate the other old cities of 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.

So, yes, you definitely should include a visit to Tlos whenever you are around Fethiye or the Xanthos Valley!

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