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, Afghanistan) - 329 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)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reason enough to visit Klazomenai

Klazomenai (or Clazomenae) was one of the many Greek cities that dotted the coast of Ionia, i.e. the western coast of Turkey. Originally the city was located on an island and it is said that Alexander the Great connected it with the mainland by building a causeway whose remains are still visible. It makes me wonder if this was an exercise in view of the major dam he built about a year later when he besieged Tyre.

Klazomenai, founded about 6,000 years ago, underwent the same fate as so many of its neighbors, suffering in the 5th century BC attacks from the Lydians subject to Athens till they revolted during the Peloponnesian War. In 387 BC the city fell under Persian rule, to be taken by Alexander when he arrived here in 334 BC. In Roman times, it became part of the province of Asia, enjoying an exceptional immunity from taxation. Most people may however link the city to the philosopher Anaxagoras of Clazomenea who was born here around 500 BC and the first to bring philosophy to Athens.

Since 2000, diving excavations at modern Klazomenai, roughly 20 miles west of Izmir, revealed the presence of many ship remains ranging from the 7th century BC to Ottoman time. An Ottoman ship from the 17th century, for instance, was transporting an estimated thousand plates from the Dutch Republic – proof of the heavy commercial exchanges that existed at that time. Plans are to start removing the Dutch plates which are believed to be really valuable. In a second step, the remaining parts of the ship will be brought to the surface, requiring their own restoration and conservation. In the end, the archeologists hope to exhibit the ship with its plates inside, just as it was found originally.

This operation is not a first, of course, for the diving and reconstruction of the shipwreck of Uluburun, now at the Archaeological Museum of Bodrum (see The shipwreck of Kizilburun) and recent excavations at Yenikapi during the construction of Istanbul’s Marmaray Project served as examples. The authorities hope to exhibit the Ottoman ship from Klazomenai in nearby Urfa in a specially monitored room.

The wide range of rescued artifacts needs desalination before being exhibited, as they would otherwise easily disintegrate - a lengthy and meticulous job. To this purpose a new advanced laboratory will be opening next year. Meanwhile another ship has been located by fishermen about 400 meters from the excavation site, so there is more work to do. Eventually, the entire pier of Klazomenai, which is still underwater offshore, could be unearthed.

Klazomenai was famous for its olive oil and its painted terracotta sarcophagi that ranged among the finest of its kind in the 6th century BC. It is interesting to hear that it was here that the only surviving example of a level and weights press was found. It has recently been reconstructed through a close collaboration of Ege University, a Turkish olive oil exporter and local artisans resulting in the production of high quality oil even according to our modern standards. It’s hard to imagine.

The city was also prized for its garum (fermented fish sauce generally used as a spice) a delicacy that was especially valued by the Romans.

Another story about Klazomenai has come to us through Aristotle, who mentioned that its citizens were financial pioneers in economic history. When they suffered from a shortage of grain and money around 350 BC, the city officials called on the people to pass a resolution to loan them their oil supplies against interest. It so happened that they could purchase grain against the pledged security of the value of their oil.

Enough fascinating stories to go around and it is up to us to prove what is historically correct and what is not. For instance, I have no way to check the sources used by Wikipedia about Alexander building a causeway here and I personally have not heard about it before. It is entirely possible that he stopped at Klazomenai on his march along the west coast of Anatolia, so … who knows … Maybe there is somebody out there who can tell me?

[Pictures: Remains of a vessel dating from the seventh-century B.C Greek perfume vase in the form of a head of a helmeted warrior from Archeology News Network]

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