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)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hellenica Oxyrhynchia by P.J. McKechnie and S.J. Kern

Repeated references in previous reading material (e.g. The History of Alexander the Great and the Ephemerides of Alexander’s Expedition by CA Robinson and Xenophon, The Persian Expedition) and the historical background of the papyri dump discovered at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, led me to pick up this book, Hellenica Oxyrhynchia with an introduction, translation and comments by P.J. McKechnie and S.J. Kern (ISBN 0-85668-358-2).
The authors have brought together the first publications by B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt in 1908 with those made on later fragments. They are a collection of different copies of the same document written by the same unknown author.

The most recent fragments are being kept at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and these are also the oldest papyri dating to the late first century AD. The so-called Florence Fragment was discovered in 1934 and is relatively small; it is kept at the Istituto Papirologico in the University of Florence and is dated to the late second century AD. The principal papyrus is the one discovered by abovementioned British explorers in 1906, consisting at first of about 230 fragments that are dated to late first or early second century AD. It is however possible that further portions of this Hellenica Oxyrhynchia will be discovered and identified in the future.

The fragments generally cover the history of Greece between 409 and 407 BC on one hand and 396 to 394 BC on the other. These papyri are a continuation of Thucydides’ history and pick up where Xenophon’sHellenica’ begins. A serious effort is made, thanks to the authors of this edition, to clarify the endless wars between Athens and Sparta about politics and power, combined with the warring and bribing of the Persians who were experts in setting up one party against the other. The tale is fragmentary because the papyri are only fragments, but all the available Greek texts (reproduced on the left page) are given with a parallel translation in English (on the right hand page); these texts are further being commented upon in details, including remarks and finding made in works of earlier authors.

The major question: i.e. the name of the author remains unanswered. Pros and cons are being discussed, ranging from Xenophon, Theopompus and Cratippus to Dionysus of Halicarnassus, Daimachus of Plataea and Ephorus – to name only a few.

Captivating, highly interesting and making you want to dig out the subject further.

More information about the papyri of Oxyrhynchus can be found in my previous story “Get involved with Oxyrhynchus” and in my comments on Peter Parson’s book “City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish”.

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]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunken column finally delivered to the Temple of Apollo in Claros

As I mentioned in a previous article “The shipwreck of Kızılburun” a late Hellenistic ship sank near the promontory of Kızılburun before reaching its destination with on board freshly quarried marble intended for the Temple of Apollo in Claros (about 40 miles from Kızılburun).  Among the many remains and artifacts, divers found eight drums for an entire ten-meter high column and its capital in Doric style, although at that time (late 2nd or 1st century BC) builders generally preferred Ionic or Corinthian columns.

[Picture from Hurriyet Daily News]

It was a colossal task to raise the massive marble column drums, each weighing between 6.5 and 7.5 tons and a system was developed whereby nylon straps were put around the drum and then attached to heavy duty balloons.

The column elements indicated that were destined for a monumental construction and after serious investigations, archaeologists were able to make the connection with the nearby Temple of Apollo at Claros. When I was in Claros a few years ago, I was utterly amazed by the size of one of the drums lying in the grass and I took a picture of it, leaving my camera cover on top to show the shear size!

By now a team of archaeologists have carried out works to determine the place of the column in the lay-out of the temple and they were able to determine that it was the sixth column. The original idea was to present this column in the nearby museum but it was much more appropriate to put it in its rightful place. And so it happened: delivery was finally made, only 2,200 years later. Isn’t that exciting?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More about Stratonikeia

It is wonderful to hear that excavations in Stratonikeai are still an ongoing business. The last report I was aware of, dates from January 2012 when a huge Hellenistic bust of a king was unearthed.


Most recently, archeologists have uncovered three big Roman Baths, one of which seems to be reserved to women. They have used a unique technique which enable to create a 3D image of these baths.

Last year I had to miss a visit to Stratonikeia, but it seems that was for the best for who knows how much more future excavations will reveal since many structures in the ancient city have survived as a whole.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernières

From time to time I pick a book from my shelves that is not directly related to Alexander, but may be so indirectly like for instance my travel guides to Turkey.

Alexander is always immediately associated with Greece (or Macedonia for that matter), and rightfully so, but we generally tend to forget what he did and left us in today’s Turkey. The Ionian cities along the west coast were Greek and were conquered by Alexander one after the other: Sardes, Ephesos, Miletus, Priene, Didyma and finally Halicarnassus to name just a few. It was in Turkey that Alexander had his first encounters with the Persian army, at the Granicus to start with and a year later at Issus. We should not forget how he took the Pamphylian cities of Perge, Side, Aspendos, Selge before marching north to Sagalassos and beyond to Gordion – whether or not to cut the famous knot. I don’t want to linger on his marching route through Anatolia but he definitely left his marks on the cities and the daily life of its citizen.
Birds without Wings (ISBN 978-0-099-47898-0) is set in an entirely different world, the dwindling Ottoman Empire of the early 1900’s from which ashes arose modern Turkey thanks to the relentless efforts of Mustafa Kemal, Atatürk, i.e. the father of all Turks.
There are scholars who figured out that the Pax Romana could not have existed without Alexander crushing down the Bactrians and Sogdians, keeping the steppe people away for centuries; Christianity owes its success to Hellenism; so maybe one day someone may prove that the Ottoman Empire could not have existed without Alexander, who knows.

Whatever my own thoughts may be, Birds without Wings is absolutely worth reading. It starts with the life of ordinary people living in a small village in southwestern Turkey where Muslims and Christians mingle together in their daily life. But soon enough their entire world is turned upside down with the Armenian cause, followed by the first World War in which the Ottomans automatically became the enemy of British and French powers culminating in the bloody and horrible combats at Gallipoli. The Muslims from the village are summoned to become soldiers, the Christians in a later phase to be practically enslaved in compulsory labor, leaving only old men, women and children to tend the fields and to survive. As if they had not suffered enough, this utter misery was followed by the massive people migration in which the Turkish-speaking Greeks of Turkey were exchanged against the Greek-speaking Turks from Greece – the memory of which may still be felt in today’s relations between Greece and Turkey.

In any case, this book is both a captivating story and an excellent history of Turkey, most of which goes unknown to the rest of the world and certainly to the many tourists who visit this country year after year.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alexander avoided the siege of Termessos

You have to see Termessos for yourself in order to fully assess the importance of its strategic location, but the place today is not easily accessible as it lies in the middle of the National Park of Güllük Dagi, which contributes widely to the sense of walking on trails of eons past.

When Alexander was about to wrap up his campaign in Pamphylia after a short while in Perge, he inquired about the best route towards Sagalassos in the north on his way to Gordion where he was to meet up with Parmenion and the remaining part of the army.  Some uncooperative guides had advised Alexander to take the route through the narrows of Termessos, a nearly impregnable obstacle. Luckily the people of Sillyum were kind enough to draw Alexander's attention to another much easier road, meaning that there was no need to besiege strongly defended Termessos

According to Strabo, the people of Termessos called themselves Slymi, a Pisidian population who took their name from Solymeus, an Anatolian deity. Before Alexander's arrival, very little was known about them, and after his death, the city was quite easily ruled by the Ptolemy's. By the second century BC, ties of friendship were established by Attalus II, King of Pergamon, and the two-stories high Stoa was built in his honor. These ties probably led to the fact that Termessos chose the side of Rome and consequently was declared an independent city in 71 BC – a freedom that was long-lived. Termessos was granted several privileges, contributing to its prosperity. The decline gradually came when it fell under the Byzantine Emperors and the city was finally destroyed by a severe earthquake, ending in its abandon around the end of the fourth/beginning of the fifth century AD. 

Not much has been excavated in Termessos and that contributes to its charm, although that does not make the visit any easier; on the contrary, quite adventurous. The paths are not very obvious and not without danger, especially by rainy weather. My Sunflower Guide warns the intrepid visitor to move with utmost caution under such circumstances, which is why I didn’t venture inside on my own this time. I was lucky to have visited the site during my Alexander tour with Peter Sommer a few years ago and that has left a deep impression.
It is very early spring when I follow my fellow travelers among the lush  bushes and grasses on the narrow trail. I have no idea what to expect and find it quite exciting to discover remains of city walls, grey spots in the thick bright green undergrowth. I pass crumbling remains of the Roman Baths next to the Gymnasium and vaulted niches where once the shops lined up along the market place. The layout of the Temple of Zeus is hard to picture but its two storied walls are impressive enough. 

And then I reach the spot I have been waiting for, the gate through which Alexander was expected to enter Termessos. What a view! On a clear day, one can see as far as Antalya and the Mediterranean. It shows how strong the city’s position must have been in this narrow and it is very clear that they could see their enemies approaching from quite afar. In my mind I can picture Alexander facing this siege, he certainly was not afraid. What a task that would have been! 

Next fascinating spot is, as always, the Theater, originally a Greek construction which the Romans put to their hand of course. I marvel at its location, count the five entry gates on the stage and chuckle at the sight of the windows in the back wall meant to let the wind through and alleviate the pressure on that wall – how ingenious! It is said that this theater can only be compared to that of Taormina in Sicily, although the Termessos theater is relatively small, seating only 4200 spectators. 

My scramble continues. At times, I have to climb on hands and feet over the huge building blocks but it adds to the respect we owe to ancient architects and builders. Between the tree tops I catch a glimpse of the Temple of Artemis (3rd century BC), walking past the back-wall of the Bouleuterion, nearly ten meters high; a Heroon for an unknown hero; till I reach the comfortable Roman pavement leading to the central Agora, once the beating heart of the city where grain and fruit, as well as horses and cattle, were bought or exchanged. Another surprise awaits me here for this is the first time I see huge 10 meters-deep water-cisterns hidden underneath the pavement (it later appears to be quite a usual solution for water storage in mountainous areas). But this is quite an ingenious idea, solving the space problem in a mountainous country or at times of sieges. The Greeks who occupied Termessos before the Romans had foreseen their own cisterns in other locations, and I find one just alongside the trail I am following.

There are more remains of buildings to be found, like this one labeled as Corinthian Temple and Stoa of Attalus, two stories high, just like the Temple of Zeus, I saw earlier. The Corinthian Temple takes its name from the Corinthian capitals on the outside columns and measured some 10 x 10 meters with walls over a meter thick, making it the largest temple of Termessos. It is evident that the site could be made more attractive to the tourist when so much of the walls are still standing, but then it would also lose part of its charm which is to discover the buildings on your own as if you were the only one to have found them!

The very climax, however, is the Tomb of Alcetas. I was totally unprepared to see it and didn’t even know who was Alcetas at the time. Meanwhile, I have updated my information.

Alcetas, the brother of Perdiccas, is first mentioned as one of Alexander’s generals in his Indian campaign by Arrian. After Alexander’s death and during the Wars of the Diadochi,  Alcetas was outlawed after murdering the Macedonian Meleandros and he found refuge in Termessos. The city promised him protection against his Macedonian rival, Antigonus. But then Antigonus showed up in front of the city with an army of 40,000 infantry, 7,000 cavalry and numerous elephants, demanding the surrender of Alcetas. The city elders wanted to accept the request, but the young men were ready to fight. In order to settle the internal conflict, the elders used a ruse (promising to continue the fight) and lured the youth out of the city, so Antigonus could walk in – something Alexander had not been able to achieve.

Realizing the betrayal, Alcetas committed suicide. Antigonus, as a matter of course, refused to bury him. In the end, it were the young men, by now filled with resentment and shame, who buried poor Alcetas with full honors. Over the centuries, the front of the tomb has vanished but the back wall still survives to this day and this is what I am confronted with, without any preparation about the history or the picture. Well, this is quite a shock for it is like looking at Alexander in person! The mounted warrior is dressed in full Macedonian outfit holding his arm up with what may have been a sword or a spear. There is a striking resemblance between this armor and that worn by Alexander in the famous mosaic from Pompeii. The face has been disfigured, unfortunately, so no there are no eyes looking back at me. On the next wall, I can discern the body of an eagle with a snake in its beak, symbols of kingship. There are niches which once contained the burial gifts and remains of a hewn out jar for wine, grain, etc. The Macedonian shield, only recognizable around the edges, has been blasted away, but a grave stele is still standing in relief against the side wall. Wow! This leaves me speechless …

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An unexpected admirer of Alexander the Great

Who would have thought that Andy Warhol was an admirer of Alexander the Great?

I just learned that a colorful screenprint of Alexander has been donated to the Baltimore Museum of Art by Sylvia de Cuevas, in memory of her uncle, Alexandre Iolas. This namesake of the Macedonian King was himself a prominent art dealer who ordered a series of Alexander the Great from Andy Warhold.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ephesus and its “terrace houses”

In recent years, the highlight of a visit to famous Ephesus has shifted from the theater and the Library of Celsus to the so-called “Terrace Houses”.

It took archeologists years and years to excavate and restore these private houses, occupied by wealthy families between the first and third century AD. After being covered and protected under a huge hangar, they were finally opened up to the general public in 2007. I can assure you that I felt terribly privileged to visit these residences at that time. We generally think that only places like Pompeii and Herculaneum have grand wall-paintings to show, but don’t underestimate those of Ephesus. They are so light and bright, so pleasant to the eye, so spacious and so modern … One could easily imagine living in such a residence!

These past two years serious restorations have been carried out and have now reached completion, according to this article in the Hurriyet Daily News. Two of the seven Terrace Houses have been thoroughly restored and the work is said to be quite significant, certainly considering that there were 78 rooms in all and that all the paintings were quite different. Besides, at times the walls had been painted on top of previous layers, always using natural paint.

Unfortunately, like everything else the project is a costly one as we are told that a budget of 40,000 Euros is required for the restoration of one single room.  But then I read that in 2011 Ephesus alone drew over two million visitors, a serious source of income I would say.

I can highly recommend to enter the protected area of these houses. The course is extremely well laid out and through its glass floors and steps one discovers the many rooms from many different angles – a treat for the eyes!

[Click here to see all the pictures of the Terrace Houses]

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Herakleia in Latmos by A. Peschlow-Bindokat

Herakleia am Latmos by Anneliese Peschlow-Bindokat (ISBN 9758293729) is the rarest and most complete archeological guide you can find, not only about Herakleia itself but also about the much older settlement of Latmos, the entire mountainous area and the place of both cities in the history of Caria. Unfortunately for the English reader, this book is available only in Turkish and German but that should not keep you from investigating.

For those who are not familiar with Herakleia, it will be useful to place it geographically. Today's visitor will find the remains among the town of Kapikiri at the eastern edge of Bafa Lake, off the beaten path from better known sites like Priene, Miletus and Didyma. When the first settlers arrived at Latmos around 1000 BC it had full access to the sea in the depth of a wide gulf, which today has been entirely silted up with the alluvia carried along by the Meander River. Eventually, Herakleia was settled as capital city of Caria right next to Latmos.

I find the history of Caria a very complex and complicated one but this guide really covers every single aspect of it. After pinpointing the area geographically, attention is given to the Latmos Mountains and its first settlers who created intriguing prehistoric wall paintings, followed by the Hittite occupation and finally the foundation of the Carian city of Latmos. Herakleia on the other hand was founded around 300 BC and the author takes us through the remains of this Hellenistic city, its necropolis and its widespread network of access roads. Herakleia was above all a sanctuary for the Carian gods. The history would not be complete without mentioning the traces of Byzantine and Ottoman occupation, and follow the trail of time all the way to modern settlements.

Surprisingly, through these overall gneiss rock formations runs is a wide vein of marble which was quarried for the construction of the famous Temple of Artemis in Ephesos. Miletus owned its own quarry and there are still column drums lying around that never made it to the famous oracle Temple of Apollo in Didyma.

A final chapter is dedicated to the daring or intrepid visitor, providing a list of several tours through the larger area, including detailed maps and full descriptions.

Overall, the book is richly illustrated with plenty of clear photographs, drawings of reconstructions and location maps; the front and back flaps can be unfolded into extremely useful maps of Caria and the Latmos Mountains area. I don't think anyone is left with questions after reading this book!