A Bit of Turkish History – aka ruins
Early this year we decided that our painters may need a few new places to visit, we are always thinking of ways to ring the changes for repeat visitors and to show our new guests more of the real Turkey.
To be perfectly frank this is no chore, we have a great time exploring and finding out all about our local area and generally manage to fit in a decent meal and bevvy or two on the way; this exercise is totally selfless and grueling as you will see!
So with the car packed and maps unfurled we set off in the direction of Mugla, the principal city governing the Bodrum Peninsula, in search of Stratonikeia.
After the rather unpromising looking Milas, we hit some lovely countryside, lush with pine forests, where from the side of the highway we were urged to buy honey and or strawberries every few kms or so. I succumbed after passing several brightly signed stalls and bought a kilo of dark brown woodland honey for £3.30. Result!
After an hour we got a bit nervous, no sign at all for this mysterious place, no sign of imposing antique columns, only chalky quarries slashed out of the hillsides on either side of the road and dark and rusting coal mining apparatus feeding a sinister looking electricity station.
It’s a Sign… Or Not – We Missed It!
We drove on checking out the mines and quarries and wondering if perhaps they could be Roman, when, THAT WAS IT! We missed the sign, only a tiny one, small and brown, but definitely the place. After making a volte face at the next roundabout we trundles down the dusty track towards a very unprepossessing flattened patch of land with one other elderly car parked.
We drew to a stop and paused to look about. Could this empty car park be it? One by one we turned around as Chris said “yup, this is it all right” there we were all alone amongst the most amazing ruins of a Roman agora.
Now, I have not mentioned why we had singled out Stratonikeia, apart from being close at hand that is. It is a site of many sites, from Hittite to 14th C. Ottoman, via Hellenistic and Roman Empires, all built one on top of the other – and all of it visible.
Four of the old inhabitants’ families are still living there today, albeit not many. They farm small holdings of fruit trees and ground crops on this fertile ancient soil. It is one of the significant archaeological sites in Asia Minor and has unique characteristics.
The city continuously developed and gradually became a centre of trade, art and culture. Today it is a significant and unique example as a settlement that keeps the characteristics of culture of different civilizations.
It lies on Kadıkule Hill in the west of the fertile Yatağan Plain at the crossroads of main routes that connect western, central and southern Anatolia with each other.
Stratonikeia, inhabited continuously from the Late Bronze Age (1500 BC) to the present day, is one of the most important city-states in inner Caria. The name of the settlement was Atriya in Hittite Period, Khrysaoris and Idrias in Classical Period and Stratonikeia (According to Strabo, it was founded by the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter (281–261 BC), who named it after his wife Stratonice).
In subsequent periods, Stratonikeia changed hands among Ptolemaics, Macedonians and Rhodians. In 130/129 BC, the region became a part of the Roman Republic (then Empire).
From the Early Byzantine Period the population started to decrease and during the Middle Byzantine period the city continued to shrink. After the conquest of Anatolia, the Turkish tribes extended as far as southwestern Anatolia at the end of 11th century.
Noble Buildings in Turkish History
Stratonikeia was continuously inhabited in the 14-15th centuries and afterwards. Over time it came under the control of the Ottoman administration and was decorated with many magnificent noble architectural buildings.
It is known that throughout Turkish history Stratonikeia suffered from many earthquakes and was rebuilt numerous times. The city was designed in the Hellenistic Period and the same plan was continued in the Roman Imperial Period.
The infrastructure (e.g. sewage) system of the city was worked to perfection. We noted those clay pipes and were extremely impressed that the ancient system seemed to still be standing the tests of time where ours today are crumbling and leaking. The lavatories, I can confirm are extremely comfortable; it took quite a while to prise Chris off one with his newspaper!
Checking the City Gates
After checking out the city gates and wandering through the agora we followed a labyrinth of old tracks following the old street plan of the Ottoman town. Past the heaving bosems of cantilevered windows, some with glass, some without and the abundant toothless smiles of wooden doorways pushed open by years of wind and rain, revealing broken stairways and abandoned furniture.
Flowers and grasses grow through the stonework and mosses adorned the sunken roofs, faded paintwork and carved and decorated walls showed what a vibrant town this had once been several hundred years ago. As the Ottoman buildings were left behind, even more amazing ruins presented themselves, it was almost too much to view at once, gymnasium, amphitheatre, baths, stores and temples, mingled with empty sarcophagi, the heat of the sun brought out the lizards from beneath the tumbled stones they flashed past us at a breakneck speed.
Feast Fit For A Roman – Or Us!
At the end of our tour amongst the ancient stones there is an old Ottoman coffee shop, run in the traditional way by a lovely man called Dursan, both the shop and the man were as they should be, slightly ramshackle, but authentic.
I fell into conversation with Dursan whilst Chris and Sandra were out exploring, I discovered that he could provide our guests with a Turkish feast, which we could eat amongst the ruins, what a treat not to be missed!
We decided there and then this was the place to come with our friends and guests, who could not love such a deeply romantic and interesting place, stuffed with the ghosts of many civilisations and then be assailed by a perfectly cooked dinner under the stars?
An all day trip was planned and now it is entrenched in our itinerary.
P.S. We noticed that the abundant pomegranate and fig trees were fruiting well and promised ourselves to return in September when they would be ripe, with scrumping bags. We did and they were delicious!
NOW ON THE TURKISH HISTORY & CULINARY ITINERARY!