A Visit to Sardis, the Root of All Evil

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
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Trip End Sep 11, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Manisa Province,
Monday, January 19, 2009

After some fine time in Bergama, and on the Pergamon Acropolis, I took a bus the short distance southeast to Manisa.

I returned to lodge again with a host member of a travelers' social network in which I participate. His name is Ahmet, and he is a 24-year old student of economics. Or, better to say, he is engaged in completing the last months toward his diploma in a subject that he really has no interest for. As I understood his explanation, his university selection and subject selection is largely a circumscribed matter, determined by his score in the national testing that each university applicant must undergo. No electives here it would seem.

In his internet profile for the travelers' social network, his picture portrays him as a mildly tough rapper. This seems to be a life he has chosen to leave behind. I found him to be a very warm person with an infectious smile. The first time I met Ahmet he had waited at the train station three hours for my belated arrival. He has a great interest in learning to speak English, which he does fairly well. The problem with many Turkish students is that they learn English from non-native speakers, so  their pronunciation often is what needs work.

Ahmet does have a pretty good vocabulary, and has memorized a number of slang expressions  from somewhere on the internet (every day usages, nothing to shock mama). From me he wanted to know their contextual use, and pronunciation. He greatly impressed me by memorizing aurally in less than two minutes my little tongue twister: Howmuchwoodwouldawoodchuckchuckifawoodchuckwouldchuckwood? Not only that, then, at my request, he wrote it out with perfect word separation and spelling! I was really impressed.

Manisa is fairly close to the archaeological site of ancient Sardis. So that was my first goal.

Sardis: The Root of All Evil; The Home of Money

Sardis has a long, rich history. Literally. As the saying goes, "Follow the money." Well, the money goes back to Sardis, where currency in the form of coinage was "invented."  It was presided over in one of its hey days by King Croesus. (Midas was another guy in another place and time).

Anyway, again, my purpose is not to teach history, but to relate my personal experience and activities in these places. However, I did photograph one of the site's explanatory boards to set the scene.

The first, largest, and most impressive building is called the Marble Court. It has largely been restored and reconstructed by the American archaeological activities, which are on-going. These, to the best of my knowledge, are usually actively conducted in the summer months of July and August, when the academics are on summer break. At Sardis there are extensive covered areas where suspended work has been covered. Winter months have made it hard to distinguish which areas are the more active and which may be held in longer suspension. I poked my head into where I could get away with it. It all looked pretty long-left, but I'm sure that's not the case.

After a look around the parts of the site I was permitted to explore, and a couple of forays into areas where I was not supposed to go, taking care not to ruffle feathers, what was there to do but head up to the former acropolis? I love a good hill climb.

The one thing I remembered about the acropolis was the story of the siege by the Persians. It is said that a Persian soldier saw a Lydian soldier retrieve a fallen helmet, and observing his return to the fortress discovered an approach to the heretofore impregnable fort.

Formidable as it was it is hard to imagine, as there has been massive erosion of the hill since those times. This is especially so on the "back side," the side not seen by many, unless they also go around to visit the Temple of Artemis. It is just impossible to imagine the volume of earth that has eroded down from that hill. I guess that's what is keeping the archaeologists so busy these days. Not imagining the erosion, but digging in its aftermath. On my way up I first saw, then passed beneath a section of the former castle wall that seemed ready to go at any moment. I'm glad there wasn't an earthquake in my time there.

After looking into about every nook and cranny of what's left of the acropolis I headed back down the backside to visit the Temple of Artemis. On the way a large number of dogs took an interest in my approach to "their" sheep. Fortunately, the shepherd was near by and  "called off the dogs."

Even in its piecemeal remnants it's easy to see that that temple was once one heck of a structure. As I walk among these massive works of stone I'm always wondering, How did they do it? Those columns are tall! And made of huge stones. And I haven't yet found out how they got such heavy rocks so high. Who knows? Did they have a scaffolding? Did they have block and tackle? I doubt it. Did they pile up earth, then drag the stones higher. I've seen conjectures about the pyramids, but how did these cultures do it? I set my day pack at the base of one of the fallen capitols to lend a scale to its size and mass. I also would just stand there, staring at those stone coils--called volutes, I believe--of the Ionic capitols. Though stone, there was just something sensual to me about the smoothness, and delicacy of the measured, tapered curves.

And, just as a sidelight, amusing perhaps only to myself; I was thinking that I don't know much about art history, but I was able early to learn and remember the chronological sequence in the development of the three types of Greek column capitols, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. There was probably something about large, hard, upright objects with an acronym DIC that was impressionable to an adolescent boy.

I wanted to go on to climb the other eroded hill across the way, but time was running out. I had to catch a mini-bus back to the near-by town of Salihli, there to transfer to a bus for the return to Manisa. And its waiting, deathly air pollution.
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Comments

geezergal
geezergal on

Loved this one
I think if I were to return to Turkey that I would want to visit this place. Very fascinating. Love Sis

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