Saddam and Me
Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
154Trip End Sep 11, 2009
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It happened this way. But bare with me. Like Herodotus, I relate somewhat elliptical histories; or, just skip to the heading below, "Hiking With Saddam."
First a little more about "Brother" Dave (introduced in a previous blog. Maybe. I'm getting behind and confused). Dave had told me of the wonders of the village and area around Kapikiri. Kapikiri also happens to overlie the site of the Hellenistic city of Heracleia. So when I returned to Selcuk from my days of staying in a hotel in Söke, while visiting the sites of Priene, Miletus and Didyma, I called him and told him I would take his advice and go to Kapikiri
In our further short conversation I happened to mention that I was disappointed with Miletus. In his drawl he said something like, "You mean since that was where rationalism got its start?" I caught, not only in the question, but also in a very, very slight tone of sarcasm and perhaps, even, contempt in his voice. It was very, very subtle. (Remember, Dave identified himself as a Christian. In my mind, a "believer," perhaps a "true believer.")
Now, I'm not the swiftest of thinkers on my feet. But I noticed a momentary catch in my voice before I responded to the effect, "No. Because it was." (Not anything of that notion was presented at the site: ie., the importance of Miletus in the development of Western Civilization. In fact, while there were some deteriorating signs pointing out features, nothing was made of the pivotal place in (Western Civilization) history Miletus had been).
Miletus is perhaps the keystone site in many threads of the beginnings of Western rationalism. Let me quote from one of my reference books (1): "Miletos passed through a very prosperous period in the 7th and 6th centuries....The first steps towards the establishment of western culture, especially in the field of exact science [ie., rational examination of the world] were taken mainly by the city of Miletos. The natural philosophers, Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, the famous historian and geographer, Hekataios, the town-planning architect, Hippodamos [he of the grid system], and Isidoros, one of the designers of St
(Of the many sites I have been to, and for its importance , I thought Miletus was scantily excavated and poorly maintained and displayed. Also, in this season there was a lot of standing water obscuring much of what, later in the season, does show of the core of the Hellenistic and Roman cities, making it difficult at this season to relate to what could be seen to the plans in my books. And I thought of the maintenance that could be done by all the Turkish men one sees standing and sitting around doing nothing but smoking cigarettes. But, after all, it's not a focal site of their [pre-Ataturk] heritage).
Now, back to the story. I have seen in various clues that Emin, the Turkish pension host must, like Dave, be a Christian. He showed me a couple of spiritually-themed books that Dave had given him to read. They were in Turkish, but seemed to be authored by what I would judge to be evangelical type authors and press. I noticed on Emin's pension business card a picture of a stone with a cross carved in relief. He indicated that he was given me a "price" because I was a friend of Dave's. And, the monasteries of the near region seemed to be a big deal to them. (Perhaps, true enough, this area may be like a second Cappadocia in the realm of Christian history. I don't have at hand resources to investigate right now).
I also have to interject that while eating breakfast on my first morning here, with no one to converse with in English I returned to reading Herodotus. Quite unexpectedly and coincidentally, it was the passage where he describes the conclusion of the Ionian Revolt, which was at the Battle of Lade (494 B.C.), off that namesake island (now a hill) about four miles west of Miletus, which itself was straight out my window, west across Bafa Lake--and not in sight, but out there
When Emin suggested for my second day a hike to see the Monastery of the Seven Brothers (which includes frescoes, I think), I took to the idea as it was as good an objective as any in this fabulous geographical wonderland.
So, now we're getting to Saddam. Saddam the Guide Dog.
Hiking With Saddam
I was told to walk on the road back to the next village and there would be signs directing me to the monastery. But when I was almost through the village, and had seen no sign, I turned to ask directions from a gentleman who had said "hello" from the doorway of his pension and restaurant. To my question of the way to the monastery he introduced Saddam, saying, "Saddam will guide you to the monastery." And, without further word of command or gesture that I can recall, Saddam began walking up the road next to the pension. Just like that.
Saddam had a slow-paced, hang-dog, look as if he was thinking to himself, "Oh, no
The man once again called out behind me, "You follow Saddam. Saddam will take you to the monastery."
Alas, Saddam didn't take me to the monastery.
We were on an ok enough path (mostly) I thought; until Saddam walked up a fairly steep rock. Then, it seemed, something was amiss. Nevertheless, after a hesitation I followed him up the rock. But then the way was blocked by a thorn bush. I didn't want to go back down the rock, so I cut an opening through the bush. But then we faced rocks that couldn't be negotiated, and a way ahead that led down and into even more dark, dense growth. And I didn't want to go there.
So I turned around and headed back down the rock after all. Saddam followed.
I decided, I guess, that I was the guide now. I headed up for a crest to our left, hoping to get some visual bearings. I got way ahead of Saddam. I didn't know if he was following or not. That is, until I caught sight of him slowly crossing an open area behind, headed in my direction.
I went higher. I looked back again and saw Saddam almost directly below me, maybe forty or fifty feet. I whistled and called his name. He hesitated, hearing the sounds, but didn't look up
Well then I thought, if he is following me I'll go back down to where he can get a sight of me and know where to go.
I saw him a second time and repeated the whistle. Again he hesitated, but still didn't look to me, but turned and trotted off back again.
I went further back.
At a third instance he did see me, but he still turned and headed back.
At this point I felt a moral dilemma, I guess. There was a bond between us. To those who think I am an unregenerate loner, this time I couldn't just break it off with Saddam. So I gave up my personal quest and decided to go back with him. I was wondering, what is going on here?
He kept ahead of me maybe between 20 to 40 yards. At a certain point he went over a rise and out of sight around a bend. I thought I'd experiment. I sat down and waited. I waited about ten minutes. I was about to go back to my route of discovery when Saddam's head appeared over the rise, him looking straight at me, a quizzical expression on his face as if to say, "Are you coming or not?"
(1)Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey, Ord. Prof. Dr. Ekrem Akurgal. 10th edition, 2007 by Net Turistik Yayinlar San. Tic. A.S., Istanbul.