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Lost Cities

As usual I was up early, and went downstairs to read in front of the fire, and wait for the breakfast buffet to open.  I ended up breakfasting with a young man from Beijing who was making is way slowly back home after years of working in Germany and France.  He had been in the film industry in France, and Walter had mentioned I was a screenwriter so we talked about the business of movies.  In China there isn’t a film industry per se.  There are rich oligarchs who make movies as a hobby.  Yi, goal is to become one of those men.

He was taking a tour of Ephesus while we were heading off to three ancient cities.  Before heading out we paused at a bank to get cash, and while I was tucking away my lire a stork carrying long twigs in its beak flapped serenely over my head.  He/she was only a few feet above me, and it was a wonderful sight.

In the car I was once more navigating as we headed off for Priene, Miletos and Didyma.  We drove past cherry orchards in full bloom, and found the turn off for the southern cities.  We spotted ruins in a field, and stopped to look.  Here is the roof of what appears to have been a temple. 


The guide book told us this was Magnesia, but no further information was forthcoming.

We continued through empty farm land until we came to some touring hills and rock cliffs.  We turned off on smaller and smaller roads following the signs to Priene.  Walter and the guide book gave us the information that Priene had been a Greek city that was never Romanized. 

We passed through a tiny village complete with a crap seller, and turned up a single lane road to the parking lot.  We paid the entry fee, and set off up a rutted jeep road that soon became a rock road, up a set of ancient stairs and onto the main street of a Greek city. 


The city huddled against a frowning grey cliff, and spread out below us was the grey/green curving line of vegetation that was reminiscent of a bay.  Apparently this had been an ancient seabed.  Eventually the city was abandoned because of earthquakes.

As we climbed I began to hear music as if the rocks and trees were beginning to chime.  At first it was just a treble sound carried on the wind that hissed and sighed through the pines.  Then an alto harmony joined in.  Then more and more notes until I realized I was hearing bronze bells, and suddenly the twisted horns of an angora goat appeared over the top of a hill above my head.  There was a very large herd of goats picking their way through the tumbled blocks of marble and nibbling on the succulent grasses and herbs.  Their tiny hooves clattered as they jumped from fallen block to fallen block their spindly legs bending and bowing as they reached for a particularly attractive mouthful of grass.

Their coats were variegated colors and they looked like a movable paint box as they wove their way through the ruins.  And the horns.  Every billy had an individual twist, spiral and curve to their horns.  The larger goats wore the deep throated alto bells while the daintier members of the herd wore the tenor and soprano bells.  Their shepherd stood on a hill leaning on a wooden stick watching over his flock.

Pat with her unerring sense, led us right to the Agora.  That girl has a nose for a shopping center — no matter if its two thousand years old.  It was on the cliff’s edge and offered a great photo opportunity.  


Nearby was a ruined temple of Aesculus where you would come when you were ill.  The treatment was for you to sleep in the temple and then the priests were interpret your dreams and outline a course of treatment based on those dreams.

Pat wandered off alone and Walter and I went off to the temple of the Egyptian gods.  There was a lot of trade between the Greek cities in Asia Minor and Egypt.  Just how much we would discover a few days later in Bodrum.
After the temple we stumbled upon a Greek theater, one of the best preserved Ionic theaters in the world. 



It was gorgeous, and only slightly marred by four American women and their pack of screaming, shouting, running, mud throwing, obnoxious children.  The idiot women were putting their children on the altar and instructing them to lie down as if the were being sacrificed.  So now these kids will grow up thinking the ancient Greeks practiced human sacrifice.  After the screaming, mud flinging, crying mob moved on, Walter and I posed in the stone chairs reserved for the city fathers.


Because I’m incurably curious I can never leave a path unexplored.  Thank goodness I’m curious because we crested a hill and came upon the temple of Diana.  The wind whispered and murmured through the pines and carried the scent of grass and flower, and the distant voices of the bells.


All around us mighty columns had fallen, spilling their component parts like gears from some vast, stone machine.  Walter described it as fossilized Transformers.  For a moment I felt as if it were 1820, and I was the first traveller to stumble upon this ruined wonder.


Alexander the Great paid to have the temple built, but it wasn’t completed until the reign of Caesar Agustus.  It was one of the largest if not the largest temple to Diana.

We made our way down the mountain, and paused for a late lunch at the small cafe in the five person village.  I had beef meat balls, and we shared eggplant in yogurt and garlic sauce, and a plate of chopped tomatoes, onion cucumber and chili with olive oil.  It was another great meal under the shadow of an ancient aqueduct.


Back in the car we headed off to Miletos.  Along the road I looked back to see the remaining standing columns of the temple gleaming white against the grey stone face of the cliff.  It was breathtaking, but alas, my camera couldn’t capture it.

Miletos was the Greek city that rebelled against the Persians, and lit the fire of revolution among all the Greek cities in Asia.  Athens offered help, but ultimately withdrew when they realized the Miletonians were idiots with fifty generals who couldn’t agree on anything.  The result of this aid from Athens was that Xerxes invaded Greece to punish Athens.  This led to Thermopylae and Salamis, etc.  So without Miletos The 300 would never have been made.  That would have been a good thing.


As we drove we saw more and more standing water.  Miletos had been a thriving port city, but as in Ephesus the bay silted up and the city died.  The only real feature aside from the massive walls is the amphitheater and a few pillars of a drowned temple. 


Here is s stone honoring Pompey Magnus’s defeat of the pirates.  Weeds, water and tadpoles surround it now.


Inside the amphitheater there were grey and yellow lizards dozing on the stone seats.  I managed to capture one in a picture.  The other interesting factoid about Miletos is that Julius Caesar won the Civic Crown for capturing Miletos.  He used tricker and taking a leaf from the Iliad he marched his army away as if they had given up on the siege.  But Caesar and a handful of crack troops hid nearby.  The Miletonians began to celebrate, got drunk and opened the city gate.  The Romans rushed in and held the gate until the army returned.  Miletos had revolted against Rome which led to the siege and conquest.  Rebellion seemed to be a habit with Miletos.

Pat was still wandering.  On our walk to the drowned temple we had walked over acres of pottery sherd and even a few pieces of ancient glass.  With her background in anthropology she was fascinated, but I found the city sad so I returned to the rather dispirited line of crap sellers and bought a fresh squeezed orange juice from an elderly gentleman.  Walter ordered his juice from an elderly woman in traditional dress.  We were trying to spread the meager bucks around.  The only other people at Miletos were a group of French tourists who were getting a very in-depth lecture.

As we sat and sipped our juice Walter averred as how he found the site very sad.  I agreed and then he asked me if this was sadder than a city that had been sacked and burned?  I thought of the desperation of the citizens as year by year they watched the sea retreating, and realized that the city, their homes, their very way of life was dying.  I said all that and then added it was like the difference between someone cole to you dying suddenly and quickly versus watching them die by inches.  The first is shocking, but I think ultimately easier for the survivors to deal with.

By now it was late in the day, and we had to abandon our plan to go to Didyma and the temple of Apollo.  On the drive back to Selcuk we were treated to one of the most interesting of the local customs — cow watching.  On the verge next to the road a cow was contentedly grazing while carefully observed by a mother, father and young daughter.  It was a sight we were to see repeated in cities as well as rural areas.  I admit, I’d watch my cow too if it were grazing on the side of the road.  The odd thing was that there were beautiful fenced pastures to either side.  I wondered if the pastures belonged to wealthy landlords and the local people aren’t allowed access.

Back in Selcuk we went to dinner with Yi.  We went out, and it wasn’t as good a meal as we’d had at Jimmy’s Place.  The upside — I got to feed a lot of cats with my leftover chicken snitzel.  The conversation was fascinating because Yi and Pat had watched a lot more foreign films than I had.  I listened with great interest in between being assaulted by demanding pussycats.

Next morning Yi and I exchanged emails, and offers to come and visit if he ever came to New Mexico or I ever got to China.  Then we were back in the car and off to Pamakkale, site of ancient Hierapolis, and the famed hot spring bath and travertine cliffs.  We opted to spend the night in Pamakkale, and it was a good call.  It was at our hotel in Pamakkale that I had the best meal of the trip.

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