ARAGORN ... Not all those who wander are lost (JRR Tolkien)

Ruins in Turkey


The countryside is beautiful and it is said that Turkey has more Greek ruins than Greece.

We saw many, but here only show Ephesis (the big, most developed, most popular one), but also Didyma, Miletus, and Priene, which are our favorites. Not shown are Teos (still undeveloped - try walking through a horse pasture to get to the temple ruins) and the mausoleum of Mausoleus (unfortunately now only the foundation).

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As said, there are more Greek ruins in Turkey than in Greece. One interesting one was Didyma, a large temple that gave oracles. It is said that it rivaled Delphi as the lead oracle source in ancient Greece.

Well over two football fields in size, they built the temple for more than five hundred years, beginning before 300 BC. It was the third largest religious structure in the "ancient world".

Leslie standing among the bases of the columns in the front of the prior shot gives you a little appreciation for the scale.

Turkey is earthquake country, causing this to happen to the columns ... the pieces look like giant Necco wafers. The earthquake of 1493 did the most damage to the structure.


The two columns left standing, in a panorama shot.

You will probably recognize these famous reliefs that were found at and are now displayed at Didyma. Medusa (left) who was decapitated by Perseus (right).

Our favorite at the site was this little boy who (a true young entrepreneur) wanted to sell me the flower he had picked for one New Turkish Lira (about $0.70), but was just as happy to look at the photos I had taken of him playing with the flower (one shown here).

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The ancient city of Ephesus has been on the site since before the Greek conquest in 334BC. It was also developed by the Romans after they took over the "known world". Around then, Ephesus had a harbor, but is now inland, due to silting of the bay. As such it was eventually abandoned. Now the most popular Greek ruin in Turkey, Ephesus has been cleaned up for tourists to wander around. The Turks are justifiably proud of the old city; their most popular beer is called "Efes", Turkish for Ephesus. This photo is the Library, where you can imagine Romans in togas, rather than the tourists, wandering around.

Unfortunately the extensive ruins are a bit overrun by tourists, but if you want, we have books of photos. But we did see some interesting side scenes we thought you would enjoy.

If you look hard at this slab of marble, you can see an early backgammon board carved into the rock (the o's are the points, and the x's mark the bar). The board size is about 18-24 inches long, or about the size of our modern boards.

We saw a lot of ionic column capitals, but this one, with a ram's head carved in each side, was different!

Our medical-student daughter, Sloane was with us here, and we spotted this Caduceus immediately. Did it mark a Roman clinic?

Think your street has a pothole problem? What about ruts in a stone street (probably made by chariot wheels).


Of course, you could have been fortunate, like the people who lived in the (ruined) townhouses on the left ... with a mosaic street!

Nearby Ephesus, we saw another of the Seven Wonders of the World (our third), the Temple of Artemis

Like many of the Wonders, there is not much of it left. At least the remaining column (and one-quarter) are taller than the Mausoleum at Halicarnassos (just the foundations).

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Another ancient city that fell out of use because its harbor was made useless by a silting river.

One of the most impressive Greek theaters is here:

From the top of the theater, you can see the flat plain which once was a large bay. The water just before the buildings in the midground is where the harbor used to end.

The entrance to the harbor at Miletus used to have two stone lions standing guard. While wandering around the site, a young man on horseback(!) came by, and after a lot of sign language, he led us to the better remaining lion. One part of his payment was to be photographed with Sloane and Leslie.

The local village women in Turkey wear puffy pants made from fabric with a small flower pattern. Sometimes they wear blouses from similar patterned cloth, but never matching. Headcloths and scarfs are common (Muslim culture). This woman clearing brush around the 3rd century ruins of Miletus shows the typical fashion. She must really think that Sloane and Leslie (prior photo) have no fashion sense at all.

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Priene (also Piriene) was my favorite ruin. Perched half way up a steep hill, with a rock cliff behind it, Priene looked like it would be easy to defend. The river below provided access to the sea, and the surrounding flats provided good farmland. Unfortunately, time was victorious, as the river silted up and eventually the people had to move on.

But the city lived through pre-Greek, Greek, Roman and early Byzantine eras. It had a grid pattern of streets, a wonderful theater, a good market, a well-preserved temple area, and an Eastern church, among all the other buildings.

Like many of the ruins in Turkey (other than Ephesus) there were only one to three other small groups looking at these ruins. Too bad some of the best are left unpopular (or is it?).

These five tall Ionic columns is all that is left of the Temple of Athena at the prime site on the hillside of Priene. They must stand three stories tall.

Sometimes we have fun trying to figure out the old Greek words. The top row here would translate into something like "Municipality of Athina", but it probably meant "the property of the temple of Athena".

Here Leslie gets the best seat in the house at the local hellenic theater.

A bit blowy that day, Sloane looks out over the valley from the site of the Temple of Athena. Here is what she sees.

You can espy the large horseshoe curve int the small river below. This is the river Maeander, which has silted up this entire plain (once a wide bay). The winding river gives us the word "meander".

Leslie and Sloane examine the Byzantine church.

That's all for ruins... at least in Turkey, but there are more in Greece and Croatia, so keep looking in the future!

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Copyright 2006, Richard William York