Thursday, December 13, 2018

Docimium: The Marble City

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

The streets of Iscehisar (ancient Docimium) are lined with marble factories of all types and sizes.  Some factories; process the massive blocks of 'Dokimeion Marble' to fit the orders that come in from all over the world, while others are busy producing finished products, such as those pictured above.
It is believed that the name of the ancient city dates to the 4C BC, and an officer named Antigonos Dokimos, who served in the Macedonian army under Alexander the Great.  Following the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Antigonos Dokimos first fell into alliance with top general Perdiccas, who fought for control of Alexander's empire, and then, following the death of Perdiccas in 321 BC, allied with Attalus and Alcetas (the later of whose tomb is located in ancient Termessos).
I really had no idea of what if anything might remain of the ancient city, and upon arrival, my focus was drawn to the acropolis pictured in the top of the photo above.  However, as I asked around, I was directed to the foot of the Ottoman bridge that spans the Bocekci River, and low and behold, a massive depository of sculpted marble from buildings and monuments of all types and sizes.
As can be seen on the map below, ancient Docimium was one of the most important quarries for marble in ancient Phrygia.  In ancient times, marble from the nearby quarries was shipped throughout the Mediterranean, to places such as North Africa, Italy and Greece, and today, it is shipped internationally.
According to Strabo, the Synnadic stone (which the locals called Docimite), with veins of red and deep orange running through its pure whiteness, was prized by Rome, including Hadrian, who used it for the columns and pilasters that frame the niches in the Pantheon. (J.C. Fant Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik Bd. 54 (1984), p. 171) 
As for the ancient city of Docimium, the depository pictured below is all that remains above ground.  Of course, there are remnants of structures beneath the modern city of Iscehisar, but these will not be explored any time soon.  For now, the sights to be seen lay within the details of the sculpted members lined up and numbered in this marble cemetery.
From a distance, the conglomerate of stone looks like a white foamy sea, but up close, the names of the sculptors and inscriptions of the dead come back to life.  Exquisitely carved friezes remain as impressive as they did two-thousand years prior.
As I leapt over the works of art, I noticed a woman watching me from an apartment building across the road.  She must of thought, oh, another crazy tourist who's come to look for treasure, while I was thinking, I had hit the jackpot!
Docimium is located about 35 kilometers northeast of Afyon, where some of the finds from the ancient city are kept (pictured below).  Unlike the architrave member pictured above, which has a design of three simple flat layers, the one pictured below outside the Afyon Archeological Museum contains a Roman inscription identifying the structure and its dedicatory purpose.
One of the most prized possessions of the museum is a sarcophagus that was found in Dinar (ancient Apameia) during the ground preparations for the building of the state hospital in the middle of the city.  It is sculpted in a very fine marble that was most likely quarried near Docimium (pictured further down).
I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the work surrounding me, and it shouldn't be surprising that some of the best sculptors of the ancient world were trained not far from Docimium in the ancient city of Aphrodisias.
Beautiful architraves, cornices, octagonal column bases and intricately decorated door frames were scattered throughout the collection.
This open-air museum allows one to discover, uncover, touch, feel, and rest the mind with questions that have infinite possible answers.
As I have explored so many ancient cities in and around greater Phrygia (in this instance), and having examined such an extensive amount of sculpture, I am often reminded of, and hence, am able to recognize and relate the works I see with work from other cities.  Individual artists begin to be recognized, and though they may remain nameless, I am able to see their hand.
The Apameia sarcophagus (shown on display at the Afyon Archeological Museum below) is in an amazing state of preservation, and is a testament to the skill level of the marble sculptors in this area around the 2C AD.
On the side shown above, a depiction of Perseus and Andromeda; she the daughter of Cepheus, was rescued by Perseus from being sacrificed to the sea monster sent by Poseidon to destroy her native country.
As Nike lifts her foot from grounding on each corner of the sarcophagus, she carries the deceased in victory to the heavens as Medusa holds those who would impair the journey at bay.
Lions guard the perimeter of the sarcophagus lid with the threat of a violent death for those who would dare attempt to disturb the inner sanctuary.  
Depicted on this side of the Apameia sarcophagus is the ending of Penthesileas' life at the hands of Achilles (pictured above and below).  Working his way around the queen of the Amazons, who had brought her army to defend Troy, Achilles approached Penthesilea with extreme caution, as she was well respected for her wisdom, and feared for her ferocity in battle.  
As I worked my way around the marble monument members on display in the center of Iscehisar, I began to find inscriptions of all sorts; names, dedications, odes to the gods, prayers and more.
With quarry data chiseled into their soft white underbellies, the writings give all necessary information; the building, dates,  location directions, position of placement, names of the workers who made them, etc.
Pictured below, one of the unfortunate works of art that was left unfinished in antiquity.  Perhaps this was a students practice piece, or, maybe some unrepairable mishap doomed its completion, or, is it possible that the requisitioner ran out of funds to pay for the work, or, refused to pay for the work due to unsatisfactory artistry?    Regardless, this is another very interesting piece on display at the Afyon Archeological Museum.
Meanwhile, back in the field of broken dreams, another seemingly unfinished piece sits among the blades of grass and glory (pictured below).  This piece has the most curious rounded flat face surrounded by what appears to be a hood, as if it were a pre-fabricated, and was simply waiting for a patron to pay for his or her desired face to be added.
Dedicatory inscription blocks such as the one pictured below are almost always put on display at the nearest museum, or, at least protected in a guarded depot from being damaged or stolen.  A more organized solution would appear necessary, and I hope Iscehisar has some plans in the works.  This piece was most likely damaged by a backhoe shovel during a building project within the city.
Back at the museum in Afyon, I took a tour of the depot around the outside of the building, and came across some very interesting pieces in back.  Pictured below is a sarcophagus that was deformed in a fire.
Marble begins to breakdown at around 825C or 1517F, which means that this sarcophagus was basically sitting in a situation that acted as an extremely heated oven.
Marble is a calcium carbonate, so, if heated to the required temperature, it will lose its carbonate.  This would result in the formation of quicklime, a mortar material for building.  So, perhaps this sarcophagus is the remnant of a half-baked kiln experiment?
This colossal statue of Zeus was sitting in a rarely visited back corner of the museum depot.  What a magnificent fountain, theater or perhaps temple, this work of art would have adorned, while commanding the gazes of the citizens who looking upon him.
It was time to move on, into the highlands north of Afyon, where the Hattians, the Hittites, the Phrygians, and maybe even the Amazonians reigned long before the arrival of the Greeks and Romans.
Beyond cycling, sailing and hiking for prolonged periods of time, I cannot imagine any better ways to experience this sort of oneness with our planet.  Possible dangerous occurrences are extremely rare, and when compared to the hijacking of mind and body that can occur during a regimented preordained lifestyle, this, at least in a personal way, appears to be much less dangerous.
Climb, climb the hill.  I know I can, I know I can!  On with the challenge, and on to the next exploration.


*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Amorium: Abduction of 42 Martyrs

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

After investigating the ancient sanctuary of Pessinus, I continued south to ancient Amorium, the city of the 42 Martyrs.  Founded during the Hellenistic period, the location of the city must have garnered importance as a garrison along the road running north and south through the heart of Anatolia.  The unexcavated city within the massive fortifications awaits discovery, as, over the millennia it has been built upon and filled with the dust of time.
Pictured below is a section of the Hellenistic city wall, and as can be seen, the wind swept scape has slowly brought the lower plain up to the top of the defensive fortifications, while the inner sanctuary has been completely filled in.
The South Gate, with the defensive wall rising above it and Towers to either side can be seen in the photo below.  Surveys have revealed 30 towers situated around the upper or Hellenistic city, while it is suspected that there are 40 towers in all along the defensive walls.  One can image something similar to the defensive walls of ancient Pydnee, though sections of the walls at Amorium show signs of later Roman and Byzantine construction.
As the city remained of military importance throughout its early existence, the minting of its own coinage from the 2C BC to the 3C AD is a sign of its status.  
Later, under Byzantine rule the city retained its strategic importance, and continued to expand outside the old city walls.  Pictured below, a view of the village of Hisar in the distance, with one of the many Towers on display in the foreground.
A view of the city wall from the plain below shows just how high it truly is (pictured below).  As with so many ancient sites throughout Turkey, excavation awaits the funding and the determination to make this land the mecca of ancient cities.
Looking out over the city walls from the acropolis mound (pictured below), the minaret of the Hisar mosque can be seen in the distance.  The center of the village contains numerous antiquities, which indicates the direction of the Byzantine expansion, and perhaps the focus of future excavations.
This land is a fertile paradise, with water a plenty, and rays of sun that penetrate the dry climate to depths of your bones.  The reasons that human civilization grew from this soil are obvious, and why this land was fought over can be made sense of, as long as it was the land that was defended, and not the warping of the mind.
Looking out over the expanse of the plain, one might be transported to the roots sewn in Iowa, Nebraska or the like, and from these fields a Christian marker (pictured above) reminds us of the souls plowed under, and for what?
The name of the small Byzantine church that sits atop the fill within the city walls is not known (pictured above), but what would not have been lost in the prayers of those who once administered this Eastern Christian sanctuary, was the date of March 6th, which commemorated the execution of the 42 Martyrs.
The 42 Eastern Roman officials captured in the 838 AD sacking of the city by Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim, were held in ancient Samarra in modern day Iraq (pictured above).  Refusing to convert to Islam, the 42 Martyrs were executed on the banks of the Tigris River in 845 AD.  The spiral of the Great Mosque of Samarra, built between 848 and 851, and commissioned by Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim, still stands today as a testament to his reach, as well as his influence and wealth.
Along the bottom of the walls of this Byzantine church both inside and out, graves were cordoned off and covered with rough blocks of stone.  Probably dating from the later period of Byzantine rule; a decline in wealth, upon attacks from those not like minded, and in order to be closer to their god and sanctuary, all the more reason to seek the comfort of closeness in time of turmoil.
Byzantine antiquities can be viewed all around the village of Hisar, most prominent are the numerous stele that have been collected and situated along the outer walls of the village houses (pictured below).
Something that I find interesting is the architecture that is displayed on stele during the post establishment of the Roman Christian church, which not surprisingly, reflects the common architectural style of the major buildings throughout the land, that of Greek and Roman style temples (pictured above).  It must not be forgotten that the old gods and their monuments did not just suddenly disappear from the cultures of the Mediterranean with the acceptance of Christianity by the Roman emperor.
The stele pictured above is carved with the typical motif of a Greek or Roman temple, yet, during the time that this stele was decorated, Christian churches of a much different architectural design had already been built many years prior.
One such church was the Church of Laodikeia, which was designed and built in the 4C AD, and is one of the first seven Christian churches ever built, and is not too distant from Amorium.
Wreaths of glory, grape vines for wine, bulls heads of sacrifice, honey of bees, mirrors of beauty, oil lamps, shields and swords of gallantry; all things that were valued in life, were hoped for in the afterlife, and thusly adorned the stele of the dead.
Many stele were repurposed in other buildings and various constructions, such as walls, fountains, walkways, and so on.  In the courtyard of the Hisar mosque, a grave member/stele has been repurposed as a decorative facade for fountain fixtures (pictured below).
This sort of repurposing can be seen throughout the towns and villages of Turkey, so, when traveling through these small towns and villages, be sure to look closely.
The antique water well pulley sits in place as if it has been there for thousands of years, and notice the well hole in the ground, which is covered with a sheet on tin.
Pictured below, a future fountain wall sits alongside a side road waiting for repurposing.  Notice below how Christianity is slowly making way into the culture of the past; here, the newly adopted Christian crosses are prominantly sculpted within the doors of the Greek/Roman temples, which are only lightly engraved in the stone.
Pictured below, with the Hellenistic city mound/walls rising in the background, a Byzantine era baths complex has been excavated and seemingly abandoned.
The rusted awnings and inaccessibility are a testament to the lack of interest in this site by tourists, and thus, no longer a priority, it has been allowed to become extremely overgrown.
I always ask myself, 'Why don't the guards who are tasked with protecting these sites from looters take more interest in preserving some sort of accessibility to these antiquities?', because basically, most of them just sit around all day drinking tea, while waiting for their pension to kick in.
Amorium was very difficult to discern and walk around, especially within and atop the Hellenistic city, as there are no trails cut, signposts placed, or information boards provided.  Notice the high cut boots that the guard is wearing, and for good reason, because the scrub in these fields can rip your clothes and cut your skin with a vengeance, not to mention the enormous snakes and scorpions!
Near the guard house, which can be seen in the top left of the photo above, there is a Byzantine era building with numerous large rooms separated by well preserved walls.  From what I could deduct, this was an administration building or basilica, which had been constructed from odd blocks and marble members quarried from earlier Roman and Hellenistic buildings.
This sort of repurposing on such a grand scale signals a number of possibilities; one, that there was a lack of funds and/or will to invest in new building materials, two, a lack of artisans to carry out such skilled work, three, a gathering together of the pieces left in ruin following some sort of destruction, four, some inconceivable event that is lost to time.  Perhaps this is all that could be mustered by the Byzantines following their retaking of the city after the sacking carried out by Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim in 838.
As can be seen in the map below, Amorium was a principle Theme within the Byzantine Empire.
Known as the Theme of the Anatolics, these were a mesh of military-civilian provinces and cities ruled by powerful strategoi, or, military governors, whose armies played an important role in guarding the provinces and cities from attack or invasion from the enemies of the Byzantine Empire.
Today, Amorium is just a sleepy little hamlet out in the middle the windswept Anatolian plain, its history mostly forgotten by the locals, its antiquities shunned by the tourists, its wealth of place long passed, and be that as it may, I must declare, that this lowly traveller finds absolute solace in the fact that there is still a place to come to called Amorium.


*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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