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)
**If you'd like to help with future postings, please feel free to support them through PATREON: