Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kesme to Ancient Kasimlar and Adada

Photos by Jack Waldron
Cycling through the western Taurus Mountains coming north from ancient Aspendus, stopping at ancient Selge and then crossing into the prefecture of Isparta, through Kesme, a camp at ancient Kasimlar, and on to ancient Adada, reveals some of the most spectacular views of what was once known in ancient times as Pisidia.
Though it was the middle of June, the mild mountain weather could turn to freezing rain within hours, and being caught in the mountains under such circumstances without time to set-up camp, I think this was the first time in my life that I gained an understanding of why so many ancients worshipped the sun, as you can truly feel its life giving powers, when an unbearable freeze has driven you to huddle and sleep for warmth.  *The video below was taken on the mountain above Kesme.
I finally reached a small shop/grocery/tea house, where I sought refuge from the freezing rain.  There was an old man and his wife who invited me in from the rain.  After a couple hours, it became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to go on . . . , the evening was upon us.  
The roof of the shop was flat and perfect to set-up camp.  They brought me some food, I drank a beer, and the next I knew the hot morning sun was rousting me out of my confines.
The route that traverses the mountains from northeast Antalya prefecture to southeast Isparta prefecture finally reaches this lonely pass.  For many many kilometers the road was in a very poor state, ranging from gravel to patchy potholed pavement to dirt.  There are very few cars along this route, however, gravel and marble carrying trucks pound their path at breakneck speeds leaving this unprotected cyclist in clouds of dust . . . , oh, the joy to be alive!!
The climbing never ends, and sometimes it's time to get off the bike and push!  The climb to ancient Kasimlar took about two and a half hours.  One might think that this mode of travel is unbearable or, a waste of time, but to the contrary, this is a most wonderful way to exercise, be one with nature instead of speeding past it, slowing the road of life: I was cycling for ten weeks this past summer, and I can remember nearly every moment of every day down to the hour, but, I cannot even remember my work days of the past week.
When I arrived at the first remnants of the village of Kasimlar, I saw steep path lined with a few scant antiquities that led up to a small park with slides and swings, and a clean public toilet.  I pushed my bike up several tens of meters before arriving at a lookout over the entire village of Kasimlar (pictured above), and a spot that looked out over the valley I had just come out of (pictured below).
The quiet of Kasimlar was broken only by the birds of the valley, occasional voices of local children far off in the distance, and of a sheep herding woman talking to her flock, and the flock in turn answering her calls (see/hear video above).  
Though there are only a few column barrels and various other scant remains of the ancient city, it could have been 100 BC that night, and nothing would have been different, except the sparse lamps spread across the village (pictured below).  I was told by some villagers that the modern village is built on top of the ancient remains, covering it in full.
The evening solace of my camp was so impressive that I truly considered staying another night, however, because my mission is to visit as many ancient cities as possible while on tour, I felt a strong urge to move on down the road, or, as I would find out the following morning, up uP UP the road!
I used to think I would avoid mountains as much as possible, and why I began my 2015 season by going directly into the mountains I do not know, however, as I went along I discovered that I love cycling in the mountains, and would never let them force me to adjust a route.  Now I was on my way to ancient Adada (near Sagrak), which I had only found out about a few weeks prior to my departure.  Adada is an ancient city that is not on the must see lists of book guides or tourist itineraries, and after having visited this ancient city I think this an overlooked gem.
I climbed higher and higher from Kasimlar until I reached an extremely deep valley that saw the road twist and turn down steep  paths to the bottom only to be greeted with a climb up similar terrain.  This was the passage through the range as I began to cycle toward the Kasimlar Yolu Plateau and beyond to Adada (near Sagrak).  Along the way, the smattering of houses, barns and seed huts of a bygone era begged to be recorded for posterity (I hate this sort of fantastical writing style . . . "begged", really! LOL). 
The Kasimlar Yolu Plateau is truly a magical place, with herds of horses roaming across your path and studs biting and chasing opponents away from their captive mares.  No houses or buildings, just fresh cold water springs as the plain leads to the hard to find off shoot to ancient Adada through the very small village of Yenikoy.
Barns of Yenikoy (pictured above and below).
The road from Yenikoy to ancient Adada was a long slow meandering down sloping path along the edge of Kovada Golu Milli Park, and was such a welcomed experience after a morning of climbing.  Isparta's culture takes one back in time to our roots as western Europeans, where we meet our eastern trek out of the Levant.
As I had been told by some locals that Adada was about ten kilometers further on, I tried to keep an eye out for any hint of the ancient city.  Finally, as I defended from the plateau I could the ancient theater far off in the distance about two hundred meters from the road (pictured below).
The roughly 3000 capacity theater appears to be of Roman design, probably built in the 1 C AD.
The greater area surrounding the theater have yet to be excavated, and vast fields are sure to reveal numerous buildings and other antiquities.
The temple of Trajan sits about fifty meters from the road on the opposite side of the road from the theater.  Among the brilliantly preserved temples on the site, the temple of Trajan is the most dilapidated of them.
The information board for the temple states that it was probably built in order to be dedicated to Trajan upon his probable visit in 114 AD.  The site is fairly well signposted, which makes one wonder why the ancient city of Adada is so ignored by guide books and enthusiasts.
Pictured below, a very well preserved information board with its antiquated English grammar, though, hats off to those who were given the responsibility to produce it at a time when the country was not awash with native English speakers.  Pictured above, the updated version (hope I don't make any grammar mistakes!!).
The well preserved temple of the God-Emperors sits approximately one hundred meters from theater on the same side of the road.  I never expected to find buildings in such a fine state of preservation at Adada.  I was truly taken aback.
Inside the temple of the God-Emperors (pictured above), and the well preserved back of the same temple (pictured below).
The temple of the God-Emperors from a distance with my bicycle for scale sitting next to it, and the temple of Trajan across the road in the far distance.  Wild flowers cover the fields!!
  The temple of Emperors and Zeus Megistos Serapis is another very impressive building in a fine state of preservation, and sits about fifty meters from the temple of the God-Emperors.  Under the giant pile of building members in front of the temple sits the alter and staircase leading to the pronaos.  When all the members are reconstructed, the pronaos and temple will stand nearly complete minus the roof.
An inscription on an architrave/epistyle of the building reveals the dedication of the temple, its benefactors, and approximate building period based on the information given.
The door columns of the pronaos of the in antis building are angled in situ (pictured above), while the right corner member of the cornice lay atop the crumbled pile in front of the temple (pictured below).
Under the giant pile of building members in front of the temple sits the alter and staircase leading to the pronaos.  When all the members are reconstructed, the pronaos and temple will stand nearly complete minus the roof.
Leaving the temple complex and heading further down the road toward the central agora brings us to a Roman building just a few feet off the road, which was most likely an administrative building as described by surveyors of the site.
As the main road runs through the center of the site, and as there are no fences around the city, there is no entrance fee and one is free to explore the landscape and inner buildings without restraint.
A tower rises above the public steps of the agora.  There are rarely other people exploring ancient Adada, and this allows a visitor to sit and peacefully ponder the workings of the city, as well as how and where the people of this city once sat, walked, worked, talked and fought.
From the agora, there is an inspiring view over the valley and the village of current day Sagrak.  *The video below offers a wonderful tour of Adada from the air!!
As I said previously, I found out about Adada only weeks before, and I had read of a woman who had travelled through here, and who had spent the night at the now defunct school house (as there are too few children in the village these days, and now attend school in Sutculer, about ten kilometers from Sagrak).  Well, I decided to try to do the same, as I had been camping every night for about a week.  In the end, the school was not offered as it had been for her (with breakfast!), and I was directed to a farm compound and told it was 50 Turkish Lira, which isn't a large amount of money, but, I went on and finally camped in a beautiful site not far past Sagrak.  The site is a summer picnic area that had not yet opened and is located halfway between Sagrak and Sutculer.  I was given a delicious plate of BBQ chicken by the neighboring campers, such hospitality in Turkey.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Selge . . . Ancient City in the Clouds

Photos by Jack Waldron
I'm always asked by people I meet,"Why do you travel alone?", and my short answers vary, from,"Nobody I've met is on the same road that I am", or,"People think it's too hard", or,"I have the freedom to spend time doing this", and they really express their wish to undertake such journeys, and that they cannot believe that I am cycling like this.  Well, the truth be told, there is no authority other than oneself, and I cycle to express to people that it is possible for them to do the same, if they choose to do it.  Cycling is something I do for the environment, for my health, to explore the planet, to conserve my limited amount of money, and basically, to feel/be free; free from boredom, free from material things, and most important, free from the pre-packaged plan that was strongly recommended and constantly reinforced by the culture I was raised in.  That is the semi-longish answer, and it actually goes much much deeper than that . . . , but I'll extrapolate as the journey goes on.
The Roman constructed Eurymedon Bridge dates from the 2nd C. AD, and is the gateway to ancient Selge, a city in the sky in what was once known as Pisidia (modern day Antalaya), 45 km north of ancient Aspendus, and spans the Eurymedon River (modern day Koprucay), and at the mouth of which was fought the Battle of Eurymedon around 460 BC, in which the Athenian general Cimon defeated the Pursian force of 200 Trireme ships and men on land.
From the bridge, the modern road serpentines its way 10 km up to Selge as it time and again crisscrosses the ancient Roman road which simply drives directly up the steep mountain (pictured above).

"There are few approaches about the city, and the mountainous country of the Selgeis, which abounds with precipices and ravines, formed among other rivers by the Eurymedon and the Cestrus, which descend from the Selgic mountains, and discharge themselves into the Pamphylian Sea. There are bridges on the roads. From the strength and security of their position the Selgeis were never at any time, nor on any single occasion, subject to any other people, but enjoyed unmolested the produce of their country, with the exception of that part situated below them in Pamphylia, and that within the Taurus, for which they were carrying on a continual warfare with the kings." 'Pliny, b. xv. c. 7, and b. xii. c. 4, Kopru-Su, Ak-Su: Strabo, Geography of'
High in the Western Taurus mountains on this Anatolian plateau, Selgians like Ngul, still live with their families amongst the ancient ruins of the city (see the ancient theater in the distant left of the picture above).  With a corner on the theater poking out of the trees in the right of the photo below, the flat grassy field is the ancient stadium, and the rows of seating can be seen where the grass meets the trees.

"Selge had the rank of a city from the first when founded by tle Laced√¶monians (Spartans), but at a still earlier period by Calchas. Latterly it has maintained its condition and flourished in consequence of its excellent constitution and government, so that at one time it had a population of 20,000 persons." 'Zurk: Strabo, Geography of'
The stadium acts as a modern day city block, with many families having built their homes on the convenient space that leads us directly to the theater.
The magnificent theater of Selge waits to be excavated and rebuilt, as all of the structural members are there on site.  The pile you see is from the Roman period, and was once a three story ornamented backdrop to the stage.  An earlier Hellenistic stage would have been simpler, allowing the natural beauty of the landscape beyond the stage to express its being.
The day I visited Selge was only my second cycling day of the 2015 season.  I had spent the first day riding up into the mountains from the coast not far from Manavgat, Turkey, home of the ancient city Side, where I had ended my 2014 cycling season.  As I spent the next 6 hours exploring the four acropolises, two agoras, multiple temples, numerous government buildings, trails in, up and down the valleys of the ancient city, I noticed something very funny: every hour or so a train of 3-5 tour buses would come rolling into the village (because the big tour buses could not cross the Eurymedon Roman Bridge), and park right next to the theater.  The tourists would clammer out of the buses into a house-like structure, eat lunch, mosey over to the theater, spend about 20 minutes climbing around taking pictures of themselves standing on the ruins, then climb back into the buses, and off they'd go!  Now, this was quite amazing to me, because Selge is not an easy place to get to.  Those tourists travel about 2 hours up to the site from the coast, spend 20 minutes (only at the theater) in order to say they'd been there, and travel 2 hours back to their luxury hotels on crowded beaches with all you can eat and drink  pool bars (they are issued colored wristbands to show membership).  It seems to me that the tourist who ventures this far for this experience does realize the value, longs for the adventure and freedom, but ultimately, feels under pressure because their vacation is so short, or they cannot find the way alone, or are fearful of possible discomfort, or something along those lines.  
One of the most fascinating aspects of ancient Selge is, that there are no less than four acropolises surrounding the environs.  Immediately behind the theater I would argue, is acropolis one.  The photograph below is shot from what I designate as the approach to acropolis three (back to the left of where the photo is shot from), which is showing the elongated acropolis two, with the theater sitting below it in the top right of the photo, and acropolis one rising above the theater on its upper right corner.  What a magnificent site!!
Below, a closer shot of acropolis two from the same vantage point as the previous photo, from the approach (back left) of acropolis three.  The very large heap of structural members in the distant right (and which are shown in more detail in photos below), appear to be a massive temple.  
The photo below shows structural support members that are visible under the temple structure which is mentioned above.
The photo above shows a close-up of the temple structure heap that has been referred to above, while the photo below shows a doric capital and fluted column from the same heap.
Pictured above, the detailed entablature of the temple mention above.  Below, two door columns stand at the temple structure, while in the distance one could argue, is acropolis five, with acropolis three residing down to the right on the slope, and acropolis four then rising from said slope above the second agora.
The place deserves admiration from the advantages which nature has bestowed upon it. Among the summits of Taurus is a very fertile tract capable of maintaining many thousand inhabitants. Many spots produce the olive and excellent vines, and afford abundant pasture for animals of all kinds." 'Ak-Su: Strabo, Geography of'
West of the city between the Kesbedion hill and the Northern Necropolis sits a huge cascading valley with numerous building remains.  Pictured above to right of the photo is what looks like a small Roman temple, while in the foreground are the remains of a very large building with Roman military decorations and quarried member blocks with Greek inscriptions (pictured further down).
A closer look at the small Roman temple in the valley reveals some remarkable preservation, and still makes a fine haunt for the local goats, perhaps some descendants of the goatherd of 220 BC?!
The large building in the valley is pictured above, while some of the quarried blocks are seen below, and when examined more closely reveal numerous inscriptions in Greek.
"Their position with respect to the Romans was that they possessed this tract on certain conditions. They sent ambassadors to Alexander and offered to receive his commands in the character of friends, but at present they are altogether subject to the Romans, and are included in what was formerly the kingdom of Amyntas."'Ak-Su: Strabo, Geography of'
A decorative block from the large building also display what appear to be Roman soldier reliefs (pictured below).
Heading up the slope of the valley to its head is the Kesbedion hill and Western city wall (pictured below).
The Kesbedion hill (city side pictured close-up above, and from a distance below) hold an interesting story as told by the Greek historian Polybius, 200-118 BC.  According to the story, Selge was saved from destruction by a goatherd in 220 BC, when it alerted the Selgians of the approach by the general Garsyeris, who was Syrian in origin, and whose master was Achaeus, an uncle of Antiochus III.  Garsyeris had entered into protracted negotiations with the besieged city and demanding its surrender through the liaisons of a Selgian traitor named Logbasis.  Upon being alerted by the goatherd during these negotiations, it was discovered that the army of Garsyeris was approaching the Kesbedion hill, as had been secretly planned between Logbasis and the general.  When the plot was exposed, the Selgians rushed to the house of Logbasis putting him and his family to death, and then went to the defense of their city killing more than 700 soldiers, forcing Achaeus to make a settled peace with the city.
Buried columns and massive building blocks litter the approach to the Kesbedion hill, whih some of the blocks displaying shield decorations and ancient inscriptions.
On top of the Kesbedion hill are the remains of two very large buildings, the smaller temple is believed to dedicated to Artemis, based on inscriptions found at the sight, and the larger temple further out on the hill are what surveyors believe to be the temple of Zeus, also based on inscriptions found at that sight (pictured below).
"Selge had the rank of a city from the first when founded by tle Laced√¶monians, but at a still earlier period by Calchas. Latterly it has maintained its condition and flourished in consequence of its excellent constitution and government, so that at one time it had a population of 20,000 persons. The place deserves admiration from the advantages which nature has bestowed upon it." 'Surk: Strabo, Geography of'
"Among the summits of Taurus is a very fertile tract capable of maintaining many thousand inhabitants. Many spots produce the olive and excellent vines, and afford abundant pasture for animals of all kinds. Above and all around are forests containing trees of various sorts. The styrax is found here in great abundance, a tree not large but straight in its growth. Javelins, similar to those of the cornel tree, are made of the wood of this tree. There is bred in the trunk of the styrax tree, a worm, which eats through the timber to the surface, and throws out raspings like bran, or saw-dust, a heap of which is collected at the root." 'Surk: Strabo, Geography of'
"Afterwards a liquid distils which readily concretes into a mass like gum. A part of this liquid descends upon and mixes with the raspings at the root of the tree, and with earth; a portion of it acquires consistence on the surface of the mass, and remains pure. That portion which flows along the surface of the trunk of the tree, and concretes, is also pure. A mixture is made of the impure part, which is a combination of wood-dust and earth; this has more odour than the pure styrax, but is inferior to it in its other properties. This is not commonly known. It is used for incense in large quantities by superstitious worshippers of the gods." 'Surk: Strabo, Geography of'
Pictured above, looking back toward the Kesbedion hill toward the city and over the remains of what is believed to be the temple of Zeus.  Below, roof tiles from the temple are scattered throughout the area.
As I head back toward the city leaving the Kesbedion hill, the valley slopes down to the left, while the area to the right sits outside the city walls, and pictured directly ahead, the upper agora and what I would call the third or forth acropolis of the city.  
The first acropolis, I would argue, rises to the back right above the theater.  The second acropolis rises above the stadium, while the third acropolis sits atop the Kesbedion hill, and the forth acropolis rises above the upper agora, both of which can be seen in the two pictures below. (Diagram from Blue Guide Turkey)
Pictured above and below, the upper agora with a magnificent view over the city and theater in the distance.
Roman inscriptions can be found on numerous architraves or epistyles of the upper agora buildings (pictured below).
Massive piles of building members must be navigated in order to climb to the top of the forth acropolis. All along the way, one steps slowly over Corinthian capitals, fluted columns and their bases.
Pictured above, a look down at the upper agora and its buildings, while pictured below, a view of the Taurus mountains from atop the forth acropolis.
The beautiful theater and city of Selge from atop the forth acropolis (pictured above and below).

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