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 very, 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)

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