Photos by Jack A. Waldron
From Denizli, Hieropolis (Pamukkale), Colossae (which I did not visit this time), and Laodikeia, Nysa lies about 80 km to the west. Leaving Denizli is an easy ride as the road follows the Maeander river toward the Mediterranean. There are a number of smaller ancient cities along the way, including Tripolis on the Maeander, however, I decided to push on Nysa.
Passing up ancient cities is very tough for me, and what's more, one of my favorite ancient cities lay just 35 km south of highway E87/320, that being Aphrodisias (see the road sign in the top photo above). I visited Aphrodisias in 2006, and will eventually add the city to my blog, however, all the photos are analog, so they need to be scanned.
The climb from the highway up to Nysa was quite challenging, and I was relieved to finally reach the cite, as I had hoped to investigate the city and then push on to Aydin, which would allow me an extra full day to visit ancient Tralles and the Aydin Archeological Museum.
The city plan of Nysa is extremely unusual, unique and quite compact. Nysa straddles a deep river ravine that comes out of the mountains to the north. There are several ancient Roman bridges that connect the two halves of the city. In the photo below, a closer examination shows one of these Roman bridges that crosses the ravine right at the head of the stadium. The theater can be seen in the far distance in the same photo.
The east side of the stadium has mostly collapsed into the ravine, and a closer look at the bridge (pictured below) shows that it hasn't fared much better. Looking across the bridge to the other side of the city reveals some structures, namely the Bouleuterion and East Agora.
However, as all bridges do, this one too leads to the road beyond, which with its porticoed street with shops all along, the opposite side of the bridge with the ravine at the top of the photos, and the bridge just below (jumping ahead in the tour) is pictured in the three photos below, with excavations of the main street still under way.
Pictured above, a view of the Roman bridge (at the stadium) from end-to-end.
Nysa is in a continuous state of excavation, and it is not a high priority on the tourist trail, therefore, some of the monuments are a bit overgrown, not easily accessible, and not conveniently sign posted. The theater however is very accessible, and sits just off the road that crosses the ravine to access the east section of the city.
The Hellenistic theater at Nysa was built in the 1C BC, with its open view to the Maeander valley beyond for all the audience to view. The 2C AD Roman addition of the multi-story colonnaded stage building blocked this view (which is a key aspect of most Greek style theaters), and advanced the march of human dominance over nature.
A high protective wall can be seen encircling the orchestra; this is a Roman addition, that separated the audience from the oft violent activities carried out during gladiatorial events, including wild beast hunts and general slaughter. In the center of the cavea (pictured below) is a box that is reserved seating for the VIP.
The theater is undergoing a massive restoration effort, as a great number of its building members (namely, the skene and stage building) are very well preserved, with some new members being produced.
The area outside the theater featured multi-storied shops built into the slope of the hill leading up to the Library, and at ground level featured beautiful marble porticoes (pictured below), which are slowly being restored.
Below, a view of the theater from the top of the city, where several temples and the Library of Nysa are located.
The Library of Nysa is one of the best preserved libraries of the ancient world. Of course, the Library of Ephesus stands grand with its facade mostly intact and restored, and yet, the Library of Nysa with its building in a very good state of preservation offers some insights into the construction of the libraries of the time.
Just beyond the library is the podium of a temple yet to be identified. As can be seen in the photo below, excavation has barely unearthed the temple, and the level of sediment beyond has yet to reveal its hidden treasures. This temple however does appear to be stepped on all sides, which would classify it as being of the Greek style.
At closer examination of the marble block in the lower right corner of the photo, foot indentations with lead brackets show where a statue was once mounted.
Walking further away from library into the upper city, another building presents itself, perhaps a temple, or an administration building? The whole upper portion of the city sits under 1-2 meters of soil, and once the complete city is revealed, well, this will be one more of the many spectacular ancient cities to be visited.
Now, back to the front of the theater (pictured above, looking back at the upper part of the city, where the library is located and where I just came from, with the theater in the right of the photo), I head to the east part of the city, where the first structure to present itself is the back of the Bouleuterion (pictured below).
In the two photos (above and below), what is interesting is the use of the columns as beams of support alone, with little or no aesthetic use, at least outward as part of the building facade, but, perhaps inward as part of an inner portico that decorated the inner space surrounding the cavea, yet, functioning as a simple building support member, much as a steal i-beam column within a modern building of today. Surely, the rock between the columns would have been covered with stucco. The corner square column on the other hand is open to full view to display its strength and power as a cornerstone of support. However, according to Strabo, who studied grammar and rhetoric under Aristodemus at Nysa, the Gerontikon was standing during his time, parts of which and including the columns may have and probably were incorporated into the newer structure, thus, the columns pictured below, with rock walls between, were perhaps in the prior structure the peristyle surrounding a more classical monument?
The Gerontikon/Bouleuterion was comprised within a full complex, including a courtyard surrounded by a portico and a grand propylon (pictured below, the pediment), through which one entered the complex off of the main street.
Pictured below, with the tall Ionic capital standing above and the right of the square corner column, we are inside the courtyard looking through the doors at the cavea of the Gerontikon/Bouleuterion.
Pictured below, looking back from the analemma of the Gerontikon/Bouleuterion through the facade of the staged building into the courtyard of the porticoed complex, with the propylon entrance off the main street in the top left of the photo.
The street running along the back of the Gerontikon/Bouleuterion continues on to the East Agora (pictured below). The East Agora has been restored and continues to be excavated. Construction of the East Agora was begun during the Hellenistic period, and was expanded upon and modified for use over time up and until the Byzantine period.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)