Sunday, September 1, 2019

Aigai: Curse of Apollo Khresterios Pt.1

Photos by Jack A. Waldron 

This was the first time I ever encountered an ancient site sign so far from the actual site, after all, I was still in Manisa, some 25 kilometers from ancient Aigai, as a crow flies, and as I would discover, much further as a bike climbs.  I can now say, that if I believed in curses, this would be the experience that would chuck me over the edge into belief, but naw, I'll just write it like that.  
You see, this is the second time for me to write this story, and perhaps due to a curse from Apollo Khresterios himself, I accidentally deleted the first draft, which I had spent a whole day writing on a sweltering July afternoon.  Perhaps he was angered by my ill temper shown to site guard pictured below, or, maybe because I failed to find his sanctuary upon my visit, regardless, here I am, late into the night writing it again.
The ill temper part of the story came in the late evening after I had set-up camp.  I had climbed the steep mountain roads from Manisa all day, with not a direction sign in sight after passing the first back in the city, some five hours before I'd see my next.  The sun was nearly below the horizon and I was feeling good enough to snap the photo of the camp, which you see above.  I like to gorilla camp, so I was keep my head down when a donkey would pass, but then I heard the hooves of rubber on gravel come to a halt.  Here comes Clint, sunglasses still on, pistol at the ready.  'Hey, you can't camp here!"  We're pictured below the following afternoon with our arms around each other.  I was half a kilometer outside the site guard house, and one kilometer below the site, it was getting dark and I was getting ready to sleep!  Just as we were speaking a goat herder passed with his goats heading up the mountain toward the ancient city.  I pointed and asked, 'What about him?'  Clint just shrugged his shoulders.  I refused to leave.  He stomped away in a huff of dust.
I wish I could say that that was the end of the story, but Apollo had different plans for me.  I was near asleep when the lights started flashing from ever direction, or so it seemed from inside the tent.  The trucks came climbing, and the voices started rising, and I was surrounded, 'Hey!  You!', I heard a voice demand.  I poked my head out of the tent and said, 'What *#%$!_!!+ is going on?'  About eight guys had come out to greet and evict me from my plot.  The goon squad consisted of a couple village elders, two or three local Jandarmon (military police), some local guys looking for a bit of excitement, and Clint, still with his sunglasses on, I swear!  I refused.  This situation slowly escalated into a threat, that if I didn't leave, I would be forcefully removed along with my gear.  The sketch of ancient Aigai below is by Richard Bohn in 1889.
I finally threw in the towel, but not without a cursing of my own.  I am not sure if they got tired of witnessing just how long and tedious it is to pack a tour bike, or, if they just got tired of listing to me, but after about twenty minutes, one of the village elders said, 'Just stay'.  'What?!  After you idiots made me empty and tear down my tent in the pitch black night!?  Fine!!'  I continued to curse them as they walked away in shame.  I slept like an angel to smell of goat dung, heaven on earth!  As you can see from the photo above, Clint and I kissed and made-up the following afternoon.
Pictured below is the beginning of the ancient road that leads up to the ancient city.  I can honestly say, that had the night before not left a bad taste in my mouth, besides the goat dung, I would have relished this experience even more, because rarely do you have without any doubt, a three-thousand year old road at your feet.  There are no pavement stones at this point, just dust.
This may in fact be the first gate along the road into the ancient city.  As you can see, there are a set of step on the right, while carts may have passed on the left.  From here, we begin to see some rough pavement stones, though we know from excavations that there two layers of pavement stones.
What may be an earlier stone pavement of the Hellenistic period is constructed of rounded stone, while what is possibly the newer Roman pavement is built of flat sculpted stone (pictured below).  Or perhaps, it is just a matter of as we approach the city and the Necropolis, the pavement quality was improved.
The green circle in the city map below marks the general area we are now in, which is the beginning of the Necropolis.  Most ancient cities located a necropolis along the main entrance into city in order to honor their deceased and display their values of respect, power, richness and lineage.
The Roman sarcophagus pictured above is a fine example of honoring the deceased with wreaths of victory and inscriptions of the their accomplishments.  Pictured below, a less elaborate sarcophagus, but with no less expense spared for its position along the road to the city.
Pictured below, two sarcophagi are interned below surface, long ago raped and robbed of their valuables, replaced with the bodies of the more recently deceased, and robbed yet again.

The lids of the sarcophagi pictured above may very well have been repurposed like those pictured below, are the cap stones of walls along the ancient road.
Yet another example of the usefulness of sarcophagi lids, pictured below, a gathering of monument feet protected from the elements by the guardians of the deceased.
Symbolism played a large role in the accent world, and any visitor to a city such as Aigai would have been met by the very powerful messages conveyed to them by the signs they encountered upon entering the city (pictured below).
A tholos, or, circular tomb, such as the pictured below, would have been the resting place of multiple family members, and not of a poorer family within the city, but of a quite wealthy one.
Further, the tomb would have been elaborately decorated in fine detail, such as we see on the architrave/frieze pictured below.
Bulls heads draped with garlands and shields of victory set the narrative of the prominent family member interned within (pictured above and below).
From the ancient road that approaches the city from the north, we gain a wonderful view of the valley and the river that flows through it, and waters the fields that gave the inhabitants the monuments we come to admire today.
As the road comes closer to the city, it turns to the west and begins a steeper ascent toward the acropolis.  Along the way to the entrance to the city we come to the terraces that once supported the North Baths.
 The wall pictured below is hiding a secret, and that would be the vaults that are just visible, and which supported the now destroyed North Bath complex.
 As can be seen in the illustration below, Aigai was built on terraces out of necessity due to the slow uphill slopes that it expanded upon.  Most likely, during its expansion, the city grew down the slopes, thus requiring the construction of more terraces.
The photo below is a view looking back down where the road has climbed from, and as you can see, this is no small area to cover.  The wall pictured on the right is the support wall for the North Baths.
As we reach the turn back east toward the city, we are approaching the New 'Roman' Gate.  Due to the construction of the North Bath, the older Iron Gate lost its path into the city, so the New Gate was constructed to take its place.
Pictured above, the city walls rise above the approach to the New Gate.  This was an easily defendable position for the soldiers guarding the gate and the city.
As shown in the illustration above, this is what the New Gate looked like based on the construction members that are still laying in situ around the area (pictured below).
A section of the well preserved architrave (pictured above) is still laying at the foot of the once grande gate.  The triglyph/metopes section of the gate, also in an excellent state of preservation are sitting near by (pictured blow).
Moving beyond the New Gate, we come to the older Iron Gate (pictured below).  The ruined portion of the pavement is the result of a drainage ditch that runs from a large cistern just beyond the Bouleutarion and West Stoa, which are another 200 meters inside the gate.
There are several paths leading to the Iron Gate, however, it was the main road into the city that was disrupted by the building of the North Baths.  Pictured above, a view looking into the city through a section of the Iron Gate, while below, a view looking back at the entrance.
Immediately to the east of the entrance is a conclave of houses/shops, that are in a remarkable state of preservation, which may be due to the area remaining in use through and beyond the Byzantine period.
In these shops we can see work stations and platforms for carrying out numerous activities, such as metal and leather works, votive casting, jewelry production and so on.
Excavations carried out in 2006 found altars beneath the floors within two of the buildings, which had placed on either side of them terracotta figurines of Aphrodite with winged Eros, dating from the 2-1C BC.  In a third shop was found a statue of a woman that had been originally dug up by treasure hunters.
Veering left into the complex down the slope we come to an extended terrace which is home to a 12th-13th C Byzantine chapel (pictured below).
Returning to the path that leads into the city from the iron gate, within a hundred meters we come to the Bouleuterion (pictured below).  Unfortunately, the fencing surrounding the building was sending the signal, 'Do Not Enter', and having had enough of that from the previous evening, I did not enter.
It is reported that the Bouleuterion was partially destroyed in the earthquake of 17 AD, and though the building and its collapsed roof may have been included in the restoration sponsored by the emperor Tiberius, excavations from 2006 revealed that at some point the building was left in ruins.
Buried under the ruins in the orchestra of the Bouleuterion was a paired male and female statue group that played a specific purpose in their placement within the council house, they are Hestia Bolai (the ideal male and female).  An inscription on the statues records the artist as Hippias of Pergamon.
Further investigation into the Bouleuterion and the surrounding villages of the area revealed that many of the collapsed stone blocks had been repurposed into ten of the mosques in the area.  As reported, attempts were underway to have the blocks returned to the site.
On the south side of the Bouleuterion is the West Stoa (pictured below), which is an extension of the same structure and part of the wider Agora, that includes the magnificent Market Building.
Continuing on along the slope path we come to the Cistern that would have provided the area its water supply, and that would have continued through the drainage system down to other cisterns in other sections of the city (pictured below).
You may be wondering why the title of this post is Curse of Apollo Khresterios?  Well, perhaps it's my attempt to appease Apollo for my failure to locate his sanctuary at Aigai, for which I playfully suspect a bit of bad luck with regard to this ancient city and, this post.  However, as with other sites, where I have failed to locate and photograph important monuments, I will return in the future to complete my mission.  This past June, I did just that by returning to the Phrygian valley, Midas City, and several other high mountain ancient cities, all of which I will post in the future.  But, returning to Apollo, here is a warm-up!
According to research I have undertaken since my visit to Aigai, the Temple of Apollo Khresterios is located about 1.5 kilometers east/southeast of the city.  When approaching the city from the north/northwest through the Necropolis, instead of turning west up the incline, continue straight ahead below the Market Building into the Kocacay valley for about 1.5 kilometers.  At least, that is my understanding.  When looking at the city plan above, the temple should be south of the Stadium (number 18).
Pictured above is an old photo of the Temple of Apollo Khresterios, which like other such important sanctuaries is located near a naturally occurring source of water on flat area, such as the sanctuaries at Didyma and Klaros.  An inscription identifies the temple, and apparently, that little respect was shown to the Apollo by Philetairos of the Kingdom of Pergamon (Source: Aigai, A Mountain-City in Aiolis, Sukru TUL, Ege Publications, 1995, Sh.35-37).
The temple is of the peripteros type in the Ionic order, with six columns across its front and back, and 12 columns along its sides, that measure approximately 7.5 meters in height.  The reliefs consist of bulls heads and wreaths, and there is an inscription that indicates that the temple of Apollo Kresterios was erected by Governor Servilius Poplius Isauicus during the period Valinin stayed in Asia, 48-46 BC, and further, a sculpture of the Proconsul discovered in the Temple of Athena above the Theater may date the structure to the late Hellenistic period (Source: Aigai, A Mountain-City in Aiolis, Sukru TUL, Ege Publications, 1995, Sh.35-37).  Pictured below, a photo (not mine) of the massive door frame and entrance into the cella, a section of the pediment and fluted column members.

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

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