Monday, October 14, 2019

Cyme: City of the Running Athlete

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

Cyme, or, Kyme, like Myrina, another Aeolian city of some importance, was named after an Amazon.  Pictured below, a statue of an Amazon Kyme from the 4C BC that was recovered from Cyme during excavations, and now on display at the Izmir Archeological Museum.
Following the Trojan War, Cyme is believed to have been founded by Greek settlers from Locris (in central Greece) around 1100 BC, who boasted of their role in defeating the Trojans and, are considered to be the first Greeks to settle in Anatolia.  More interestingly, it is the Cymeans themselves who promoted their victory through the coinage they stamped, which is considered to be the second minted coin ever produced, but with a matrimonial connection related to Agamemnon and King Midas of Phrygia and, his relation with Sardis.  In its earliest minting, the Cymean coin showed the head of a horse on the front, and victorious stepping horse on the reverse, which are direct references to the Trojan Horse (pictured below).
Second century minted coins depicted a taenia crowned Amazon Kyme on the front, and a stepping horse over a one handled skyphos within a victors laurel wreath on the reverse (pictured below).
The rich history of Cyme includes a poetic note, that the father of second greatest poet in Greek history Hesiod, behind only Homer himself, was born in Cyme.  The city rose to become the capital of the Aeolian dodecapolis.  Strabo, the ancient geographer mentions Cyme and its location, 'After crossing the Hyllus, the distance from Larissa to Cyme was 70 stadia, and from Cyme to Myrina was 40 stadia.' (Strabo: 622)  Archeological finds from the city have revealed some of this past, such as the inscribed archaic period stale pictured below (on display at the Izmir Archeological Museum).
The map below shows the location of the city and its various entities circled in red.  As you can see, the site has been partially destroyed by the construction of a massive refining facility, which runs directly through the center of the ancient city, splitting it in half.
I suspect that if this were Ephesus, the refinery would have been forced to find a different location, but since tourists stopped coming to ancient Cyme a long long time ago, its sun bleached signs and overgrown antiquities could offer little defense.  The late-period Stoa pictured below with a backdrop of wind turbines guards the ancient bay (sorry, I neglected to get a shot of the bay, which is directly behind me).
Once bustling with activity, this was the richest commercial center of all the Aeolian cities.  It was a key center of naval operations for the Persians during 5-4C BC, providing a support network for Darius and Xerxes in the campaigns against the Greeks.  
Though there is little indication of that wealth today, records show that Cyme payed the highest annual fees to the Delian League of any of the Aeolian or Ionian cities.
The Stoa is located at number 4 on the city map below, and from there I followed the antique water drainage system to arrive at the Agora, Hellenistic temple and Theater.  However, once again I failed to complete my mission, as I neglected to climb to the top of the acropolis in order to search out the Temple of Isis, which upon my return, I will.
Ancient Cyme was once in the international news because of the astounding discovery in the bay of the ancient city of a life size bronze statue of a 'Running Athlete' in near perfect condition.  Astounding, because bronze statue from antiquity are so rarely found due to the value of the metal in ancient times, thus they were melted down and the bronze reused for other productions.  The 'Running Athlete' is on display at the Izmir Archeological Museum, and I must say, it is an exquisite piece!
Bronze images were occasionally cast of the great athletes of antiquity, and we have no reason to believe that this depiction is not of the real life athlete himself.  But this young man lost his bronze honorary dedication to the sea gods, like those who might have been victorious, but like the 'Running Athlete' were lost at sea before they could be crowned with laurel.
Pindar in Olympian XII, ode For Ergoteles of Himera Long Foot Race, 466 BC:

I entreat you, child of Zeus the Deliverer, say Fortune, keep protecting Himera, and make her powerful.  For by your favor swift ships are steered on the sea, and on dry land rushing battles and assemblies where counsel is given.  But men's expectations are often tossed up and then back down, as they cleave the waves of vain falsehood.  Never yet has any man on earth found a reliable token of what will happen from the gods.  Our understanding of the future is blind.  And therefore many things fall out for men contrary to their judgement, bringing to some reversal of delight, while other, having encountered grievous storms, in a short time exchange their troubles for high success.  Son of Philanor, truly, like a cock that fight at home, even the fame of your swift feet would have shed its leaves ingloriously beside your native hearth, if hostile civil strife had not deprived you of your Cnossian fatherland.  But as things are, Ergoteles, having been crowned with garlands at Olympia, and twice from Pytho, and at the Isthmus, you exalt the hot baths of the Nymphs, while keeping company with them beside your own fields.  (Odes. Pindar. Diane Arnson Svarlien. 1990)
Pictured below, the ancient drainage system carries the excesses out to sea, and I have to say, that these particular remains could have been built in our time, but no, they are approximately 2000 years old.
Pictured above, the view looking back out toward the bay, while below, the drainage system is skirting the Agora on the right, the Hellenistic Temple directly ahead, and the Theater far off to the left.
Taking a look at the Agora first, when it was being excavated and cared for, the scope of the area was much easier to make out, not being so overgrown (pictured below).
Regardless, the pavement stones of the Agora are still in place and in very good condition, which has helped to prevent excessive overgrowth from taking place.
The signage at the site is very old but, still in place and still able to do the job of point a visitor in the right direction, because as you can see, or not see, the tall grass can hide very important artifacts they may be within a few steps.
The Agora plan seen above took quite a bit of Photoshop work to recover its sun faded image, but it was a well sketched plan of the area, including the Agora Cisterns (pictured below).  As I said, the signs marking the site have been long forgotten, sun-baked, and left to become antiquities in their own time.
Some of the detail of the Agora Plan can be seen within the overgrowth, including the half-moon shaped structure pictured below, that really resembles a church apse, or perhaps the base of an exedra, which if it is, would lead me to think that the cistern was feeding a pool at this location.  Furthermore, if you look at the plan, you can see an underground drainage line running toward the main drainage line, on which I walked on from the bay.
By the way, if you look at the top left in the photo above, across the bay you can see another refinery.  The site is completely surrounded!  The pavement of the Agora is in an excellent state of preservation (pictured below), we just simply need the tourists to return, and the government to put much more emphasis on the antiquities that will bring them back.
A lone dedicatory base on the edge of the Agora looks out over the city toward the Theater, which is in the distance between the trees nestled on the slope of the acropolis (pictured below).
Pictured below is what a visitor will find today when searching for the Hellenistic Temple!  The black and white picture below shows the temple as it was being excavated and comes from the signboard posted on the site where I took these photos.  Needless to say, I was very disappointed.
Pictured above, the excavation photo on the posted signboard at the site of the Hellenistic Temple at ancient Cyme.  Below, a sketch of the temple on the same signboard.
I was so convinced that some joker had moved the sign, that I searched and searched for the structure that was depicted in the images on the signboard, to no avail.
Though the Izmir Archeological Museum does not specify where this head of Athena was found within the ancient city, let's imagine that the Hellenitic Temple was the cites Temple of Athena, and that this head of Athena belonged to the statue that guarded the the inner sanctuary of the cella.
Ancient Cyme is in a bit of disarray, as you can see, however it is wonderful to be the only crazy person exploring such a deeply historical place.
Notice the ancient terracotta pipe sticking out from the side of the excavation pit in the photo below.
And then there's a finely sculpted Roman column sitting on the ground in front of you!  What should I do?  How do I commemorate this experience?  Who cares, LOL?!
From the Hellenistic Temple, it was now time to make my way over to the Theater (pictured below).
The whole of the Theater as it look today (pictured above), with no visible seating, though from the excavation photo on the signboard at the site (pictured below), I suspect that several rows of seating still remain on the right side of the cavea.
While making my approach, I noticed some stone structure above the surface on the right side of the Theater, so I headed in that direction since nothing else of the monument was visible, except its general concaved shape.
And then the payoff!  Boom!  A stepped section of the ancient theater was there to greet me, and boy was I happy to find some remnant of this once glorious representative of the finer intellect of this long abandon city.
Please understand, I'm from Detroit where architectural masterpieces of only a hundred years ago are disposed of like unwanted trash, or, turned into parking garages, i.e., the Michigan Theater, purely shameful (pictured below, disclaimer, I do not own these photos).
The Michigan Theater Foyer in illustration pictured above, and a photo below.  The neo-classical Greek and Roman architecture is on grand display.
The Michigan Theater Foyer today, a grande parking garage fit for a queen and her king!
Pictured below, a view from the gallery of the gods plastered in golden splendor for all the world to gasp in amazement in the richest city in world at that time, thanks to Henry Ford, whose original workshop was on the site of the Michigan Theater.
Pictured below, the gods today with their marble columns amputated, bowing their heads in shame, while we hang ours.  But I digress.
The point is, like the ancient cities around the planet, and here in Turkey, as with the architectural wonders of any modern city, they are what a city or country have to offer, they are the attraction, so if we preserve them, keep them safe and well, people will come to enjoy them.
As a fitting epitaph, a stele from ancient Cyme on display at the Izmir Archeological Museum, a celebration of the deceased from birth till death, a member of the greater family that is the citizenry, sculpted in marble for future generations to remember their contributions for the greater good.
Pictured below, a photo of the original unmolested stele.
A then came the Byzantines, the crusaders and their quest to restore lands, power, wealth, and gain glory under the name of a new king: and along the way, destroying ancient monuments throughout the eastern Mediterranean to build the fortresses and castles that would defend these conquests.  Pictured below, most likely the door of an entrance to a Byzantine tomb, on site at ancient Cyme.


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

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