Photos by Jack A. Waldron
I followed the bay road out of ancient Smyrna until I reached the super highway that connects Izmir to Cesme (ancient Cyssus), where I camped on the beach an abandoned resort site. I did manage to jump in for a swim, only to discover the reason these inner bay sights are rarely visited by vacationers, as the water quality has seriously deteriorated over the years. Avoiding the super highway, I set off the next morning on a cross peninsula mountain road that turned out to be one of the most satisfying cycles of my tour.
The road less travelled exited the mountains where the ancient bay meets the river that empties into it. Ildir (ancient Erythrai) still holds some of its charm, a quaint little fishing village that hasn't been completely overrun by the developers. Pictured above, I am on the acropolis looking out at the mouth of the ancient Bay of Erythrai. Just below the acropolis, where the land meets the bay is the site of the Roman district.
Erythrai was a member of the Pan-Ionian League during the 7C BC, and according to Herodotus (1.18) also fought a war with Chios during the same century. It is also recorded that during a tyrannical period of the city, that it became famous for the production of millstones. Pictured below, a depot of millstones at an ancient millstone factory in Britain (not my photo).
Erythrai seceded from the Delian League around 453 BC, though they later rejoined under a new government, and then again in 412 BC during the Pelopnnesian War, they defected along with Chios and Clazomenae. Erythrai appears to have been a fickle state with regard to alliances over the centuries, at times on friendly terms with Athens, and during other times with Persia, though in the 4C BC it seems they found comfort with Mausolus who made significant contributions to the city, and around this period also signed a treaty of alliance with Assos, Atarneus and Hermias.
As you can see from the site plan there are numerous hidden gems, a number of which I failed to locate, so, when I get the sailboat I promise that Sail Classical will search out and photograph the following antiquities; the Rock Sanctuary of Kybele (including the Roman period sanctuary), the Apollon Delphinion Sanctuary, City Walls, Hellenistic House and the Herakleion, all of which are in heavily overgrown areas and scattered around an expansive area with little to no road access.
Pictured above, a view from the acropolis of the ancient Hellenistic and Roman Bay of Erythrai. A perfect place to anchor for further exploration of ancient Erythrai!
When visitors arrive at the official site of Erythrai, they are greeted with signage that directs them to the remaining monuments within the central area of the ancient city; however, the extent of the actual city encompasses an area of tens of kilometers.
What you don't see on the list of monuments and their locations/directions on the sign pictured above, is the Apollon Delphinion Sanctuary, and that is probably because the location of the sanctuary is located in a very obscure and difficult to access site. The legends of the Erythreaen Sibyl (prophetess) or Oracles of Apollon Delphinion, are well known historical figures. The historian Strabo tells of the prophetess Sibylla, who he says lived during an earlier period of the city, while prophetess Athenais, rendered in a painting by John William Godward in 1908 (pictured below), lived during the lifetime of Alexander the Great.
Of interest in this painting is the frieze of the Dancing Girls, which is most certainly a depiction of the frieze on the Northwest Heroon at Sagalossos (click link to see photos). Of further interest, is the floor mosaic of the Erythreaen Sibyl in the Cathedral of Siena, Italy (pictured below). Construction of the Catherdral was completed in 1263, Western Christendom was fragmented and chaotic, the Byzantine Empire entering its final chapters, and still we can see in the mosaic inscription a church to some extent finding meaning in itself through the classical Greek and Roman cultures it deposed.
The section of the mosaic to the bottom left of the prophetess or Sibyl reads, 'Erythreaen Apollo', which makes one wonder why the Catholics would give a priestly position to a former rival is devote to a deposed god? This however does seem telling, that perhaps the church still felt threatened by various powers from the past and then present, not so much the powers of the classical gods, but of the classical poets, philosophers, historians, artists and so on. How better to advance your narrative, than to have those classical figures reinforce and support your agenda. The Erythreaen Sibyl in this mosaic is holding a prophesy in Greek that reads "ΙΗΣΌΎΣ ΧΡΕΙΣΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΎΊΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ ΣΤΑΎΡΟΣ", "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior, Cross". So, we have the prophesy of the coming of the Redeemer by a pre-Christian era pagan Oracle, who is relating the word of their supreme being from that period, namely, Apollo. Hmmm. Apparently, the Catholic church was rife with such types of iconography during the mediaeval period, and examples can be found in paintings (such as those in the Salisbury cathedral), as well as illustrations.
Pictured above, we Michelangelo's Fresco of the Erythreaen Sibyl that can be seen in none other than the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, completed between 1508 - 1512. The pagan Erythreaen Sibyl is not the only pre-Christian figure to be depicted prophesying the coming of the Messiah, as the master painter also includes; Libyan Sibyl, Cumaean Sibyl, Delphic Sibyl and Persian Sibyl.
The first monument presented is the Roman period Heroon, which appears to date to the 4C AD, and is in a fine state of preservation (pictured below). As far as my research has taken me, we don't know the name of the hero for whom this dedicatory temple was built, however, it believed that he was a famous commander from the city.
The Heroon is located at the entrance to the Agora and Theatre area, and the flat hill upon which they preside was a wealthy villa district during the Roman era.
Temple type Heroons or honorary tombs such as the one at Erythrai, were usually built over the grave of the deceased.
The Agora is located directly ahead along the path from the Heroon, the it is overgrown and appears to be awaiting excavation, one can see that this large flat area served a purpose in the city. Turning left toward the Theatre, its large capacity seating comes into plain view (pictured below).
Pictured above and below, the wall of the entrance to the theatre off the agora. Entering an ancient theatre with such fine detail is always a grand experience, one that I never tire of. Though the Theater at Erythrai is still officially an active excavation, and some restoration was begun prior to a complete and thorough examination, some modern use schemes have been promoted.
Pictured above, members of the arched entrance to the theatre await to be put in their proper position, though I am not sure if these are original members or newly fabricated. In the lower right-hand corner of the photo, you can see a damaged member of the arch, which may have been used to model the new members.
I have seen some project plans similar to those undertaken at the theatre in Toramina, just north of Catania in Sicily. Unlike the restoration of the theatres at Kos and Rhodiapolis, where new members were fabricated and fitted for the whole of the structures, at Toramina, scaffolding seating has been fitted to complement the original members.
The stage building (pictured above) seems to be in fairly decent condition, and there are many structural members numbered and categorised in the theatre depot (pictured below).
Wheather there was a practical theatrical use, or for some Dionysian ritual, the staircase within the floor of the stage building that leads one to the entrance of Hades is a very interesting architectural element of this theatre: one I have never seen before (pictured below).
I often feel a sense of abandonment when I see such exquisite building members left unattended without a secured site. There was no security at this site, and it was completely open to all who might like a trophy for their garden, assuming they could manage to lift it.
The central staircase leading to the top of the cavea is nearly complete, and takes one to the most complete section of the theatre seating (pictured above and below).
The analeum and back wall sit on a raised platform that again, I have not seen in another theatre, or, perhaps I missed this detail in other theatres (pictured above and below).
Pictured above and below, a view of the cavea and the stage building from the analeum.
Hippias the Erythreaen appears in a fragment of writings with regard to an examination of 'flattery', a topic of which ancient Greek comedians covered very stealthily in theatres all over the Mediterranean and beyond:
Athenaeus: The DeipnosophistsBook 6, Pages 248-262Translation by C. D. Yonge (1854)
 And Antiphanes, in his Lemnian Women, lays it down that flattery is a kind of art, where he says -
Is there, or can there be an art more pleasing,
Or any source of gain more sure and gainful,
Than well-judged flattery? Why does the painterTake so much pains and get so out of temper?Why does the farmer undergo such risks?Indeed all men are full of care and trouble.But life for us is full of fun and laughter.For where the greatest business is amusement,To laugh and joke and drink full cups of wine,Is not that pleasant? How can one deny?'Tis the next thing to being rich oneself.
But Menander, in his play called The Flatterer, has given us the character of one as carefully and faithfully as it is possible to manage it: as also Diphilus has of a parasite in his Telesias. And Alexis, in his Liar, has introduced a flatterer speaking in the following manner -
By the Olympian Zeus and by AthenaI am a happy man. And not aloneBecause I'm going to a wedding dinner,But because I shall burst, if it please god.And would that I might meet with such a death.
And it seems to me, my friends, that that fine epicure would not have scrupled to quote from the Omphale of Ion the tragedian, and to say -
For I must speak of a yearly feastAs if it came round every day.
 But Hippias the Erthraean, in the second book of his Histories of his own Country, relating how the kingdom of Cnopus was subverted by the conduct of his flatterers, says this -
"When Cnopus consulted the oracle about his safety, the god, in his answer, enjoined him to sacrifice to the crafty Hermes. And when, after that, he went to Delphi, they who were anxious to put an end to his kingly power in order to establish an oligarchy instead of it, (and those who wished this were Ortyges, and Irus, and Echarus, who, because they were most conspicuous in paying court to the princes, were called adorers and flatters) they, I say, being on a voyage in company with Cnopus, when they were at a distance from land, bound Cnopus and threw him into the sea; and then they sailed to Chios, and getting a force from the tyrants there, Amphiclus and Polytecnus, they sailed by night to Erythrae, and just at the same time the corpse of Cnopus was washed up on the sea-shore at Erythrae, at a place which is now called Leopodum. And while Cleonice, the wife of Cnopus, was busied about the offices due to the corpse (and it was the time of the festival and assembly instituted in honor of Athena Strophaea), on a sudden there is heard the noise of a trumpet; and the city is taken by Ortyges and his troops, and many of the friends of Cnopus are put to death; and Cleonice, hearing what had happened, fled to Colophon."
 "But Ortyges and his companions establishing themselves as tyrants, and having possessed themselves of the supreme power in Chios, destroyed all who opposed their proceedings, and they subverted the laws, and themselves managed the whole of the affairs of the state, admitting none of the popular party within the walls. And they established a court of justice outside the walls, before the gates; and there they tried all actions, sitting as judges, clothed in purple cloaks, and in tunics with purple borders, and they wore sandals with many slits in them during the hot weather; but in winter they always walked about in women's shoes; and they let their hair grow, and took great care of it so as to have ringlets dividing it on the top of their head with fillets of yellow and purple. And they wore ornaments of solid gold, like women, and they compelled some of the citizens to carry their litters, and some to act as lictors to them, and some to sweep the roads. And they sent for the sons of some of the citizens to their parties when they supped together; and some they ordered to bring their own wives and daughters within. And on those who disobeyed they inflicted the most extreme punishment. And if any one of their companions died, then collecting the citizens with their wives and children, they compelled them by violence to utter lamentations over the dead, and to beat their breasts, and to cry out shrilly and loudly with their voices, a man with a scourge standing over them, who compelled them to do so - until Hippotes, the brother of Cnopus, coming to Erythrae with an army at the time of a festival, the people of Erythrae assisting him, set upon the tyrants, and having punished a great many of their companions, slew Ortyges in his flight, and all who were with him, and treated their wives and children with the very extremity of ill-usage, and delivered his country."
Footnotes on Erythrais' association with Alexander the Great come through Pausanius and Pliny. In 334 BC Alexander was informed that the oracles of Didyma and Erythrai had spoken after being silent for an extended period of time, and had confirmed that Alexander was indeed the son of Zeus.
The Temple of Athena Polias on the acropolis of Erythrai is an extremely important monument in terms of its architecture. It is an early example of such a monument, and also shows the expansions made on the temple over its useful existence.
The illustration above shows the original temple on a sloping platform, and the ramps and outer polygonal walls that were added later.
Pausanias writes that within the Temple of Athena Polias, there was a huge wooden image of Athena holding distaff (stick/spindle used for spinning wool and flax) in either hand and wearing a firmament on her head (such as a pair of golden wings attached to a crown).
Like most cities within the Kingdom of Pergamum under Attalos III, with whom Erythrai was aligned during the 2C BC, upon his death the city was bequeathed to Rome as a free city.
Unfortunately, the Cennettepe Roman District was completely fenced off from visitors, and further, the large beautiful mosaics that I have seen in academic essays were completely covered for their protection. Leaving an ancient site that I have failed to thoroughly examine is always a difficult decision: I ask myself, did I get the right photos, or, is the quality sufficient, or, should I spend an extra day or and skip a site further down the road? All tough questions to answer with such a limited amount of time and money.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)
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