Saturday, January 12, 2019

Metropolis Ayazini: Christian Phrygia

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

The highlands of Afyon can be a cyclists' dream, however, if a wrong turn is taken it can also become a nightmare.  Knowing that I was about to glide down the beautiful slope pictured above, into the deep open lowlands, I stopped to take this photo, as I thought the cycling community would truly appreciate it.  As I reached speeds of 50-60 km/h, and a distance from the peak of about three kilometers, I passed a sign that pointed to a far off village named Bostanli.
With the picturesque village nestled into the distant hills, I spotted two women working hard in there fields.  I yelled out to them the name of the village I was looking for, and they simultaniously pointed in the same direction, back up the road from where I had just descended.  Uh-oh!  Wrong road!  It took me 45 minutes to cycle back up the slope, and it was hot.
After retracing my tracks, I was able to locate the correct path through the highlands that would take me to Metropolis Ayazini.  As the evening approached I found a nice campsite, and needless to say, I slept like a champ.
Along the way to Metropolis Ayazini, I began to see outcrops of tuff or tufa rock with ancient tombs (that eventually became Medevil dwellings) carved into them.  The rock tombs/settlement pictured above and below is located just outside the village of Selimiye (Saricayir).  
The rooms and grave troughs of these tombs were carved for both single and family occupancy, and are thought to date from the early Byzantine period.  
The names of some of the occupants was written in red paint above the entrances, and the facades are adorned with early Byzantine reliefs.  The tall wheat stalks kept me from closer investigation (and I didn't wish to be shot for trampling down this farmers livelihood), but this field is a testament to the value of this fertile landscape, which for centuries has fallen under the control of those who were strongest.  
From the Hattians, to the Hittites, to the Phrygians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Byzantines, and many others in between and since, all have desired the production that this rich highland has to offer.
The twists and turns through the tufa chimneys of the steep walled valley that is home to Metropolis is an easy relaxing ride back in time.
I had just leaned my cycle up against a more modern wall next to the sign that points the way to the ancient city, when I was greeted by a local man who appeared out of nowhere to water his garden, which sits next to a spring that gushes crystal clear water in abundance (pictured above).
When Metropolis is compared with other major ancient cities in the area such as Amorium, Pessinus or Docimium, there are no marble temples, theaters, colonnaded streets or the like.  Most likely, the soft rock provided ample building material/space, and with an abundance of fresh spring water this place must have seemed an oasis for the ancients, not to mention a way station for travelers crossing the high plains.  The numbers of those who settled here ranged greatly over the millennia, and when there were cultural shifts, the structures that had been sculpted out of the tufa cliffs remained as evidence of a previous occupation/s.
Though there are numerous Roman and Byzantine era churches carved out of the surrounding cliffs, the size and scope of the Byzantine church pictured above and below is much grander than all of the others.  Though now massively worn down by time, the huge round apses that protrude from the building offer a glimpse into the majesty of this structure.  This is Metropolis.
The citizenry, soldiers and monks who carved the churches, tombs and dwellings out of the cliffs at Metropolis were most likely expanding on and often defacing the monuments that had existed prior to the arrival of christianity.
In this rural location, the soft tufa stone provided the inhabitants the opportunity to carve a fortress of tunnels and hidden rooms, where sanctuary could be sought during attacks, similar to Cappadocia.
Perhaps in an attempt to bring down the ceiling, or merely as the result of quarrying, the columns of the largest church are no more; and further, the high dome and arched ceilings of the cathedral have been blackened with soot over the millennia by the heating and cooking fires of transients and/or inhabitants.
There is little specific written information on Metropolis, so its history is left to the archeological remains to shed light and answer questions.  Unlike Amorium, there doesn't appear to have been any great investment in building projects by the Byzantine rulers.  There may have been a garrison for the Anatolic Theme, but nothing so major as was provided for the regiments that protected Pessinus, Dorylaeum, or even Catiaeum (modern Kutahya, 27 km to the northwest).
As one reads through the lengthy and deeply rich drama of the Byzantine state, Metropolis would appear to be the perfect setting for: the exile, and eventual strangulation or decapitation, of a weak Byzantine emperor who, was cheated on by his wife with a general, both of whom wished to install her infant son as emperor in order to seize power, her for herself, and the general for his family, who had fallen out of favor at the hand of some similar occurrence in some previous situation of chaos!  Wow, this was where the emperor met his fate. hmmmm?!
Pictured above and below, the pediments of the Roman/Byzantine tombs hang above the more recent burials from the village surrounding Metropolis.  Still an active cemetery, I find it very interesting that this particular space has not lost its purpose after the passage of more than two-thousand years.
With Jesus (top center of the stele pictured below) looking over his flock of cattle, this burial stele on display at the Kuhutya Archeological Museum is a perfect example of a rural Byzantine era sculpture, with a depiction of a land that was (and still is) rich in farm production.
Though Jesus has been decapitated in the stele pictured below, he holds his hands in prayer for the deceased, who was most likely a farmer, and who is depicted below Jesus in hierarchical display, followed by the beasts of burden.  The sentiment and style of Byzantine era sculpture had obviously supplanted the perfection sought in visual representation of such things as the human body by earlier Greek and Roman artists.
Just beyond the gates of the cemetery, the acroterion can be seen protruding from the sima of the pediment of this temple tomb (pictured below), that was once supported on both sides of the entrance by free-standing columns.  This style of archetecture has such beauty and staying power, it should not be surprising that Greek and Roman style temple tombs are still being built in cemeteries around the world today.
As I road my bike along the sculpted cliffs, I came to the magnificent Phrygian temple tomb pictured below.  This, the Lion Tomb, may have been allowed to keep its unique features out of respect for the beauty it offered.
This was a tomb fit for a king, or, perhaps a warrior of great distinction.  I suggest royalty, because of the scale in size and the intricacy of the work performed by the artist.  Furthermore, below the roof of the pediment, two distinguished lions can be seen on either side of a warriors shield, which hints at the glory most likely gained in battle by the deceased.
The decorative features of the Lion Tomb probably wish to reflect the rich and honorable life of the patriarch for whom the tomb was constructed: however, this was a tomb built for more than one person, and when we look deeper inside the chamber, we can see that this was a family tomb, as multiple levels of burial niches and troughs can be found.
These individual burial troughs were robbed many millennia ago, and further, they were probably reused multiple times, with old bones (and treasures) being removed for a new inhabitant to be laid to rest.
Protective lions are also carved in the ceiling of the inner chamber just above the arches (pictured below).
Though they are now protecting a gaping hole in the ceiling, perhaps they once guarded an image of the patriarchal urn, similar to the Tomb of Solon at Kumbet (pictured below), which is about 40 km east.
The road that runs along the bottom of the cliffs of Metropolis is T-boned by the head of an extensive valley that shoots off into the distance, and which houses a riverbed that reaches up to a waterfall that drops from the plain above (pictured below).  I followed the seasonal river to the dry waterfall, and camped the night in a silence so rarely heard, I even forgot my tinnitus.
Pictured below, this small church was one of many that served the people and monks that once populated the city.  Perhaps the more ancient rituals had adapted to a christian theme, in that, different churches would be dedicated to specific holy observances, days and dates, i.e. this or the other saint.
The arched niches are still in an extraordinary state of preservation, and would have held some sort of relic or dedication in their day.  I was the only patron on this day, and I only prayed that the boars would not come around my tent later that night.

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

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Docimium: The Marble City

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

The streets of Iscehisar (ancient Docimium) are lined with marble factories of all types and sizes.  Some factories process the massive blocks of 'Dokimeion Marble' to fit the orders that come in from all over the world, while others are busy producing finished products, such as those pictured above.
It is believed that the name of the ancient city dates to the 4C BC, and an officer named Antigonos Dokimos, who served in the Macedonian army under Alexander the Great.  Following the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Antigonos Dokimos first fell into alliance with top general Perdiccas, who fought for control of Alexander's empire, and then, following the death of Perdiccas in 321 BC, allied with Attalus and Alcetas (the later of whose tomb is located in ancient Termessos).
I really had no idea of what if anything might remain of the ancient city, and upon arrival, my focus was drawn to the acropolis pictured in the top of the photo above.  However, as I asked around, I was directed to the foot of the Ottoman bridge that spans the Bocekci River, and low and behold, a massive depository of sculpted marble from buildings and monuments of all types and sizes.
As can be seen on the map below, ancient Docimium was one of the most important quarries for marble in ancient Phrygia.  In ancient times, marble from the nearby quarries was shipped throughout the Mediterranean, to places such as North Africa, Italy and Greece, and today, it is shipped internationally.
According to Strabo, the Synnadic stone (which the locals called Docimite), with veins of red and deep orange running through its pure whiteness, was prized by Rome, including Hadrian, who used it for the columns and pilasters that frame the niches in the Pantheon. (J.C. Fant Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik Bd. 54 (1984), p. 171) 
As for the ancient city of Docimium, the depository pictured below is all that remains above ground.  Of course, there are remnants of structures beneath the modern city of Iscehisar, but these will not be explored any time soon.  For now, the sights to be seen lay within the details of the sculpted members lined up and numbered in this marble cemetery.
From a distance, the conglomerate of stone looks like a white foamy sea, but up close, the names of the sculptors and inscriptions of the dead come back to life.  Exquisitely carved friezes remain as impressive as they did two-thousand years prior.
As I leapt over the works of art, I noticed a woman watching me from an apartment building across the road.  She must of thought, oh, another crazy tourist who's come to look for treasure, while I was thinking, I had hit the jackpot!
Docimium is located about 35 kilometers northeast of Afyon, where some of the finds from the ancient city are kept (pictured below).  Unlike the architrave member pictured above, which has a design of three simple flat layers, the one pictured below outside the Afyon Archeological Museum contains a Roman inscription identifying the structure and its dedicatory purpose.
One of the most prized possessions of the museum is a sarcophagus that was found in Dinar (ancient Apameia) during the ground preparations for the building of the state hospital in the middle of the city.  It is sculpted in a very fine marble that was most likely quarried near Docimium (pictured further down).
I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the work surrounding me, and it shouldn't be surprising that some of the best sculptors of the ancient world were trained not far from Docimium in the ancient city of Aphrodisias.
Beautiful architraves, cornices, octagonal column bases and intricately decorated door frames were scattered throughout the collection.
This open-air museum allows one to discover, uncover, touch, feel, and rest the mind with questions that have infinite possible answers.
As I have explored so many ancient cities in and around greater Phrygia (in this instance), and having examined such an extensive amount of sculpture, I am often reminded of, and hence, am able to recognize and relate the works I see with work from other cities.  Individual artists begin to be recognized, and though they may remain nameless, I am able to see their hand.
The Apameia sarcophagus (shown on display at the Afyon Archeological Museum below) is in an amazing state of preservation, and is a testament to the skill level of the marble sculptors in this area around the 2C AD.
On the side shown above, a depiction of Perseus and Andromeda; she the daughter of Cepheus, was rescued by Perseus from being sacrificed to the sea monster sent by Poseidon to destroy her native country.
As Nike lifts her foot from grounding on each corner of the sarcophagus, she carries the deceased in victory to the heavens as Medusa holds those who would impair the journey at bay.
Lions guard the perimeter of the sarcophagus lid with the threat of a violent death for those who would dare attempt to disturb the inner sanctuary.  
Depicted on this side of the Apameia sarcophagus is the ending of Penthesileas' life at the hands of Achilles (pictured above and below).  Working his way around the queen of the Amazons, who had brought her army to defend Troy, Achilles approached Penthesilea with extreme caution, as she was well respected for her wisdom, and feared for her ferocity in battle.  
As I worked my way around the marble monument members on display in the center of Iscehisar, I began to find inscriptions of all sorts; names, dedications, odes to the gods, prayers and more.
With quarry data chiseled into their soft white underbellies, the writings give all necessary information; the building, dates,  location directions, position of placement, names of the workers who made them, etc.
Pictured below, one of the unfortunate works of art that was left unfinished in antiquity.  Perhaps this was a students practice piece, or, maybe some unrepairable mishap doomed its completion, or, is it possible that the requisitioner ran out of funds to pay for the work, or, refused to pay for the work due to unsatisfactory artistry?    Regardless, this is another very interesting piece on display at the Afyon Archeological Museum.
Meanwhile, back in the field of broken dreams, another seemingly unfinished piece sits among the blades of grass and glory (pictured below).  This piece has the most curious rounded flat face surrounded by what appears to be a hood, as if it were a pre-fabricated, and was simply waiting for a patron to pay for his or her desired face to be added.
Dedicatory inscription blocks such as the one pictured below are almost always put on display at the nearest museum, or, at least protected in a guarded depot from being damaged or stolen.  A more organized solution would appear necessary, and I hope Iscehisar has some plans in the works.  This piece was most likely damaged by a backhoe shovel during a building project within the city.
Back at the museum in Afyon, I took a tour of the depot around the outside of the building, and came across some very interesting pieces in back.  Pictured below is a sarcophagus that was deformed in a fire.
Marble begins to breakdown at around 825C or 1517F, which means that this sarcophagus was basically sitting in a situation that acted as an extremely heated oven.
Marble is a calcium carbonate, so, if heated to the required temperature, it will lose its carbonate.  This would result in the formation of quicklime, a mortar material for building.  So, perhaps this sarcophagus is the remnant of a half-baked kiln experiment?
This colossal statue of Zeus was sitting in a rarely visited back corner of the museum depot.  What a magnificent fountain, theater or perhaps temple, this work of art would have adorned, while commanding the gazes of the citizens who looking upon him.
It was time to move on, into the highlands north of Afyon, where the Hattians, the Hittites, the Phrygians, and maybe even the Amazonians reigned long before the arrival of the Greeks and Romans.
Beyond cycling, sailing and hiking for prolonged periods of time, I cannot imagine any better ways to experience this sort of oneness with our planet.  Possible dangerous occurrences are extremely rare, and when compared to the hijacking of mind and body that can occur during a regimented preordained lifestyle, this, at least in a personal way, appears to be much less dangerous.
Climb, climb the hill.  I know I can, I know I can!  On with the challenge, and on to the next exploration.


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

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