Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Along the ancient road turned modern over the centuries, the larger Elif Town is located only 3 kilometers west of the much smaller Hisar Village, where the Mausoleum of Hisar, or, the Hisar Memorial Tomb is located. Though both can be proud of their ancient Roman mausoleum tombs, Elif, known to the ancient Romans as Sugga, appears to have a retained its wealth over the centuries, and has built a grande park around their monument, the Mausoleum of Elif, making it a centerpiece of the community (pictured above and below).
Perhaps Elif (or, ancient Sugga) deserves its larger status, as both in ancient times and today, it sits at the junction of roads connecting Doliche (modern Duluk) and Zeugma (gateway across the Euphrates), with the ancient capital Samosata.
Though large and important, we know very little about ancient Sugga, because there is very little written history of the community, but as we can see from the various building fragments on display in the park (pictured above and below), the ancient city did showcase some spectacular structures. Most of the ancient building blocks of Sugga have either been quarried for newer structures, or, remain underneath the town that lay over them, in dormant for future excavations.
The name Sugga was apparently given when the Romans established the settlement, and may mean 'boar', 'pig' or 'swine'. The etymological origin of 'sugga' appears to be inherited from Sauraseni, inherited from Sanskrit, inherited from Proto-Indo-Iranian ('suHkaras'), inherited from Proto-Indo-European, ('suh-keh', meaning pig, swine).
There is however one grand monument that remains to remind us of the wealth provided by this rich land, the Mausoleum of Elif, built some 1800 years ago.
As with the Mausoleum of Hisar, which shares a number of design similarities, the Elif Mausoleum was erected at the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd centuries CE. It is important to point out that a full restoration of the Elif Mausoleum was completed in 2013, the year I began my tenure in Turkey.
As you can see from these photos, there are three levels in the design, what is called a high basement (referring to a basement above ground level), a body (or, main mass/section), and a vaulted roof (meaning, that it is supported by arches). Pictured below, a wooden door once again protects the ornate entrance to the tomb chamber.
The mausoleum was built of finely dressed stone, of which any missing blocks have been carefully sculpted and set into position during the restoration. The only fully walled facade of the mausoleum faces to the north, with the other facades being arched.
There is an opening or entrance at platform level in the the northern facade, and we may assume that it was necessary during ancient times to access the platform (pictured below).
The pyramidal roof of the Elif Mausoleum is supported by three arches that rest atop pseudo-columns in the Corinthian order, and which share the load through connecting stone block at each corner of the monument with larger pseudo-columns in the Corinthian order.
Featured on the front facade of the mausoleum are two heads of Medusa, which strike out from beside each Corinthian capital on the inside, between the capital and the top of the arch (pictured above and below).
Medusa, the mythical abhorrent female with snakes for strands of hair, who would turn all to stone for merely gazing upon her, is prominantly visible in reliefs encompassing the whole of the tomb. Pictured above and below, the Medusa relief at the top right corner of the front facade.
There is a deeply religious aspect with regard to the inclusion of such a number of Medusa figures incorporated on the Elif Mausoleum. As we will see below, the mythical figure surrounds the tomb with terr(or)ific affect!
Such pronounced use of the Medusa relief expresses an absolute belief in her metaphysical powers to ward off grave robbers, or, to those who might consider encroaching on or entering the inner sanctum of the tomb in an effort to abscond with some family grave goods.
As you can see in the photo below, there is a decorative frieze that wraps around the entire structure, only not at the top of the building under a pediment as is usual, but at the top of the high basement, directly aimed at eye level.
The Medusa images are flanked with draping garlands, perhaps a sign that the interred was a victor in battle, a soldier of high rank and honor. After all, ancient Sugga is thought to have been settled by Roman soldiers, who in return for their service received land.
Other objects that can be found in the 'Medusa Frieze' are scissors (pictured below, center right), mirrors (pictured below, center left), what appear to be sward and shield (pictured below, far right center).
One of the more interesting reliefs in the 'Medusa Frieze' is a Pan flute or Syrinx (pictured below just off the corn). This may intend to recreate the traditional music that would have accompanied the ceremony when laid to rest, or, perhaps the deceased played they flute.
Pictured below, a close-up of the Pan flute. The Pan flute is also called a Syrinx, which refers to the female nymph of the same name, who was a follower of Artemis, and was known for her chastity. One day after being chased to the river's edge by Pan, she asked the river nymphs to save her.
The river nymphs changed her into hollow water reeds, which when the breath of frustrated gods blew across them, made an eerie sound.
I am currently based on my sailboat in Izmir, and plan to spend the winter getting caught up on these blog posts. The plan is for me to continue to explore ancient sites by cycle and sail, and I can see when I look at my map of ancient sites, that there are too many everywhere I go. Still, I never find it dull or boring to finally reach a new site to examine.
The fragment pictured below was sitting across the street from the mausoleum, and my guess is that it was a replica meant to be used in the monument restoration, but seems to have cracked during production.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)
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