Saturday, October 15, 2016

Stratonikeia: City of Goddesses and Gods

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

So much about Stratonikeia of ancient Caria invites those who love to explore an environment that has changed very little over the millennia.  In a sense, Stratonikeia reminds me of ancient Assos, which overlooks the island of Lesbos in western Turkey.  There, like in Stratonikeia, the villagers continued to live, be housed and function among the ancient monuments that are a part of their village.  In the case of Stratonikeia, for excavation purposes, the majority of villagers have recently been relocated to nearby Yatagon.  Pictured above, my tour cycle leaning against the stone wall in front of an Ottoman era Mosque.
Pausanias, the ancient Greek traveller, tells us that the Lycians funded the city of Chrysaoris, which was an old Carian town, anciently known as Idrias, and according to Stephanos Byzantios, who quoted Apollonios of Aphrodisias, was the first city founded by the Lycians.  According to the Athenian tribute ledgers of 425 BC, Idrias is not shown having paid the six talents levied on it.
Pictured below, the beautiful Aphrodite of Stratonikeia on display at the Izmir Archeological Museum.
Further, according to Strabo, the city became known as Stratonikea under Antiochus I Soter (281-261 BC), who is purported to have named the city after his stepmother-wife Stratonice, though some question the date of this renaming, and suggest that perhaps the son of Stratonice, Antiochus II (Theos), or later under Antiochus III (the Great) may have been responsible for the foundation of Stratonikeia.
Surprises can be found around every corner amongst the recently vacated village, such as the wall with the arch pictured above, which is part of Roman Bath 1.
Some villagers continue their work in various buildings throughout the village, such as a copper metal worker, whose small shop sits at the end of the lane that leads to the ancient agora, pictured below.
Navigating the lanes beyond the main square of Eskihisar village, twentieth century stone buildings are juxtaposed with two-thousand year old structures.  Looking down the village lane pictured below, a well maintained two-story stone house rises above the wall that lines the path, while across the street sits the 1C AD Roman Bouleuterion.
The side entrance and staircase of the 1C AD Bouleuterion lead to the seating within the ancient structure.  Though the theatrical festivities of Eskihisar village lack any record over the past 1000 years, the cavea of the Bouleuterion was most likely the scene of performances, speeches and such, up until recent memory; for why would the locals utilize such a magnificent theatrical space?
Pictured above, the section of the Bouleuterion wall facing the street in which the Bouleuterion entrance is exposed and in excellent condition.  The illustration of the Bouleuterion above shows that there is also an identical entrance on the opposite side of the building, though the opposing wall has yet to be fully excavated, and is buried (see picture further down), while the top door opening inside the structure is visible.
Stratonikeia was a member of the Chrysaorian League, which was established in the early 3C BC, at or some time before a 267 BC inscription describing the confederation of Carian cities and towns.  The Temple of Zeus Chrysaoreus, which is located near Stratonikeia, was the meeting place for all member cities, who were allotted a certain number of votes based on how many cities and towns were under their jurisdiction.
Under the rule of the Seleucid Kings, then the Rhodians, to Philip V of Macedon, and then under the Roman Empire, the city remained prosperous and experienced a lengthy period of the construction of grand monuments, as well as civic and administrative buildings.
While the steps of the Bouleuterion on the side of the building facing the street are either missing or have yet to be excavated, the steps along the opposing wall are in a wonderful state of preservation (pictured below).  As can also be seen in the photo below, the wall runs directly into a more modern wall, which may or may not be removed for excavation in the future.
A Latin inscription on the exterior of the Bouleuterion wall from 301 AD is one of the best preserved examples of the Prices Edict of Diocletian, which was an attempt to control the inflation of merchandises and services.
The Greek inscription on the interior of the Bouleuterion wall (pictured above and below), is a calendar created by Menippos, one of the most distinguished orators of his time, and a native of Stratonikeia, according to Cicero.
Pictured above, altars, once used to sacrifice small animals to the gods for favor with regard to crops, mercantilism, health, war, and every day life, now sit abandoned.  Below, the monumental Propylaea Gate into the Agora, with abandoned local houses lining the area.
Archeologists and their students were busy excavating the agora of Stratonikeia during my visit.  As you can see below, the main street next to the Agora dead ends at a farmers' field, running under the olive and plane trees dominating the village.
Stranonikeia is a fine state preservation, and should some day rival the greatest of excavation site in Turkey.  Pictured below, columns line the large Agora, stoa and street that straddles it.
This sculpture of the head of Aphrodite is among the finds from the site on display at the Archeological Museum of Milas.
There are building member poking out of odd places throughout the site (such as the entrance to a building, pictured above), still waiting to be excavated, with the promise of revealing the grand structures that once adorned Stratonikeia.
Pictured above, a view of the distant Theater upon approach from the ancient city.  Below, a grand staircase leads to the elevated seating of the theater, as well as what is described as the Imperial Temple of Augustus.
The bottom of the Grand Staircase has been modified over the millennia, with a low wall and odd columns forming a rectangular boxed in area.  Perhaps this served as a concession or votive shop in later times.
The finely carved eagle winged seats and lion claw seating posts show the richness of the city.
Block shaped whole in the theater seating suggest the use of a wooden structure that may have supported an awning to shield the audience from the sun.
The single level Hellenistic stage building was demolished under Roman rule and in its place an ornate three tiered stage build was erected.
The magnificently carved Hellenistic Thyrsus (pictured above and below), which is associated with Dionysus, the god of theater, is a testament to the ornateness of the decorations that created the citizens of Stratonikeia.
Pictured above, a view of the stage building and the ancient city beyond, including the encroaching modern quarry seen in the distance.  Below, the seating of the theater has sagged and been pushed down the natural slope over the millennia.
The temple complex above the theater has the appearance of having been designed in correlation with the theater, or perhaps, as part of the planning in the renevation of the theater.
A wide stepped avenue crowns the top of the theater with support walls and staircases that climb to the Imperial Temple of Augustus.
Pictured below, the pediment of the temple sits among the numerous building members that have been cataloged and numbered, with the temple and its columns seen in the background.
The Imperial Temple of Augustus is in a fine state of preservation, though in appearance, it would seem a wreck, it is the good condition and high volume of its building members that remain on the site that could make its eventual reconstruction possible.
Bird and flower motifs decorate this once valued sacred monument, which is a peripteral temple built in the Ionic order on a three stepped crepidoma.
The picture below was taken with me standing on a high berm that seperates the temple and the site from the main road.  On the other side of the road (behind me in the photo below) are the remains of a monumental fountain, or, fountain house (pictured with my bicycle at the bottom of this post).
Returning back to the city center, it was now time to explore one of the best preserved ancient gymnasiums of any ancient site.  The Gymnasium appears to have been constructed in the 2C BC, with reconstructions occurring during the reign of Augustus.
Pictured below, the Detroit Grand Central Station was tilt in the early 20C AD, and modeled on the designs of a Hellenistic Period Greek Gymnasium/Bath.  The floor plan of the grand train station looks like it could have been pulled directly from the architectural drawings of the Gymnasium of Stratonikeia.
If not for the modern structure rising above the pediment in the photo below, one might think they were looking at the ancient gymnasium itself.
When standing inside the grand train station, one can imagine and picture the interior of the ancient gymnasium at Stratonikeia.  The Detroit Grand Central Station became an official historical site in 1975, and was last in use as the main train station in my home town in 1989.  It was quickly ravaged by vandals and the elements.  However, it is finally getting the attention it deserves, and currently under a slow pace of restoration.
Pictured above, one of the large rooms of the Gymnasium, its walls lined with decorative column reliefs.  Below, the central circular room with building members scattered about.
Pictured above, a member of a pediment decorated with the relief of a military shield.  The grand scale of the structure and fine marble used in its construction attest to the value and richness of Stratonikeia during ancient times.
Fluted Corinthian column reliefs rise above the lower walls of the rooms.  It is no wonder that the classic Greek architectural style would be honored by the Romans and on into our modern world of today.  Perhaps due to a shared cultural history, these classical styles have dominated the modern celebration of ancient architecture in western civilization.
Several types of Corinthian capitals in fine relief decorate the inner walls of the Hellenistic Gymnasium.
Back on the main road to Yatagan, there opposite the Imperial Temple of Augustus is a very large water structure.  It would appear to me to resemble the fountains one encounters at the entrances of many cities of the ancient world.  Here, new arrivals to the city would refresh themselves, wash and clense the dust and germs from their bodies before entering the city.  Perhaps this was simply a massive reservoir used to feed water to the city below.

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

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R. Chandler, Travels in Asia Minor (1817; repr. 1971) 116-18; A. Laumonier,BCH 60 (1936) 322-24; C. Fellows, Asia Minor (1838) 254-56; G. Cousin & G. Deschamps, BCH 15 (1891) 180f; L. Robert, √Čtudes Anatoliennes (1937) 523-31


  1. Great post! Very educational and informative!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Fantastic! And how interesting to see Detroit Station in context.


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