Sunday, March 4, 2018

Rhodiapolis: City of Opramoas

Photos by Jack A. Waldron

Off highway 400, which runs directly through Kumluca, a sea of plastic domes hide the paved roads and dirt trails, that eventually take one from point A to point B.  The signs pointing the way to the ancient city of Rhodiapolis are posted all along highway 400, and if you miss one directing you along route A, then you're sure to catch another that will take you along route B, or another along route C, and then route D, and so on.  It can all become very perplexing!
In this case I was hard pressed to navigate the labyrinth that led me to an unfinished 15 degree incline, thereupon arriving I was force to push my bicycle 2 km through the 35 degree celsius heat to the summit.
The new dirt road was obviously being prepared for black top, but in its current state was too soft for my thin tires, and the large rocks below the surface coupled with the incline made riding up to Rhodiapolis impossible.
The first sign that I was getting closer to the ancient city was the Lower Level Nymphaeum (pictured above and below), which sits next to the new road leading up to the site.
The Lower Level Nymphaeum dates from the Roman period, and would have been a visitors first stop before reaching the city, as it would have provided a much appreciated respite to quench ones thirst and refresh oneself with a cool douse of water.  Unfortunately, neither awaited myself.  The arched cavities in the walls would have displayed marble statues, perhaps of nymphs, gods, and probably a Roman emperor or two, and possibly their spouse.
I was relieved to finally reach the entrance to the site, where a large tree providing plenty of shade was waiting, and also made the perfect spot to park my bike.  I carry ice bottles, frozen meat and water in my cooler bag, and a nice protective cover of shade can make a happy camper ever happier at the end of the day.
There is no charge to enter many of the ancient sites around Turkey, and Rhodiapolis is currently free of charge to enter.  It is unclear by what means and where the money comes from for the restoration of the numerous sites around the country, but there certainly are a lot funds being poured into many of them.
As an example, in the photograph above, a crane for restoration purposes can be seen next to the theater on the acropolis.  The bright white blocks of marble are a rich display of the theater restoration, though, upon my visit, there was only one other couple who were at the site.
The first large building along the path is the monumental Lower Bath.  There are however numerous smaller buildings throughout the area that have yet to be excavated.
Though there is no new signage for the the bath, or the greater site for that matter, the Lower Bath most likely dates from the Roman period, as do most of the buildings at the site.
The stacks of round brick blocks used to raise the floor are marked with an X that was made by the dragging of two fingers across them (pictured above and below).  The raised floor allowed the heat to circulate under the floor, thus keeping the room at a steady and constant temperature.
The walls and large arched niches in the caldarium can be imagined covered in a beautiful marble with exquisitely sculpted statues of the most recent Roman emperor, his mother or wife perhaps, or a favorite god or two, prominently on display for all who entered.
Pictured below, a view of the complete monumental Lower Bath as seen from where the 1st Stoa meets the 2nd Stoa along the main street.  Kumluca can be seen on the plain below, some 7km from the ancient site.
The monumental Lower Bath complex can be seen at the right side of the city plan illustrated below.
The monument marked in red in both illustrations is the Opramoas Mausoleum.
Continuing along the main street, or, the 1st Stoa,  which leads to the agora; the 2nd Stoa complex, with various temples, Nymphaeum, dedicatory monuments and numerous other buildings, can be seen in the distance (pictured below).
Pictured below, a dedicatory monument with a tri-stepped pedestal is located toward the southern end of the 1st Stoa.  Kumluca can be seen hugging the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
Arriving at the 2nd Stoa, we come to what appears to be a temple.  There is a dedicatory monument with a lengthy inscription located in front of the building, with two more dedicatory monuments located within the building along the back wall.
Though others have labeled this building as a temple, to my observations it seems more to resemble a mausoleum.   Furthermore, this building may have served more than one function over the millennia.
In the building next to the so-called temple (pictured in the distant, right side of the photo above), dedicatory inscriptions adorn the stepped marble blocks that seal off the two apses along the back wall where the deceased may have lay in state (pictured below).
It would appear that several mausoleums were situated next to each other at this end, or, entrance to the 2nd Stoa.  The walls of these monuments were certainly at the time of their construction covered with finishing marble, or perhaps a fine stucco.
Prominent citizens or families would have been allowed to erect such monuments in order to greet and, to impress the status and wealth of the city upon visitors.  Another common monument often erected near the entrance to an ancient city was the nympheaum, as we have already witnessed with the Lower Level Nymphaeum, and here, this Upper Level Monumental Fountain or Nymphaeum, is what I believe may be pictured below.
Next to the two mausoleums previously discussed, situated in the center of the 2nd Stoa is what appears to be several sections of low sectioned wall, which would form the front wall of the Upper Level Monumental Fountain or Nymphaeum pool (pictured above).  
The illustration of the monumental Fountain of Hieropolis (pictured above) may complete the picture.  The area behind the low front wall sections is quite deep with a solid stone block wall rising several meters from the bottom back of the pool.
The building rising above the top of the wall (the back of that building is pictured above), may have been a Trajanian, very similar to the Trajanian at ancient Arycanda: a surrounding wall containing niches with a temple dedicated to Trajan in the center.  Not surprisingly, there are a series of very deep and large cisterns located behind the Upper Level Monumental Fountain or Nymphaeum in the vicinity of the Tholos Temple (pictured below).
The 2nd Stoa street eventually arrives at the staircase pictured above.  Beyond the staircase we arrive at the Agora, where there is currently a modern dirt road that is used for restoration traffic (pictured below).
The Tholos Temple (pictured below), was erected on a terrace that juts out on the slope from the main street of the 2nd Stoa near the Agora.
The Tholos Temple is not monumental, however, the space surrounding it and the view over the plain from the terrace upon which it was erected offers a stunning tribute to the god, emperor or citizen it must have honored.
The inscribed stone block pictured above was sitting on the grounds of the Tholos Temple, and I suspect it is a portion of the Opramoas Mausoleum which is located on the next terrace up the slope just across from the Tholos Temple.  Pictured below, the shop of a doctor, and, as to how this site with its original signage was preserved over the millennia I cannot imagine.
Given the fact that the signage, building, and interior remained on location throughout the millennia is very curious, as this may have been the location of succeeding physicians over the centuries.
Pictured above, within the building identified as a health clinic or hospital, a dedicatory monument to the practitioner.  Though the site signage is aged, it is not nearly as aged as the original signage identifying the site (pictured below).
The stone pillar declares that this is the shop of a doctor and surgeon, and remarkably, the red paint of the original signage is still visible in the lettering (pictured above and below).
There are numerous dedicatory monuments with lengthy inscriptions in situ around the Agora.  The monument pictured below features decorative pedestal footings or legs that are not unusual from other such examples from other nearby cities within Lycia that may have even been commissioned from the same sculptor.
We know that various ancient cities have commissioned the same sculptor or designer or architect or company to do complete jobs throughout a wide area of country.  The precision displayed in the monument pictured above is beyond that of the one pictured below, and the importance and grandiosity of each would have demanded a different skill set.
Heading up the slope toward the Grande Staircase that climbs past the Opramoas Mausoleum, I turned to grab a photo of the Agora, the Tholos terrace, the Clinic, Kumluca and the Mediterranean Sea (pictured below).
Looking up the at the Grande Staircase, the restored marble blocks of the Theater reflect the bright sun (pictured below).  The back wall of the 2nd Stoa is built out of 'Lesbian' or Polygonal stone blocks which most likely dates this terrace support structure to, or near to, the Hellenistic period.
Rising about 4-5 meters above the 2nd Stoa, this terrace is the location of the Opramoas Mausoleum (pictured below).  There are so many ancient sites in Turkey with so little easily acquired information about them.  Trying to research each site prior to visiting is a daunting task, which is one of the reasons I mistook the Opramoas Monument for a temple of Dionysus.  Being located just in front of the Theater, I thought for sure that my assessment was correct . . . , wrong!
As this was an extremely scorching hot day, and the reality that I left my bicycle unattended and unlocked under the massive shade tree, I was surely too hurried to really do the site justice.  Why did I leave my cycle unlocked?  Well, my cooler was full of food that might have spoiled if left in the direct sunlight, and the tree was too big to wrap my locking cable around . . . , so, I rushed, AND, I failed to see the Opramoas Inscription on the outer walls of the monument, BECAUSE, I didn't venture out on the terrace!  I snapped the photo of the Opramoas Monument above from the Grande Staircase, not realizing what I was looking at.
Having discovered what I was looking at at the time of photographing (while writing this blog), I came across the photo above (not my photo), and was shocked to see that this building was nearing the end of restoration.  Two years later in the summer of 2017 (as I am about two years behind in my posts), I drove right past Rhodiapolis on my way to ancient Idebessus, and I didn't  revisit Rhodiapolis at that time, but now, I will return at some point, perhaps when I dock my future sailboat SV Labrys in the Kumluca marina!
Opramoas, for whom Rhodiapolis is most remembered for, lived during the first half of the 2C AD.  His name is all over Lycia as a wealthy benefactor; for having provided the funds for the construction of theaters and other building projects throughout the land, providing relief following natural disasters such as earthquakes, offering his time and attention as high priest in the Lycian League, or as a Lyciarch, as well as respected administrator of the Roman province.
Continuing up the Grande Staircase I arrived at the western entrance to the Theater.  The restoration of the Theater was in full swing, and unfortunately, it was forbidden to explore the the cavea or stage building.
The Hellenistic Theater at Rhodiapolis has a single diazoma with fifteen rows of seating, which is then partitioned into six cunels with a seating capacity of around 2000 spectators, though there is plenty more standing room available around the wide analemma at the top of the building.
Though certain Roman period architectural modifications to the Theater do appear to have taken place, such as the protective wall around the orchestra for the performance of gladiatorial competitions, the stage building with its single level seems to have retained its Hellenistic purpose, that is, to preserve the view of nature beyond the human construct.
The original theater building employed polygonal stone blocks for its construction, and what stands out for this lover of antiquities is that this restoration has had a very difficult time replicating the basic skill needed in the construction of polygonal blocks.  Zooming in on the photo above reveals an attempt to sculpt polygonal stone blocks using modern day tools.  The modern power tools are screaming to be allowed to showcase their precision, their speed, and their lack of human touch.
The acropolis is reached via the Grande Staircase which carries on above and behind the Theater.  Here, a massive cistern has been built deep below the surface, and would appear to have been at least partially fed by a spring located at its bottom.
The city as a complete ecosystem has been built to take full advantage of the slope upon which it was constructed.  Succeeding water reluctant facilities are located below previous water reluctant facilities, thus pooling, conserving and utilizing all available water as it makes its way down the slope.  From the cistern pictured above, to a fountain on the theater terrace, to the cisterns below that, and the nymphaeum below those, and the bath below further on, and so forth.
Near the cistern on the acropolis is what I believed at the time to be the Opramoas Monument, but now, having done a bit more searching, I discover was a massive Watch Tower, probably dating from the Hellenistic period.  As there don't appear to be any defensive walls around the ancient city of Rhodiapolis, I did not expect to find any such defensive positions within the city or its surroundings.  I can see now, that such a tower would provide a commanding view of all the slopes around the city, and would have at least offered a secure store for private and public valuables.

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

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