Ancient Aigai or Aegae, was a member of the Aeolian dodecapolis, as is mentioned by both Herodotus and Strabo, which was a confederation of the 12 largest Aeolian cities, including Smyrna, Magnesia, Larisa, Temnos, Neonteichos, Kyme, Myrina, Gryneium, Elaea, Pitane, Lesbos, and Aigai. The Aeolians are believed to have been the first Greek settlers to arrive in Anatolia, around 1000 BC. Homer tells the tale of how Odysseus, after his stay with the Cyclopes and upon his arrival on the island of Aeolus, was provided a Zephyr, or, western wind to take him home.
The ancient city is nestled on the surrounding slopes of Mount Gun, and about 3 kilometers south of Yuntdagi Koseler village, which takes its name from the mountain chain on which both sit, Yunt.
Ancient Aigai belonged to the Kingdom of Lydia, or, the Lydian Empire, which existed between roughly 1200 BC and 546 BC. We know the ending date because the Achaemenid Persian Empire defeated the Lydian Empire in this year. Lydia remained a satrapy of the Persians until the third century BC, when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians, at which time the Kingdom of Pergamon was given the task of administrating these lands. Aigai would change hands back and forth several more times between the Seleucid Empire, Bythynia and again Pergamon over the following two centuries, until in 129 BC it became part of the Roman Empire.
Approaching the city from the north along the ancient road, high up on the mountain we can see the outer wall of the Market Building (pictured below). It was under the rule of Pergamon that the Market Building (number 9) and the Temple of Apollo (not on the city plan) were constructed.
Pictured above, the back of the massive Market Building facade or wall that faces the valley. In the illustration below, we can see this wall facing outward on the left. With so much of the original 2C BC building intact and its building blocks available or easily restored, I hope this monument will be saved before further collapse takes place. Various blocks with inscriptions and columns from building are marked and ordered in a depot next to the structure (pictured below).
In a fascinating comparison, and the possibility that this structure may have been modeled after a very similar building with the same purpose, the Market Building at ancient Alinda is certainly a sight to behold, and on an even grander scale.
Moving around to the valley side of the Market Building, we can gain some perspective o the magnificent workmanship that has helped to preserve this structure over the millennia. Further, one can also see that the tall facade wall is possible one earthquake away from being seriously damaged. After all, the ancient city was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 17 AD, and eventually received reconstruction funds from the emperor Tiberius.
Debris from the inner walls and arches have collapsed into the shops below, and it certainly is not a stretch to imagine that the pieces of the puzzle are simply waiting to be put back together, much like the monuments at Sagalassos.
As we can see from the illustration, the three floors/stories of the building were constructed out of timber beam and and wooden planks.
I am not sure if it is correct to presume that the building did not collapse due to fire, but I see no evidence of that. More likely, in the same manner that the Bouleuterion blocks were slowly picked away for other uses, this building may have been the victim of similar activities.
More likely, in the same manner that the Bouleuterion blocks were slowly picked away for other uses, this building may have been the victim of similar activities. The inner rooms of the lower floor reveals a collection of the buildings fluted columns, and with the wooden structure removed we can see the street level that faces the West Stoa (pictured above and below).
The Building continues to the northern edge of the terrace in the direction of the Byzantine era church (pictured below).
Directly in front of the Market Building on a terrace that runs out to a ledge overlooking the extent of the valley is the Macellum (round structure pictured below), or meat and fish market, built during the Roman period.
Macellum buildings around the ancient world come in many interesting shapes and sizes, and what is purported to be the first Macellum of the ancient world can be seen at ancient Aezani or Aizanoi.
Leaving this beautiful structure was not easy, as I could have stayed there all afternoon admiring it and the view over the valley. As it was, I ended up exploring the site for about 6 hours, which in this heat is challenging, not to mention that I cycled all the way to ancient Cyme after I finished.
Now it was time to circle around the acropolis to the south in order to locate the Gymnasium, Theater, and Temple of Athena. The illustration below makes finding these structures look very easy, however, with little signage to point out the obvious, I had my work cut out for me.
After being scratched and snapped in the face by various twigs while winding my way through the thick overgrowth and tinderbox forest, BAM! There in front of me was a long flat terrace with a heap of ruins piled in the distance (pictured below). It must be the Stadium! Not.
It was the Gymnasium, shown by the U-shaped portico that is open-ended toward the Theater. Actually, the whole right side of the photo below and on into the distance is one long berm of building members (pictured below).
The photo below of the terrace wall above the Gymnasium is not mine, but comes from a signboard at the site. I decided that I did not have enough time to climb up the hill in order to locate it.
As you can see in the photo below, the route up the hill did not look appealing, so I pressed on. Notice the beautiful triglyph/metope in the center of the photo.
Further along the terrace next to the Gymnasium we arrive at the Gymnasium Bath, which is also in ruin.
The vaults that supported the bath complex are visible, and should not me mistaken for the vomitorium of the Theater, which is not to much farther along on the same terrace (pictured below).
Continuing on along the terrace, and where an upper terrace wall rises above the exposed vomitorium, we arrive at the Theater (pictured below). Unfortunately, the theater seating cannot be seen, as the monument has yet to excavated, though there are a number of large blocks strewn on the soil covered slope. We can only hope that there truly are some sections of the cavea remaining.
Pictured above, the vomitorium standing exposed much like it has since it was sketched in the 19 C AD (pictured below).
Judging from the attention to detail and fineness of the interior of the vaulted passages, this was a Roman theater of top design and expense.
Of particular interest are the window openings that were designed into the structure in order to light the lengthy passages, as seen in the illustration above in the right side of the sketch.
Pictured above, the photo shows the window without using a flash, and one can understand how coming into this passage from the brightness would leave the crowds blindly falling over themselves. With the help of a flash, the design of the window can be seen, with the inner portion flanged open in order to allow a maximum amount of light to enter the chamber.
Pictured below, the stage building has been reduced to a pile of rubble, though there is no telling what may be hiding below it.
Here, I am standing on what should be the analemma, which is the top of the theater seating, while below, the whole of the ruined stage building can seen. By the way, if I look hot in this photo, I'm not, I'm pleasantly scorched!!
Rising above the Theater is a massive wall, most likely designed to support the upper terrace, and probably to add a defensive aspect to the southern slop of the city. Moreover, this would not be the first ancient city to utilize a theater as an extension of the defensive wall. The windows in the vomitorium may also be used like the windows incorporated into a defensive tower.
Somewhere on top of that wall is the Temple of Athena, now all that needs to take place is a climb.
The picture below shows the most exposed part of the Temple of Athena. Unfortunately, it also has yet to be excavated, and with daunting task of fighting the wild bush, Helios in retreat with the road only half traveled, I decided to make my own retreat. With the job unfinished, I will return on a later date to find the Temple of Apollo, photograph the Stadium, which is situated quite a distance below the theater, and to explore the acropolis with a finer eye.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)
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