Thursday, February 13, 2020

Notion: Abandoned Metropolis

Jack A. Waldron

I had left ancient Teos with the intention of exploring ancient Myonnesus, and as I cycled I kept a keen eye for some signage or any sort of hint as to the location of the site that had once been home to the exiled Artists of Dionysus.  Pictured above, the ancient city of Notion rises in the distance.
Before long, I realized that I had long passed where Myonnesus should be located, so, I continued on to my next goal, ancient Lebedos.  Following my exploration of Lebedos, I set my sights on the Sanctuary of Claros, and then Colophon, but along the way I accidentally happened across the unexpected, a small sign some ten meters off the road that read, Notion (37°59′34″N 27°11′51″E).
As I hadn't come across Notion in my research prior to my cycle season, I was pleasantly surprised, and of course I made time to explore the unexpected.  As you can see from the illustrations of the city plans (pictured above and below), I have done some post tour research on the site, and to my surprise the arch rival of my alma mater (that being the University of Michigan; I graduated from MSU, Go Green!) had recently begun surveying the ancient city.
The ancient city of Notion (Notium, meaning in Greek, 'southern' or 'place in the south) sits high above the sea and stretches for about 1 kilometer east to west, and about 500 meters inland from the coast.  Herodotus tells us that the city was founded by Aeolians, but that it was never a member of the Panionic League.
Notion by virtue of its location on the coast, and providing a well developed trading port to the greater Mediterranean, could not escape a relationship with ancient Colophon, which is located a mere 15 kilometers directly north.  During the 5C BC, when Colophon had sided with the Persians against Athens, a large percentage of the Notion population sided with Colophon, creating a polarizing situation among its citizens.
After the death of Alexander the Great in the later part of the 3C BC, Lysimachus, one of his Macedonian officers, destroyed Lebedos and conquered Colophon, both of which he forcibly depopulated, with the greater number of their citizens being sent to Ephesus.  Apparently, the citizens of Notion fell victim to the same depopulation scheme.
I began my exploration of Notion at what has been identified as the Harbor Gate, which is located at the northwest corner of the ancient city just off the main road behind the Notion site sign and along Hales River (pictured above and below).  The village in the distance is Ahmetbeyli, which is separated into two sections by the river.
Judging by the intricately carved dentrils on the cornice pictured above, we can safely say that the gate itself was meant to impress. Its construction may well have been sponsored by a rich benefactor, perhaps even Hadrian himself.
Entering the site from the Harbor Gate meant that I would be following the northward portion of the city wall east until I came to the Theater, which is located at the other end of the city.
The wall itself is only exposed at certain locations, though I must admit, I think I was following a trail above the wall, and therefore was unable to view it, as when I looked down the escarpment, I was probably seeing a false slope.
In hindsight, I should have deduced that the stone blocks I was seeing (and I think it did dawn on me at the time, though I ignored my intuition) were not from wall construction, but were building members, meaning that I was inside or above the city wall.
At some point, the city wall caught up and met me, and that is most likely at what has been designated as the Northeast Gate (pictured above and below).
Now firmly footed inside the ancient city, I set my sights on the Theater, which can be seen in the photo below, rising above trees in the distance.  I can't remember what day of the week I visited ancient Notion, but I can say that over the course of three hours on site, I saw nobody, however, judging from the new bright red markers placed within the area (pictured at the bottom of the photo below), it is possible that the archeologists were off for the day.
The Hellenistic Theater at Notion is very similar to the Hellenistic theater at ancient Pinara, with both having 27 rows, a capacity of around four-thousand, and both having been modified during the Roman period.
Not knowing at the time what I could expect to see, nor if any of the structured could be found, as there is no city plan at the site, I was relieved to finally find the Theater, which can be seen almost completely covered in overgrowth behind me in the photo below.
I am always amazed to find roof tiles that dates back nearly two-thousand years.  Pictured below, tiles lay scattered amongst portions of the Theater stage building.
When I see magnificent monuments such as this overgrown and neglected, I wish I had the permission and time to at least rid the building of its opportunistic parasites (I say that with respect and love for nature, just not over antiquities). 
As you get closer and search among the trees and shrubs, the cavea comes to life, and then you realize you are standing in the orchestra.
Being in such close proximity to ancient Claros, and within a short bus ride of ancient Ephesus (tourist central), and sporting what appears to be a magnificent theater just waiting to be cleaned, I hope this structure will garner the attention necessary to bring in those additional tourist dollars.
I've spent hours upon hours exploring individual ancient cities around the Mediterranean, and while I am climbing and hiking over and around the various monuments at any particular site, I often see the tourist buses roll-in, the clients exit their chariots, stroll over to the theater at hand, snap a few photos, then its back onto the bus, and back to the beach.  Well, if its the theaters that they want, then give the paying customers what they want.
Pictured below, the central diazoma can be seen.  This leads to an entrance at the south end of the theater, directly ahead and around to the right in the photo below.
Though it was quite a challenge to climb through the overgrowth in order to reach the top of the theater, I was determined to reach the high wall on the northern side that supported the seating from falling down the slope, and which is so easy to see from a far distance.
I snapped these photos of the opposite side of theater across the orchestra as I climbed (pictured above and below).  It isn't clear in these photos, but on the opposite side of the theater near the front wall, there is an arched passageway leading to the central diazoma from outside the building.
Finally reaching the analemma of the building, it took great care to remain stable, as the stone blocks are very loose and unsecured, often with deep cravices awaiting the first misstep.
The view from the top of the theater was well worth the effort and danger, and further, there really is no easy way to get a photo of the outside wall from below the wall itself.
If the upper portion of the left side of the Theater looks unstable, well, that is an understatement (pictured above and below).  I hope the powers that be can address the needs of this monument as soon as possible.
So, after taking my selfie I clambered to the top risking life and limb, and then leaned out over the wall in order to snap a few photos of the outer wall of this spectacular Hellenistic monument.
I don't exactly know why I find these buildings so intriguing, but I suspect it has something to do with the connection they have with us today, that relationship is a direct descendancy.  There is very little difference between the citizens of two-thousand years ago, and the citizens of today.
Pictured below, a view west across the entire city as seen from the analemma of the Theater.  In the right of the photo, you can see the trail I followed to get to the Theater.
Now moving to the opposite side of the Theater, or south side of the building, I discovered an arched entrance that connects with the diazoma (pictured below).
As I left the Theater, I snapped this last photo before heading west into the central area of the ancient city (pictured below).  In hindsight, I should have first explored the southeast section of the city, the area between the Theater and the sea, which is where the Gymnasium can be found (located to the right in the photo below, with the center of the city to my back).  Yet another project to be completed sometime during this finite life.
Continuing west, the first major structure that can be seen above ground in the Bouleutarion (Council House).  Pictured below, an illustration shows the layout of the structure.  I approached it from the right of the illustration.  NOTE: I have added 'University of Michigan' to the illustrations that I have used from their web page.
The back row of the Bouleutarion cavea can be seen in the distance in the photo below, but I think it is interesting to see the large stone blocks just in front of the camera that are showing a hint of the layout of the city streets and other buildings.
Being that there appears to be a long well entrenched base running through the center of the city, perhaps this could be the famed Separation Wall that was reported to having been built during the Persian domination in Anatolia, in order to keep the pro-Persian citizens and those opposed to Persian rule apart (pictured below).
Upon my visit to ancient Notion, I had no idea that any excavation had taken place.  I most likely thought this because, first, there were no archeologists on the sight, and second, I didn't see an excavation house or depot anywhere.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that the Bouleutarion was the target of extensive digging. My first thought was, that this illegal activity needed to be reported, fast!
Of course, now as I'm writing this, I am assuming that the digging recorded in these photos was done by the University of Michigan, but I still cannot be sure, as their site doesn't show any excavation activity.
According to the University of Michigan site, they have only undertaken surface collection surveys, and some resistance subsurface mapping.
I became even more alarmed when I saw this proedria (pictured below), that appears to have been smashed and broken into pieces.  The breaks in the marble look fresh, so it must have happened recently.  The Proedria pictured below is sculpted with a very fine relief, and would most likely date from the Roman period.
This particular Proedria would have been centrally located in the Bouleutarion, and was probably the seat of a high ranking, or, the highest ranking member of the city council.
The back wall of the Bouleutarion opens up to the Central Agora, as you can see in the illustration below.
The photo below is of a view east over the Agora from the agora entrance to the Bouleutarion.  
If you look closely at both the photo above and below, you can see the ground rising to form the outline of the portico of the Agora.
In the distance beyond the Agora, await the Temple of Apollo, which is located about 20 meters from the eastern portico of the Agora, and the Temple of Athena, which is located near the east city wall.
With the amount of building materials scattered on the surface of the city, a full excavation is sure to reveal an even more magnificent city and tourist attraction.
Standing out from the rubble pictured above, there is a finely decorated sima attached to its cornice, which came from a corner section of beautifully decorated structure, probably the Agora portico (more closely pictured below).
Though Notion appears to have lost out in its efforts to compete with nearby Ephesus, it can be seen in the high quality of the structural reliefs that the city did have its day in the sun.
The remnants of large structures can be seen throughout the center of the city such as the one pictured below, which is located south of the Agora.
Another such structure is pictured below with a large column section rising from what appears to be the remains of an illegal dig.
The block pictured below seemed quite interesting to me, as the square through hole sparked my interest.  Though there could have been multiple purposes for this particular block, I suspect that the square through hole would have supported a wooden cross beam.
Then, there was this massive mound of gigantic stone blocks.  As the city has not yet been fully examined, and excavations have not taken place across 99% of the site, there is no telling what such mounds may reveal.
The massive column pictured below tells of impressive monuments waiting to be excavated.
Even though the Temple of Apollo is only 20 meter or so from the eastern wall of the Agora portico, it took a long while to explore the surrounding area before I could focus on the sacred compound.
Surprisingly, upon my visit I was pleased to see that the Temple of Apollo had been partially excavated, with the crepidoma of the in-antis temple exposed.  There is no telling in which other structures the cella blocks may have ended up, but there is hope they can be found.
Pictured above is a view of the front of the Temple of Apollo  (or Heroon?!) facing east with the sea to the southwest in the distance.  Pictured below, a view of the back of the temple and the northwest corner.
What a glorious day!  The sun, the sea, and a magnificent two-thousand plus year old temple in front of me.  With the stepped crepidoma, we can say that it is of the Hellenistic or earlier style in design.
It is not exactly clear why, but the University of Michigan surveyors have mapped the Temple of Apollo as a Heroon, or dedicatory tomb to a fallen hero.  Perhaps the Temple of Apollo designation comes from the works of French archeologist Charles Picard, who first investigated the site in 1921.
Eventually, an animated reconstruction of the city and its structures will be produced, as there are plenty building member collected near each monument.  Pictured below, a section of the cornice near the Temple of Apollo.
Though this is a temple, there is a most interesting secret waiting within the building.  As you can see in the following photos, there is a deep subterranean structure at the center of the cella.
Now filled with structural debris, there is no doubt that this substructure had a specific purpose of use.  Most likely, it was used as a treasury for collections gathered for the cult.  However, if this building is in fact a Heroon, this may have been where the body of the hero was laid to rest, along with their treasures of fortuna.
There can be no doubt that any treasure kept or hidden within the cella substructure has long been absconded.  That said, there is also the promise of some valuable finds to be had with some detailed archeological excavation.
Interestingly, though I had visited the Izmir Archeological Museum some two weeks before happening upon ancient Notion, I did snap the photo below of a section of metope, because I thought it quite lovely.  The placard reads, 'Fragment of a Metope - Marble', 'Inventory No. 027.101', 'Findspot - Notion (Ahmetbeyli)', Acquisition - 2011'.  This may be from the Temple of Athena Polias.

As the city grew richer, more treasure would accumulate requiring a need for a larger treasury, thus the area devoted to the religious cult probably grew in kind.  The construction of the Temple of Athena Polias, which is located further east, was constructed at a later date.
The temenos of the sanctuary was surrounded by a colonnade of the Corinthian order, that interestingly was constructed in accordance to the city streets, but with temple and altar at angle to the city plan.
One possibility is that the temple was constructed prior to the expansion of the city westward.  Or, perhaps the importance of how the door of the structure met the rising sun at certain times of the year took priority.
Though the Temple of Athena Polias is believed to have been constructed during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian, the three-stepped crepidoma displays an earlier Greek styling.
With plenty of structural members scattered about, including fluted columns and the large corner section of cornice pictured below, I did not find a capital in the surrounding area, so I couldn't get a photo of one, though I understand they are of the Corinthian order.
That being said, with the three-stepped crepidoma, and the Romanesque fluted columns, it would appear that the ancient Notions carried their Hellenistic heritage well into the Roman period.  It has also been pointed out that layout of the temenos reflects a Hellenistic heritage.
As can be seen in the photo below, the cella of the Temple of Athena Polias also appears to have deep chamber beneath its floor, as the cover blocks have collapsed into it.
Other than the overall size of the temple and a more spacious opisthodomos (due to the length antae walls), the Temple of Athena Polias is simply a larger version of the Temple of Apollo.  Both being distyle (in antis) structures, only the larger being 7.5 meters wide, and 16 meters long.
Pictured below, the tympanum of the pediment sits in situ at the front of the temple, probably where it originally collapsed.  The reason for its collapse is unknown.
The fluted columns pictured below look to have fallen directly out from the temple in a uniform way, though it is possible that they have been moved into such a position.  We can see more of the pediment members at the bottom right center of the photo.
Out in front of the temple is the Temple of Athena Polias Altar (pictured below).  With many of its top blocks removed, the altar is still in a remarkable state of condition.
As stated above, the Roman temple is situated at an awkward angle to the city street plan, but further, the Altar itself sits at an awkward angle to both the city street plan and the temple.  This may indicate that the Altar predates the temple and may be the altar of an older temple on the same site.
The altar may even reach back as far as the second Peloponnesian War, and perhaps it was even the altar upon which Alcibiades sacrificed to the gods in his pleas for support of victory over the Spartan commander Lysander.
Alcibiades, the commander of the Athenian fleet was blocking the Spartan fleet from sailing west from Ephesus.  As the story goes, Alcibiades left his ships under the charge of his helmsman, Antiochus, with orders not to move against Lysander.
Antiochus failed to adhere to the orders of Alcibiades as he baited the Spartan ships into a battle, which the Spartans were victorious over, and that is known today as the Battle of Notion.
Alcibiades fleet would probably have been sheltered in the harbor bay to the west of the city, where the Harbor Gate is located.  As you can see from the illustrations above and below, what was in ancient time open bay, is today land caused by silting.
Following the western wall down to the Harbor Gate, all of the flat land pictured in the photo below is ancient harbor.  I actually did this trek twice on this particular day, as my camera battery ran out of charge.  An older couple at the house where I had left my bicycle were very kind and let me charge my battery.
Of course, when I had finished my work they insisted that I have lunch with them, with roki, (or Greek ouzo if you prefer).  You can see the big baking pot on the table, which was sealed around the lid before it went into the wood oven.  This is Turkish guvech, basically, a baked stew, and in this case kuzu (lamb).
As I cycled away along the road north of ancient Notion, I snapped some photos of the Theater, and in the photo below you can see the north support wall.  This is the wall that I stood on top of earlier in the day.
The road follows the around the foot of the city until you reach the sea at the southeast corner of the city.  From there you can see the acropolis, to left of which is the gymnasium, that I unfortunately fail to investigate.
Furthermore, I did not ascend the acropolis, which as you can see in the photo below, has some structures at its peak.  I suspect that this is the western section of the city wall.  Upon my future return, I promise I will climb to the top of the acropolis in order to complete my investigation.

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

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  1. Hello Mr. Waldron, I loved the way you mentioned about the ancient city. And thanks to the way you took the photos, I explored another ancient city.
    Thank You Mr. Waldron
    (by the way, I'm one of your students.)

    1. Can! Great to hear from you!! I am very happy that you enjoy researching ancient sites as much as I do. I look forward to discussing these topics with you . . .


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