First we went to Priene. We saw the Temple to Athena, which was considered the quintessential Ionic temple. We also saw the odeon, which is basically just a small theater. This one actually had an altar to Dionysus in it, which is pretty cool.
Then we went to Miletus. First we saw the theater, which had an inscription on one of the seats reserving them for Christians. The Romans added a stage building and extra seating to this theater. We also saw a building honoring the sea gods, which makes sense at Miletus since, in ancient times, it was on a peninsula.
After Miletus, we went to Didyma, which was another sanctuary site with an oracle, like Klaros. The Temple to Apollo here was the third largest temple in the Greek world, even though it was unfinished. The way this temple was set up is pretty cool. It had what's called a naiskos, which is a small temple inside the big temple, that actually held the cult statue of Apollo.
Then we went to Bodrum, which was a really nice place. We stayed in this awesome resort and even had Chinese food for dinner!
Today we visited Klaros, which was not a city like the other sites we have been to so far. Klaros is just an oracular shrine, which means that it's pretty much just a temple. The temple is to Apollo, and there was also a smaller one to Artemis. The oracle at Klaros was different than the more famous one at Delphi because the oracle at Klaros was a man. After Klaros, we went to Magnesia, which had a temple to Artemis.
Ephesus was a really interesting site. We got to see the remains of the Temple of Artemis, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. We also saw the Library of Celsus, which I'd been waiting the whole trip to see. It was absolutely beautiful! I wish the original statues were still there so we could've seen them, but it was still awesome to see. And, as a Latin major, it was fun to read the Latin inscriptions.
We saw the Temple to Domitian, which was the first temple in the region dedicated to the imperial cult. I thought it was really interesting that it was rededicated to the emperor Vespasian after Domitian's memory was damned.
We also saw the theater, which was called the "Great Theater" since it's the largest one in the region.
The first thing we saw at Teos was the Temple to Dionysus, which had satyrs and dancing depicted on the friezes. Naturally, we took a group picture pretending to dance like satyrs. Teos claimed to be the birthplace of Dionysus, and not surprisingly was the wine capital of the region. It was also the center of the actor's guild, since Dionysus was closely associated with the theater.
After we saw the temple, we went to see the ancient harbors, which I really liked. The ocean is just so beautiful, and I loved every chance I got to get close to it.
By far the best part of the day, and probably the trip, was when we went to camel wrestling. Yes, camel wrestling. It only happens one day a year, and we happened to be in the area when it was happening. We walked in and the first thing I noticed was how many people were there. It was honestly a little overwhelming. We also saw the camels who were waiting to fight and they were HUGE! The way camel wrestling works is a female is paraded in front of the males during mating season. Then they have to compete to get the female. What they do when they fight is basically lock their necks together. The way they automatically win is if they knock their opponent over, or if they make their opponent run away. We only saw the latter happen, but it was still really exciting. A bunch of us bought scarves that say "A memento of camel wrestling" in Turkish. I absolutely loved camel wrestling!!
Then we drove to Selcuk, where we are spending the night three nights. I love Selcuk. It's a bunch of cute little shops and restaurants and everyone is really friendly.
Today we went to visit the ancient site of Sardis, which had the largest Temple to Artemis in the ancient world. What's really interesting about this temple is the fact that it's unfinished. The columns were not completely fluted, and you can even see the marks that were made on them to guide the fluting.
The coolest part of Sardis was the marble hall dedicated o the imperial cult. The imperial cult is the worship of the Roman emperor and his family, and it was very popular in ancient Turkey. The marble hall has been pretty heavily restored, but the restorators did a good job of letting us know what's original and what's not: the non-original material is this weird orange color that is clearly different from the original white marble.
We also got to see an old synagogue that had some really beautiful mosaics. Then we went to the archaeological museum in Izmir and saw some beautiful statues and inscriptions. We also saw coins and ceramics.
Today was a rainy, miserable day, but I was still really excited to go to Pergamon since Nicole and I did our presentation on it. We started up on the acropolis where we saw the city walls. What was really interesting about them was the fact that they are partially from the Hellenistic period and partially from the Byzantine Period. I found it interesting that the Byzantine walls were not built as well as the Hellenistic walls since they are from a later period.
We also saw the library and the upper agora. It was kinda sad to see that basically nothing was left of what was once the second greatest library in the world.
My favorite thing that we saw was the Trajaneum, which was a temple to the Roman emperor Trajan. The few remaining standing columns were so majestic. Again, I wonder what it looked like in its prime. The most interesting part of the Trajaneum was that it had two center chambers, one for Trajan and the other for the god Zeus.
After that, we saw the theater, which I was really excited to see. It's the steepest theater in the ancient world, and is actually in pretty decent condition in my opinion. We got to walk down all of the steps to the bottom, which was honestly pretty scary because it was so steep.
We also went inside a partially restored house that had beautiful mosaics on the floors. One of them had the masks that the actors in ancient plays wore, which I thought was really cool.
The first thing we did when we got to Troy was go inside the Trojan Horse, which was really fun. I was really excited to go inside it.
After that, we went into Troy. The group of presenters explained to us how Troy has nine different layers, and you can see the layers throughout the site. We got to see the burnt city, explore the caves, and see the incredible view. It was also really interesting to learn how close the sea used to be, and to see how far away it is now.
Then we went to Assos, which is by far my favorite place that we have been to so far. Getting up there was quite the adventure. We had to take the bus up these crazy mountain roads, and once we got to a certain point on the mountain, the bus couldn't go up anymore, so we had to walk the rest of the way up. When I say walk, I really mean hike. It was pretty intense, but it was definitely worth it. The view was absolutely amazing, and it is probably the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. We got to see the Temple to Athena, and then just explore on our own, which I loved.
Then we drove to Ayvalik where we were staying the night. I wish the weather hadn't been nasty because the water would've been so blue.
Seeing the old Constantinian walls was really cool. David kept saying how he would hate to have to attack them, and I definitely agree with him. They were so high and strong; I mean, they've been standing for thousands of years. It was also really cool to see how the modern city worked its way around the wall, like putting tunnels through them for roads.
We rode on the bus for a long time on our way to Cannakale where we were staying the night. On our way, we stopped to visit the World War I battle site of Gallipoli. It made me sad to think about how many people died there, but the view from the memorial was absolutely beautiful.
I was ridiculously excited when we got to the Hellespont, which is the strait that leads to the Black Sea. It's one of those places that I've heard about in my studies for a long time, but have never seen. And now I've seen it! I loved how they had the Turkish flag on the side of one of the mountains. The Turks are just as patriotic as Americans are.
We rode on a ferry to get over to Cannakale, which was fun. As soon as we got off the bus, we were harassed by men trying to sell us perfume. When we got to the top of the boat, it was nice to just look out on the water.
Cannakale is definitely much nicer than Istanbul. It smells nicer, looks cleaner, and it even has the Trojan Horse from the movie Troy! The night in Cannakale was really fun. We all just went out to a bar and hung out together. Even our professor came with us!
Tomorrow we see Troy, and I couldn't be more excited!
The plane ride was long, but I managed to be less scared on the one to Istanbul than on the one to JFK, which is good for me. I didn't get much sleep, even though I took a Dramamine. And it didn't help that the person sitting next to me couldn't sit still for more than two seconds.
My first observance about Istanbul was the smell. It smells like cat litter and cigarettes. That's probably because there are lots of cats and everybody smokes...
One thing that I really love about Turkey is the call to prayer. There's something so beautiful about the ritual, and the sound of it is just enchanting.
We saw the Hagia Sophia, which is absolutely amazing. It's a mosque, and I don't think I've ever been in a space that large before. My favorite part was the mosaics on the second story. It was interesting to learn what the Greek letters stood for, and the gold tesserae was gorgeous. I wish the scaffolding to restore the dome wasn't there, but the dome was still amazing.
After the Hagia Sophia, we went to see the Blue Mosque, which was absolutely beautiful. The outside is a grey color, but the best part was going inside. The walls are covered in blue tile, and the center dome is supported by these gigantic columns. It was also really cool to watch the people praying, since that's something you don't see often in America.
It was actually pretty depressing to go to the area that was one the Hippodrome. A hippodrome is basically a race track, and the one in Istanbul is completely gone. All that's left of it is the Egyptian Obelisk. I loved how the bottom half was chopped off, so they added a base with reliefs.
So, onto Turkish food. My first Turkish meal was in this little shop that served chicken sandwiches. The chicken was slow roasted on a vertical spit, and it was delicious. For dinner, we ate at the hotel, and it was also delicious. The first course was a chicken broth soup, and the main course was beef. Beef is the high end meat in Turkey. It was served with rice, which was phenomonal. What surpised me was that it was also served with french fries. For dessert, we had an awesome rice pudding. So far, I must say, I love Turkish food.
1 week until we leave for Turkey! I’m so excited to
go! This will be my first time abroad, so it’ll be a new experience for me.
Though I am excited, I’m also a little nervous. Have you ever seen the show
LOST? Ha, just kidding.
We leave on Monday the 12th from Richmond
and fly to JFK in New York. From there, we have a 10 hour flight to Istanbul. I
wish planes weren’t so scary! We leave Turkey on the 26th, so we’re there
for 2 weeks. We are “hugging the coast” as Dr. O’Neill says. We’ll be visiting
A LOT of places, such as Istanbul, Troy (yes, the Trojan Horse!), and Ephesus.
During this first week of J-Term, we are covering 4 millennia
of history! It’s a little overwhelming; thankfully, I have a little bit of
background in the material. Today we covered the Bronze Age and tomorrow we’re
going over Greece. We’re also going to cover the Roman and Byzantine periods. Then
we have our midterm on Friday. Our final is the Friday after we get back.
One of our other graded assignments is an on-site group
presentations. My best friend and I are giving our presentation on Pergamon,
which is the one we really wanted. The last part of our grade is participation,
which obviously includes participating in discussions, etc. It also includes a
journal that we have to keep while we are actually in Turkey. I’m actually glad
that this is a graded assignment, because otherwise I don’t think I would keep
a journal of my time there, and I think it’s a really great thing to do to
remember the experience.
That's it for now. I'll try to write again before we leave on Monday.