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With two consecutive days of ruins ahead of us, Peter braced himself for the ancient onslaught. Armed with our backpacks filled with sunscreen, water and hat, we met our driver at our hotel at 08:30 and were taken to Selcuk, where we joined another couple and our guide for our full day’s tour. Driving through the pastoral Aegean region, we stopped off at our first significant Greco-Roman city, Priene.

Priene, an important trading port of the Ionian League of Greek settlements, was first established in the 11th century BC upon cliffs rising to almost 400 meters above the Aegean Sea. The city overlooked the sea in those days and has since receded so that the ruins are now inland. By the end of the 7th century BC, the Ionian cities were ruled by the Lydians, lasting until the armies of the Persian King Cyrus defeated those of Lydian King Croesus in the middle of the 6th century BC. The cities then fell under the dominion of the Persians and remained so until conquest by Alexander the Great. It was Alexander who ushered in a period of flourishing under the Hellenistic system. In 334 BC, he commissioned the construction of Priene's Temple of Athena. Democracy thrived in Priene and, as evidenced by the ruins we see today, it was a wealthy city. What remains of this ancient city is quite extensive and in relatively good condition. The ruins are scattered among the local species of evergreen trees and set upon a hillside offering an expansive view of the plains below. 

Much remains of the next ancient city on our itinerary, Miletus, a wealthy and successful port city in classical antiquity and during the Roman times. Considered to have been the most powerful of the twelve Ionian cities, it was known to have greatly influenced the intellectual and philosophical development of the Aegean region. There is archaeological evidence at Miletus of human settlements that date as far back as the Neolithic Age and its recorded history begins with the Hittites around 1320 BC. It is believed that the apostle, Paul, visited Miletus on more than one occasion. The ruins at Miletus include a large and well preserved theater, the baths, a couple of marble lion statues that used to guard the Lion Harbor, the Harbor gateway, and the Delphinion, a temple dedicated to Apollo Delphinios, protector of ships and harbors. The Delphinion leads onto to the processional Sacred Way, which was the pilgrim route traveled upon to reach the Temple of Apollo at Didyma.

After breaking for lunch, we made our way to the temple ruins at Didyma. Didyma is famous for its massive Temple of Apollo and its status as a place of pilgrimage. The oracle of Apollo, received at the temple, was highly credible to those who sought its counsel during the archaic period and greatly relied upon by distinguished kings such as Croesus and Alexander. This Temple of Apollo was only second in importance to that which was located at Delphi, in Greece. Didyma was considered divine as far back as the 10th century BC, probably because of the existence there of a fresh water spring directly upon which the Temple of Apollo was constructed. The temple has been carefully rebuilt and what remains today is quite impressive.

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 29th September, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Turkey

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