A brief scene-setting

The reader is already aware that, although the concepts "Greece" and "Turkey" make immediate sense in terms of modern politics, they are less useful (or, more accurately, a non-sense) when dealing with the ancient world in which, in spite of their dangers, the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean seas served not as barriers but as thriving trade routes - much speedier and more convenient than most contemporary roads. The west-facing coast of Turkey was on several such routes. As with the coast of Greece opposite, there was a north/south route, hugging the coast; but also two cross-Aegean routes, the northerly one from Athens to Miletus, the southerly one curving from Crete to Rhodes and so up the coast, or along the south coast toward present-day Iskenderun, or to Cyprus. Because of the mountainous fringe to the high plateau interior, most roads conveniently followed the coastal plain, and it was here that the majority of prosperous cities were to be found, taking advantage both of trade with the hinterland, and of sea-borne trade.

This is not the place to tell in detail the heroic stories of Greek expansion toward West and East from Mycenaean times onwards - of Alexander the Great and the brilliant civilizations he founded, or of the Roman imitation of things Greek which encouraged their veritable takeover of Hellenism and its importation (following in the footsteps of the Etruscans) into the West (Bowerstock 1990). All these are of central importance, forming as they do the very warp of Western civilization - that is, of life in cities - in Greek, Roman and Byzantine Turkey.

In classical times, large areas of the Mediterranean basin were united by common languages and common cultures, so that a classical Athenian or, later, a Roman might travel thousands of miles and find cities looking more or less like those back home. The only things that differed from city to city were prosperity and the relative nearness of the " xyz problem" - where "xyz" might stand for Persians, Carthaginians, Galatians, local princes, Africans or, later, Arabs. Just as the Romans called the Mediterranean ^Iour sea^i, so might the Greeks have done likewise, if only at the eastern end. I write ^Icommon^i cultures, meaning that whether the language were Greek or Latin, and regardless of whatever internecine struggles were current, there was a consensus on what was valued: education and learning; poetry, theatre, and literature in general; the writing of history and the keeping of records; scientific enquiry for its own sake; the commemmoration of important local events and people; the cultivation of the body as well as of the mind; and the veneration due to the gods. Most of these values could easily be expressed and reflected in cityscapes and monuments. The visitor to Turkish sites cannot miss the main signs of this belief in what we today call simply "culture", or help remarking how its concrete expression is to be found in monuments far grander than any simply utilitarian purpose might dictate - temples, gymnasia, libraries, theatres and concert-halls, stoas and basilicas, and monuments to great men, heroes and gods. Even apparently everyday structures, such as aqueducts, can often take on a monumental aura needing a fountain or fountains to do them justice.

The geography of Turkey

We must first understand the basic geography of Turkey before we can fully comprehend the reason for the great migrations which populated that land. It consists of a high central plateau with coastal plains, in some areas not more than a kilometre or two in breadth, in others quite considerable. Although river valleys break up this land mass, and harbour some settlements, it was the coastal plains, with their silt-rich soils, which attracted the Mycenaeans, and the Greeks after them. There are several sites with bronze age, Minoan and Mycenaean influence (such as Troy or Iasos or Ephesus), while Miletus was a major Mycenaean citadel. The Western coast of Turkey was well known also to "Homer", and there are a few settlements of Dark Age date, but many more important ones for the Geometric period, from Izmir (formerly Smyrna) southwards, Halicarnassus and Miletus again, which was also responsible for setting up a large number of colonies around the Black Sea. And already, in pre-classical times, the sanctuary of Didyma was functioning. Indeed, from the end of the first millennium BC to the 6th century, the cities of mainland Greece, faced with what we must assume to be a growing population that could not be fed from the hinterland or the sea, sent out colonies to west and east - a few along the coastline of Spain and France from Ampurias to Nice, a large number to Southern Italy and Sicily (Magna Graecia), plus a few in North Africa, and even more peppering the west- facing coastline of Turkey, the coast at the north of the Aegean, and on the north, south and western shores of the Black Sea.

These colonies were never intended to be dependent upon the mother city. In time, some of them died, whilst others prospered so as to outshine their parent in population, culture, and art and architecture. Some survived longer than their parent: for there were Greeks in Asia Minor until the 1920s who had been there since long before the days of Homer.

It is largely the architectural and town planning achievements of these erstwhile Greek colonies, and especially of their Hellenistic and Roman successors, supplemented by some important sanctuaries, which form the theme of this book. Indeed, the power and prestige of the cities of Asia Minor rose as, and probably because, those of the Greek mainland fell; or, as Ward-Perkins puts it (1981, 281), in architecture as in so much else, it was the cities of Asia which were the repositories of the living hellenistic tradition.

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From here you may also go to The Preface, Archaeology in Turkey, Building for Splendour, Town Planning, Roads, Water Supply, Aqueducts, Harbours, The Architecture of Work & Leisure, Religion: Temples & Special Sanctuaries, Funerary Art & Architecture, Decline & Renewal, The Conclusion, The Bibliography, or The Table of Contents

Greek & Roman Cities of Western Turkey