Friday, 6 October 2017

Early Christian cemetery

There's an early Christian cemetery on the outskirts of Pythagorion (on the Chora road) that was built adjacent to and on top of an archaic Sanctuary of Artemis. As you may know Artemis was goddess of the hunt and I find it interesting the early Christians would choose this site for a cemetery.

Early Christian cemetery
Since the very early Christians were persecuted and even hunted I suppose it's kind of apt a site used to worship the huntress was adapted by their descendants.

Like a lot of ancient sites in Greece information about these remains was sparse to say the least. A lady at the museum in Pythagorio told me the site dated to the 2nd century AD.

Burial Chambers
These are some of the burial chambers.

Burial Chamber

Inside one of the chambers
Some of the stonemasonry and brickwork is in remarkably good condition even if it is hard to determine exactly what was what.

Sadly very little of the ancient Sanctuary of Artemis remains visible. There are a couple of broken columns, but any outline of the buildings are mostly covered in vegetation.

Another Rusty Usky moment

Came across a Rusty Usky object on my morning walk with Tilly today...

I grant you it's a little larger than my usual Rusty Usky objects, but I think it qualifies.

Somehow I can't imagine this old combine ever working again... looking at it it brought the late Adge Cutler to mind.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Potami Waterfalls, Karlovasi, Samos

There's a mountain behind the beach at Potami and somewhere up on the high ground near the town of Leka you can find a fresh water spring, which feeds the small river that gives life to the Potami Waterfalls.

The walk up the valley to the start of the falls isn't exactly hard, but it certainly isn't suitable for anyone with limited mobility and here's a tip: wear clothing and footwear you're happy to get wet.

The pathway soon gives way to a dirt track and you'll have to negotiate tree roots and boulders as you go.

It's a green and leafy walk, the shade giving pleasant relief on a hot day, especially with the sound of the water making its way downstream.

You'll soon find yourself between steep-sided rocky cliffs and I was reminded of the last time I explored a river valley, the magnificent Almbachklamm in Bavaria; not an obvious comparison.

I was surprised at how small the river was in its lower reaches although bizarrely it becomes wider and deeper as you progress up the valley.

Don't be mislead when you come to the first of the small waterfalls, these are not the attraction!

You need to cross back and forth over the river several times. Wooden bridges are provided, although some of the crossmembers are not secured care must be taken unless you prefer to paddle through the stream.

I was amused by the pile of cut branches, are they there so visitors can make temporary repairs to the bridges?

Keep an eye open too for life in the river. There are plenty of small fish to look at, but also in some of the quieter pools you'll find these:

Fresh water crab
Something else you may notice are visitors who have been to the falls before removing outerwear and stashing bags of kit among the trees for retrieval on their return.

There's no doubting that swimwear and beach-shoes are the outfit of choice since once you reach the steps leading to Taverna Archontissa you'll have to wade up the river.

Rickety Steps
We were told the river water was ice-cold, but in fact I found it pleasingly cool. Also you're told the water is never more than waist deep, but that kind of depends on how tall you are!

Something else to note, the water is opaque and there are some hidden rocks you'll have to negotiate. They are smooth and slippery so watch your step.

I saw one chap miss his footing and take a dunking, I don't think it did his camera much good!

Don't be surprised if you find fish nibbling at any loose skin on your legs, especially if you have any scratches or open cuts.

One of the things to do is take a shower under the first fall. This chap said the water was freezing!

Not everyone agreed. This guy kept asking for the soap.

Sadly this was as far as we could go up the valley. To progress to the next waterfall you have to climb up and over the first one, which I was not prepared to do. There are three more waterfalls above this one and we were told you used to be able to access them by climbing the steps to Taverna Archontissa then taking the footpath down the cliff, but due to a landslip the pathway was now closed.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Tunnel of Eupalinos - an ancient feat of engineering magnificence

The Tunnel of Eupalinos is without doubt one of the greatest engineering achievements of ancient times. It is also known as the Eupalinian Aqueduct and is a water tunnel some 1,036 meters (4,000 feet) long, excavated through a mountain on the Greek island of Samos.

The tunnel was dug through solid limestone by two separate teams advancing in a straight line from both ends, using only picks, hammers, and chisels in the 6th century BC. This would have been a prodigious feat of manual labour in any case, but the incredible thing is when the two sets of tunnellers met they were less that 20 centimetres off line! No one knows for certain how they achieved this since no written records exist. We must bear in mind when the tunnel was dug, the Greeks had no magnetic compass, no surveying instruments, no topographic maps, nor even much written mathematics at their disposal. Simply incredible.

Tunnel of Eupalinos
The Tunnel of Eupalinos provided fresh drinking water to the ancient City of Samos, modern Pythagorio until the 7th century AD when it seems to have fallen into disuse.

For more information on this amazing achievement please visit Tunnel of Eupalinos.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Ancient Theatre of Samos

I recently blogged the world's largest Hellenistic theatre, the Grand Theatre of Ephesus, an amazingly huge theatre capable of entertaining 25,000 patrons. The Theatre of Samos, built in the 4th century BC is also ancient and Hellenistic, but it is not on the same scale as Ephesus.

The remains of the Theatre of Samos stand within 150 metres of the Tunnel of Eupalinos and approximately 100 metres below the Monastery of Spilani, which overlooks the modern city of Pythagorio (site of the ancient city of Samos).

Like the Grand Theatre, the Theatre of Samos consisted of an orchestra (performance space where chorus actors danced and sang), the skene (where actors could change their costumes) and a kilon (the amphitheatre space where spectators could sit or stand).

Theatre of Samos
Today very little of the theatre remains, just a stage, the skene and one tier of seats, but with a little imagination one can see the importance of this monument.

Tiered seating
Interestingly the theatre is still being used and musical concerts, Greek drama and other performances are held there. I'm somewhat saddened however to note the pouring of concrete over the kilon and the embedding of supports for wooden bench seating.

The skene with modern stage above
Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be any effort being made to preserve the remains of the ancient structure. As someone with a keen interest in history and archeology I find that somewhat deplorable, especially since the theatre was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992.

Pylons supporting the modern stage showing damage to the skene
I do hope steps are taken to preserve what is left of the ancient theatre, it would be such a shame to lose it.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Thank goodness for memories

It's only been 18 days, but already this seems like half a lifetime ago...

Pythagorio harbour at night
Walking around the harbour at Pythagorio was such a fun thing to do...

A few of the waterside eateries
There are so many interesting places to stop for food and such a variety of cuisines to choose from.

Waterside watering-holes
And of course there are quite a number of bars where you can whet your whistle with anything from water to highly decorative alcoholic cocktails. I quite liked Barfly... they played my kind of music and served excellent freshly squeezed orange juice. ­čśÇ

I enjoyed Samos more than I expected to and sitting here now watching the miserable UK weather through the lounge window I rather wish I was back there!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pigeon Island formerly Bird Island

There's a small island in the bay at Ku┼čada┼č─▒ (Turkey) that is now known as Pigeon Island. In fact it isn't an island at all since it is connected to the mainland by a mole now. Back in Byzantine times that wasn't the case and the island was fortified and used as a defence against seaborne attack by pirates, hence the name of the fortification, Pirate Castle.

The island got it's name from the seasonal migration of birds and was known as Ku┼čada┼č─▒, “Bird Island” in Turkish. During Ottoman times the island was given to the town, which then also became known as Ku┼čada┼č─▒ (Bird Island). To avoid confusion the island was renamed Pigeon Island.

Ku┼čada┼č─▒ or Bird Island from which the modern city takes its name
It makes me wonder whether the migrating birds were actually pigeons? If so perhaps the modern city of Ku┼čada┼č─▒ should be renamed Pigeon City, which would be apt given the number of pigeons on the streets of the city!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Ephesus: the Grand Theatre and Harbour Street

This will be the last blog post from my trip to Ephesus and of course I've kept the best for last.

The Grand Theatre
With a seating capacity of almost 24,000 and room for 1,000 standing spectators the Grand Theatre at Ephesus was the largest theatre in Asia Minor and the biggest Hellenistic theatre anywhere.

Arguably the most magnificent structure in Ephesus, the Great Theatre is located on the slope of Panayir Hill, opposite the Harbor Street and easily seen when entering from the south entrance to the city. It was originally constructed in the Hellenistic Period in the third century BC during the reign of Lysimachos, but was enlarged during the Roman Period to its current style that is seen today.

The Grand Theatre
Did you know the term Theater is derived from the Greek word Theatron which means "the place to observe?" Also, the half circle shaped section was called Orchestra and performances were held on the stage building known as a Skene. During the Hellenistic period Skenes were built in 2 storeys, 3 storeyed Skenes didn't appear until the Roman period.

The Grand Theatre
Harbour Street, also known as Arcadiane, was a magnificent colonnaded avenue, renovated at the beginning of the 5th century A.D. in honor of Emperor Arcadius. It was 550 meters long and 11 meters wide leading from the harbour to the theater. The street was paved in marble and had shops and galleries on both sides behind the colonnades.

Harbour Street
The two pedestrian walkways behind  the colonnades were 5 metres wide and paved with mosaics. At night the Arcadiane was lit by torches, making Ephesus, along with Rome and Antioch, one of the three ancient cities known to have had street lighting.

Looking at Ephesus today it is perhaps hard to think of the city being on the water's edge and having a harbour. Thanks to 2,000 years of silting, the sea is now some 7 kilometres away.

There is far more to Ephesus than those buildings/areas I have mentioned in my recent blog posts. To do the city real justice I would need to spend rather more time there than I had available. It is my intention to return to Ephesus at some point in the future and explore further.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Ephesus: the Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates, the Marble Road and the Commercial Agora

The Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates is a triumphal arch located at the end of Curetes Street in the small square that forms the Celsus Library Court. It was built around 40 A.D. by the slave architects Mazeus and Mithridates in honor of the emperor Augustus who gave them both their freedom and sent them to Ephesus to serve as officers in charge of maintaining the properties belonging to the Roman Empire.

The Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates
The 16 metre tall gate has vaulted passages topped with cassettes. The side of the gate that faces the Celsus Library is made entirely of black marble, while the opposite side of the gate is made entirely of white marble.

Centre arch with dedication plaque
The roadway running through the Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates and past the Commercial Agora is known as the Marble Road. The Marble Road also forms part of the Sacred Way with Curetes Street. It was constructed in the 1st century A.D. and its east side was adorned with marble sculptures along its 4 km length.

Pictogram advertising the Brothel 
A woman's head, a heart and a left foot had been drawn on the pavement of the street. This is considered to be one of the oldest advertisements as the message in the pictures, addressed to visiting sailors, gave directions to the Brothel.

The Marble Road
The western side of the Sacred Way was enclosed by the Commercial Agora. Visitors today can still see the remains of the columns standing on a base-wall of 1.7 meters high. This wall was built as a pedestrian walk-way during the reign of Nero, along with a series of stairs both on the north and the south ends of the Agora.

Commercial Agora
Being the most important trade center of Ephesus, the Commercial Agora was built in the third century B.C in the Hellenistic Period. It is in the form of a square with 110 meter sides, and surrounded completely by columns and had covered walkways (Stoa) to protect patrons from the sun.

The north side of the Agora is left open, and the other three sides are surrounded by a portico, in which there are rows of shops. At the center of the Agora was a sundial and a water-clock with a 20 minute cycle.

In addition to the marketing of goods there was also a slave market of beautiful girls brought to the city by sea. It was the second largest slave market of the Ancient World. An inscription found on the wall of agora says "The people of Ephesus express their gratitude to agoranome, (market supervisor) Eutuches, son of Menecrates, for having pre-empted a rise in the price of bread".

Remains of the Stoa (covered walkway)
Busts and statues of the important people of the time would have been erected along the Marble Road surrounding the Agora, and letters from the emperor would have been carved into the blocks of the road for people to read.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ephesus: The Square and Celsius Library

There is a small square on Curetes Street, facing the Celsius Library. To the right of the square stands the brothel and to the left was a fountain, dating to the Byzantine era, and the Gate of Hadrian.

Gate of Hadrian
Interestingly there is a 'Sign Board' in the marble road adjacent the brothel representing a woman's head, a left foot and a pattern of hearts, which is really a pictogram.  It reads "A little bit on the left there are beautiful women, who in spite of their broken hearts will give you love."

Brothel Signboard
It amuses me somewhat that the brothel and library are in such close proximity. I guess it could be argued that both establishments were places of learning.

The Celsius Library viewed from Scolastica Bath
The restored edifice of the Celsius Library stands on the western side of the square. It was originally built as the tomb of Tiberius Celsius Polemanus, Proconsul of the Province of Asia.

The Celsius Library
The two storey building behind the edifice was used a library where manuscripts and parchment rolls were kept. To protect the manuscripts from humidity a passage was built in the masonry, allowing air circulation behind the storage niches.

Celsius Library and Gate of Mithridates
The two storey facade reflects all the architectural characteristics of Emperor Hadrian's period. The building is placed on a podium formed by large steps leading to the first floor and was decorated with beautifully carved Corinthian columns.

In the niches between the doorways of the facade are statues representing Wisdom, Fortune, Science and Virtue.

Facade and Statues
The original statues are housed in the Ephesus Museum in Vienna, the ones on display in the library facade are modern copies.

The Square including Hadrian's Gate, Celsius Library and Brothel
This small square off Curetes Street must have been a vibrant place what with the comings and goings of patrons to the brothel, government officials and scholars visiting the library, and those paying homage to the Emperor Hadrian or visiting the fountain.