Smithsonian Study Leader Kevin Daly teaches ancient languages, archeology, and history and Bucknell University. Daly has excavated in Greece for over 15 years (primarily at the Athenian Agora) and is now co-directing an excavation at Thebes, the mythical home of Oedipus and Hercules. Here, he shares his thoughts from a recent journey through Turkey with Smithsonian Journeys travelers.
This trip to Turkey has been filled with both the familiar and the novel. It had been some time since I had seen sites like Troy and Ephesus, while the Lycian sites and a gulet passage are entirely new to me. The itinerary has brought views of cities both thriving and ruined. Nowhere was the contrast more vivid for me than what we saw in the bustling, modern city of Izmir and the isolated, ancient oracular site of Claros.
Claros was an addition to the schedule that our guide, Akyn, and I thought would add a lot to our itinerary. We had the shrine to ourselves, and as a group we were able to talk intensely and hands-on about ancient temple building, sacrifice, and inscriptions. While Akyn and I had seen Claros before, the fresh eyes and questions of our travelers helped us see it anew. Besides being a treat in itself, this quiet moment at a remote site helped prepare us for the awe-inspiring and busy site of Ephesus.
While our trip was a healthy blend of the modern, the old, and the ancient, my own interests and the interests of the group tended to pull us toward all things archaeological. But daily life intervened regularly, and this intervention was extremely revelatory to us all. Of course in a very real sense daily life quickly enters the archaeological record: a coin is dropped, a house is demolished, or a pipe is laid.
At the same time the present can help us recapture past days. While the Great Fire at Izmir/Smyrna forever altered the landscape of that city, we found echoes of what it must have been like in our strolls through the Old City of Antalya. Our gondola ride to the top of the site of Pergamon elicited questions concerning ancient travel, defense, and hydraulic engineering. The displacement of travel makes these interactions between new and old all the more intense. If Hartley was right in writing that “the past is a foreign country,” we have had a wonderful double journey every day.