Posts Tagged ‘turkey’

For the Best Greek and Roman Ruins, See…Turkey??

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

With a Ph.D. in Islamic history from the University of Pennsylvania, Smithsonian Study Leader Gary Leiser has taught several courses in Middle Eastern history and published nine books, most on the early history of the Turks in the Middle East. For more on Gary and traveling with him, click here.

It is sometimes said that Turkey has better Greek ruins than Greece and better Roman ruins than Italy. Certainly, the classical ruins of Turkey rank among the best in the Mediterranean world. One site that has always intrigued me is ancient Pergamon (or Pergamum) in the northwest corner of Turkey. Ephesus, to the south, may get more tourist attention today than Pergamon because of the extent of its ruins, but its setting cannot compare to that of Pergamon. The acropolis of Pergamon perches atop a cone-shaped mountain that looms perhaps a thousand feet over the modern city of Bergama. It is approached by a narrow road that reaches the base of the upper walls. After a short but steep walk, you find yourself transported back to the late Roman Empire. Pergamon was the most powerful city in the Roman province of Asia before the rise of Ephesus in the first century A.D.

A sketch of Ancient Pergamum.

A sketch of Ancient Pergamon.


Photo: Golden Istanbul

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
Istanbul at Sunset

Istanbul’s famed Blue Mosque incorporates Byzantine elements with classical Ottoman architecture.

From its Roman remains to its magnificent mosques, Istanbul’s landscape features stunning cultural monuments. The Sultan Ahmen Mosque, more commonly known in the Western world as the Blue Mosque, is the national mosque of Turkey. Built between 1609 and 1619 during the reign of Ahmed I, the mosque features 6 minarets (of which five are pictured above). Not to be outdone by its splendid exterior, the interior is richly decorated with more than 20,000 hand-made ceramic tiles from Iznik. No visit to Turkey is complete without a stop at the incomparable Blue Mosque.

Click here to learn more about our journey to Turkey.

Click here to learn about all tours to Turkey.

The Path from Pergamon

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Janet Jones is Chair and Professor of Classics at Bucknell University and an active field archaeologist specializing in Greek and Roman art and architecture, ancient urbanization, ancient technology. Here, she reflects on the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, in what is now Turkey. Click here to learn more about Janet and traveling with her to Turkey.

The theater of Pergamon can seat up to 10,000 people and had the steepest seating of any ancient theater at the time.

The theater of Pergamon could seat up to 10,000 people and had the steepest seating of theaters in the ancient world.

The first time I visited Pergamon (or Pergamum), I was 16. I was in Turkey as a high school exchange student and visiting some of the ancient sites along the west coast of Turkey with my host family. I remember sitting at the top of the theater, gazing out over the modern city of Bergama, hawks soaring below me, and thinking that I couldn’t imagine a more magical landscape. Perched there, at the top the world, I felt weightless, like I could fly out into space if I didn’t hold on. I looked to the terraces above me and, dizzy, I looked down to the orchestra of the theater far below and felt it anchor me to the hill.

There was so much I didn’t know about Pergamon when I was 16. But that visceral experience of the city was something I have never forgotten, even as I have learned about the city in great detail. I didn’t know then that the designers of the city had planned that very experience—that they had sited the theater with its unforgettable view to serve as the linchpin for a radical departure in city planning. I didn’t know that Pergamon had an experimental design, a radial plan playing off the shape of the theater. No plodding rectangular grid plan for the innovative rulers of this feisty Hellenistic kingdom. And I didn’t know that Pergamon had a high-tech aqueduct system with pressure pipes and secure underground tunnels to bring water from mountain springs up to the city on the ridge. The monumental center of Pergamon along the ridge top was high value real estate, visible for miles, and it sent out clear messages of power and wonder. This powerful little kingdom could handle all comers. Just ask the Gauls! (more…)