My Trip to Europe. Day 4. Tuesday, October 7. Ionia.

Today, I tour other Greek sites in Ancient Ionia.  The coin of the Day is an Ionian coin.

Coin of the Day:  Drachm of Teos, 500-460 BCE
07-00107-002Teos is one of the cities that was in the Ionian League.  This is the only coin I have from any of those cities, and shows a griffin on one side, and an incused quadrangle of four squares on the reverse.  (I suspect that pattern actually helped keep the planchet on the anvil during striking and has no real significance.)

Drachm, by the way, really ought to be pronounced with the ch, as a guttural sound like Scottish Loch or German Ach, but most American collectors just say “dram,” even getting the vowel sound wrong (it should be somewhat like the A in “father” and not at all like the A in “hand”).  If you don’t want to take the chance of spraying that ch on the person you’re talking to, then “drock-um” is still a huge improvement over “dram.”

The modern Greek nation, harking back to antiquity, used the ΔΡΑΧΜΑ–drachma of 100 leptons as their monetary unit before they adopted the Euro (and maybe they got the last laugh–I’ll explain that in a future post).

Priene, Miletus, and Didyma

So now on to today’s tourism, the Ionian cities of Priene and Miletus, and the Sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma.

Here’s the modern map of this part of Turkey.  Kuşadesı (where I spent the night) was at the south end of the day’s travels yesterday; it’s now at the north end of today’s map.  This means, as a practical matter, that we are no longer in the Little Meander valley, but rather in the Meander valley, which means the silting up I mentioned is an even bigger issue here.  I pulled the following straight out of Wikipedia:

You can see various cities of the Ionian league (including some on the island of Samos, which is still Greek territory) and can note just how far inland some have gotten.


After waking up in Kuşadesı, I was picked up by one van, which took me to another van, where I joined my tour group for the day, a couple from Oz.  From there we went to Priene, which is, frankly, not all that well preserved.  Its biggest landmarks are a Sanctuary of Asclepios and a temple to Athena, but there is also an early Christian church and a few other odds and ends.

You will see a man in a white T-shirt in quite a few of the pictures.  This was our guide (and I’ve long since forgotten his name, unfortunately).  He didn’t speak a whole lot, and was oftentimes content to let us wander and make our own discoveries.  When he did talk, as a consequence, his words carried a lot of gravitas.  He described the sorts of awful things that happened to unwanted Roman babies one time, and had our full attention.  A very different style from yesterday, and just as good in its own way.

07-005 This is the city hall.  One wonders how much time here was spent listening to someone complain about his neighbor’s plans to open a business, and all the other issues that seem to occupy city governments these days.

07-006 Here’s a shot down the road towards what used to be the ocean, and is now the flat-as-a-plate silted-up Meander river valley.

07-007 One thing about ancient ruins is you can often get insight into ancient building techniques.  You can see here the iron bar used to tie two stone blocks together, as well as (upside down) a carved letter “rho” used to label the blocks.  I’m not sure what the other holes are but they may have been used to lift the block.

07-008 More of the same.

07-009 Sanctuary of Asklepios.  One of the other people in my tour group actually found a (recent!) ten kopek piece here; evidently some people still leave offerings.

07-010 So walk up this staircase to get to the Temple of Athena.

07-011 07-012These columns were re-erected recently, but apparently the scholarly consensus is that they are about ten feet too short.  I have no idea where they think the mistake might have been.

07-013Pieces of other columns.

07-014Here’s the early Christian church.

07-015And a closeup of the altar

07-016 07-017No Greek ruin is complete without a theater, and Priene had a small one.  Note the larger chairs on the bottom rows, for the most important personages of the city.  I called them “muckey mucks” and the Oz couple had never heard that term before but swore they’d start using it.

07-018None of us could resist playing muckeymuck.

07-019Exiting the theater.


07-020This is enough to make one wonder why they bothered photographing the Priene theater!

Note the arched entryways to the higher levels, a Roman retrofit.  The Romans increased the capacity from about 5300 to 15,000.

Remember earlier I highlighted the iron bars used to tie blocks of stone together?  Look closely here and you will see holes dug into the rock at the joints.  This was due to people in the middle ages (or perhaps later) deciding they wanted the iron in those joints, and treating this theater as an iron mine.

07-022 07-023 07-02407-025The corridors bringing people to the upper levels are gigantic, and as you can see, pretty well preserved.

07-026On the other hand the corridor behind the very top row of seats hasn’t held up so well.  (And it looks like more iron mining took place here, to boot.)

07-027 07-028Two views of the theater from up high.

07-029And don’t forget this is Turkey!

On to the Faustina Baths, established by Faustina, the wife of Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius was the kindly Emperor of Rome portrayed at the beginning of the movie Gladiator, killed by Commodus.  There’s no reason to believe Commodus actually offed his father in real life, but it is true that his rule marks the beginning of the decline of the empire; after a century of stability under the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius) the empire wouldn’t see any sort of stability for over a hundred years.  Commodus, you might say, flushed the Roman Empire down the commode.

07-030There is a lot of these baths left, but it’s difficult to convey the size and complexity of the facility with pictures.  This is a shot I took of a map; I’ll try to figure out what the pictures are of.

07-031I’m pretty sure this is the Apodyterium.

07-032And the Frigidarium (cold water baths).

07-033You get the impression this was a really impressive structure in its heyday.

07-034Caldarium (hot water bath).

Didyma, the Sanctuary of Apollo

This was a surprise.  This place was freaking HUGE, and fairly well preserved, all things considered.  Again, camera can’t give an impression of the sheer size.

This is similar in concept to the Oracle at Delphi.  There was even an oracle here.  But this is not very famous, whereas Delphi is famous.  But (spoiler alert), this one is a far more impressive sight (and site) than Delphi is.

07-035You get a sense for the sheer size of this thing by seeing the people in this picture.  Then note the height of the two pillars that somehow managed never to get knocked over during the intervening millenia.  (Unlike many places we’ve seen, those were not restacked during recent times.)

07-036This aerial photograph shows the general layout.  The previous picture was taken looking from the upper right on this photo.  The courtyard of the sanctuary (right side of picture) has a lot of partial pillars in it, all much taller than we are.  There’s a fenced off area just to the left of this.  Hidden from view are ramps at top and bottom, leading into the large open area on the left, which is a recessed area that the Oracle used.  We circumnavigated the outside of the temple, counterclockwise, bottom edge, left edge, then top edge.  Then we went through the courtyard and took the ramp inside the bottom wall on the picture (to the left, facing the structure).  We then came out the ramp near the top.

07-037 07-038 07-039Before even starting this, however, we looked at some of the fallen down pieces (you can see hundreds of pieces laid out around the footprint of the actual sanctuary in the photograph).  Here are three examples of artwork that survived.

07-040View into the courtyard.

07-041A look at the fancy artwork around the base of a column.
07-042Now beginning to walk along the bottom edge (in the photo) or left side of the temple.  Note most ofthe columns are completely gone, all you can see is a raised spot in the gigantic pedestal the whole thing rested on.

07-043Shot of the standing columns, which are on the other (upper in the photograph, right side as you face the front) side of the sanctuary.  It was impossible to get a good photograph of them while standing right under them.  It turns out though that the bottom ten feet or so have been reinforced with concrete, so that hopefully they will stay standing.
07-044Upper, right side, returning to the front of the temple.  You can see how many layers of stone blocks had to be stacked, just to create the platform for the temple to sit on.  In the distance you can see the bottom part of one of the two standing columns.
07-045Now standing in the courtyard, looking at one of the entrance ramps into the lower area.
07-046Looking down the ramp

07-047Then back up it.  Thankfully the marble on the floor of the ramp is grooved.  (It’s amazing how slippery marble is, particularly after thousands (or even millions) of people have walked over it.)

07-048One of those rare places where an unarched roof survives in part, and it’s decorated.

07-049At the far edge of the recessed area, looking back towards the broad staircase, with the two ramps on either side of it.

07-050Not zoomed in so much, so you can see how big this place is–and the retaining walls are intact.  The area immediately in front of me here is probably where the oracle sat.

07-051Now standing on the steps, for a reverse angle.

07-052Having exited, here’s another column we noticed.

07-053 07-054 07-055 07-056

Closeups of some of the motifs.

After this, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant (fish), then I got taken back to the Izmir airport, arriving back in Istanbul airport after dark.

The hotel staff tells me it’s 45 minutes by public transit to the Sultanahmet area, where my tour of Istanbul jumps off at 8:30 tomorrow.


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