Everybody’s backyard is different. Fortunately I fought in the Vietnam War from the side of Mt. Fugi just above the tree line and a little too close to the snow. Five years later I was looking over my back fence in Sao Paulo at the ancient Incan home of Machu Pichu. The best thing I liked about living in Mainland China was visiting Hong Kong every thirty days to renew my visa. Now, living in Antalya, Turkey my backyard reminds me of back home in Indiana. At four, five and six I spent a lot of time playing in the dirt on my hands and knees. Every now and then I would find an Indian arrowhead, like the ones I saw on TV.
Three Christmases ago Jane Marie and I walked a couple of blocks of Old Town and decided to move here, where Alexander the Great spent the winter of 333 BC. Homer was storytelling Greek Mythology poetry long before the Greeks had an alphabet. Bellerophon the Greek hero rode Pegasus the flying horse until Zeus dropped Bellerophon out of the sky as a slave in the small village of Tios – two hours by bus from our front porch.
What is known of Termessos’ history commences principally at the time that Alexander the Great surrounded the city in 333 BC; he likened the city to an eagle’s nest and in one of few cases, failed to conquer it.
TERMESSOS (Greek Τερμησσός) was a Pisidian city built at an altitude of more than 1000 meters at the south-west side of the mountain Solymos (modern-day Güllük Dağı) in the Taurus Mountains (modern-day Antalya province, Turkey). It lies 30 kilometers to the north-west of Antalya. It was founded on a natural platform on top of Güllük Dağı, soaring to a height of 1,665 meters from among the surrounding travertine mountains of Antalya.
Concealed by pine forests and with a peaceful and untouched appearance, the site has a more distinct and impressive atmosphere than many other ancient cities.
Termessos is one of the best preserved of the ancient cities of Turkey. The city was founded by the Solims who were mentioned by Homer in the Iliad in connection with the legend of Bellerophon.
Because of its natural and historical riches, the city has been included in a national park bearing its name, the Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park.
Arrian, one of the ancient historians who dealt with this event and recorded the strategic importance of Termessos, notes that even a small force could easily defend it due to the insurmountable natural barriers surrounding the city. The location of the city at the mountain pass from the Phrygian hinterland to the plains of Pamphylia is described by Arrian, Annals 1,26,6. Alexander wanted to go to Phrygia from Pamphylia, and according to Arrian, the road passed by Termessos.
There are other passes much lower and easier to access, so why Alexander chose to ascend the steep Yenice pass is still a matter of dispute. It is even said that his hosts in Perge sent Alexander up the wrong path. Alexander wasted a lot of time and effort trying to force his way through the pass, which had been closed by the Termessians, and so, in anger he turned toward Termessos and surrounded it. Probably because he knew he could not capture the city, Alexander did not undertake an assault, but instead marched north and vented his fury on Sagalassos.
Alexander The Great’s yacht club, founded in the winter of 334 BC at Phaselis, an hour drive south along the coast from our home in Antalya.
PHASELIS (Greek: Φασηλίς) was an ancient Greek and Roman city on the coast of Lycia. Its ruins are located north of the modern town Tekirova in the Kemer district of Antalya Province in Turkey. It lies between the Bey Mountains and the forests of Olympos National Park, 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) south of the tourist town of Kemer and on the 57th kilometer of the Antalya–Kumluca highway. Phaselis and other ancient towns around the shore can also be accessed from the sea by daily yacht tours.
The town was set up by the Rhodians in 700 BC. Because of its location on an isthmus separating two harbors, it became the most important harbor city of eastern Lycia and an important center of commerce between Greece, Asia, Egypt, and Phoenicia, although it did not belong to the Lycian League. The city was captured by Persians after they conquered Asia Minor, and was later captured by Alexander the Great.
After the death of Alexander, the city remained in Egyptian hands from 209 BC to 197 BC, under the dynasty of Ptolemaios, and with the conclusion of the Apamea treaty, was handed over to the Kingdom of Rhodes, together with the other cities of Lycia. From 190 BC to 160 BC it remained under Rhodeian hegemony, but after 160 BC it was absorbed into the Lycian confederacy under Roman rule. Phaselis, like Olympos, was under constant threat from pirates in the 1st century BC, and the city was even taken over by the pirate Zekenites for a period until his defeat by the Romans. In 42 BC Brutus had the city linked to Rome. In the 3rd century AD, the harbor fell under the threat of pirates once again. So it began to lose importance, suffering further losses at the hands of Arab ships, until totally impoverished in the 11th century. When the Seljuqs began to concentrate on Alanya and Antalya as ports, Phaselis ceased to be a port of any note.
Aspendos was an ancient city in Pamphylia, Asia Minor, located about 40 km east of the modern city of Antalya, Turkey. It was situated on the Eurymedon River about 16 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea; it shared a border with, and was hostile to, Side.
The wide range of its coinage throughout the ancient world indicates that, in the 5th century BC, Aspendos had become the most important city in Pamphylia. At that time the Eurymedon River was navigable as far as Aspendos, and the city derived great wealth from a trade in salt, oil and wool.
HERE: ASPENDOS 45 minutes east of Antalya
The Persians captured the city again in 411 BC and used it as a base. In 389 BC Thrasybulus of Athens, in an effort to regain some of the prestige that city had lost in the Peloponnesian Wars, anchored off the coast of Aspendos in an effort to secure its surrender. Hoping to avoid a new war, the people of Aspendos collected money among themselves and gave it to the commander, entreating him to retreat without causing any damage. Even though he took the money, he had his men trample all the crops in the fields. Enraged, the Aspendians stabbed and killed Thrasybulus in his tent.
When Alexander the Great marched into Aspendos in 333 BC after capturing Perge, the citizens sent envoys asking him not to garrison soldiers there. He agreed, provided he would be given the taxes and horses that they had formerly paid as tribute to the Persian king. After reaching this agreement Alexander went to Side, leaving a garrison there on the city’s surrender. Going back through Sillyon, he learned that the Aspendians had failed to ratify the agreement their envoys had proposed and were preparing to defend themselves. Alexander marched to the city immediately. When they saw Alexander returning with his troops, the Aspendians, who had retreated to their acropolis, again sent envoys to sue for peace. This time, however, they had to agree to very harsh terms; a Macedonian garrison would remain in the city and 100 gold talents as well as 4,000 horses would be given in tax annually.
In 190 BC the city surrendered to the Romans, who later pillaged its artistic treasures. Toward the end of the Roman period the city began a decline that continued throughout Byzantine times.
Aspendos is known for having the best-preserved theatre of antiquity. With a diameter of 96 metres (315 ft), the theatre provided seating for 12,000.
The theatre was built in 155 by the Greek architect Zenon, a native of the city. It was periodically repaired by the Seljuqs, who used it as a caravanserai, and in the 13th century the stage building was converted into a palace by the Seljuqs of Rum.
In order to keep with Hellenistic traditions, a small part of the theatre was built so that it leaned against the hill where the Citadel (Acropolis) stood, while the remainder was built on vaulted arches. The high stage served to seemingly isolate the audience from the rest of the world. The ‘scaenae frons’ or backdrop, has remained intact. The 8.1 metre (27 ft) sloping reflective wooden ceiling over the stage has been lost over time. Post holes for 58 masts are found in the upper level of the theatre. These masts supported a velarium or awning that could be pulled over the audience to provide shade.
The Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival offers an annual season of productions in the theatre in the spring and early summer.