Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alexander the Great in Antalya’s Museum

In the days of Alexander the Great, Antalya did not exist. The city was founded nearly two hundred years later by Attalus II as a comprise in a political conflict. This happened shortly after 158 BC when said Attalus, King of Pergamon, attempted to subdue Side. His plan failed but in exchange, he was able to add a part of Pamphylia to his kingdom. This operation was not free of danger because the Pamphylian cities loved their independency and stood officially under the protection of Rome. Attalus II did not want to ruffle Roman feathers and could not simply occupy any harbor while he desperately needed one as otherwise his occupation of Pamphylia was pretty useless. He solved the problem the diplomatic way by building an entirely new port, which eventually was named after him Attaleia, i.e. modern Antalya.

Under Emperor Hadrian, the Attaleia area became an independent province with a senator as their governor. After serving the Crusaders as a supply port and being conquered by the Seljuks, it finally was incorporated in the Ottoman Empire. The city was famous for its fine wines, but under Islamic law, the tradition of wine-making was lost and replaced by the cultivation of roses. So for the next centuries rose oil for perfumes became the main source of income. More recently the farming of silkworms was introduced.


There is nothing left to see from Hellenistic times in today’s Antalya, only a few traces of Roman occupation. It is said that the Atatürk Caddesi follows the outlines of the old city wall, which is only visible near the Arch of Hadrian built in 130 AD with Corinthian columns in its façade and a worn out Roman road running underneath. This Arch is flanked by two massive towers, cleared as recently as the 1950’s. Another relic is the poor remains of the Temple of Zeus, transformed into a Basilica and later on even into a mosque – now in total ruins and in desperate need for restoration. Otherwise, antique Attaleia remains largely hidden underneath the core of “old Antalya” with its narrow streets and Ottoman houses, widely converted into pensyonlar. The Hidirlik Kulesi at the southern end of the port it thought to date from Roman times, but its role is unclear as some speculate is was meant to be a mausoleum while others believe it was part of the citadel. In any case, this 17-meters high tower served as a lighthouse for a while.

But the true treasure of Antalya is – in my eyes at least – the Archaeological Museum for that is where Alexander is waiting for me.

It is a feast each time I visit this Museum and the thought of seeing all these marvelous statues and well-organized exhibition is very exciting, although I must have been here, at least, four or five times before. There always remains something new to discover, a detail I missed on previous occasions, a statue that now demands my special attention, or simply a name that I now recognize.


Among the archaeologists, for instance, there is the name of Cevdet Bayburtluoğlu 
which I recognize now as the man who excavated Arykanda and most of Lycia for that matter, and whose discoveries and analysis are publicized in his precious guide “Lycia”. The showcases filled with mostly Roman glasswork from Perge and Patara are always worth special scrutiny; as are the terracotta bowls, cups and amphorae; the bronze objects and coins; and especially the rings and other pieces of jewellery. 

Of exceptional quality are the many statues from Perge that once enhanced the large theatre, the baths, the stadium, the Nympheions (fountains) and the Agora. The walls of these rooms have all been painted in pinkish terracotta making sure the statues of emperors and dignitaries stand out against them. Almost each statue has its own floodlight that switches on as soon as the visitor moves close enough. What a treat! I am particularly impressed by the Diana/Artemis and the Hermes attaching his Sandal as I know both statues from the Louvre in Paris, but that upon closer look differ in slight details: the dress, the sandal, the hairdo, the position of the feet. These may all remain unnoticed by the casual visitor but I find this terribly interesting because now I can see for myself that a Roman copy of a Greek original is not always an exact copy!


In the room dedicated to the theatre of Perge, I meet up with Alexander the Great standing tall against a green marble background, pieced together as much as possible and much larger than life-size. He dominates the room – of course. Hi there! He is in good company with an oversized Hermes, Dionysus, and Satyr. Here I also find Plancia Magna, the female demiurge of Perge (literally worker at the service of the people,  a kind of governor that is) who received a place of honour inside the Hellenistic Gate of the city around 120 AD (the base of this statue is still in situ). This shows how emancipated some Romans were in those days! Well, besides this official title, Plancia Magna also was a priestess of Artemis and of the Mother of gods – quite a lady to reckon with!

After an open space filled with mosaics badly needing a scrub down, I arrive among the sarcophagi – a rich collection in all sorts of styles and from different provenances. I’m happy to find the one belonging to the Lyciarch Mausoleum in Olympos with a top lid on which a couple attends a banquet. It pays off to return to the museum after visiting more excavation sites for what previously was only a name can now be mentally placed in its original context. This happened for instance after visiting Limyra as I can now find the long frieze belonging to the Temple together with the special caryatid from the Heron that was built for the Lycian King Pericles in the 4th century BC; I also get a better idea of the Cenotaph of Caius Caesar for which a detailed reconstruction is shown here.

It is a lot of information and a lot of beauty to take in, and I’m happy to relax for a moment in the museum courtyard to enjoy a cup of tea. After that, I take a last stroll under the awning along the objects that are not considered good enough to be taken inside. I’m amazed by the many huge sized amphorae that somehow remind me of Crete and have not suffered any damage at all. Unbelievable!
[Click here to see all the pictures from the Archaeological Museum in Antalya]

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