To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child. ~Cicero
Today’s travels took us to Prienne, Militos, and Dydyma for another tour of ancient wonders, ancient cities that today are in various states of decay. The typical term for them is ruins but I am not comfortable calling them ruins for, though they are in disrepair, they are giants of the imagination, giants left over by their creators that inspire awe and wonder in anyone that sets eyes upon their glory.
For today’s tour, our host was again Mustafa. We had not seen him since he and Selma picked us up from the airport upon our arrival in Izmir. Mustafa is a jovial fellow frequently found smiling and always willing to lend a helping hand, or to suggest variations on our tour. He is the cousin of my workmate, Murat, and frequently entertained us with stories of their youth growing up and their antics in these historical places we visited today. Stories such as having a stick fight in the tunnels of the Militos amphitheater.
Each of the sites had a unique personality, each had subtleties in it’s design that captured our attention, that focused our eyes and minds drawing us into historical revelry as we wondered how the ancients lived and marveled at their creations.
Prienne was a sprawling city with a temple to the Goddess Athena. Its backdrop is a sheer mountain wall keeping it safe from anyone trying to attack from the rear. It’s front opened up to a sprawling valley in which enemy troops would be visible for miles allowing the city to prepare for battle. Aside from the temple, we were able to walk through market shops, homes, and a theater. The theater front row and four seats for nobility which were still intact.
Militos primary focal point was a wonderfully preserved amphitheater. It was not preserved in the sense that it was without decay. It was preserved in the sense that we were able to walk the steps, sit upon the bench seats, look down upon the stage area and imagine the ghosts of the actors plying their trade. The theater had some grand tunnel entrances, massive arched entry ways that dwarfed us as we walked into them.
Outside of the theater, we went on safari, walking the grounds where no path existed resulting in us needing to climb stone structures to move between the remnants of many buildings. We were able to get to places off the beaten path and see buildings without other people speaking and destroying the auras of the places we were creating in our minds.
Our final historical destination of the day was Didyma where the Temple of Apollo is hosted. For me, this was the favored of today’s three destinations. The columns there, the three main ones that were still standing were enormous in both diameter, many larger than my six foot frame, and to the height which they extended into the sky. For the columns that had tumbled over the centuries, stones lay all about the place. These were the most massive stones I had seen anywhere over the past days of touring ancient wonders.
As we walked the Temple, I continually marveled at the work of the craftsmen and engineers that moved the design from the heads of artists to the reality of stone upon stone upon stone to create a structure that far surpasses the beauty in designs of today’s more ornate buildings.
The ancients had to transport the raw materials without the aid of a truck, carve the beveled edges, the scallop edges, the figures, the flutes and curves without a power tool or a computer. Then they had to raise these massive sections high into the air, sometimes more than sixty feet up, and balance them atop the others without a heavy crane at their disposal. I continually found myself mouth agape in awe as I walked in and about Apollo’s Temple.
Today was our last day of viewing the remains of the ancient wonders, the last day we walked the ancient marble streets, the last day we stood amongst the giant structures of rock, the giants of antiquated history. Today was also the first day we would have memories of time spent with the ancient wonders, memories that will last our lifetime.