Two Ruins, a Snake and a Football Match


There was more than Helen and Aphrodite at the Troy Museum, including, of course, lots of information about the archaeological site, so it was a good place to start.


The 9 layers of civilizations that had lived at Troy confounded archaeologists looking for the city described by Homer in the Iliad and Odysseus and supported elsewhere in historical records.  In the late 1800’s, German Heinrich Schliemann was a businessman in search of the elusive Troy treasure.  It wasn’t until after his death that his student, Wilhelm Dorpfeld, identified the city walls of Troy VI and concluded that the Trojan War took place at this level, which he referred to as “Homeric Troy.”


About 40 years later, American Carl Blegen began further investigations and excavations, meticulously recording his discoveries.  He identified 47 layers of civilization using more advanced technology based on pottery.


Another 50 years later, Turkish professor Dr. Manfred Korfmann proved that Troy was an Anatolian Bronze Age city with a fortified lower city.  In 1998, the site was designated a UNESCO world heritage site.

We visited the archaeological site.


The Athena Temple Troy VIII/IX


The Citadel Wall Troy II/IIII


Main Entrance to the Citadel


The Megaron Troya II/III


Troy I Fortification Wall (2920 BCE).  In front of the tower stood at least one stone stele with relief decoration showing the upper half of a human figure.  The tradition of such stelae seems to live on at Troy for centuries:  over 1,000 years later such stone stelae reappear in front of the south gate of Troy VI.


The “Schliemann Trench” was carelessly dug, not employing the careful techniques used later.


An example showing the actual levels of civilizations at Troy


Roman constructions from Troy VI/VII


Research continues, but the current thinking is that archaeological evidence confirms Homer’s stories about the Trojan-Greek wars although he appears to have drawn from numerous different wars across time.   There is also archaeological support for the stories about Helen.   The Trojan Horse, to this date, remains elusive and given it was made of wood, seems likely to remain the stuff of legend.


This afternoon we drove on to Pergamon.  Pergamon comprises two sites:  the acropolis atop a mountain above the Bakircay Plain, and Asklepion, a renowned and earliest known healing centre below.  Surveyors for the railway discovered the sites which date to the 3rd century BCE.

German archeologists discovered the Great Alter at Pergamon and  shipped most of it to Berlin for research and restoration.  That is how I came to see the magnificent Great Alter at the Berlin Pergamon Museum.  Of course now, the Turkish people would like it to be returned.


The Acropolis

The acropolis was the capital of the Hellenistic (Greek) Attalid dynasty, a major centre of learning in the ancient world. Monumental temples, theatres, stoa or porticoes, gymnasium, altar and the second most important library Alexandria were set into the sloping terrain surrounded by an extensive city wall. Later the city became capital of the Roman province of Asia. The acropolis crowns a landscape containing burial mounds and remains of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires in and around the modern town of Bergama on the lower slopes.

We had the luxury of a cable car, but one can appreciate the engineering and ingenuity necessary to build the original acropolis.



The massive cisterns provided the acropolis with water.


The site contains the steepest ancient theatre in the world:


The most important temple in the acropolis is dedicated to Zeus.


The agora – bazaar/market/shopping mall – is divided into various shops.



We visited the site of the ancient healing centre, Asklepion.  It must have been gorgeous, with a marble collonade surrounding the grounds and several marble temples and treatment areas.  


A natural spring that was used for treatment still spills from the spout here.


The small amphitheatre was used for sharing research and discussions about treatment.


Treatment rooms were accessed through a long tunnel.


The first known centre for health, treatments were innovative, including diet, baths, exercise, music therapy and dream interpretation. The centre developed a reputation throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, similar to the reputation the Mayo Clinic has today.  Asklepius, the centre’s founder,  proved blood circulated through veins in the human body.  He treated battle wounds, burns, frostbite, a full range of illnesses.

The Greeks regarded snakes as sacred and used them in healing rituals as snake venom was thought to be remedial and their skin-shedding was viewed as a symbol of rebirth and renewal.    Asklepious decided to raise a snake of his own. He most probably chose one from Epidaurus in nearby Greece, where the snakes were known to be tamer.   He also founded a healing centre at Epidaurus and in hopeless cases, he experimented with sending patients into a pit with vipers, as it was thought that they were gatekeepers of the Underworld and would prevent them from going there.   His life forever after would be closely connected with the snake.  The staff of Asklepious with the snake entwined around it came to be the sign still used today to represent health and medicine.  Ironically, as we entered the centre, we came across a large snake.  I did not stick around to take a photo, nor did I seek a snake treatment, though I do agree he came to us from the Underworld. 😱

The World Health Organization Flag:



A pastoral scene and the lovely Turkish pines met us as we left Asklepion.   The skies have been hazy for a couple of days due to a north African sandstorm.


Leaving Pergamon, we passed through Izmir, now a modern city but was an ancient city then known as Smyrna.  Then as now, the city is prized for its mild climate, fertile soil, and a large, protected harbour.  Smyrna is mentioned in the bible and was the birthplace of Homer.

Arriving in the lovely seaside city of Kusadasi was exciting.  Ramadan is being celebrated this month and this weekend was also the celebration of the founding of Turkey.  Added to that, there was a pop/rock concert being held in the main square, and, precisely at the moment we arrived, we saw bars packed with people, all throwing their arms up in the air and then pouring into the streets.  Turkey had just won the Euro Cup of soccer.  But as per the experience of all of this trip to date, perfect planning by Norman and Julie of Royal Heights and Marut of Fez Tours landed us in a 12th floor restaurant where we had a bird’s eye view of the celebrations below.  It was a cacophony of horns, cheering, music and fireworks.




2 thoughts on “Two Ruins, a Snake and a Football Match

  1. An incredible coverage of historical Troy.The best that I’ve ever read.This has been an amazing journey from the very beginning with you Jan.XO Joyce

  2. Jan, what a trip! Thank you for taking us along and for the very interesting history lessons you have provided. I look forward to talking to you in person about your trip. Barb

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