Just 19 kms east of the city of Antalya stands the ancient city of Perge. According to Greek mythology the legendary origins of Perge date back to the 13th century BC, when the Hittites arrived to Pamphylia, traversing Asia Minor after the Trojan War. The leaders of this movement were supposed to be three famous seers – Mopsos, Calchas and Amphilochus. The first two of them had been recognized as the founders of Perge. At that time, a peace treaty was signed King Kurunta of Tarhuntassa. We will get a lot more information on the Hittites at the fascinating Anatolia Museum of Civilization in Ankara.
The majority of the ruins in this extensive site date from Roman times.
The well-known symbol of Perge, Hadrian’s Arch, is still being restored and reconstructed. According to inscriptions, there were statues of all the families of the gods on either side of the arch. The ornamentation of the Arch served explicit political purposes depicting Hadrianus, his family and the Roman Emperors without “Damnatio Memoriae” (Damnation of Memory”).
The Arch leads into the well-marked ancient shopping streets of the agora, Kule Towerand a stadium.
There are extensive, well-preserved Roman baths.
Apollonius, a mathematician and astronomer who gave the ellipse, the parabola, and the hyperbola the names by which we know them, lived at Perge. Perge was also well known as a sanctuary. There is evidence of an Artemisian temple but the temple itself has not been found.
The real gem sits at the nearby ruins of Aspendos. The superb theatre is much larger and more complete than Epidaurus in Greece; it is the best preserved theatre in all antiquity. Built in 155 AD by the Greek architect Zenon, a native of the city, it holds 12,000 spectators. I had to climb to the top to get a full view of the stage. The acoustics are amazing – I could clearly hear Norman speaking in an ordinary voice at the far end of the theatre. I am so glad I disregarded my temptation to hang out in Antalya instead of visiting another ruin. I am astounded by the number and extent of the massive archaeological sites in Turkey and at the theatre at Aspendos.
We drove on a little further to see the Aquaduct.
One of many pomegranate trees we have seen this trip.
It was time for lunch and Marut had another wonderful plan. We went to a tiny local village and had a fabulous meal made by kind ladies in the traditional way over a wood-fired oven. They were like crepes, done flat over a large sulrface, or like quesadillas, with delicious fillings.
Back to Antalya in just enough time to visit the Archaeological Museum before heading to the Hammam (Turkish baths). We were only slightly rushed and saw the whole museum. We were astounded to learn that the entire contents of the museum, all of the magnificent and detailed statuary, were discovered at the one site of Perge. Visiting the museum after visiting the site is always a must for me – it puts the site visit, sometimes little more than piles of rocks or outlines of walls, into perspective. In the ancient times, the temples were truly amazing and the luxury and decoration were exquisite. Note the subtlety of the positions the statues are in. There must have been a statue between each column at the site.
The statue of Hercules is world-famous, perhaps because of its story. Note the crack along the waist, likely the result of one of several earthquakes. The upper half of the body was discovered by American archaeologists and given to the Metropolitan Museum where it was displayed for decades. Turkish archaeologists discovered the lower half and it did not take long to learn the whereabouts of the missing upper half. After years of pleading, the Met finally decided it was right to restore the upper half to Turkey, and the two were reunited. There were approximately 60 versions of the bronze made in antiquity but these two are believed to be one version and the archaeologist who studies the versions advised to name this “The Heracles Farnasi of Perge.”
The Hercules Sarcophagus also was a highlight. All of the 12 labours of Hercules are featured, starting when he was young and carrying on throughout his life, with the face showing his age as the scenes progress.
Driven mad by Hera (queen of the gods), Hercules slew his son, daughter, and wife Megara. After recovering his sanity, Hercules deeply regretted his actions; he was purified by King Thespius, then traveled to Delphi to inquire how he could atone for his actions. Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, advised him to go to Tiryns and serve his cousin King Eurystheus for twelve years, performing whatever labors Eurystheus might set him; in return, he would be rewarded with immortality. He did complete all twelve labours*, and I think these marbles attest to his immortality.
The Dionysus Sarcophagus (god of wine) also is exquisite.
We quickly made our way back to the hotel where we were met with a driver to the Hammam. This was a real Turkish bath, quite different than the one I had in Andalusia. In this one, there was in fact no bath or pool at all. First, we peeled off to the separate Ladies only spa. After changing, we were alll with little warning splashed with hot water and told to lie down on an enormous round sort of hot marble table. When we couldn’t bear the heat any longer we each had our own little sink and rinsed off with cool water. Directed to a bed, we were thoroughly salt-scrubbed with a loofah and then a wash of soap suds was poured over us. Next, we were wrapped in hot towels and received apple tea and water. A short time later, four at a time, we received wonderful oil massages of about 30 minutes, while the ladies cheerfully chatted in Turkish and we all laughed trying to break the language barrier. We were thoroughly melted and felt relaxed for days afterward. Needless to say, there are no photos.
Dinner was so good last night that we returned to our seaside aerie for another lovely meal.
That was a day! I couldn’t have possibly done all this without the wonderful arrangements by our guide, Marut.
*PS In case you are interested, the 12 labours of Hercules, which he completed, were:
- Slay the Nemean lion.
- Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
- Capture the Ceryneian Hind.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
- Slay the Stymphalian birds.
- Capture the Cretan Bull.
- Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
- Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta.
- Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
- Steal the apples of the Hesperides.
- Capture and bring back Cerberus.