Abandoned and Unexcavated: the charms of Termessos
Amidst a fairly busy schedule in Turkey this week, managed to occupy a day off with a trip into the mountains above Antalya to the abandoned city of Termessos. It’s power and wealth derived from controlling the only local pass through the mountains – but its construction, so high and so elaborate (temples, theatre, agora, civic buildings, many houses etc), must have been an astonishing feat of engineering and endurance.
It had a proud history – it managed to beat off Alexander the Great’s advances, and remained a client kingdom (rather than full colony of the Roman Empire). There is mystery as to why it was abandoned, but its inaccessibility (resulting not least in its need for channelling water to the city via complex aqueduct systems) surely contributed. But this is one of the reasons for its remarkable survival, albeit in ruins.
But to excavate and study properly…? It has never happened – because one would have to circumnavigate both the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of National Parks (because of the rare wildlife on the mountain) and that bureaucratic quagmire has deterred all would-be Arthur Evanses so far. Tragic. Who knows what is hidden beneath the scrub and scree.
But what a place! I had a couple of hours wandering around on my own (the guide I’d thought I’d booked turned out just to be a driver – but that was actually fine in the end). I even had 20 minutes all on my own in the theatre until a tour group pitched up. I tried to dredge up some of the school-memorised Greek verse to declaim and could only remember a couple of 1st lines. Should have come far better prepared.
Οὐκέτι που, τλημον σκοπέλων μετανάστρια πέρδιξ…
Μακαρίζομέν σε, τέττιξ,
About a wandering partridge (περδιξ) and a grasshopper (τεττιξ) respectively! More importantly, it was a stunningly beautiful November morning – mild, bright, with a gentle breeze, accompanied by the sounds of wilderness and the ghostly echoes of countless dramas (theatrical and actual) from this ancient hive of human activity. A very special place.
Here are a few snaps. A fuller selection on my Flickr page.