Sunday, 16 November 2014

The ancient cities of Myra & Simena

Greetings courtesy our lovely driver 'Omar' - a patient, delightful man, with a ready smile, and a fantastic pair of eyebrows.
It was from Demre that the cult of St. Nicholas spread around the world - he was known for his charitable nature and humility. This statue in Demre town square shows him looking like the familiar figure of Father Christmas, however, the image below from a wall painting in his church is probably a more accurate portrayal of him
The ancient Byzantine church in Myra (now Demre) is where St. Nicholas was appointed Bishop in the 4th century. He is an especially important figure within the Greek and Russian Orthodox church.  The church of St. Nicholas dates from 400 - 1100 - it is where he was interred, and his desecrated sarcophagus can still be seen. His bones are said to have been stolen by seafaring raiders from Bari, in Apulia, Italy where they now reside.
Although some restoration and archaeological work is being carried out, the church has suffered the ravages  of countless wars and attacks over the centuries. It was damaged during an earthquake in the 8th century, and in the late 12th century there was a terrible flood causing the city of Myra and the church to be filled with floodwater and alluvial soil. Today's city lies approximately 6 metres above the ground level of the church.
The wall paintings show St. Nicholas depicted as a bishop in the first ever ecumenical council in Nicaea along with other bishops
The First Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine The Great in the summer of AD 325
This wall painting appears to show Constantine wearing a crown on the righthand side and St. Nicholas on the lefthand side of the cross
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A mosaic of Constantine from a lunette in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Many of the wall paintings also show scenes from St. Nicholas's life, and his miracles
Just north of what is now the city of Demre lie the remains of ancient Myra. The foundation date is unknown as there is no literary mention of Myra before the 1st century BC when it is said to have been one of the six leading cities in the Lycian Union. It is believed, however, to date back much further as there is an outer defensive wall which has been dated to the 5th century BC.
Myra is known for its Greco-Roman Theatre, the largest in Lycia, set against a dramatic rocky backdrop. Its double vaulted corridors are still preserved and it has 38 rows of seats. Its facade was richly decorated with theatrical masks and mythological scenes.
The decorative pattern in the centre of this frieze is known as egg-and-dart moulding a standard feature of the Ionic order
On the rock face behind the theatre sits the dramatic necropolis of rock cut tombs. Most of the tombs date back to the 4th century BC and many contain funeral scenes in relief, some scenes portraying the daily life of the deceased. There are still traces of red, yellow and blue paint, so the entire cliff face must have once been a riot of colour. They are called house type tombs and even the beams of wooden houses have been faithfully reproduced in stone.  
A boat trip from the village of Kaleköy (castle village) revealed the half submerged ruins of the ancient sunken city of Simena, dating back to the 4th century BC. During the 2nd century AD there was a downward shift of land caused by a terrible earthquake which resulted in half of the city being thrust downwards and submerged into the water.
The boat passed by the village of Kaleköy dominated by a well preserved castle built by the Knights of St. John when it became a crusader's outpost. Later it was occupied by the Ottoman Empire.
Along the rocky coast could be seen a necropolis of distinctive sarcophagi dating from the Roman period
Nearly two thousand years after the earthquake and a square entrance portal from the ancient city of  Simena still stands defiantly
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Visible remains under the sea. Cut off except by boat from the rest of ancient Simena, it is now home to feral goats 

48 comments:

  1. What a fantastic post, Rosemary - so interesting and as always beautifully illustrated with your wonderful photos. You must be an assiduous note-taker on your travels, as you are able to give us such fascinating information about everything you see. I so enjoyed this. :-)

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    1. That is very kind of you Perpetua - I was concerned that this post was rather lengthy. I don't take notes, but tend to pick up on particular aspects that happen to interest me, and I also collect little bits of paper with relevant information along the way.
      I am so pleased that you enjoyed it.

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  2. Very enjoyable looking at the photos and reading about where you have been.
    Everything is extremely old, and I hope that it's restored at least a little in the future, though I expect some work has been done. Interesting regarding St. Nicholas.

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    1. Dear Margaret - I am pleased that you enjoyed the post, it is incredible to think that much of what we saw in Turkey is at least 2500 years old.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, It is constantly amazing how such monuments can survive over the centuries, through many vicissitudes, both natural and caused by people. It is especially impressive when ancient paintings can survive largely intact. You are very lucky to be able to visit so many of these sites.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I too marvelled at the fact that the wall paintings had survived so many tumultuous periods, wars, earthquakes, flooding and no doubt vandalism, and was also intrigued by the crispness of the stone carving dated between 2100 & 2200 years ago.

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  4. Your photos are fantastic, I remember Myra well.

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    1. Thank you very much Mac n' Jane for your kind comment re the photos - I am delighted that this post bought back memories of your own visit to Myra.

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  5. A lovely tour of somewhere I have never been. It seems incredible that so many things have survived, the tombs are wonderful.

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    1. I loved the tombs too, all of which are pre-Christian, and that is why they are scattered around the countryside and in the rock faces.

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  6. Even in their ruined states, the church, theatre and necropolis are all still magnificent structures! They must have been breathtaking when new.

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    1. It is really amazing Debra how much these structures and monuments have withstood. It makes me wonder how much from today will still be standing in 2500 years time.

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  7. Hello Rosemary - a couple of months ago we did exactly the same trip! We were staying up the coast at Cirali - a a lovely unspoilt place. See http://hastings-battleaxe.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/a-rather-ragged-update-from-cirali.html

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    1. It will be interesting to see your post of the same thing - I will pop over and have a look.

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  8. You visited some fascinating places, Rosemary, thanks to your driver. I expect the trip on the water meant that you saw even more wonderful sights from that vantage point.

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    1. Being on the water was a relaxing why to see the coastline. In that particular area because of the earthquake many of the inlets are cut off from the main town as they only have narrow coastal roads unsuitable for transport. Most of the residents have a boat to get around and leave their cars in the fishing port.

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  9. You do pick some wonderful places to travel to Rosemary and I'm glad you're safely back. The wall paintings are fabulous and the stone work in Myra quite incredible. What a place it must once have been.

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    1. Dear Jessica - Because Turkey sits at the cross-roads between East and West, it has been left with a stunning legacy from many cultures. I was very impressed with the stonework from ancient Myra it was so crisp that it was hard to believe that it was at least 2100 years old.

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  10. Dear Rosemary,

    I think it's great that Omar and digital technology allow you to share with us as you still travel — almost in so-called real time. I think the neoclassic necropolis would be a grand place to reside for eternity, and I guessing it faces an equally spectacular vista. The egg and dart motif is the most sculptural I've seen. It's amazing that it and the masks have retained their form through all the time. Your images of beautiful clear water remind me that St. Nicholas is said to have rescued sailors, in fact was the patron saint of a number of causes. Those unfairly accused is just one, as I recall.

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    1. Dear Mark - I read that St. Nicholas is supposed to have performed about 30 miracles during his life, and several of them were connected with the sea - rescuing three merchants overboard, saving a ship, and saving Demetrios from the sea.
      It is hard to believe that the carved stonework dates back to at least the 1st century BC, it looks as if it could have been done yesterday.

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  11. A thoroughly enjoyable post Rosemary. Our holiday cruise this year took us to many similar villages, monasteries, tombs and ancient cities of Turkey. Thanks for sharing and glad you enjoyed your trip. P x

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    1. Glad that you enjoyed the post Patricia and that it reminded you of your own trip. No doubt we visited some of the same places. More to come shortly.

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  12. Magnificent! Such splendour everywhere, antiquities and nature, too.

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    1. Thank you Merisi and delighted that you enjoyed seeing these images from Turkey.

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  13. It is like a great adventure, just going through your posts, Rosemary. Thank you so much for sharing all this detail. I didn't know the importance of St Nicholas in the Eastern church, and loved seeing the frescos - so beautiful and delicate. The most stunning photo, I think, is the necropolis by the theatre. It is astonishing, in its architecture and its incorporation into the cliff. i would have looked at it for ages.
    I do hope I can post this - been having difficulties with Error 400, whatever that is. We may have to call in the Computer Geeks for help!

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    1. Dear Paricia - I think that if you get an Error 400 you should try and clear your browser cookies, but anyway your comment did post, and thank you very much. I too was absolutely fascinated by the rock tombs, it is amazing to think that they have been there for 2400 years or more.

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  14. Rosemary, fabulous pics.
    Those frescoes are utterly breathtaking - the colors still so lovely.
    What a world out there - if only all the beauty could be preserved peaceably and safely for more of us to enjoy.

    Hugs - Mary

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    1. Dear Mary - as you know, our world is full of beautiful surprises for us to discover. I am always finding out things that I think I should have known about before but didn't.

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  15. Thankyou. Great to get a visual tour if history in other parts of the world. Encouraging me to venture further than France, if money allows. Intrigued how we got from St Nicholas on those walls to our Father Christmas.

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    1. The Father Christmas we know is a perfect example of how a life story can alter and change beyond recognition over the centuries. St. Nicholas was said to be responsible for over 30 miracles many of them to do with saving and helping children.
      These sites in Turkey give the impression of being a whole world away from us but are in fact just a 4 hour flight from London. Istanbul is even less.

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  16. I do so love your posts, they are always so beautifully photographed and the other written information that you give is just so interesting and well written with just the right amount of detail. Thank you so much for this!!! This really was so fascinating and interesting to read. Oh, and yes, Omar does have a wonderful pair of eyebrows!! xx

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    1. Amy - Thank you so much for the lovely comment - you have just made my day♡

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  17. Dear Rosemary - I like to see ancient ruins. What impressed me the most is the rock tombs in the steep cliff face. The view of it is awesome and I guess there must be some ancients’ belief behind that like Egyptian pyramids based on ancient Egyptian idea. Both Turkey and Japan are prone to big earthquakes and traits are seen in some places. A half of the city got submerged in the water by a big earthquake in Turkey while a mountain was moved from one place to another due to the same reason.

    Yoko

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    1. Hello Yoko - Turkey threw up lots of wonderful old remains from antiquity for us to see, more of which later. The rock tombs were really fascinating to see, and I can understand why they would wish to carve their tombs into such a spectacular spot, but cannot envisage how they did them.

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  18. Dear Rosemary, Oh, how I would have loved to be on this trip. It has been many years since we visited Turkey. Like so many people we are reticent to go during these dangerous times. Thanks to you and your beautiful photography and research into history, we are taken along to enjoy.
    Your driver Omar has such a kindly face. I can match his eyebrows to Gene's any day.. Gene has been known to comb his eyebrows in such a way that he looks fierce and powerful which, at times, has come in handy in his business career.

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    1. Dear Gina - I was amused that Gene has been known to comb his eyebrows to make himself look fierce and powerful.
      There was absolutely no problem at all in the areas of Turkey where we travelled it is very safe - the only place that tourists should not visit is near the Syrian border which is a very long distance away. We never for one moment felt any danger, it didn't even cross our minds.

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  19. Wow, amazing!! All these pictures make me wan't to travel so much!!!

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    1. I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the post. Once your family have grown up then you will be able to travel more - time is on your side Marica.

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  20. You visited some interesting places in Turkey Rosemary. I enjoyed your description of Omar :-)

    Have a good week!

    Madelief x

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    1. Thank you Madelief - we were fortunate to have Omar as our driver.

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  21. I love these photos of wonderful place. Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs

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    1. Thank you very much Orvokki - I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing them

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  22. I would love to see those tombs. Sounds like a lot of people took pieces of St Nicholas! Happy that you had such a nice guide..
    Great post! janey

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    1. Dear Janey - we were fortunate with our lovely driver he was a bonus to the trip. Who knows the truth about St. Nicholas? it would appear that he may be scattered far and wide.

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  23. Everything looks so ancient, how lucky it has survived. A few of your images reminded me of Croatia. Did you go on an organised tour again this time? Sarah x

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    1. Yes, we used the same people that we went with last year Sarah.

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  24. Walking in the footsteps of our culture - amazing. Wonderful photos as usual. And you're quite right about Omar's eyebrows!

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    1. Turkey has now surprised us three times, it is definitely a country that is worth visiting.

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