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Master Class: Turkish Delight for Valentine’s Day- (part 2)

THIS IS PART 2 of  “Master Class: Turkish Delight for Valentine’s Day”.
You can read PART 1 here. 

Written by Sean Adcock

As a result it contains some impressive arches and galleries running around it under the seating, with steps to access the higher levels of the auditorium. Once again the seating is estimated at 20000 capacity. One starts to doubt the figures as they are the same for all three theatres. Myra felt smaller, perhaps because the seating is not as steep as Aspendos, I also reckon both Aspendos and Side have around 14 more rows of seats.

Myra is also well known for its Lycian rock tombs, many of which are carved into the relatively soft rock of the cliff-face immediately alongside the theatre. These predate the theatre by perhaps as much as 600 years dating back to the time of Alexander and follow a tradition of burying the dead in house or room shaped tombs. It is thought that the Lycians located their tombs on cliffs or near the coast to aid the transportation of the dead souls by winged sirens. You find these rock carved tombs throughout the region, along with numerous other forms of tomb,

One final stop Termessos a Pisidian city established sometime before the time of Alexander, later becoming an independent city sate in the Roman Empire, and situated over 1000 metres up in the Taurus mountains. It is a little remote at the end of a windy track and a stiff uphill slog. Eventually it becomes something of an Indiana Jones experience, a lost city in a jungle, you feel you might be the first visitors since the locals recently vacated it, rather than actually leaving around 1500 years ago.

Termessos Gymnasium emerges.

The tooling on much of the stonework remains impressive today and there are some impressive carved blocks remaining which would have originally decorated the stage area.

Left: Myra Theatre carved theatrical masks.

Below right: Myra rock carved tombs Below Left: Lycian tombs near Simena

most notably stone sarcophagi type tombs, still scattered through the countryside, here I’d imagine most would have ended up as flower beds in someone’s garden by now.

You get the impression, especially along the almost impassable colonnaded street, that all the stone is still there. Elsewhere fallen pillars are embedded in the paths, fragments of brick and tile are everywhere.

It is a ‘raw’ site’, it feels untouched, and probably much the same today as it has been for centuries. Whilst the vegetation and the sites unmanaged nature make it difficult to imagine much of what was there, the sheer quantity of stone and extent of some of the remaining buildings seem somehow to give more of a sense of what was there than any other site I have visited. It was a strange experience.

Termessos Above: Colonnaded street.
Left: Theatre

The defensive walls are impressive (Alexander failed to conquer Termessos, and the Romans didn’t even try) and there is the obligatory theatre, which held only 4200. Mind you 4200 people in the middle of nowhere in the mountains gives food for thought.

Somewhat more tumbled than the others it is magnificently situated. At last a theatre tucked into the hillside like it is supposed to be, beyond the backstage wall the land drops away cliff like. I felt the builders here missed a trick in building a back wall to the stage rather than leaving it open in the Hellenic tradition, letting the natural scenery form the backdrop. Mind you the scenery is so vast that the back wall is dwarfed anyway, and somehow we felt more dwarfed by this theatre than the others. Termessos is very much an enigma.

Just beyond the theatre is an Odeon (smaller theatre) rectangular with imposing 10m high walls almost complete around its perimeter (shown next page). The stonework and quality of dressed stone is magnificent. The Odeon walls are double skinned, not particularly thick they appear to be built of alternating layers of traced stones and throughs.

The remains of the nearby Temple of Zeus are formed from equally impressive stone, although only a single stone thick and traced their size; weight and snugness of fit keep it standing. Mind you I do suspect this could well be extensively restored, some nearby retaining walls show exposed ends of pillar sections amongst

Right: Termessos Odeon stonework exposed at a gap in wall

Byzantine walls/buildings in Turkey, so there has been some reclamation in the past!). Somehow one stone has become displaced, we had a go at replacing it… This was the point at which Brenda said “Well I suppose it’s one way  of spending Valentines day”. Who said I’m obsessed! Goodbye!

Left: Termessos Odeon wall
Below: Temple of Zeus, Termessos

All Photos © Sean Adcock

The Rough Guide to Turkey. 6th edition, 2007.

The content below was copied with the generous permission of the author Sean Adcock.  This Master Class article originally appeared in the Spring  2010 in ISSUE No. 20 of STONECHAT, produced by the North Wales Branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Brittan.  

This entire issue of Stonechat, and many more, are available at  Thank you to Sean for allowing us to provide this content, and please donate to The North Wales Branch.

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