Queen of the East: Antioch


tyche antioch

Bust of Tyche, Antioch coin from the time of Nero (54-68 AD)

Antioch on the Orontes opening her threshold either to Anatolia or Mesopotamia is considered as a city of a meeting place of many different civilizations. Being located at the easternmost end of  Mediterranean coast and on the main trade route between Asia and Egypt, she eventually became the place of a great library and a noted school of philosophy in Roman period. She was the Queen of the East and played a key role in the development of  myths, faiths and philosophies. In order to listen to the story of Daphne and Apollo, one goes to the suburb of Daphne (today’s Harbiye) which is five miles away from Antioch.


Daphne fleeing from Apollo

There are beautiful waterfalls to explore which are believed to be formed from the tears of Daphne. What a beautiful story to tell! Ancient Romans were telling these stories all the time and the artists adorned the villas with beautiful mosaics. One of well known theme was Daphne and Apollo.

Harbiye Şelalesi-2

This place also hosted the Antioch games (the Olympic Games).Later, in the first century AD, Antioch became a shelter for the followers of the Jesus Christ. St. Peter took refuge from the Herodian persecution and lived in Antioch till he left for Rome. His cave was later changed into a church by the Latin Crusaders.


St. Peter’s cave-church, Antioch

ortodox kilisesi antakya

Orthodox Church located in the old city of Antioch

Long before, Antioch was part of the Hittite Empire (1900-750 BC). Besides the beautiful Antioch mosaics, remarkable Hittite remains were uncovered in the excavations and they can be visited at the archaeological museum of Antioch. In the entrance of the Hittite exhibition, you are immediately struck by the wide open almond shaped eyes  (inlaid eyes made of white and black stone) of a colossal statue looking at you. This is the Hittite king Şuppiluliuma who is holding a single shaft of wheat in one hand and a spear on the other. Spear might represent his military power and defense against the enemies and the bunch of wheat being a symbol of fertility might signify the importance of agriculture to prevent his people from starvation.


Hittite King Şuppiluliuma, Archaeological museum of Antioch

After the Hittites, the most well known dynasty that ruled Antioch was the Seleucid empire. Their capital city called Seleucia Pieria was located 18 miles far away from Antioch. One can still explore the remains of the city. Among them, Vespasianus Titus Tunnel ( 1st century AD) is a must-see place  located within the boundaries of the ancient city. The tunnel was built digging the mountain to divert the floodwaters threatening the harbour.

vespasian tunnel

Vespasianus Titus tunnel

sevil antakya

Outside the church of St. Peter

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“Stone Age Questions raised by Göbeklitepe site” by Judith Starkston


      Judith Starkston at Tilmen Höyük (tell/mound) in southeastern Turkey

When Judith Starkston read my recent post on Göbeklitepe and watched its documentary on National Geographic Channel, she beautifully summed up the whole information and wrote a post on her blog.  If you would like to read more about Göbeklitepe you can look at her web page down below. She is a historical fiction writer. Her first novel called “Hand of Fire” takes you to ancient Troy to a legendary war and her second recent novel “Priestess of Ishana” takes you to the Hittites’ Land in Anatolia. You meet her heroines and heroes like Homer mentioned thousands years ago, but her historical fantasies give you the chance to learn more about history. Thanks to Archaeological excavations and researches that they give us lots of information about the past and you see that Judith’s main Muse is archaeology and its myths. She entagles with ancient ruins before entering her wondrous realm of fantasy writing. She is a story teller like Homer ( a name given to a person/people or to a whole culture/a collection of stories through time?) who tells us beautiful stories with authentic tastes. You can find her books on Amazon.


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A Gigantic Stone Age Site “Göbeklitepe”


Göbeklitepe, a unique prehistoric site (called belly hill because of a depression which looks like a belly button) is one of the most significant archaeological discovery of the 21st century. Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist who rediscovered it in south-eastern Turkey in 1994,  believed that it is the site of World’s oldest temple. The megaliths, T-shaped pillars found at Göbeklitepe predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years and were built before agriculture.

göbeklitepe drawing

Till its discovery we used to think that agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art, and religion. Now, it is accepted as an early evidence to claim that hunter gatherers built it to worship before they made pottery and even before the rise of agriculture.

detay göbeklitepe

However, Göbeklitepe people were true artists of their time. They knew how to represent their tékhnē, art work. They adorned their T -shaped pillars with the reliefs of totem animals, such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, leopards, vultures, eagles and wild boar. Today, when one visits the site and starts looking at them can be easily caught up with  a quick evolutionary journey of humankind. She or he admires the creativeness of such a stunning primitive impulse . Yet, it is still hidden  in the land of Mesopotamia which became the cradle of civilizations. Thanks to Archaeology: The more we travel into the future, the more we learn about the past.

If you want to learn more about Göbeklitepe, World’s oldest temple so far, you can watch the documentary on it below  and meet Klaus Schmidt who passed away in 2014.

May he rest in peace.


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Cunda-Moshonisia (Alibey) island

cunda denizdenCunda is one of the 23 islands of Ayvalık town lies on the Aegean coast of Turkey opposite the Greek island Lesbos. Once you come to Ayvalık town, you drive by the sea shore and than pass a bridge to reach the island of Cunda. The old windmills being on the top of the hilly area of the island seem to welcome you with their roofing look like Chinese hats (canonical hats!). After you leave the windmills behind and drive down the road on the left, you reach her harbour. The streets that you pass by have some of the most beautiful stone houses, ornated with colourful flowers and wooden doors. You can feel the breeze of their sweet fragrances, and understand the reason why the local Greeks used to call it as “Moshonisia, the island bearing beautiful odor”. You immediately promise yourself to stay here at least one night. Her mystical history and beauty draw you to learn more and you tell yourself that “you can not miss the opportunity of this desire”. First, you taste a cup of Turkish coffee at one of the cafes by the harbour and start watching the fishermen making their preparations for the next day.

You keep sitting by the shore and watch the scenery of the small islands’ lie side by side. You do not realize how the time passes by. Then, you begin strolling through her streets. Every house has its own story to tell, but you keep walking passing each one in silence. Your steps brings you to an old church called “Taksiyarhis”, one of the reminders of the past. It is a restored church changed into a museum with remarkable frescoes. One of the frescoes attracts your attention immediately. It depicts the Cross with a North Star lying beneath the Heaven and above the Earth .

You try to remember if you have seen a similar depiction in one of the churches of old Constantinople in Istanbul or in another place in Turkey. Having this question in mind, you finish the day with an amazing sunset at the harbour of Cunda.

sevİl cunda 2

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The New Year’s 1st Mounth January, Janus, the god of endings and beginnings

January as a mounth name derived from Janus, a Roman god represented with two heads; one of his face looks back into the past, the other looks into the future. He is known as the guardian of time since his images were placed above doorways. He is usually depicted holding a royal sceptre/staff (Heavenly father) in his one hand, and a key (a key to the eternal secrets) in his other hand. The opening mounth janua “the gate” of the year was sacred for him. His female counterpart is known as Jana. They are sometimes represented together. They both symbolize winter and summer solistices. Winter solistice was also related to the festival of the NewYear’s Day, when people gave each other presents, consisting of sweetmeats, honeycakes, rigs and copper coins having double heads.

janusjanus and jana.jpg

However, winter and summer solistices have been symbolized by different images of various gods and goddesses since the prehistoric times. Ancient people loved to express nature forces and events with anthropomorhic images like the ones above.

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Cité de Pera (Flower Arcade)

While walking through the old part of Beyoglu (Istiklal avenue), you’ll come across an eclectic Ottoman building called Cité de Pera just opposite Galata Palace, today’s Galatasaray Lycee. It might remind you some of the 19th century buildings in Paris and Vienna with their beautiful architectural ornaments on their facades.

a06f8b27c1c7b55e93b89a3501016012                                                      Colbert Pavillon, Louvre-Paris

Istanbul 2013 043                                                                     Cité de Pera

The first thing that attracts your attention among the exaggerated architectural lines and ornamentation of the building is the two Caryatids standing above the engaged columns on the left and right side of the main arched entrance. These two ladies look like the stagehands ringing the curtains up, even though they are the imitations of the Hellenistic caryatids look as if they were supporting the upper architectural element above their heads.

Being commissioned by banker Hristaki Zografos Efendi, Cité de Pera was built as a new type of shopping arcade in 1874-76 by Cleanthe Zanno. When the Florist’s Cooperative moved here in 1930, it was named Flower Arcade. In 1950’s it has become an arcade full of pubs and fish restaurants. Today, the caryatids continue to welcome many people day and night as they used to do in different architectural contexts of the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Renaissance times.


Here, in Istanbul they are some of the youngest sisters of the Limyra caryatids located in southern Turkey at  Pericles’ Heroon in Limyra.


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Archaic Greek in the Modern World

An endangered Greek dialect which is spoken in north-eastern Turkey has been identified by researchers as a “linguistic goldmine” because of its startling closeness to the ancient language, as Cambridge researcher Dr Ioanna Sitaridou explains.



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“Nowhere else could we have started the Hogarth Press, whose very awkward beginning had rise in this very room […] Here that strange offspring grew & throve; it ousted us from the dining room […] & crept all over the house. And people have been here, thousands of them it seems to me”

Virginia Woolf’s Diary, 9 January 1924


Hogarth100 poster

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Hittite Spring Equinox: Purulli Festival

“Let the land prosper and thrive, and let the land be protected”…..from the myth of the Illuyanka.

musicians hittite

Spring equinox was  celebrated as a fertility ritual  in the Land of the Hatti.  The celebration of these rites were reflected on some rock reliefs that were discovered  in Ancient Anatolia.  A cuneiform tablet found during the excavations contains a reference to ‘the mighty festival of the beginning of the year’ when all the gods have gathered and come to the house of the Hattic  Weather God  (Teshub) and the Hurrian sun goddess Hebat to eat, drink and pronounce the life of the king and queen and the life of heaven and earth’.


Hebat, sun goddess of Arinna from Central Anatolia, exhibited in Metropolitan Museum

Spring equinox was the New Year Festival known as Purulli (Festival of the Earth)  at the vernal equinox in the Land of Hatti and it is believed that Yazılıkaya was the most likely place where the celebrations took place and ended in a sacred marriage.  The purpose of the festival was to reinvigorate the earth and overcome the stagnation of winter.

yazılıkaya  yazi 3

Yazılıkaya Hittite sanctuary

The vegetation renewal myth of the festival reenacts the drama of the battle between the weather-god of Heaven and the dragon Illuyanka who represents a repetition of the first time, when real chaos was defeated and cosmos emerged.


Teshup kills the dragon illuyanka, Anatolian Civilizations Museum at Ankara

Hittites’ land and Ankara can be visited in three days escursion. Ankara Anatolian Civilization museum has the unique collection of the Hittites’.

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Ortaköy: A pretty village on the Bosphorus

The knot of fear                                                                                                                          United in peace                                                                                                                               Every now and then                                                                                                     Juxtaposed                                                                                                                                           Just a few steps apart                                                                                                                    Looks at each other compassionately                                                                                                  On the shores of Istanbul                                                                                                                 The Ezan                                                                                                                                              The Bell                                                                                                                                                 The Hazan                                                                                                                                           Beki L. Bahar


This pretty village lies on the European side of Bosphorus. When the Byzantine emperor Basil commissioned a famous monastery here, the village was called as Haghios Phocas. At her cape, a 19th century Ottoman mosque takes everyone’s attention stretching out on the waters of Bosphorus. Once, this point was called as Kleidon, the key of bosphorus, and the Ortaköy mosque adorns it with its rococo ornaments.


The wide waterfront square of the village, formerly acted like a mouth of the Ortaköy river which was ending in Bosphorus. Today, this old river  bed cuts the valley vertically as the main avenue of the village. On the contrary, the waterfront square functions as the main gathering place of the writers, poets, artists, students and visitors. One can find all different kinds of entertainments here full of cafes, bars and restaurants. A half day can be spent here to explore the historical buildings such as the 19th century Ottoman Feriye palaces (Galatasaray University), its police station (Feriye restaurant), Esma Sultan Palace, Fehime Sultan and Hatice Sultan Yalıs, 18th century Damad Ibrahim Pascha Fountain, 16th century Ortaköy Hamamı (Turkish bath), 19th century Hagios Phocas Church, and Etz Ha-Hayim Synagogue.


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