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    x0x HOME OF SAPPHO AND HOMER By Nermin Baycin Theirs was a tranquil land. They engaged in no great battles that changed the course of history, boasted of no
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 30, 2003

      By Nermin Baycin

      Theirs was a tranquil land. They engaged in no great battles that changed
      the course of history, boasted of no marvellous achievements, nor put up
      heroic stands against conquering armies that became the stuff of legend.
      Instead they busied themselves in their fields and produced olive oil.
      Compared to their neighbours, the enterprising Ionians, they led
      unassuming lives, but no one could surpass their goat hair fabrics, or
      their poet Sappho of Lesbos (7th-6th century BC) who wrote, 'For you I
      will bring a white goat to the altar.'

      About 500 years later the celebrated historian and geographer Strabo
      declared in his Geographika, 'I know of no other woman who could even
      pretend to rival Sappho as a poet.' And other enchanting voices echoed
      from this quiet country: Pittakos, one of the seven wise men of ancient
      times, the poet Alkaios, Terpandros, creatior of the septonic scale,
      Arkesilaos of Pitane (the modern CandarlI) who became head of Plato's
      Academy in Athens, Hesiod of Kymeli (the modern AliaGa) whose Theogonia
      (The Creation) is one of the masterpieces of ancient literature, and
      Homer, the greatest poet of all time. All once breathed the air of the
      country known as Aeolis. They were descendants of the Aeolians, the first
      tribe to migrate from mainland Greece to the western shores of Asia Minor.
      Their ancestors from Thessaly and Boeotia crossed the Aegean Sea in ships
      approximately 3100 years ago, establishing colonies all along the coast
      from the Gulf of Edremit to izmir, and on the Aegean islands.

      They were the vanguards of Hellenic civilisation, which would begin to
      shine out in the 9th and 8th centuries BC. The Aeolians attributed their
      legendary origin to Agamemnon, king of kings and commander of the Greek
      forces in the Trojan wars, and a connection with the Amazons was asserted
      by some. But the most important legend was that explaining the origin of
      the word Aegean, which derives from the ancient Greek words Aegaios and
      Aega meaning goat.

      Myth relates that Aegeus, king of the Athens, sent his son Theseus as a
      sacrifice to the Minotaur, a monster half bull and half human, which lived
      in a labyrinth in Crete. If his son came alive out of the labyrinth his
      ship was to hoist a white sail. With the help of the king of Crete's
      daughter, Theseus slaughtered the Minotaur, so putting an end to the
      annual human sacrifice which the monster demanded. But upon his return he
      forgot to raise the white sail, and his father Aegeus threw himself into
      the sea in grief, supposing his son dead. From that time on the sea became
      known after him as Aegaios Pontus. This legend spread far and wide,
      crossing the Aegean Sea to a city on the slopes of Yunt DaGI, a mountain
      between CandarlI and Manisa. Its name was Aegai, that is 'the people of
      the goats'. One of the oldest of the Greek settlements in Anatolia, the
      site of this Aeolian settlement is known today as Nemrudkalesi, and lies
      close to the village of Koseler. The ruins of Aegai, amidst terebinth and
      oak trees, are still able to impress us with the former magnificence of
      this ancient city. Despite their great age the high city walls with their
      finely crafted masonry are in a remarkable state of preservation. These
      alone make Aegai one of the most important ancient sites in Turkey. The
      sections dating from different periods carry us on a journey through time.

      The earliest sections dating from the archaic period (7th and 6th
      centuries BC), remains of which are extremely rare, provide the best
      evidence of the city's great age. Other sections date from the Hellenistic
      period, and the latest from the Roman period. The 80 metre long
      three-storey agora building, with its walls still rising to over 10 metres
      in height, is an astonishing sight, contrasting as it does with the
      tumbled ruins around it. The ground storey of this building opens onto the
      street, and the top second storey onto the agora. Here you can see a rare
      fragment of a mushroom-shaped column capital of the type unique to Aeolian
      architecture. On the upper terrace of the theatre are two temples thought
      to have been dedicated to Zeus and his warrior daughter Athena. A third
      small temple at the western end of the acropolis was dedicated to Demeter,
      goddess of fertility, and her daughter Kore. Below, in the Kocacay Valley,
      you come across another temple, that of Apollo, to whom despairing kings,
      nobles, peasants and slaves applied for knowledge of their future fate.
      The Aegaeians lived a peaceful, untroubled life, at a safe distance from
      the Persians whom they regarded as barbarians and who ruled much of the
      region between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. They never joined forces with
      Lydia, which threatened the Greek colonies and held them to tribute, or
      became members of the Maritime League of Delos, originally established in
      opposition to the Persians, and which subsequently became a powerful
      political force and trade monopoly. Instead of sinking into obscurity like
      most Aeolian cities, Aegai enjoyed a new period of renown after becoming
      part of the Kingdom of Pergamum in 218 BC, in the wake of Alexander the
      Great's conquests. The Aegaians quietly submitted to whatever power
      happened to be enjoying supremacy at the time, and with the stubborn
      determination of goats succeeded in preserving their identity for longer
      than any of the other twelve major cities of the Aeolian League.

      * Nermin Baycin is an archaeologist
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