Turkey – Hiking from Selge and the Aspendos Theater
Turkey offers day hiking that combines moderate exertion with a journey into the past. We hiked along mountain paths that include parts of Roman construction for Silk Road traffic.
With an early morning start,
we drive to the Pamphylonian city of Selge – one of the most isolated and dramatic of ancient cities. The road narrows as we climb out of a narrow canyon, crossing Roman bridges. The pine forest gives way to chestnut, thorn and olive trees. The conglomerate rocks form lopsided towers, creating a vast, natural stone metropolis.
We arrive at the village of Zelk (modern Selge), populated by formerly nomadic people. As we hike thru the village careful observation reveals many Roman columns and capitals and other architectural elements become raw building materials in stables and farmhouses.
Starting at the impressive Roman theatre,
we are joined by a local guide to explore the remains of the agora, acropolis and city walls.
Today, the village of Zelk
is at the end of a twisting road, but it was once an important hub for trade along the Silk Road. It is a less popular location on the Aegean Coast. Except for the columns and stone blocks that are now a part of stables and homes in the village below, the amphitheater is in decent condition.
We had a guide throughout our trip, but don’t worry about a guide—local women will show you the ruins as soon as you arrive. Additionally, they just so happen to have lovely handmade items that you might be able to persuade them to sell you. From here, it is a short stroll downward through strawberry and osmanthis trees and narrow canyons and
Then we hike down the valley, dropping almost 1000 feet. After about 10K we emerge from the Koprulu Kanyon at the ancient Roman bridge. We stop by the river for a lunch of local fresh fish, at a restaurant overlooking a mountain spring.
Strabo mentions these bridges in the mountainous country which abounded with precipices and ravines and kept the Selgians from being ‘at any time or on any single occasion, subject to any other people’. This one joined two cliffs with one arch across the river far below and its road, cut in the precipice continuedto show itself at intervals, in slabs of stone placed end to end for miles into the hills.
.. here solitude floated up from the vertical gorges, filled with cypress or cedar as if with black spears. The silence buried the sound of its own waters, and a thin haze, spun in the blueness of air, divided one range from another, as if the heights wore haloes… Higher up the oak leaves lifted into sunlight, and their trunks, and those of a tall tree like a chestnut, stood furrowed like stone among the strange hieratic stones. These ribs of rock, symmetrically ranked, descended, one felt, into the hill’s foundations, and the bare rain-washed scaffolding that shows must be a part of the hidden scaffolding of earth. … There was a human kindness about these trees; as there was in the floor of the road whose giant stones we kept on meeting, and in a cistern scooped solid through the rock at the rim of the cliff.. The symmetrical, natural rocks encircled this place and must have made it religious long before the days of known history or the knowledge of the Greeks. Small, pointed hillocks were framed in these formal borders, and … we reached a cemetery of stones and marble fragments scattered under high oak trees and saw the village now called Zerk .. scattered among prostrate columns under a Roman theatre in a hollow.
It was shallow as a saucer and the ploughed fields filled it and small pinnacles surrounded it, where temples had stood on easy slopes. Beyond them, the high peaks rose with unseen valleys intervening.
Another day trip from Antalya takes us to Aspendos
Aspendos theater is one of the best-preserved
examples of Roman theater architecture, standing for almost 2000 years. The theater was built during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century AD and has a capacity of up to 12,000 people.
Aspendos theater is known for its remarkable acoustics and impressive architecture. The seating area is divided into three sections:
* ima cavea, the lowest part of the cavea and the one directly surrounding the arena. It was usually reserved for the upper echelons of society * media avea (Latin for “enclosure”), was open to the general public, though mostly reserved for men. * summa cavea, highest section and was usually open to women and children..
The theater is also adorned with intricate carvings and reliefs that depict the mythology and history of the region. One of the most impressive features of Aspendos theater is the stage building, which is the most complete example of a Roman stage building in the world. The stage is adorned with columns, statues, and intricate carvings, and features two levels of seatingima cavea, the lowest part of the cavea and the one directly surrounding the arena. It was usually reserved for the upper echelons of society for the performers. The theater was used for various events, including gladiatorial contests, theatrical performances, and other public gatherings.
Today, Aspendos theater remains an important historical and cultural site in Turkey and is a popular tourist attraction. The theater continues to host concerts, opera performances, and other cultural events, showcasing the enduring legacy of this remarkable ancient structure.
Again, we hear from Freya Stark
The theatre stands on flat ground, like a box from which the lid has been lifted. Proud, limited and magnificent, there is a prison air about it – a difference as of death and life that one feels between the Roman and the Greek. No landscape stretches here beyond a low and unobtrusive stage, for the easy coming and going of the gods. Human experience, that moved with freedom and mystery, is here walled-in with balconies and columns; its pure transparency, the far horizon window, is lost.
In the Greek theatre, with its simple three-doored stage and chorus undertone of sorrow, the drama of life could penetrate, without any barrier between them, the surrounding vastness of the dark. I have listened to the Hippolytus of Euripides in Epidaurus where the words of Artemis and Aphrodite with the mountain pines and the sunset behind them, become a limpid fear – a play no longer, but nature and all that ever has been, anguish and waste of days, speaking to men.