The southern part of ancient Greece was inhabited by a people called the Dorians who occupied the Peloponysian peninsula, including Corinth and Sparta; a number of Greek islands in the Aegean, including Crete and Rhodes; and, a small part of mainland modern day Turkey on the Datça peninsula.
You may have heard of the Peloponysian War (431-404 B.C.) – it was fought between the Dorians and the Ionians, commonly thought of as the Spartans and the Athenians, respectively.
Long before the Peloponysian War, the Dorians had built a commercial and military harbor at the westernmost tip of the Datça peninsula, called Knidos. At its peak, this city, terraced into the surrounding hillside, counted 70,000 inhabitants. It was situated at the confluence of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas where the shifting winds made passage difficult; consequently, many ships found it necessary to stop here while in transit through the area. Knidos was also a great exporter of wine and olive oil; amphora, the ceramic jars used to ship such products, have been found throughout the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Seas.
The drive to Knidos from Marmaris on the mainland is 100 kilometers (60 miles) and takes about two hours. The Datça peninsula is mostly uninhabited. It’s a beautiful drive and unlike anything we had seen elsewhere in Turkey.
The last bit of the drive was a little interesting, and we were particularly amused when, going over this little rise (with a sheer drop-off to the left), we came upon a “Road Narrows” sign.
Today, Knidos harbor is a favored anchorage for yachters and charterboats.
After parking, we hiked up to the Aphrodite Temple for which Knidos was known in its heyday. The circular foundation of this structure was unique compared to all the Lycian, Greek and Roman ruins we have seen in Turkey. Perhaps this is a Dorian thing. In the background you can see the harbor: on the right, the smaller harbor was used by the Greek navy; on the left, the larger harbor was for commerce.
Knidos had been lost to the modern world following its abandonment after the muslim Arab raid of the 7th century A.D., until it was discovered in the early 1800s and looted by an English explorer in the middle of that century (a common theme here). To date, there has been very little excavation of the ruins, but a few explorative pits dot the landscape, the findings piled up on the high land.
I get the impression that white is the Dorian gray.
This relic is supposed to be a sundial:
From the Aphrodite Temple, we walked back down past the Stadium overlooking the commercial harbor.
Then around toward the west where we looked out over the Temple of Dionysus and the Stoa to its right. This was probably where most commerce took place in Dorian times; the stoa were covered rooms, probably used by merchants as stores, offices and, perhaps, storerooms.
After our visit, we drove back to the mainland, another two hours, then wound our way south along the Hisarönü, or Rhodian, peninsula to Bozburun, one of the ports from which yachters set sail for Knidos.
But more on that later.