It seems appropriate, on our last day of exploration in Turkey before heading to Greece tomorrow, that we would visit Priene, the finest example of Greek ruins in Turkey.
Although a city called Priene is known to have existed as a member of the Greek Ionian League in this area as far back as the 8th century, by the 4th century B.C., it had been relocated inland from the Aegean Sea to a hillside overlooking a bay and harbor.
We walked out to a point overlooking the former bay which has been entirely silted up over the years, leaving a very fertile agricultural flatland that you can see in this photo.
One of the things that Priene is known for today is the Temple of Athena, something my guidebook calls the “epitome of Ionic perfection,” referring to architectural design. It was dedicated to the Goddess Athena by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C.
The Temple was our first stopping point in Priene. The temple’s foundation is fully intact, but most of the columns have fallen down, probably the result of seismic activity.
As we were looking at the pieces scattered about, we noticed that almost all of the column segments had the same markings on their tops and bottoms: a hole drilled in the center; a hole drilled near the outer ring; and, the letters “A” and “B.”
This reminds me a television stand that I recently had to assemble from initially simple sounding instructions (“insert tab A into slot B”) that turned out to be totally incomprehensible as the task unfolded.
At any rate, somebody was able to ultimately figure out the instructions for the erection of Athena’s Temple, as evidenced by these five columns being put up in fine order.
It may not look like it from the photograph, above, but this temple was massive. This picture below might give you a better feel for it (by the way, that circle divided into 8 slices in the foreground was a secret symbol of the early Christians).
We left Athena’s Temple and walked down the way to the other site we came to see…
…the Theater. This one, like all the other structures here at Priene, was built by the Greeks. It’s easy to differentiate the Greek from the Roman theaters because the Roman theaters were semi-circular; whereas, the Greek theaters had a horseshoe shape, that is, a little more than the half circle used by the Romans.
The Theater had other features of interest, too: the honorary city council seats in the front row (if we had had these in Miami Shores, I might have run for a second term as mayor)…
…the sacrificial altar (in the foreground, probably used in the budget-cutting process)…
…and this statute of the beautiful Goddess of Sheep.
The Theater had seating for 5,000, the entire estimated permanent population of Priene who apparently came together to watch the theatrical performances here.
The city council actually used another building for its meetings and assemblies, also built around 200 B.C., that sat just down the hill – the Bouleuterion. This square, roofed structure had seating for 500, perhaps the voting, landed male population, and an altar in the center.
Priene was laid out in a rectilinear fashion of 6 main streets and 15 intersecting avenues, making around 80 blocks. Each block was 16,500 square feet in area (a little more than 1/3 acre), measuring 150 by 110 feet. Fifty of the blocks were used for the construction of residences, the rest for public buildings and spaces.
Nearly all the ruins in Priene are in the Greek style since the Romans, fortunately, seem to have bypassed the city in their expansion into Asia Minor (they did include Priene in the Roman Empire, they just never really occupied it).
It was a nice introduction of what is to come in our journey on to Greece.