Antandros Antik Kenti – Falling Into a Well

Recently, as I do all too often, I walked through an airport. In a gigantic room, before Departures, a modern artist has installed a series of white lights. The room is pitch black. A plaque, I imagine read by virtually no one, explains his work. In this, place of journeys, he wants to make people aware that walking through his opera, at this very moment in time, is a direct result of each and every footstep we have taken up until that instant in our lives. This might seem a little obvious, but his words, read bleary eyed before a 6 a.m flight have stayed with me and provided a surprising, morale boosting even, much needed encouragement for my future.

We are all on journeys, but some seem a little more aware of where they are headed than I have been lately (perhaps ever?)

Muezzin Call To Prayer - Best Alarm in The World?

Muezzin Call To Prayer – Best Alarm in The World?

Sitting in Ayvalik, Turkey, waiting for a morning ferry to Lesvos, Greece, I was awoken this morning by the 4.50 a.m call to prayer of the Muezzin of Camlibel. Here everything, and hence everyone’s journey is historically based of course on a very fatalistic acceptance of whatever happens – Inshallah, if Allah wills it. In the land of philosophers to which I am bound, they created the stoic tradition; making the best we can of immovable situations by adjusting our responses to them. Whatever the truth, it can at times seem as though there is frightfully little room for manoeuvre.

I have spent two weeks now in Turkey, visiting sites where some of the greatest thinkers who ever lived, thought.

I have once again lead groups, guided and explained, pointed out and advised. One such thinker, Thales (from Miletus) on being asked ‘What is difficult?’ Responded, ‘To know oneself’. ‘And what is easy?’ ‘To advise other people’. Recently, as he did, I have perhaps been guilty of gazing at skies and falling into wells. One such ‘well’ I stumbled into only this week. The incredible site of Antandros, in the land of Troad, Gulf of Edremit.

The Journey of Aeneas - A Man on a Mission

The Journey of Aeneas – A Man on a Mission

Whilst visiting and dreaming of Assos, Troy and Ephesus across the horizon, it turns out virtually under my feet was another archaeological site. I was given a unique opportunity to visit and as such was reminded of one of the most amazing journeys ever undertaken on earth. A story of sacrifice, hardship, luck and fate, but with unshakable belief in eventual success. It has been a timely reminder to my own journey and seems to connect a few dots.

‘When you see a huge wild boar and thirty piglets at the foot of an oak tree, it is the place you will build your city and end your suffering’. Ahh, ancient oracles. I’ve been to a few and only this week had my future read in the grinds of my Turkish coffee on a beach. Things are never straightforward. A feature of my life has been an increasing awareness of being essentially ‘homeless’. Aeneas, when he spent time here at Antandros building ‘twenty ships’, was most certainly homeless. His people tricked into letting a wooden horse through his city gates, Aenead had, fleeing, watched his home – Troy – sixty miles from here, quite literally burn before his eyes.

Excavations Very Much Still Ongoing...

Excavations Very Much Still Ongoing…

His task, to found a new Troy, admittedly somewhat loftier than mine of finding merely a small house in which to settle, was backed by gods and guided by the Apollo priest of the Cycladic island of Dellos. The oracle had spoken, it was time to set sail.

What follows was nothing less than a seven year ‘journey’; the suicidal sacrifice of the love of the beautiful Queen Dido, the death of his father, Anchises, after Aeneas had carried him from the burning Troy, a scene exquisitely depicted by Bernini in the Galleria Borghese, in Rome, the founding of a city at the ‘wrong’ place, drought, huge storms, wars and a duel to the death. If ever there was a need for a reminder of perseverance, determination and self sacrifice for the good of others, the tale of Aeneas provides that reminder. He founded Rome (for the purposes of this article, the fact it may have been his quasi-fictitious relative Romulus, is best left un examined).

And now here, in Anatolia, close to famous sites, far more famous sites in fact, a small Turkish-Italian funded dig is unearthing what is turning out to be a wonderful discoveries; the terraced city of Antandros, where Aeneas built the ships that made this all possible.

Antandros Location of The Site

Antandros Location of The Site

It’s a true privilege to visit – the site does not even have a car park (yet) and needless to say we are alone when we do so. Alone, apart from the guardian, the sole occupant until excavations resume again this summer. He chases away the stray-ish dogs which rather half heartedly charge us as we approach the entrance. ‘One person is allowed’, he points to me. I take off my shoes and step beyond the barriers that hold the others back, barefooted down onto the 1800 year old Roman mosaics of a terraced house.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of ‘touching’ history in this way. The soles of my feet carefully treading where once Romans played out their life journeys. ‘When you’ve seen one ruin, you’ve seen them all’, says a character in John Gaskin’s From Lydia With Love.

Terraced Roman House of Antandros - Mosaics and Frescos

Terraced Roman House of Antandros – Mosaics and Frescos

And yes, these are not the most spectacular mosaics I have ever seen, and admittedly the frescos that grace the walls of ‘House 1’ are somewhat faded (compared to the exquisite beauty I witnessed a few days ago at the terraced house of Ephesus), but I am overwhelmed by that incredible sense almost of ‘discovery’ that ‘smaller sites’ sometimes offer – The Assos to Pergamon, the Ostia Antica to Rome’s Forum, the Herculaneum to Pompeii…

It’s thanks to 1st C BC Roman writer Publius Vergilius Maro, more commonly, Virgil that the story of Aeneas has reached our times. Ancient sources give different establishment histories for Antandros, but all agree that this city, located on the strategic Troad road, was famous for its dockyards. Ships which were damaged during the Peloponnesian War came here, beneath sacred Mount Ida to be repaired. So far excavations have revealed Roman villas, sections of the North Wall as well as a necropolis beyond the city gates. The docks are yet to be uncovered, but it’s more than likely these would have been the docks from where Aeneas sailed across the horizon towards Rome.

Once again a day out has confirmed my faith in the less well trodden path and the pleasures it holds – for me anyway. I have a long way to go to find the determination of Aeneas, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever found any cities.

Aeneas - Impressive Journey, But Vikings?

Aeneas – Impressive Journey, But Vikings?

However I too am on a journey and a journey which at times may waiver, the road is certainly not as easy it it looks. ‘You are so lucky’, must be what I hear most often when I describe my life. I have a real issue with that phrase, but that’s another piece some day. Man takes on average 68 million steps in his lifetime. With the amount of walking I do, aged 36, I estimate I’m already close to that figure and today each and everyone ever taken has lead me here to Antandros.

But once again, as it always is, it’s time for me to set sail. I’ve been to Dellos and to Delphi, but no Oracle has ever whispered to me, so I’m left to figure it out where to by myself…

‘But I see my life before me… And I’d like to make a try… Maybe someone knows what fate is… Maybe someone knows just why… All I know is it’s all related… Maybe someone can explain time… But I know that if you sell your soul, to brighten your road, you might be disappointed in the lights… We all need a fix at a time like this… But doesn’t it feel good to stay alive?’

– Soulsavers, Some Misunderstanding.

The project Antandros – Castro has an excellent website, which you can see here.

~ by 2ndcupoftea on May 30, 2013.

2 Responses to “Antandros Antik Kenti – Falling Into a Well”

  1. Have never wanted to visit Turkey until reading this . Great job Thomas
    Xxxxxx Angela

  2. Thanks, Thomas, for your post. I am glad you have chosen this journey. Give a call if you pass through Athens this week–I am here.

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