5/1/02. Today we took a day tour to Perge, Aspendos, Side and Magvente Falls. Maki Tur on Uzungarsi Sokak , No. 84 set up the tour. The cost was only $20 per person, but didn’t include lunch or entrance fees. The fees actually added up to more than the cost of the tour.
Our guide was named Berhan and he was an archeologist. He spoke decent English, and he was quite knowledgeable as well. We had 10 people on the tour, one Japanese, one Korean, a New Zealand couple, a newlywed Turkish couple, one Greek, and one Italian plus ourselves. Everyone seemed quite social and nice.
Because the group got so large, the travel company had to get a larger van. This meant we were late getting off (we left at 10 AM vs. 9AM).
Our first stop was Perge. On the way our guide told us about Antalya (the province). To the east (the way we were going), was farm country. Only three crops were grown including sesame plants. There were also the ruins of 11 ancient cities. Perge was the best preserved and is considered the second best ancient site in Turkey behind Efes. To the west there are 23 ancient cities. The farmers to the west grow all year round and more varied crops. In the winter they grow in greenhouses and according to Berhan, there are 100,000 greenhouses there.
When we got to Perge, we found a huge site. Only 20% has been excavated. This is because Turkey has almost 1,000 such sites and limited resources. Many of the statues and other artifacts (i.e. Mosaics) can be viewed in the Antalya Museum. The first ruin from the parking lot is a Roman gate. It was built from a stone quarried in the area, that is soft and easy to carve when first quarried, but one that grows very hard when exposed to air and sun.
Beyond the gate our guide explained the layout. There was a wide plaza like street. It was covered in marble. Along the side of this plaza was a 3-foot wall also veneered with marble which water ran over into a channel by the wall. It must have been absolutely gorgeous. Beyond the plaza were two towers from the original Macedonian Gate. These towers are what you see in most pictures of Perge. The Romans expanded these towers and used them for ceremonial purposes. On what would have been the inside of the city with this gates were niches for large statues of notable people. One person they spoke of was Plancia Magna. Her name is found on a number of inscriptions. She was very rich and was a benefactor of the city building all kind of things. Her statue can be found in the Antalya museum.
We next went to the remains of the bathes. The Roman bath can be found in Roman cities all over the world. It was the equivalent of to our shopping centers, health clubs, etc. as a social gathering place. The buildings were available to all (even slaves) although at different times. You first come to a gymnasium where people would workout, wrestle, etc. Then there was a changing room followed by the frigidarium which was a swimming pool sized pool filled with cold water. Many experts feel this may have been a social custom derived from the fact ancient Romans use to bath in the Tiber with very cold water and the frigidarium reminded them of their roots and showed they weren’t getting soft. The next room was the hot pool where they could warm up and relax. Finally they had a tepid temperature pool. The Romans had invented furnaces that used underground chambers to move warm air around the baths (central heating) while they heated the water.
As you go through these baths you find only small pieces of the mosaics and marble. The final room was the furnace room. Underground chambers were open and you could see the famous Roman arch used to support floors and provide chambers for the hot air.
We then moved to the Agora. The Agora was the shopping area of the city. In the middle of the shopping area was a round building. It was used for the sale of slaves. According to the guide, St. Paul converted the people of Perge to Christianity and they did away with the slave market, converting it to a fountain. The Agora was in the shape of a square. Every other shop around the round building was opened to the street around the slave building. The other shop was opened to the street on the backside of the building. This was an early and effective method of traffic and crowd control. The roads or street themselves were covered by awnings to shield the people from the sun and the rain.
Some notes. Perge had columns everywhere. The Romans used steel rods in the center of the columns and had holes for these bars in the bases. There was a groove carved in the base to this hole. When the column was placed on the base, the bar fit in the hole seating it correctly. Molten lead was then put in the groove to secure the two pieces and to help create columns that would not easily fall over in earthquakes.
Marble was also found everywhere. This truly had to be impressive especially in its golden age in the 2nd Century. Arabs made it too expensive to continue living in the city finally abandoned Perge after earthquakes and raids.