War - Ephesus, Troy and Gallipoli

Gallipoli Travel Blog

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Our next stop was Ephesus (Efes), often considered to be the best preserved classical city. Ephesus was settled by the Ionians ~1000 BCE, and became a great trading and religion city. It was the centre for the cult of Cybele, the Anatolian fertility goddess who became Artemis in the Greek pantheon and Diana in the Roman pantheon. Ephesus was part of the Kingdom of Lydia, who were apparently the first to invent coins (~650 BCE), and then all types of games during an 18 year famine, to take their mind off being hungry.

During the Roman Empire Ephesus was the second largest city in the Eastern Mediterranean (after Alexandria). The city was beautiful to walk through. We entered in the top half of the city, and strolled down the main street, the Arcadian Way. The buildings were mostly made from marble, which Ephesus was famous for, supplying it to other Roman cities. The Arcadian Way is said to be the first road to have street lights (400 CE), and other streets in the city have holes in the paving where temporary street lights could be placed during festivals. The Arcadian Way was the richer area of the city, with a small covered Odeon (with 2000 people) that was sponsored by the owner of the local brothel. This upper part of the city also had the senate, and the Arcadian Way meets the Marble Way at a few steps and the Hercules Arch to prevent the traffic of the lower city from reaching the pedestrian-only upper city.

From the archway, the Marble Way ran down to the Celsuis Library, which was built in 125 CE as a tomb to Julius Celsius, the governor of the Roman Province of Asia. It wasn’t completed before his death, but was originally finished and converted to a library. It became the third largest in the ancient world, with 12 000 scrolls. Across the road from the library is the brothel. Excavators found a tunnel linking the two, and explained it by saying that the men used it as a way to surreptitiously visit the brothel, but recent excavations indicate that it is actually just part of the sewer system. The sewer system was one of the major achievements of the city, running under the road to pipe out sewage 6km away to the ocean (it was extended after several plagues wiped the city out a couple of times). Near the brothel is the Baths of Scolastica, with a frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium and apoliterium (‘changing room’, but mostly used as a meeting area and the biggest part of the baths). The baths included a public toilet, with rows of toilet seats cut into the marble benches, so that everyone could talk to each other while going to the bathroom. There is also a larger theatre, seating 25000, and the Agora trading area for general goods, and a smaller trading area for luxuries.

We also visited the Temple of the Great Mother Cybele, later the Temple of Artemis, and originally four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens. Antipater of Sidon (2nd century BCE) described the Temple of Artemis in his guidebook, famous as the Seven Wonders of the World: I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, 'Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught (anything) so grand. It was burnt down on July 21st 356 BCE by a man wanting eternal fame for the destruction of the most beautiful building in the world. This was the night that Alexander the Great was born, and it was said she was watching the birth and therefore couldn’t protect her temple. The Ephesians announced that his name was never to be recorded for the act, but a visiting Greek tells us it was Herostratus. After Alexander the Great conquered Ephesus he rebuilt the temple. It was later sacked by Nero, rebuilt, sacked by the Goths in the 3rd century CE, rebuilt, and finally destroyed by the Christians. When I saw it there was only a single standing column left, with a pair of storks nesting on the top.

In the afternoon after Ephesus we visited Sirince, a small Greek Orthodox village that has been there since 500 BCE. We bought peach wine, which we later drank while watching Pulp Fiction in the hotel during a beautiful sunset.

Troy and Gallipoli

The following day we drove to Gallipoli, via the ruins of Troy. There was a tacky giant wooden horse out the front (which Michelle and Tamara climbed), then we walked around the old ruins. There are actually the ruins of seven cities of Troy on the same cite, dating back thousands upon thousands of years. The Troy of fame, when Menelaus the King of Sparta destroyed Troy to avenge the slight of Paris eloping with Helen, using Odysses’ (the smartest of the Greek heroes) plan of the Trojan horse (which Cassandra foresaw, but was ignored on), was originally thought to be myth. However Heinrich Schliemann unearthed the ruins of Troy in 1871, and it is now thought that one of the cities (Troy IV) was destroyed in 1250 BCE, and was the setting for the Trojan War. With the trees mantled in spring blossoms, it was hard to picture the site of enormous carnage due to hubris.

Speaking of carnage due to hubris, we then crossed the Dardanelles to reach Europe on the Gallipoli Peninsular. The whole invasion of Gallipoli was just stupid. The Ottoman Turks had payed the British to built them two battleships to protect their empire. When WWI started, the British reneged on their contract, told the Turks they were keeping the Battleships and refused to give them their money back. They then told Istanbul to invade Germany with them. The Kaiser then treated them politely and offered them two German Battleships, and Turkey joined on the side of Germany.

Such a tragedy, in the Greek sense of the word. The British sent Battleships up the Dardanelles to scare Istanbul into submission, but the mines in the straits, supported by the forts of Gallipoli, sunk three battleships and badly damaged three more. More ships, lost than the British wanted to save, and hundreds dead. So on the 25th of April, the British and French tried to take the forts by land, to clear the way for the navy. The mostly British force, along with the French, Australians and New Zealanders landed before dawn on the small beaches, and fought against machine gun fire to take the beach heads. Tens of thousands killed in hours. It is often said that they landed in the wrong place, having to run up steep sand-dunes carrying 30kg packs and weapons, however it has been recently put forward that the Admiral in charge actually changed his mind at the last minute, and invaded there on purpose. The Turks were expecting invasion, and only the small beaches were poorly guarded.

Whatever the disregard for human life, the plan essentially worked. They took the beaches and the original positions, and pushed forward to the Nek, the highest point from where they could take the whole peninsular. The Turks were retreating in surprise until they reached Mustafa Kemal, who ordered them around with the famous orders “I am not sending you there to fight, I am sending you there to die”. Wave upon wave of Turkish soldiers went forward and died, on the bloodiest day 10 000 died.

Mustafa Kemal succeeded in holding the invasion back, and essentially during the next eight months the battle lines didn’t change again. Instead it became a slow trench warfare. The ANZACs dug miles of trenches, creating 372km of trenches along the 7km front. The Turks, to stop the shelling from the ANZACs built their trenches only 5-8m away. Close enough that they could yell at each other, and even swap food. The Turks used to throw tobacco over in return for paper, so both sides could smoke. Every night one Turkish solider walked between the trenches picking up tobacco and paper that fell in the middle. He was an icon to the ANZACs, who never shot him, until one day a new regiment moved in and killed him on their first night.

Mustafa Kemal won the battle, and the Ottomans lost the war. He then went back to Istanbul and lead a war of independence against the monarchy, a long bloody affair, and founded the Republic of Turkey. He is still considered to be Attaturk, the Father of the Turks, and his brooding face is common on sculptures across the country.

Gallipoli was a very moving place. Quiet and still, the entire peninsular kept as a historic natural monument. We walked along the trenches, barbed wire still lining them, visited the graves and the monuments, and Anzac Cove. In the small museum they had letters from dead soldiers, men drafted away from their families, wanting to be back with their loved ones. There were piles of bullets that were fused together, as the air was so thick with gunfire that many collided in mid-air. A skull with the bullet still stuck in the middle of the forehead. Recruitment posters “Free tour to Great Britain and Europe – chance of a lifetime”.

So hideous. These men were victims as much as they were heroes. 500 000 wounded and 100 000 killed. Lives destroyed in such a terrible terrible waste. I just wish we could remember the horror, and never repeat it.

Ape says:
Really moving blog
Posted on: May 07, 2009
genetravelling says:
a wonderful blog. very well written. thankyou!
Posted on: Mar 12, 2008
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photo by: scacos2006