Sunday, 12 July 2009
Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, is a natural site and attraction in south-western Turkey in the Denizli Province , which in history is known as a south-eastern part of Greece . Pamukkale is located in Turkey's Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which enjoys a temperate climate over the greater part of the year.
The ancient city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white "castle" which is in total about 2700 meters long and 160m high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away.
The tectonic movements that took place in the fault depression of the Menderes river basin triggered frequent earthquakes, and gave rise to the emergence of a number of very hot springs. The water from one of these springs, with its large mineral content — chalk in particular — created Pamukkale.
Apart from some radioactive material, the water contains large amounts of hydrogen carbonate and calcium, which leads to the precipitation of calcium bi-carbonate. Every second 250 liters of hot water arises from this spring, precipitating 2.20 grams of chalk per liter of water or 0.55 kilograms of chalk every second. In the course of time some sources dried up because of earthquakes, while new ones arose in the neighbourhood.
The effect of this natural phenomenon has left thick white layers of limestone and travertine cascading down the mountain slope resembling a frozen waterfall. One type of these formations consists of crescent-shaped travertine terraces with a shallow layer of water, lying in a step-like arrangement down the upper one-third of the slope, with the steps ranging from 1m to 6 meters in height. The other form consists of stalactites, propping up and connecting these terraces.
The oldest of these rocks is crystalline marble, quartzites and schists. These date back to the Pliocene period, while the top layer belongs to the Quaternary. Fresh deposits of calcium carbonate give the site a dazzling white look.
These sources were well-known in the Antiquity. They were described by the Roman architect Vitruvius. The Phrygian Greeks built Hierapolis on top of the hill. They ascribed medical properties to the spring water, bestowed by the gods, especially Asklepios (demigod of medicine) and his daughter Hygieia (goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation), under the protection of Apollo (god of medicine and healing).
Pamukkale is a tourist attraction. It is recognized as a World Heritage Sites together with Hierapolis. A few other places in the world resemble it, including the Mammoth Hot Springs in the USA and Huanglong in Sichuan Province of China (another UNESCO World Heritage Site). Hierapolis-Pamukkale was made a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Before the World Heritage designation, Pamukkale went unprotected for decades in the late 20th century and hotels were built on top of the site, destroying parts of the remains of Hierapolis. Hot water from the springs was taken to fill the hotel pools and the waste water was spilled over the monument itself, turning it brownish. A tarmac road ramp was built into the main part. People walked around with shoes, washed themselves with soap and shampoo in the pools and rode bikes and motorbikes up and down the slopes.
By the time UNESCO turned its attention to Pamukkale, the site was losing its attraction. Officials made attempts to restore the site. The hotels were demolished, and the road ramp was covered with artificial pools which today are accessible to bare-footed tourists, unlike most other parts of the site. A small trench was carved along the outside of the ramp to collect the water and prevent it from spilling. The brownish parts have been left to be bleached by the sun without being covered by water to diminish the problem. Therefore many pools are empty. Others parts are covered with water for an hour or two, on a rotating schedule.
The underground volcanic activity which causes the hot springs also forced carbon dioxide into a cave. The result was called the Plutonium meaning place of the god, Pluto. Tadpoles can be found in the pools.
The Library of Celsus was comissioned by the Consul Julius Aquila as a mausoleum for his father, Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, Roman governor of the Asian Provinces. It may be that Celsus was granted heroic honors, which would furthur justify the expense.
The monument was constructed between 110 and 135 AD, after which Celsus was buried in a niche on the right side of the back wall.
With a few centuries of its construction a fire destroyed the reading room and the library fell into disuse. Around 400 AD, the courtyard below the exterior steps was converted into a pool. The facade collapsed in an earthquake in the 10th century.
The Library of Celsus was raised from the rubble to its present splendid state by F. Hueber of the Austrian Archaeological Institute between 1970 and 1978.
The ancient city of Ephesus (Turkish: Efes), located near the Aegean Sea in modern day Turkey, was one of the great cities of the Greeks in Asia Minor and home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a major tourist attraction, especially for travelers on Mediterranean cruises. Ephesus is also a sacred site for Christians due to its association with several biblical figures, including St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary.
An inscription tells us the temple was erected around 118 AD by one Publius Quintilius (who is otherwise unknown).
The name "Temple of Hadrian" is not really accurate: it is more a monument than a temple, and was dedicated not only to Hadrian but also Artemis and the people of Ephesus.
The temple was partially destroyed in the 4th century, and it was during the course of restorations that the four decorative reliefs were added to the lintels of the interior of the porch.
The Great Theater, part of the archaeological site of Ephesus, is a dramatic and impressive sight. It is included in our list of sacred destinations for its biblical significance: this is traditionally where St. Paul preached against the pagans.
Construction of the Great Theater of Ephesus may have begun during Hellenistic times: Lysimachus (d.281 BC) is traditionally credited with building the theater, but so far there is no archaeological evidence for its existence before 100 BC. However, Lysimachus may have chosen the building site and begun the preparation of the site, a process that required 60 years of digging in the mountainside.
A small Hellenistic theater was probably built here around 200 BC, but the theater seen today dates almost exclusively from Roman times. Constructed primarily in the 1st century (beginning about 40 AD), it was expanded periodically and used continously until the 5th century.
Earthquakes damaged the theater in the 4th century, after which it was only partially repaired. By the 8th century, the theater was incorporated into the city defense system.
Today, the theater is restored and is put to use every May during the Selçuk Ephesus Festival of Culture and Art.
The Ephesus Museum (Efes Müzesi), located near the entrance to the Basilica of St. John in Selçuk, displays excavations from the ancient city of Ephesus. The main highlights are two statues of the Ephesian Artemis, frescoes and mosaics.
The first exhibit one comes to in the museum is the Roman Period House Finds Room, with artifacts from the Slope Houses owned by upper-class Ephesians. Among the interesting household items recovered are a bronze Eros with the Dolphin from a 2nd-century fountain and a faded 3rd-century fresco of Socrates. There is also a ithyphallic figurine of Bes, found near the brothel. Of Egyptian origin, Bes was a protector of motherhood and childbearing.
Also in display in the museum is the Ivory Frieze from an upper story of one of the Slope Houses, which depicts the emperor Trajan and his Roman soldiers battling barbarians. Other everyday items include a collection of medical and cosmetic tools, used by the important medical school in Roman Ephesus, and a wall of portraits of Ephesian physicians.
One of the most impressive and illuminating sections in the museum is dedicated to the mother goddess and dominated by two colossal statues of Artemis. One is called "Beautiful Artemis" and dates from the 1st century AD; the other is "Great Artemis" from the 2nd century AD.
Both Artemis statues feature rows of intriguing protuberances, which most scholars now think are bull testicles, but were previously thought to be breasts or eggs. Regardless, they are all symbols related to fertility. (See Artemis of Ephesus for more details on the goddess and her image.)
Recoveries from monumental fountains include a beautiful headless Aphrodite, a head of Zeus dating to the 1st century AD, a statue of a youthful Dionysus with a satyr and statues of Dionysus with members of the imperial family (these last are from the Fountain of Trajan).
More monumental artifacts are displayed in the courtyards, including the pediment from the Temple of Augustus (Isis Temple). It has been reassembled using the original statues, which had been used in the Fountain of Polio after the temple was destroyed. Also out here is a Sarcophagus with Muses from the 3rd century AD and the Ephesus Monument, inscribed with tax regulations, which was issued by Emperor Nero in 62 AD.
The final exhibit contains Roman sculptures, the most important of which is a frieze from the Temple of Hadrian. A copy of the frieze is in the original position on the elegant temple among the ruins. The frieze depicts the founding of Ephesus, the birth of the cult of Artemis, and the flight of the Amazons. Some of the original sections are now in Vienna.