Aizanoi – 4000 year old ancient city in the middle of nowhere
It is end of June when we decide to take a road trip to the South – our goal is to drive from Istanbul down to Antalya and visit some nice historical places on our way and then to drive along the coastline westwards from Antalya to Marmaris which is a gorgeous drive along the Mediterrean Sea .
Allover Turkey there are countless ancient cities and ruins from civilizations of thousands of years ago that can be explored and visited .
This time our goal is to visit AIZANOI – a city that was built 2000 BC and which should be really gorgeous .
It is a great time in the year since it is the transition period from spring to summer – everywhere it is still green , nature is flourishing – even during our drive there are some nice summer rains .
Colors of greens , yellows, reds and blues are feeding our eyes and souls .
It is beautiful to see the local villages in all the green environment , people living a very natural and simple way – probably the same way as people were living since thousands of years in the area , lovely storchs having their nests in the villages , the little village mosques , donkeys , cows , sheep are around – it looks all quite peaceful .
Aizanoi is about 50 km westwards from Kutahya and its Turkish name is Cavdarhisar .Its ruins are placed along the Penkalas River ( Kocacay ) about 1000 m above sea level . The city is placed close to the sacred cave of Goddess Metre Steunene who was the daughter of water nymph Erato and the mythological hero Azan .This is probably the root where the name of Aizanoi is coming from .
The citizens were called the Aizanitisians who were living under the rule of the old Phrygians .
Several layers of ancient remains show that the history of the ancient settlement goes back till 3000 BC .
Aizanoi actually is an ancient city that consists of a huge stadium and a theatre which is just next to it , a huge Zeus Temple , a Gymnasium , some baths, a Palaestra , a columned street , necropols , a trading building , several ancient bridges , a Macellum and an old dam. 2 of the ancient bridges are still in use today .
It is a gorgeous place since Aizanoi is situated in pure nature with just few old farmers houses and a little mosque around .
It is a great luck that there are no new settlements or cities around – otherwise the city would not be that impressive and beautiful as it is today .
When we arrive at the old town what we see first is the the Macellum which was a round building and used as a kind of food market , trading place . It is called the first stock exchange market in the world . In the remains lists of prices were found eg . a strong slave was worth 2 donkeys or a horse was worth 3 slaves .
It might be probably the first of its kind . Next to it was the street with 2 rows of columns , 450 m long , in Ionian style and with one of the ancient bridges aside building the main road in the road systems of Aizanoi .
In the second step we move forward with our car to the most important part which is the Zeus Temple – as far as I know it is the best preserved Zeus Temple in Anatolia being about 4000 years old . It is located on a kind of podium on top of a hill covering a space of 53 x 35 m and having 15 Ionian columns on its long side and 8 columns on its short side .The Zeus Temple in Aizanoi is one of the best preserved and also a unique type of Zeus Temple all over the world .
It looks majestic ,surrounded by a huge green area and with a very unique Cybele, a Phrygian Goddess , portrait monument in the front . She was also worshipped under the name of Metre Steunene in Aizonian times and it is believed that in the underchamber of the Zeus Temple ceremonies were held for Goddess Cybele .
Cybele was actually a symbol of mother nature ,fertility and prosperity . The days in the year when Cybele was awakening were the 22-27th of March . Close to the ancient city of Aizanoi there was the cave of Metre Streunene which is the oldest sacred site in Aizanoi , an ancient worshipping place , a rock throne of the Phrygian times of Goddess Cybele . There were also 2 round pits used to sacrifice animals to Cybele .
Due to another theory however the underchamber of the Zeus temple was used as a kind of prophecy center .
The smell in the air is pure , the sun is shining , the historical monuments under this wonderful blue sky look gorgeous .
For the first time actually we experience a kind of underchamber below the temple .
We just walk down – the gallery is decorated with some steles . Whatever this location was really used in ancient times – fact is that it is a very spectacular place to be . Some music is playing in the background.
Around the temple area many remains of those times are presented , mainly steles from old roman graves which have a lot of stories to tell about the ancient times in this region .
We should not forget the Phallos which was located on top of the hill to mark fertility and power for the city and also the Roman Canon balls close to the front of the temple .
After the Zeus temple we drive to the next stop which is the very impressive stadium and the theatre of Aizanoi . The arrangement of the stadium and the theatre like this is also very unique of its kind .
There is nobody around – just us entering the stadium first which is mostly a green space today with some ancient remains around – one can just recognize the entrance of the stadium and some seating rows at the side .
Actually the marble-clad wall was separating the theatre and the stadium from each other and was decorated with the depictions of a hunting scene.
The stadium was a place where races , games, exhibitions took place and it was hosting about 13.500 people in Aizanoi .
A little further is the theatre which was hosting about 20.000 people .
Today the theatre is still under restoration since the seating blocks are fallen down during all the centuries especially during earthquakes . We see a kind of crane that is trying to move the huge blocks to their original places and to restore the theatre .
The whole area is covered with flowers and grass and it is very clean around and in harmony .
History and nature fit each other well .
Who knows what people lived through at this places where thousands of people lived while today there is not a single person around .
It takes us half a day to look around this huge place , imagine the old days , admire the nice old temple and the other buildings since they are still standing in full mighty since 4-5000 years which is unbelievable .
We are very impressed and so happy that all is protected well so far . A little museum is under construction which for sure will take care for all the treasures lying over here .
It was a good choice to take some time to visit Aizanoi .
Since 2012 Aizanoi is on the temporary candidate list to be a UNESCO World Heritage and I am pretty confident that it will not take too long until it will become one . For sure it deserves great worldwide attention as it is a marvellous and well protected and very unique historical site .