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METROPOLİS (TORBALI)

Great city that died                      Population: 144,000 (Torbalı)

MetromosaicAt Metropolis, south of İzmir in the Yeniköy district of Torbalı, the remains of a city dating back to the Early Bronze Age and flourishing in the Hellenistic and Roman periods are being excavated without much fanfare.

Not much is known about the town which is thought to have taken its intriguing name from a temple to Meter Gallesia, the Mother Goddess. However, it appears to have fallen under the sway first of the Aydınoğlu emirate and then of the Ottomans. By the 19th century the old town’s hillside site had been abandoned in favor of Torbalı, an ugly new settlement that straddles the main road to Kuşadası.

Visit Metropolis today and you’re almost guaranteed to have the site to yourself. The most prominent attraction is a restored theatre which seems to have been one of the earliest such stone buildings erected in Anatolia. In Roman times it could have seated up to 4,000 spectators, the VIPs accommodated in comfortable individually-carved seats right in front of the stage.Metrotheatre

The theatre lies to the west of the site. Head east and you will come to the part of town where all the important public buildings – the Agora, the Stoa and the Bouleterion – once stood.

The Bouleterion was the equivalent of a modern Belediye (Town Hall) building, a council chamber where the authorities would have assembled to make decisions about local life. It’s possible to make out rows of stone seats with carved lion-foot support brackets, but at a later date the town must have contracted in size, and now a stretch of the Byzantine wall slices right through the middle of them.

MetrobathNearby stand the remains of the Stoa, a covered walkway where the locals would have gathered to talk as they did in the more famous example in Athens.

Here, too, are extensive remains of a bathhouse whose ancient under-floor heating system has been exposed, and of a gymnasium where young people would have come not just for sport but also to study. You will also be able to see the remains of a public toilet block re-equipped with a wooden seat to show how it could have been shared by around 25 people sitting side by side.

A short climb uphill leads to the Acropolis where the remains of a Temple of Ares (one of only two known in Anatolia) dating back to the first century were uncovered inside third-century walls.

Don’t leave without visiting the Terraced Houses near the main entrance. Excavations have revealed houses whose walls, like those of the Terraced Houses in Ephesus, would have been covered with frescoes and whose floors would have been carpeted with mosaics. A few patches of mosaic are still in situ. Ask the custodian to pour water over them and they will glitter as brightly as on the day that they were laid.Metroloo

Sleeping

If you don't want to spend the night in İzmir there are a couple of hotels in Torbalı.

Metropolis Hotel. Tel: 0232-856 9798

Otel Torbalı. Tel: 0232-853 2540

Transport info

A new suburban train line from İzmir makes it easy to get to Torbalı. You can get a taxi to Yeniköy and the ruins from the highway.

Buses to Torbalı leave from the upper level of İzmir otogar. You could easily incoporate a visit to Metropolis with one to the pleasant market town of Bayındır just up the road. Tire buses from İzmir also pass through Torbalı.

This article first appeared in Sunday's Zaman

SARDİS AND METROPOLİS

The expression “rich as Croesus” has worked its way into the English language as a way to describe someone basking in Bill Gates-style riches. However, probably not one person in a thousand knows who Croesus actually was, and even fewer would be able to link him with the ruins of a city just inland from modern İzmir.

The historical Croesus was a king of Lydia, an area that had developed in the post-Hittite period to encompass much of Western Anatolia. Croesus ruled the kingdom from his capital at Sardis between 560 BC and 547 BC, but met his downfall when his ambitions brought him into conflict with the great Persian leader Cyrus the Great, at that time the ruler of much of Central Anatolia. The oracle at Delphi in Greece had warned him that if he attacked the Persians he would destroy an empire, but Croesus took that to mean that he would destroy the Persian Empire. Instead, he found himself defeated on his home ground in Sardis. What happened next is unclear; some ancient accounts suggest that Cyrus had Croesus burnt to death on a funeral pyre, others that he employed him as an advisor. In any case Sardis became the centre of Cyrus’ western satrapy, and the Royal Road was built to link it to his capital at Susa (now in Iran).

At the peak of his powers Croesus was so wealthy that he paid for the building of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus that became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Almost a hundred years earlier, the Lydians had become the first people to use proper coins, the gold used apparently dredged from the Pactolus River. According to legend these gold deposits had been left there by King Midas, the Phyrgian king who had so thoughtlessly prayed that everything he touched should be turned to gold.  When this resulting in his own daughter being turned to gold, Midas prayed to be relieved of his wretched gift and was allowed to wash away “the Midas touch” in the river. Later, the Lydians are believed to have panned for the gold using sheepskin sieves. Conceivably, Croesus was thought to be so unusually rich because he was one of the first rulers who could carry his wealth around with him in gold form rather than having it all tied up in land and property.

Today the remains of Croesus’ great capital at Sardis stand in lovely countryside at Sartmustafa, near the small town of Salihli, east of İzmir. The remains are not as impressive as those at Ephesus, although they are dominated by the magnificent marble-encrusted Court of the Hall of the Imperial Cult, dating back to 211, which has been partially restored to give some idea of its original size and splendor. Nearby the decorative floor and lower walls of a third-century synagogue can be seen beside traces of a bathhouse and gymnasium. Running along one wall of the synagogue are the remains of a row of Byzantine shops – always the innovators, the Lydians are thought to have been the first people to set up permanent shops as opposed to market stalls.

One of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor mentioned by St John in the Biblical Book of Revelation, Sardis must have been a huge town in its heyday, and across the road from the main site stand pieces of the city wall with later Roman houses straddling them. Nearly a kilometer away there are also remains of a huge Temple of Artemis, with a later Byzantine church beside it. Scattered in the surrounding fields, the so-called Bin Tepe (Thousand Hills) were actually the burial mounds of the Lydian kings. In 1401 Tamerlane came rampaging through and that was the effective end of Sardis.

The site at Sardis is within easy day-trip reach of İzmir, and receives a steady flow of visitors. The same could hardly be said of the ruins of Metropolis, south of İzmir in the Yeniköy district of Torbalı. Here the remains of a city dating back to the Early Bronze Age and flourishing in the Hellenistic and Roman periods are still being excavated without much fanfare. Not a great deal is known about the town which is thought to have taken its intriguing name from a temple to Meter Gallesia, the Mother Goddess. However, it appears to have fallen under the sway first of the Aydınoğlu emirate and then of the Ottomans. By the 19th century the old town’s hillside site had been abandoned in favor of Torbalı, an ugly new settlement that straddles the main road to Kuşadası.

Visit Metropolis today and you’re almost guaranteed to have the site to yourself. The most prominent attraction is a restored theatre which seems to have been one of the earliest such stone buildings erected in Anatolia. In Roman times it could have seated up to 4,000 spectators, the VIPs accommodated in comfortable individually-carved seats right in front of the stage.

The theatre lies to the west of the site. Head east and you will come to the part of town where all the important public buildings – the Agora, the Stoa and the Bouleterion – once stood. The Bouleterion was the equivalent of a modern Belediye building, a council chamber where the authorities would have assembled to make decisions about local life. It’s possible to make out rows of stone seats with carved lion-foot support brackets, but at a later date the town must have contracted in size, and now a stretch of the Byzantine wall slices right through the middle of them.

Nearby stand the remains of the Stoa, a covered walkway where the locals would have gathered to talk as they did in the more famous example in Athens. Here, too, are extensive remains of a bathhouse whose ancient under-floor heating system has been exposed, and of a gymnasium where young people would have come not just for sport but also to study. You will also be able to see the remains of a public toilet block re-equipped with a wooden seat to show how it could have been shared by around 25 people sitting side by side.

A short climb uphill leads to the Acropolis where the remains of a Temple of Ares (one of only two known in Anatolia) dating back to the first century were uncovered inside third-century walls. Don’t leave without visiting the Terraced Houses near the main entrance. Excavations have revealed houses whose walls, like those of the Terraced Houses in Ephesus, would have been covered with frescos and whose floors would have been carpeted with mosaics. A few patches of mosaic are still in situ. Ask the custodian to pour water over them and they will glitter as brightly as on the day that they were laid.

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