On Sunday we went walking with Zirve Mountaineering and Extreme Sports Club again. This time numbers were more to our taste – 26 of us all together, including a very knowledgeable guide. We were happy to be able to understand nearly everything he told us about the site. He did speak good English, but the information was given to the group in Turkish. It was an early start and a two hour drive to the village of Sart where we stopped for breakfast. Parts of the ancient site are in that village. We wandered around the gymnasium and synagogue area. The synagogue was particularly impressive – huge, built in Roman times, it has some amazing mosaics, on the floor and mounted on some of the remaining walls.
The gymnasium has been quite heavily restored but one of the things we found most fascinating about it is the sculpted heads mounted on the capitals of the columns at the front of the building. We have not seen anything like that before and we did manage to get a picture of one of them.
Sardis was an important city for more than 1,500 years. It was, at various points, Lydian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine.
Our minibus drove us up to the Artemesion. Much better preserved than the more famous temple near Ephesus (the one we can walk to, the one that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the one that is almost completely tumbled down but a great place for wildlife). The temple has seen very little modern restoration, although there is a church at one end (built when Christianity became the official religion in the area). The columns are of various dates (and some were ‘restored’ in Roman times) but they are properly tapered to give a good perspective.
Following our visit to the Temple we climbed up to the acropolis. All that remains of the acropolis is Byzantine and most of that has fallen down the hillside, not least because the entire hill seems to be made of sand and sandstone. We stopped for a tea break in a sheltered part of the acropolis walls. Although the weather was overcast, the worst of the rain held off till late afternoon and we got some amazing views.
On the way back we stopped off first at the Kazak Centre where we ate Sutlaç, then on to Karabel where there is a wonderful Hittite relief cut into the rock. There were more, unfortunately destroyed when the road was widened.