Biblical Sites
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Priene

Priene is an ancient Hellenistic city located just to the north of Miletus in western Turkey. It was an ancient Greek holy city and the home of an important temple of Athena.Priene's picturesque ruins include several columns of the Temple of Athena, much of the city wall, a well-preserved theater and a council chamber.



What to See

The ruins of Priene are well worth a visit. They are in a peaceful, sheltered location and feature a number of unique side streets and structures. Its well-preserved remains are a major source of information about ancient Greek town planning.

Long stretches of the Hellenistic city wall have remained intact, in some places 6 feet wide and 18 feet tall. Inside, the city's remains lie on successive terraces that rise from a plain to a steep hill, upon which stands the Temple of Athena (see below).

Priene was laid out in an orderly grid plan, unlike the more sprawling arrangement of most ancient cities. Six main streets run east-west and 15 streets cross at right angles, all evenly spaced. The town was thus divided into about 80 blocks, or insulae, each averaging 150 by 110 feet (46 by 34 m). This impressive layout can be appreciated from the vantage point of the nearby cliffside.

About 50 of the insulae are devoted to private houses. The better-class insulae had just four houses apiece, but most had many more. A Priene private house usually consisted of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by living quarters and storerooms and opening to the south onto the street by way of a small vestibule. Ruins of several houses can be seen today, including the "Alexander House."

Five columns (from the original 66) of the great Temple of Athena Polias still stand. Built on the orders of Alexander the Great around 333 BC and designed by Pythius, architect of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the wonders of the ancient world), the Temple of Athena is considered a classic example of the pure Ionic style. The temple enclosed a smaller (23 ft/7 m) high version of the statue of Athena that was in the Parthenon.

Near the temple in the center of town is the agora, stoa and theater. Theaters are common around these parts, but this one boasts a set of five armchair seats, some with lion-paw armrests. The stage buildings of Priene's theater are also more intact than most. Originally built in the 4th century BC by the Greeks, the theater was expanded by the Romans in the 2nd century AD to hold 6,000 spectators.

Other ruins at Priene include the well-preserved seating and altar of the 2nd-century-BC bouleuterion (city council chamber, which could hold 650 people), more temples, the stadium (2nd century BC; 190 m long) and a Upper and Lower Gymnasium.

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Sardis

Sardis (modern Sart) was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and home King Croesus (560-546 BC), famous for his wealth. Liberated from the Persians by Alexander the Great in c.340 BC, Sardis became a Greek city with an impressive Temple of Artemis. In the Roman era, the temple was expanded and used also for the imperial cult, and a huge bath-gymnasium complex was built.

Ancient Sardis had a very large and prosperous Jewish community, which produced the largest ancient synagogue outside of Palestine. Christianity arrived in the 1st century AD and Sardis was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. Sardis now lies entirely in ruins and is an archaeological site in the village of Sartmahmut with ongoing excavations.

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Tarsus

Tarsus is a Turkish city 27 kilometers east of Mersin, best known as the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

 

What to See

Today, Tarsus is a modern city with not very many sights of interest to visitors, but a few are worthy of mention.

St. Paul's Well is in a courtyard long believed to be the site of St. Paul's house, which is approximately 300 meters north of the Republic Area in Kızılmurat District. Archaeological studies have shown St. Paul's Well and surrounding areas to have Roman, Byzantium and Ottoman Period cultural layers. The site is a pilgrimage destination for some and the water from the well is believed to have healing powers. The Tarsus Museum contains artworks of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, Roman and Byzantine coins, baked soil pots, and metallic materials. The Cleopatra Gate, in western Tarsus on Mersin road, dates to around 40 BC. In the upper part of Sağlıklı Village, 15 km from Tarsus, are the remains of a Roman Road.

Near Izmir, clinging to a cliff face on a sharp slope near Altindere, is the most important and prestigious monastery of the area: The Virgin of the Black Rock or The Black Virgin. [More Info]

 

Akhisar (Thyatira)

Thyatira, modern Akhisar or Akisar, is located 42 miles (67 km) inland from the Aegean Sea in Turkey.

 

What to See

Near the center of Akhisar, the archaeological remains of Thyatira are located in a fenced off rectangular city block.

Among the ruins is a public building (basilica) dating from the 5th or 6th century AD. In places it is preserved to a height of 16 feet. There are also columns and arches from an ancient portico dating from about the 4th century AD.

Several Greek inscriptions lie among the ruins of ancient Thyatira, and many more have been taken to the museum in Manisa (which is usually closed). Many coins have been found at the site, from which it is evident that guilds of bakers, bronze smiths, wool workers, potters, linen weavers and tanners were active in the city. Such guilds would often hold banquets which included the eating of food offered to idols and participation in immoral sexual acts (cf. Rev. 2:20–24). [More Info]

 

Church of the Holy Cross (Akdamar)

Akdamar Kilesi or the Church of the Holy Cross is a ruined Armenian Church in Eastern Anatolia. On a small island in the beautiful mountain setting of Lake Van, the Akdamar church dates from the 10th century and is famed for its wonderfully carved exterior.

What to See

On a cruciform plan and topped with a conical roof, the Akdamar church is just 49 x 39 feet (15 x 12 m) in size. It is made of red tufa stone brought to the island from distant quarries. Inside the church are faded but still-impressive frescoes.

The justly famous exterior features bas-relief carvings and friezes of biblical scenes, including Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, St. George slaying a dragon, a Christ Pantocrator, and a Madonna and Child. On the back is an image of King Gagik presenting his church to Christ (a theme that can also be seen in the Hagia Sophia and most other great religious buildings). A richly carved "populated vine" (vine with animals) runs around the entire church.

Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey and has a very high salt level, making it pleasant for swimming. It incorporates a number of small islands with interesting ruins to explore. [More Info]

 

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