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Stratoniceia - undiscovered up to today

Not far from Bodrum, just before you reach Yatagan


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The city hall of cut marble in Stratoniceia (near Eskihisar) gives an impressive idea of the solidity and magnificence which they once possessed.

The ruins of ancient Stratonicea are strewn among crumbling manorial houses and deserted cottages in the farmer village of Eskihisar, which was evacuated same 30 years ago to make room for coal mines. A few families still live among the ruins, which form a strange contrast and a wonderful green oasis in the midst of a grey wasteland of stripped earth. A Prytaneian (City Hall) af cut marble, and a theatre submerged in lentil fields form the highlights.

Under the Prohibited Degrees a man may not marry his stepmother; but in the Hellenistic royal families these matters were otherwise regulated. Seleucus I, king of Syria, had a wife Stratonice whom in 294 B.C. he transferred to his son Antiochus; and it was this lady, his stepmother-wife, in whose honour Antiochus founded Stratoniceia.

Stratoniceia Odeon


The date is not known, but must have been after 281, when the Seleucids first came into control of this country. Strabo says that they adorned the new city with costly buildings, which is natural enough; yet before very long they gave it away as a present to Rhodes. The date is again uncertain. Long after, in 166 B.C., a Rhodian envoy to the Roman Senate, pleading that Stratoniceia should not be taken away, claimed that the Rhodians had received her 'by the great generosity of Antiochus and Seleucus'.

Livy says that in 197 B.C., or a little later, the Rhodians 'recovered' Stratoniceia. They must presumably therefore have lost her at some period, though the event is not recorded; it occurred perhaps during the Carian campaign of Philip V in 201-198 B.C. Rhodian possession of the city was confirmed at Apamea in 188, but in 167 it was taken away for good.
In 88 B.C. the city was captured by Mithridates and punished for its resistance, but was compensated at the end of the war by Sulla, who treated it handsomely. Labienus, at the head of his Parthian hordes, attacked Stratoniceia in 40 B.C., but was successfully repulsed; he revenged himself by sacking the sanctuary of Hecate at Lagina, but failed in a similar attempt upon Panamara.

As a Hellenistic foundation Stratoniceia was not divided like Mylasa into tribes and clans, but on the Greek model into tribes and demes. This was, however, a distinction without a difference, for the demes were in fact the old Carian villages, just like the Mylasan clans. Their names Loboldeis, Londargeis, Korazeis, and others-are equally un-Greek.

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Stratoniceia temple

city hall in Stratoniceia

impressive city hall

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The ruins of Stratoniceia at Eskihisar are somewhat scanty in proportion to the size of the city, but what remains gives an impressive idea of the solidity and magnificence which they once possessed.
The acropolis hill lies to the south of the site, beyond the area shown on the plan Fig. 11; it is fortified with a ring-wall round the summit. But the inhabited city lay on the flat ground to the north, and is now partially occupied by the village of Eskihisar. Of the city wall F,F only insignificant ruins now remain; it was origin-ally rather less than a mile in length. The main entrance was on the north at C; part of the arched gate is standing, in massive broad-and-narrow masonry, and just inside it a single unfluted Corinthian column survives from the row which originally stood there (P1. 19). At the north-east corner of the site are the ruins of a powerful fort, D, overlooking a dip in the ground; it is solidly constructed of large squared blocks in regular courses, with some mortar, but in places additions or repairs show a very inferior masonry with many reused blocks and even column-drums.

In the present village, and almost in the centre of the ancient city, is the most impressive building on the site, the Sarapeum or temple of Sarapis, A, dating from the second or third century A.D. The outer walls are standing to a fair height (Pl. 18), in the same broad-and-narrow masonry as the north gate, but the interior is filled with earth and is now used as a garden. The north wall is covered, partly on the inside and wholly on the outside, with inscriptions in Greek and Latin; one of these, at the east end of the inner face, is an ex-voto to Helios Zeus Sarapis for salvation from war and foreign seas. Another records an oracle delivered by Zeus of Panamara; the Stratoniceians had asked, apparently on the advice of Sarapis, whether the barbarians would attack the city in the current year; the god reassures them. The occasion was evidenfly the invasion of the Goths in the middle of the third century A.D. A third is a very curious document; it consists of twelve very faulty verses, each of which contains as many letters as one of the months of the year, beginning with October; the number of days is written at the right in Greek numerals. At the same time the initial letters of the lines form an acrostic giving the name of the writer, Menippus. His purpose, as he explains, is to provide a mnemonic which may be useful to his less well educated fellow-citizens.

Ancient treasures in a corn field

Just to the west of this building, in a maize-field, stands a solitary gate, with uprights and lintel. This was an entrance to the pen-bolus or precinct surrounding the temple, an enclosure over 100 yards (91'4 in.) square of which very little else survives. The gate carries no inscription.

To the west again lay the agora, or market-place, of Stratoniceia. Virtually all that now remains of it is a row of marble blocks, bordering one of the village lanes. To the north of this, beyond the coffee-house, is a building E of unknown purpose, comprising at present a long wall of large well-squared blocks, joined on the south side by part of a curved wall. This arrangement does not conform to the plan of any normal building.
At the north-east corner of the site Trtmaux in 1874 saw a colonnade beside a street leading in the direction of the city-gate. Something of this colonnade is said to survive, but the present writer has not seen it.

At the north foot of the acropolis hill, not shown on the plan, is the theatre, large and quite well preserved, but badly overgrown and poorly maintained. The cavea, facing north in the manner approved by Vitruvius, is divided by stairways into nine cunei; the single diazoma is now largely destroyed. The capacity is estimated as not less than 10,000. The stage-building too, or at least its foundations, is probably in quite good preservation; but it has not been excavated.
On the hillside above the theatre is a levelled area on which lie the ruins of a small temple in the Ionic order, identified from an inscription as devoted to the cult of the Emperors.

museum in the Garden - Stratoniceia

The garden of the Stratonikeia museum

Across the main road from the school is a small museum which is well worth a visit. It contains mostly small pieces of Roman date, including epitaphs and several bearded heads from the angles of a sarcophagus; among the former is the quaint tombstone of a young man (Pl. 20) erected by his parents and brothers. But the most remarkable object is a Mycenaean stirrup-cup of buff with horizontal red stripes which is dated to the twelfth or eleventh century B.C. All the exhibits were found locally.

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