Posts from the Archives – #Gods and #Legends – Ionia by Paul Andruss

As Paul Andruss is on an extended break working on other projects..I will be sharing some of his earlier posts for those of you who were not visiting the blog at the beginning of 2017. Also I am sure that those of you who have read before will enjoy as much as I have the second time around.

Ionia by Paul Andruss

picture1This land of gods and heroes fills me with irrational love and irrepressible longing. Here a sister married her brother and built him a tomb so magnificent it became a wonder of the world. Here, a nymph saw a young man drink from her spring. Fiercely desiring him, she prayed they would never part. With cruel humour, the capricious gods joined flesh to flesh, creating the first hermaphrodite.

This is Bodrum, once Halicarnassus, home of the mausoleum. Behind the town, hidden in hills of olive and pine, is the spring of Salamcis where the son of Hermes and Aphrodite took that fatal drink.

The heartland of Ionic Greece was already ancient when the Parthenon shone brand-new on the lion coloured rock of the acropolis. Cities, old as time, ringed the Gulf of Latmos. Even then a dying seaway choked with mud from the Meander River. First Priene and then Milatus were left high and dry. Abandoned since antiquity they provided tourist attractions for Ancient Romans.

To one side of the silted estuary is Lake Bafa, formed by the tears of the Moon goddess weeping for the shepherd boy, Endymion. On the other, the city of Miletus, where in the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Paul awaited the Ephesian elders.

Once, Lake Bafa was seashore. The freshwater lake only formed when the estuary silted. The men of Heraclea faced with the retreating sea, desperately dug navigable channels, causing seawater to turn the lake brackish.

Legend says the moon goddess, Selene, was so smitten with Endymion she threatened to forsake the sky. In response, the fearful gods made him sleep for eternity, and as she wept for her lost love, she cried a lake. It was a good day in November and Bafa was body warm, we swam and can confirm the water does indeed taste of tears.

The Meander estuary is now a fertile plain. Having never seen it in November we were surprised by hundreds of cotton wool balls littering the roads. It was cotton-pickin’ time. Turkish women, in traditional rural dress of headscarf and baggy trousers, picked tufts of gossamer from branches of stunted, scrawny bushes. It could have been a hundred years ago, if not for the huge blocky harvester devouring the adjacent field. Its parallel rows of vertical teeth left only broken, skeletal stalks. In factory courtyards were cotton castles of pearl-grey lint, while caught in the wire of the perimeter fence, grimy candyfloss streamed in the wind.

picture2First stop was the ancient city of Eurymos. All that is left is the Temple of Zeus. We were the only people there. It was like discovering it for the first time. As if we were some Victorian explorers with Sir Richard Burton – the one who translated the Arabian Nights, not the one who married and remarried Elizabeth Taylor.

The only problem with fantasy is truth. Although sites look undiscovered they are actually the result of extensive excavation. Unexcavated, they are under 2,000 years and at least 20 feet of wind blown soil – like the rest of Eurymos. One undistinguished field is the forum and another is the theatre. Each has its herd of indifferent sheep, munching as they have munched for millennia, placidly unaware of their contribution to history falling out the other end.

picture3The temple of Apollo at Didim was never finished because during the centuries it took to build, Christianity became the state religion and pagan temples were abandoned. It is impossible to convey the sheer size of the site. Nothing is on a human scale, the column bases; the cyclopean stones walls – now only a third of their original height. All of it dwarfs you; awes you. It is like something built by the giants who stormed Olympus.

picture4There is a sacred spring in the temple grounds. It had recently rained and the area was marshy. It should have prepared us for what was to come at Miletus. It didn’t. Here we saw tortoises mating. And it was lucky they were tortoises. When Tiresias saw two snakes copulate, he changed sex.

Because of his unique perspective, Zeus and Hera asked Tiresias to settle an argument about who needed love the most. Tiresias replied that if love had ten parts, women needed nine. Hera was so furious she blinded him. Leaving Zeus to compensate with the dubious gift of second sight and a lifespan increased sevenfold. However, thoughtless Zeus forgot to bestow Eternal youth so Tiresias grew old and stayed old for a long, long time. More of a punishment than a gift one would think.

picture5Back at the car, we saw a stone placed at the base of a wall. As it was obviously for looking over, we discovered part of the sacred way stretching from Miletus, 26 km away, to the shrines of Apollo and his sister, Artemis.

picture6We had read Miletus has a fantastic theatre but not much else. Because of this, our friends decided they had had enough of scrambling over ruins and went to the site café, leaving us to explore alone.

Reaching the top of the theatre we saw the rest of the city hidden to the side, the wreckage of the harbour mouth monument, now miles inland, the forum, the stoa and senate house lining the start of the sacred way.

picture7The site was boggy and halfway through, mosquitoes attacked. According to the guidebook the café owner was trying to sell our friends, when the Meander River silted up, the city became a malarial swamp and that was another reason it was abandoned.

One of our friends said we came tripping from the ruins like Tippy Hedron in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ – obviously in search of a phone box to shelter in. In our defence, the mosquitoes were the size of seagulls.

One friend on the trip was thinking of writing a travel book. Caught up in the idea, he had a tendency to pause after each utterance as if waiting for an unseen amanuensis to jot down his thoughts for posterity, which is probably not far from the truth as he was feverishly committing the phrase to memory for future use.

picture9From Miletus we drove through the alluvial plain to Priene, crossing the mighty Meander, now tamed to the size of the Regent’s Canal. Approaching the site, we saw the remaining columns of the Temple of Hera on the hillside and a ruin-lined road snaking down to the old port, now farmer’s fields.

picture8Priene is another huge area of tumbled stones, smashed columns and fractured walls sheltering under black cypress and pine. Unchanged since the time of Caesar and Christ, the view across the plain takes your breath away.

The next morning, no doubt due to a sleepless night of trying not to scratch souvenir mosquito bites, we were up at daybreak. Duly covered up like Turkish cotton pickers, we walked down to the lake to watch the full moon turn the waters silver, while the light bringer, Lucifer, the morning star, ushered a dawn of lemon, pistachio and rose – the flavours of Turkish Delight.

picture10©images Paul Andruss Ionia 2017

About Paul Andruss.

Thomas the Rhymer Finn Mac Cool

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

You can find all about Paul and links to his books here:

And all his previous posts:

Thank you for visiting today and your feedback is always welcome.. thanks Sally


26 thoughts on “Posts from the Archives – #Gods and #Legends – Ionia by Paul Andruss

  1. Pingback: #Gods and #Legends – Ionia by Paul Andruss at Smorgasbord | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

    • Thanks Robbie.There is no legend of the origin of the hermaphrodite in classical mythology, although they were generally revered at demigods in the ancient world and demonised n the Christian Era. The story of Hermaphroditus comes from the Roman writer Ovid’s amazing book Metamorphoses (Transformations) in which we find stories such as Pygmalion and Galatea about the man who creates a beautiful sculpture and falls in love with it. The gods eventually make her live. The story was later used by George Bernard Shaw in Pygmalion where Henry Higgens bets he can turn a common flower girl Eliza Dolitte into a lady…. the musical was My Fair Lady. Daphne’s father turned her into a laurel bush when Apollo tried to violate her, Narcissus became a flower. I was delighted to discover the cursed pool of the water nymph Salamics who prayed to be forever united with Hermaphroditus was somewhere in the Bodrum peninsula where I lived. Although I do think accidentally discovering it by bathing in the waters (and becominga hermaphrodite) would have been a bit of a mixed blessing. I think you have already read the stories I used from Metamorphoses on odds and sods: Pool of Salmacis; Tiresias; Echo and Narcissus; Halycon Days; Philemon & Baucis… as you know I loves me old mythology!! Pxxxxx

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – A Summer Party, Music, Myths, Food, Great Books and Laughter…You are invited. | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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