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[Anatolian Civilizations] [Ancient civilisations]


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As a consequence of the migration of the people coming from the Balkans in the 1200s BC, the Hittite empire weakened in Anatolia; and it finally collapsed in the 700s BC after it endeavoured to survive in the east, southeast as smaller kingdoms.

In addition to the civilizations, which were established at Anatolia after the Hittites, such as the Phrygians, the Lydians, the Lycians, the Carians and the Urartians, there was also the Ion civilization. At the time when the Hittite empire collapsed, the Dorians coming from the north to Greece destroyed the Achaean civilization. The Achaeans who fled away from the Dorians came to the west coasts of Anatolia. In addition to the Achaeans, the Aiolians and latter the Dorians came from Greece to Anatolia. According to the ancient writers, the leaders of the migration were Androklos and Meleus, the sons of the Athens king, Kodros. When the Greek came to the Aegean coasts, the Mysians, Lelegs, Carians and Pelasgs were living on the land. While the Achaeans captured the west coasts, the Dorians captured the south coasts of Caria.

As the excavations in Izmir Bayrakli indicated, the Greeks established the Ion cities on small peninsula coasts in Anatolia as from 1050 BC. The Ioniazation of the Aegean region continued in the later centuries as well and, in the 5th century BC the West Anatolia had an Ionian character.

The first Grek migrants who came to the Aegean coasts, the Aiolians (Aeolians) established more than 12 settlements in the regions between Canakkale and Izmir. They settled down in the cities such as Sultanhisar, Larisa (Larissa), Yanikkoy (Neonteikos), Candarli (Pitane), Kyme, Cifitkalesi (Gryneion) and in the islands such as Midilli (Lesbos) and Bozcaada (Tenedos).

As from the beginning of the 10th century BC onwards, the settlements of the Aiolians were captured by the Ionians. The Dorians established the cities of Datca (Knidos) and Bodrum (Halikarnassos) by crossing the islands of Crete, Tera, Melos and Rhodes and coming to the Southeast Anatolia after they invaded the entire Greece.

The Ions, who had good relationships with their neighbours the Phrygians and the Lydians, dealt with agriculture at first but in the course of time they established major cities. The Ion cities, as a consequence of their relation with the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians and Hittitians after the 8th century BC, brought forth the cultural and artistic affluence, which also constitutes the basis of today’s Western civilization, by combining the oriental impact with their cultures. Between 650-545 BC, when it was the most spectacular period of the Ionian civilization, Ionia became a more noticeable culture centre than Mesopotamia and Egypt. The cities which constituted the Ionian union were Milet (Miletos), Efes (Efesos), Avsar (Myus), Gullubahce (Priene), Degirmendere (Colophon), Ildirli (Erythrai), Sigacik (Teos), Urla (Clazomenai), Foca (Fokaia), Gumuldur (Lebedos), the Sakiz Island (Chios) and the Sisam Island (Samos), which were established by the Ionians. There were other Ion settlements such as Magnesia and Metropolis, which were not the members of this union.

The city of Paionion was the religious and political capital of the Ionian union. Each of these cities, which were also city states, developed enormously due to the fact that they, particularly Miletos and Efesos, were on the junction of trade roads. The ports of the cities, which had their own colonies, were crowded with the ships coming from Black Sea, Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean.

By prevailing in the trade between Europe and Asia, they became the rivals of the Phoenicians. These Ion cities, which were under the sovereignty of firstly the Phrygains and then the Lydians, were independent culturally. After the Lydian state was defeated by the Persians in 546 BC, the West Anatolia was dominated by the Persians who ruled Anatolia by satraphy. Ionia was under the rule of the Sardis satraphy. The Persian domination (545-333 BC), generated an economic and political pressure for the Ionian cities. The allied Ionian cities revolted against the Persians in 500 BC (The Ionian Revolt). Although the Ionian cities were leading a successful campaign at the beginning, the Persians suppressed the revolt by destroying and burning Miletos, which was the most developed and wealthy Ionian city. The Persians waged war to the Greek cities that assisted the revolt.

The architecture, art and philosophy of this civilization, which migrated from Greece and took the name of Ion by uniting with the natives of the land, impressed Greece considerably as well. Ionians’ interaction with the East, particularly with the Phoenicians, as a consequence of trade and the easement of access, caused the improvement of Greek culture as well. The Greeks learned writing from the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC. The ancient Ionian alphabet was called ‘foinikeia’ (phoenikeia). After the Ionian alphabet was officially adopted by Athens in 403 BC, it spread to vast areas. The Iliad and Odysseia, which were constituted by the epics read in the Anatolian regions between Aiolia and Ionia, date back to the 8th century BC. Homer, who unionized the epics in the Ionian dialect, was from Izmir. These epics, that have had a major impact on the Greek, determined the formation of Greek language and became a valuable source for the artists. Homer’s edition and collection of these epics is crucial for the Greek’s achievement of a cultural unity. Apart from Homer, other Ionian poets were Minermos (Colophon), Demodokos (Miletos), Anakreon (Teos) and Sappho (Lesbos).

Even though the Ionians were impressed by the ancient Egyptian and oriental civilizations, they had no difficulty with forming their own way of thinking. However, philosophy was a culmination of a particular culture. The most important Greek philosophers lived in West Anatolia and their doctrines passed over to Greece. It was Xenophones of Colophon who spread Ionian philosophy in Greece and established a philosophy school.

A certain thought formed in the intelligentsia of Ionia in the 6th century BC: in a society which is polytheistic, the intelligentsia tried to explain the natural events by the natural law rather than the powers of these gods. The Ionian nature philosophers who emphasized science lived in Efesos and Miletos.

The Miletosian mathematician, astronomer and philosopher Thales, who claimed that water is the primary principle, could calculate in advance the solar eclipse which was seen at Anatolian coasts in 585 BC. Also, the Miletosian physicist and natural scientist Anksimandros (610-574 BC) laid stress on infinity and eternity without stating that a certain material is the primary principle for all things. Herakleitos of Efesos (540-470 BC), declared that one cannot speak about an absolute reality and all things become meaningful by the perception of people. All the things in the universe are on the move and changes. Another philosopher, Anaksimenos of Miletos (550-480 BC) is the student of Anaksimandros and he asserted that everything comes from air and becomes air eventually and, the soul is the air people breath. One of the Sophists, Anaksagoras of Klazomena (500-428 BC) suggested that nothing can change into its opposite, as Herakleitos said, and change cannot be explained by a sole Being. He said, “All things come out of all things”. Leukippos of Miletos introduced atomic theory in the 5th century BC. According to Diogenes of Sinope (413-327 BC), good virtue is the paramount merit. The core of philosophy is simplicity and nature.

Epicuros of Samos (341 BC) said, “Pleasure is the beginning and aim of a happy life”. He asserted that there should be friendship, freedom and thinking in order to be happy. Hypocrates of Istankoy (Chios) (460-375 BC) is known as the father of medicine. He tried to form a genuine scientific medicine concept by distinguishing medicine from philosophy.

The Ionian cities were established in downtown cities with a towered rampart and high city walls for the purpose of defence and on top of the hills called Acropolis. As from the 5th century BC, Hyppodamos’ gridiron plan which consists of city blocks between parallel steep and narrow streets was practised in cities such as Priene, Miletos and Heraklia.

Priene is an example of gridiron plan which is carried into effect on a stiff slope. Uniformity is prevented by spreading great structures into different surfaces. Different kinds of structures were available for the citizens: agora, which was a meeting place firstly and later became a market place in the 5th century BC, stoa, sanctuaries, odeon - the concert hall, bouleuterion – the parliament building, gymnasium for physical and mental training, theatres with its benches leaning to a slope, monumental fountains, stadiums for sports. In addition to these structures, there were also common houses and necropolis where the cemetery was and which was around the city gates and out of the city walls. Rock-cut tombs, sarcophagi, sanctuary, pillar tombs and tower type tombs like at Xanthos (the Harpies) were found at necropolises. The most excellent examples of sanctuary type tombs are the Nereids, the Belevi Mausoleum and the Halikarnassos Mausoleum.

There are some sarcophagi and a monumental tomb, which is like a house in the middle of a sacred area surrounded by walls having friezes with mythological reliefs, around Golbasi (Trisa) monumental tomb.

There were some god sculptures and things devoted to them at sanctuaries, which were believed to be the house of god. While as from the 7th century BC onwards the Ionic and Doric order was encountered at sanctuaries, which were made out of marble and stone and which were derived from the structure type called Megaron, later on the Corinthian order was added to the sanctuaries. The most elegant examples of the Ionic order, which developed at Western Anatolia are Efesus Artemis Sanctuary, Dydima Apollon sanctuary, Priene Athena Sanctuary and Samos Hera Sanctuary, all of which were made out of marble entirely. The slender, fluted and high columns, which are on a base in the Ionic order, have a voluted cap. Between the scrolls at the cap, there are a series of stylized leafage and eggs. In the Hellenistic period, they are embellished with frieze-figured compositions. In the Corinthian order, which was started to be used in the 5th century BC, there is acanthus leafage at the cap of the columns.

At the excavations of Efesos Artemis Sanctuary, religious gold, bronze and ivory statuettes, which are dating back to the years between 700-550 BC and which on the one hand have Hittitian characteristics in shape and clothing but on the other hand have Greek characteristic stylistically, are found. These statuettes seem to be the predecessors of the brankhid sculptures which are on the sacred road from Miletos to Dydima and which are dating back to the 6th century BC.

The sculptures of this priest, who is sitting on a block-like chair, have the same form and pose; their proportions and sizes are heavy. The religious sculptures of the Greek art took place at sanctuaries as cults and at facades of the sanctuaries as ornaments. Herbal motives and complex creatures of Mesopotamia were depicted in pictures and in reliefs in the archaic period of Ionia. Fearsome monsters provided a wide range of subject. It is possible to see painted complex and mythological creatures on the lids of earthen sarcophagi in Urla (Clazomenai) in the 6th century BC. The base parts of the column track on the west front of the Artemis sanctuary and the column bases and friezes of the Dydima Sanctuary were ornamented with this kind of embellishments.

The continuity of sanctuary embellishments improved with the influence of Mesopotamian seal. These sculptures were brought to Greece in the Archaic age and they were continued to be created even in the Classical age. Even though funeral procession and hunting scenes, which are Oriental by subject, were depicted on tomb steles done in Ionia under the domination of the Persian civilization, the Greek stele tradition continued. The Persian seals, seal stamping, gold and silver Persian coins were the works of art found in Anatolia in this period.

The well-preserved remains of the Ionian architecture are available to found in antique cities such as Sardes, Pergamon, Efesos, Priene, Miletos, Didyma, Aphrodisias and Aizanoi. Ivory, terracotta, stone and marble sculptures and reliefs created in the Ionian civilization period can be seen at the Turkish museums. The Ionian painting, which ca be traced in vases and terracotta sarcophagi, is unique in the sense of its warm style, delicate workmanship and attentive toil.