Anatolian Civilizations

People from the Ionian towns of Miletus and Kolophans ventured forth to spread their culture and set up colonies in the Marmara and Black Sea regions. Around 550 B.C., two great philosophers of the period, Anaximandros and Anaximenes mentioned that it was the ‘atom’ that was at the core of all materials. In 585 B.C. Thales of Miletus calculated the eclipse of the sun an entire year before it occurred. In Ionia, which was nourished by the epic works of the Smyrna (modern day Izmir) poet Homer around 750 B.C., there were new poets like Anakreon of Teos and Hipponax of Sardis reciting their poems in the free Ionian towns. Xenophones of Kolophan and Herakleitos of Ephesus acted as representatives of free thinking between the years 540-500 B.C. Heredotus of Bodrum travelled the world and put to pen famous histories for the benefit of humanity. From Miletus, there was Hippodamos, the expert on town planning who reconstructed Priene and Miletus with a new concept. While the Persians ruled all parts of Anatolia not under the control of the Ionians, there also existed the Lycian Civilization with its own characteristics, reaching from the Dalaman Stream to as far as the region surrounding Antalya. Today we can come across several 5th century B.C. Lycian towns with rock cliffs carved into wooden house-shaped structures, serving as tombs and stone monuments.

The years 545-475 B.C. are known as the Archaic period. Instead of the small carved statuettes that were notable in previous periods, the Archaic period is the first time that large sized statues appeared on the scene. The figural Kouros and Kore sculptures of this period pose with a monumental atmosphere, with their frontal poses, one foot slightly ahead of the other, large eyes and furrowed brows. The serious, calm and fixed face smiles are typical characteristics of the Archaic Age. The years between 475-334 B.C. are called the Classic Age. In this age, one of the seven wonders of the world was selected, the Artemis Temple in Ephesus. The century’s four most famous sculptures such as Phidias, Polylet, Kresilas and Phradmon all competed for the Amazon statue. Towards the end of the Classic period, around 350 B.C., four of the greatest artisans of the period, Skopos, Timotheos, Leochares and Bryaxis worked to complete the Bodrum Mausoleum, thus creating one of the seven wonders of the world. Praxiteles created a revolution in art by making the naked Knidos Aphrodite. In the year 334 B.C., Alexander the Great who could not suffice with Europe, set out on his Eastern Conquest and by defeating the Persians, desired to rapidly proceed with setting up a world empire. The Hellenic Age culture, which Alexander formed by blending the culture of the west with that of the east, survived until 30 B.C. The culture and politics of the Hellenic Period hold a special place in the history of civilization. The flow of Hellenism spread deep into Asia and Africa, mixing with many native people that lived on large expanses of land.

It becoming a very effective way of forming a cultural collection of universal qualities. Alexander the Great, the creator of the Hellenic Age was born in 356 B.C. He became King at 20 years of age and expanded the frontiers as far as Iran and India in the East, and as far as North Africa, Mesopotamia and Syria in the south. At the age of 33, and while returning from his Asian conquest, he died in Babylon in 323 B.C. Upon his death, the widespread lands were shared among his generals and several independent Hellenic Kingdoms were formed, in which an endless struggle ensued. Finally, the Pergamum Kingdom was established, which ruled over a major part of Anatolia for quite a long time. Instead of the clumsy Doric order of the Archaic period, use of the Ionian order continued along with the Corinthian order, which was a combination of the two and was commonly used.

During the period of the Persian occupation, the previously destroyed Didyma Temple was planned to be rebuilt towards the 3rd century B.C. by Paionios of Ephesus and Daphnis of Miletus. Construction had actually begun, however this magnificent temple was never completed and remains in the same condition today. There were several temples of which construction and repair work had continued, such as the Magnesia Artemis Temple in Alabanda, which was constructed by Hermogenes and the Artemis Temple in Ephesus, which was slated to be rebuilt with Alexander’s assistance.

The most wonderful work of art of the Hellenic Period is the Pergamum Zeus Altar, which was constructed in 180 B.C. to immortalize Eumenes II, who scored a great victory over the Galatians. This grand altar emphasized the antique age of this period’s art of sculpture. In this temple, which was dedicated to the major deity Zeus and his daughter Athena, we may see the struggle between the Gigants and Gods that was etched upon the friezes. The intense feelings such as joy, pain and anxiety that are seen on the faces in the friezes convey a Baroque concept. The exceedingly sharp movements of the bodies causing the flow of hair and the helter-skelter of loosely fit clothing brings about a play of the shadows and exaggerated body muscles that all reflect the characteristics of the period’s defined sculpture. Unfortunately, it is a pity that this unique work of art of the Hellenic Period is not found in its original place, but sitting in the Berlin Museum. In addition to temples, theaters were also constructed in this period. For example, we can visit the Bergama Theater, which was the steepest theater of the ancient world. Another of the most important developments of the Hellenic Period was sculpture. The statues of this period show that realism was the dominant theme as opposed to the prominence of idealism of the Classic Period. For this reason, instead of god sculptures of the Classic Period, statues of men and women began to be made. At the beginning of the Hellenic Period, the Lysippos style was the most prominent. In the Hellenic Period, apart from the first school of sculpture, located in Bergama, another sculpture center was established in Tralles, Aydin. Today, as we walk through the ruins of ancient cities, we can see the Hellenic temples, theaters and other monuments standing right next to these made in Rome.