Magnesia on the Meander

Magnesia is a rare exception among towns founded by the Greeks during the eleventh century B.C. because of its inland location. Established by a colony of Aeolians on the plain in the confluence of the Lethaios (Naipler) with the Meander, it passed successively to the Persians, Spartans, Seleucids, Romans and Byzantines. During the Spartan period it was relocated at the foot of Mount Thorax (Gümüş Dagi) to avoid constant flooding by the overflowing Meander. The ruins visible today are those of the loter Magnesia. Alluvial deposits have long since hidden the remains of the original town.


Magnesia’s historical fame rests principally on the fact that of the five towns presented to him by Ataxerxes after his flight from Athens, Themistocles chose to live and die. here. Honored by his fellow citizens, he sought to reciprocate their goodwill by endowing

Magnesia  with a  monumental temple to the Phrygian mother    gocf- des His    death    was marked by a    mass funeral celebration    and his prominence memorialized in the Agora.

During the third century B.C., the god Apollo at Delphi declared the city and territory of Magnesia, holy ground after an epiphany of the goddess Artemis was’reported there. Romans,from the time of Sufla onward granted Magnesia the status of a «free, town» because of its resistance to the Pontic king Mlthradates In 87 B.C. The city was the seat of an important bishopric during the Byzantine period It entered into o fatal decline in the eleventh century, and its remains were excavated under the direction of Carl Humann in the period 1891 -1893.


It is perhaps difficult to orient oneself among the shapeless ruins of the ancient city. Approaching them on the Aydın road from Söke, note the remains of a wail on either side. This dates from the Byzantine period. Pay attention to the use of a large amount of    lime between the stones.    Remnants of walls dating    irom

Hellenistic   times  mey be found on  the sides of the hills to    the south of Gümüş Dagi, These are without lime between !he stones. To the left of the road are the ruins of a Roman barracks. A church and small mosque were built on this site in the 15th century. Close to the road on the left are the remains of the 3rd century Temple to Artemis, built by the architect Hermogenes. A Doric portico and Ionic propylaea were constructed around the temple in Roman times. The propylaea opened onto the Agora, which was lined with porticos having shops beneath them. A small temple to Athena stood to the west. An Ionic temple to Zeus was erected in the third century B.C. A theater built to accomodate three thousand spectators was built close to the Agora. One row of seats is still visible In the cavea. Ruins of a Roman Odeon are still visible. To the west are the remains of a Roman gymnasium. The site of the stadium is to the south. Here, by parting the gross, it is possible to detect the remains of marble seats with armrests.

The Temple of Arîemis: The temple of Artemis stood on the site of an older temple. Basing their assumptions on the evidence of the older temple thus far uncovered, archaeologists believe it too was dedicated to the mother goddess. They also hold that it was constructed with rough limestone about the sixth century B.C., and that the column bases were of the Ephesian type. There were six of these columns across the front. It was a smaller temple than its successor. The most plentiful remains are those of the later structure.

Dating from 220 B.C., the Artemis Temple was the work of the architect. Hermogenes. Hermogenes, a native of Albanda, was also the architect of the Temple of Dionysus at Teos. His Magnesian work was more highly regarded however. Strabo .refers to it as the biggest after the temples of Ephesus and the Didymeion. The famous historical architect, Vitruirus, lavished praise upon it and sow the temple as a model of the lonio type.

In the tradition of the Phrygian mother goddess, the temple faced westward. Other examples are the Artemis temples at Sardis and Ephesus, and the temples at Ankara and Pesslnus. The temple stood on flat ground.

Careful observation of the ruins reveals the Artemision to have had measurements of 41 by 67 meters. The pronaos and cella were rendered equal in size after the example of the Athena temple created by Pytheos at Priene. Note the positioning of the internal columns in the pronaos and cella. The statue of Artemis stood on a foundation in the cella. Remains of this base still may be observed. One particularly remarkable feoture of the Artemision was the positioning of the external columns at twice the normal distance from the temple walls. Hermogenes seems to have intended to give the appearance of a double row of columns without having to intro-

duce an interior row. Thus the term pseudodipteral has been applied to this phenomenon. There were eight columns on the face and back, and fifteen on the sides. The alignment between the doors in the middle of the west and east pediments and the positioning of the columns so that each was in an exact line with its opposite along the wide faces exhibits an adherence ta the principle of axiality not indicated in any previous Greek temple. The temple possessed a relief frieze of about two hundred meters in length which, in part, depicted the wars of the Amazons. The altar of the Artemlsion lay to the west. According to A. von Gerkan, its construction indicates it was modeled on the Pergamene prototype.

This temple is considered one of the most important works in the history of art because it exhibits the innovative architectural concept of axiaiity. This concept was later developed in Roman art and baroque city planning in Europe. Its monumental proportions also add to its significance. The Temple of 2eus Sosipolis : The second ruin to warrant careful attention is the Temple of Zeus Sosipolis. It is situated In the courtyard of the Agora. A sniafi marble prostyle of the Ionic order, it reflects the characteristics of most of the smaller Hellenistic temples. Examples of this style of building in Anatolia are the Nai-skos in Didymaion and the temple of Zeus in the Agora at Priene, The tempie may be considered one of the earliest works of Hermo-genes.

The Theater: Although there is very little to see of the theater which lies at the west foot of the hill just to the south of the temple, one interesting observation may be made, it was one of the few in which a tunnel was installed for the appearance of actors .rising from the underworld. It led from under the stage into the orchestra. Branching right and left it formed the letterTi A similar tunnel existed in the theater at Trades, the modern Aydm, Unfortunately these two sole examples of this type of theatrical architecture in Asia Minor have now been obliterated.

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