Turkey anno 2002 #1 Aspendos

In the palindrome year, the first since 1991, a few moths after the 17th FIFA World Cup and months before Turkey’s 15th general election was held on 3 November 2002 following the collapse of the DSP-MHP-ANAP coalition led by Bülent Ecevit, we revisited Turkey.

The first World Cup held in Asia, having had  Turkey surprisingly finishing 3rd place was still resounding in some cities. But also a realignment of the Turkish political landscape could be felt. It would be bringing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – a party with an Islamist pedigree – to power.

Although the AKP is an offshoot of the Islamist Welfare Party (RP), which was banned in 1997 for Islamist activities, the electorate sees the party as a new force and not necessarily Islamist. Various secular parties, courts, media outlets, and nongovernmental organizations viewed the party with suspicion due to its leaders past affiliation with RP. Yet, AKP’s moderate, non-confrontational rhetoric over the year 2001 had made it attractive to a diverse array of voters ranging from Islamic to rural nationalists and moderate urban voters.

AKP attracted many moderate urban voters, who were appalled by the inefficient and corruption-ridden governments of the 1990s, as well as by the political instability and economic downturns that characterized this decade. Many voters turned to AKP, which marketed itself as new and untainted by the legacy of the 1990s. AKP promised to deliver growth and stability, as in the Turgut Ozal years of the 1980s, a decade to which most Turks now looked back with nostalgia.

Erdogan at that time reaffirmed that AKP would not intervene in the lifestyles of the people, would maintain the country’s European orientation, and would integrate Turkey with the rest of the world, but today we see something different.

The ex-currencies of all euro-using nations had cease to be legal tender in the European Union and the Turks were preferring the new tender instead of their unstable currency.

The International Criminal Court was established (on July 1) though it seemed in Turkey lots of injustice still went on behind doors and they were not so much interested in the European way of thinking and jurisdiction. Several floods ravaged Central Europe, but did not touch us in the damp climate of Antalya.

Beach of Kemer, Antalya, Turkey

Beach of Kemer, Antalya, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Turkish Riviera, which stretches from Marmaris in the west to the province of Hatay near the border of Lebanon may be the summer playground on the Mediterranean Sea, for me the capital of the Turquoise Coast was perhaps too damp, good for holidays on the beach, which is not our cup of tea, but had us miles from the mountains and interesting hiking grounds.

The Karain Cave, about 16 miles from Antalya, has yielded artifacts dating from 30,000 bCE. The area probably has been inhabited continuously since about 50,000 B.C., in the Middle Paleolithic period, but Antalya is much younger.

In case you want to experience something out of the ordinary the old places are the once to visit not only once, but like we to go back for. Belek with its the Hadrian Gate, in Turkey’s Antalya Province, is oozing with ancient history. The ancient Greek city of Perge and the 2,000-year-old great amphitheatre of Aspendos that still hosts open-air festivals should not be missed. The impressive remnants of the Roman occupation of the towns brings history back to life.

Aspendos ancient city is the city situated on the road turning to the North from 30 km of the Antalya-Mersin Highway near the Village of Belkıs (also used as “Balkız” or “Belkız” in the Anatolian language) in Antalya. Strabon, for this city, says that it was founded by the immigrants coming from Argos under the leadership of the Thracian oracle Mopsos coming to Pamphylia after the Trojan War and that it is a favorable place for shipping.

On the coins of the 5th and 4th centry B.C. obtained in the excavations, it is seen that the city was called as Estwedia. On the bilingual (bilinguis) epigraph found in Karatepe, it is read that the Antique City was founded by Asitawandia from ancestry of Mopsos. This indicates that the name of Estwedia was transformed from Asitawandia on the Hittite epigraphs.

Having been the most important city in Pamphylia the remnants of the high quality life and great wealth from a trade in salt, oil, and wool can still be felt. Aspendos became a cultural centre of the Hellenistic and Roman periods and achieved its heyday in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. The remnants for which it is possible to see in this region still today belong to this age. The traces of Aspendos belonging to the age prior to the Roman period could not be found so far today.

On the eastern side of Acropolis (the area founded on the top of the city and on which there were located major buildings in ancient Greek and Roman cities), you can find  the best-preserved theatre of antiquity, with a diameter of 96 metres (315 ft), which provided seating for 7,000.

A marvelous place to bring theatre performances: Aspendos - 1992 Marcus

A marvellous place to bring theatre performances: Aspendos – 1992 Marcus – Photo by Marjolein Pronk

On the door lintel of the theatre (in architecture; upper threshold of the doors and windows), there exist epigraphs in Greek and Latin language. On these epigraphs, we learn that the theatre was built by the Architect Zenon, a native of the city and son of Theodorus, in the period of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161 – 180), though some say it was already built in in 155. Even if nearly the entire theatre was built on vaulted and arched foundations, a small part of it was based upon the eastern side of Acropolis (the area founded on the top of the city and on which there were located major buildings in ancient Hellenistic and Roman cities). The exterior of the theatre is bonded with conglomerate blocks and the door and window frames are made of cream colour limestone.  It was presented to “the gods of the city and the imperial authority” by the brothers Curtius Chrispinus and Curtius Auspicatus.

It lost its glory but was repaired by the Seljuqs, who used it as a caravansaray, and in the 13th century the stage building was converted into a palace by the Seljuqs of Rum.

In order to keep with Hellenistic traditions, a small part of the theatre was built so that it leaned against the hill where the Citadel (Acropolis) stood, while the remainder was built on vaulted arches. The high stage served to seemingly isolate the audience from the rest of the world. The scaenae frons or backdrop, has remained intact. The 8.1 metre (27 ft) sloping reflective wooden ceiling over the stage has been lost over time. Post holes for 58 masts are found in the upper level of the theatre. These masts supported a velarium or awning that could be pulled over the audience to provide shade. {Roth, Leland M. (1993). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning (First ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.}

Aspendos 1992 Marjolein

2,000-year-old great amphitheatre of Aspendos – 1992, Photo by Marcus Ampe

Ankara Opera House (Opera Sahnesi) home for the Devlet Opera ve Balesi, first among three opera and ballet venues in Ankara

Ankara Opera House (Opera Sahnesi) home for the Devlet Opera ve Balesi, first among three opera and ballet venues in Ankara

My colleagues from Ankara ( Turkish State Opera and Ballet) had spoken with awe of that theatre, so we could not miss it. The national directorate of opera and ballet companies of Turkey, Devlet Opera ve Balesi, had under Atatürk‘s personal guidance sent many talented young people to Europe for professional training, who, upon their return during the 1930s, became teachers of music and performing arts at the newly established Musiki Muallim Mektebi in Ankara (opened in 1924) and Darülelhan in İstanbul. In the seventies we also had a lovely exchange and could be surprised for the allowed modernism.

 19 th Anniversary, International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival, 2014

19 th Anniversary, International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival, 2014

From 1994 they organise the annual Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival (Aspendos Uluslararası Opera ve Bale Festivali) in a similar tradition as Verona with popular operas such as Aida, la Traviata, Attila, classical ballets as Spartacus (1995),  Leyla, don Quichote (1997), Bayadere, Notre Dame de Paris, and presented a.o. in 2000 the Best of Bolshoi.

Aspendos FInternational Opera & Ballet Festival 2014 Notre-Dame de paris performance

The gypsy girl, renown for her talent in dancing Esmeralda dances with Quasimodo, who has been often mocked and regarded as monstrous because of his appearance

The fact of being held at an antique theatre like Aspendos, whose history goes back to 166 CE, gives a distinct meaning to the International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival.
The audience, among whom % 70 are foreign tourists, has been seeing and hearing the performances with the great acoustics of the theatre which is made excellently by providing the cutting-edge calculations of the age. The sound is transmitted to the audience in the most natural way and there is no need to use high-tech (sound-acoustic, electronic) systems in the festivals and art events performed in this place. This proves the architectural genius of Zenon.

2,000-year-old great amphitheatre of Aspendos - Revisited 2002, Photo by  Marcus Ampe

Enjoying the ancient city in Pamphylia, Asia Minor, located about 40 km east of the modern city of Antalya, Turkey – 2,000-year-old great amphitheatre of Aspendos – Revisited 2002, Photo by Marcus Ampe

Aspendos theatre from the stage area - 2012 Photo by Ukiws

Aspendos theatre from the stage area – 2012 Photo by Ukiws

The sitting lines for the audience (cavea; auditorium; theatron) is built wider than the Stage Building (skene) and is divided into two by the horizontal passage (diazome dividing the sitting lines of the theatre) . There are forty-one sitting lines in total as twenty of them are in the lower part and twenty-one of them are in the upper part of the diazome. The lower sitting lines are divided into nine sections with ten stairs (kerkides), the upper sitting lines, as for, are divided into twenty sections with twenty-one stairs. The sitting places are made of limestone. The audience reach to the sitting lines through the vaulted entrances on both sides of the stage building. The upper parts of the entrances are arranged in the from of chambers and reserved for the notables. The uppermost sitting line is in the form of column gallery and settled on the partly cradle vaults according to the slope of the hill. The brick repair seen herein belongs to the Seljuk period.

Aspendos Roman theatre - Photo Adrian Schneider, 2003

Aspendos Roman theatre – Photo Adrian Schneider, 2003


Preceding articles:

Turkey inbetween two visits

Turkey a wolf in the sheep house of the European Union

To be continued: Turkey anno 2002 #2 Antalya and Side inside out


  • Erdoğan in Paris: I won’t let Assad to destabilize my government (friendsofsyria.co)
    Speaking in a joint press conference with his host French counterpart, François Hollande, the Turkish megalomaniac president reiterated his previous positions towards the Syrian crisis by saying that Turkey will do its best to remove the Syrian embattled government of  Bashar al-Assad which he called “the root of all Middle-East’s mishaps.”
  • Turkey complicit with ISIS; unfit to join EU (crashonline.com)
    It was not only Western pressure that impelled the Ankara government to take this reluctant step but recent serious rioting by Turkish Kurds, appalled by their government’s policy of isolating their fellow Kurds beyond the border, which left 35 people dead. Turkey has allowed European jihadists, including more than 500 from Britain, to pour across its borders to join ISIS.This complicity by a NATO member state and aspiring applicant for membership of the European Union in furthering the interests of the worst jihadist terrorist organisation to surface so far demonstrates the impassable gulf that exists between Turkey and the West. It also reflects the creeping Islamicisation of Turkey that has taken place under the rule of the AKP party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    We misunderstand why ISIS operates with impunity inside Turkey, to the extent of attempting the abduction of a Syrian rebel leader on Turkish soil a few days ago. We fail to understand why Erdogan should demand a no-fly zone over ISIS-threatened territory when ISIS has no aircraft and warplanes are its opponents’ chief weapon. More widely, we cannot understand why Turkey, whose territory is 97 per cent in Asia, should join the European Union.
  • Radical Turkish Leftists Attacked Three US Sailors In Istanbul (businessinsider.com)
    Today’s attack on three Sailors from the USS Ross in Istanbul is reprehensible. We are certain the vast majority of the Turkish people and the Government of Turkey do not condone this act against these representatives of a friend and ally.
  • Attack on U.S. sailors by Turkish mob caught on tape (theweek.com) (video)
    Three U.S. sailors on leave in Istanbul, Turkey, were attacked by around 20 people Wednesday in an act the American embassy called “appalling.”The incident was filmed and posted online, with the video showing the group of men throwing objects at the sailors and then chasing after them, with one saying, “We define you as murderers, as killers… and we want you to get our of our land.”
  • Turkish President Butts Heads With Cafe Smoker (nbcnews.com)
    The sight of Erdogan wagging his finger at the smoker as crowds of curious onlookers took pictures with their phones triggered a backlash on social media, with his opponents seeing it as evidence of an increasingly authoritarian nature.
  • Turkey’s Diminished Influence in the Middle East (frontpagemag.com)
    Not long ago, at the height of the Arab Spring, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (now President of Turkey) enjoyed the adulation of the masses throughout the Arab world, and a close friendship with U.S. President Barack Obama. A revival of a neo-Ottoman Empire was not far from the mind of Erdogan and his Foreign Minister (now Prime Minister) Ahmet Davutoglu. It was Davutoglu who proclaimed neo-Ottomanism as a policy, and a new order in the Middle East.As the year 2014 comes to a close, Turkish influence in the Middle East has seen a sharp decline. It was outvoted in its quest for a seat at the United Nations Security Council despite its intensive lobbying of the UN’s 193 member nations. Turkey lost out to Spain. Counter lobbying by Egypt and Saudi Arabia helped defeat Turkey’s efforts. Turkey’s reluctance to take action against the Islamic State (IS) has put it under international pressure. Its refusal to help the besieged Syrian Kurds in the city of Kobani (on the Turkish border) resulted in violent Kurdish demonstrations in Turkey offsetting the gains made by the AKP party with the large Kurdish minority. In addition, Turkish passivity in the face of Kurdish suffering engendered contempt for Turkey.
  • ICC Decides NOT to Investigate Israel for War Crimes (darkgovernment.com)

    The international criminal court (ICC) will not prosecute over Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010, in which 10 Turkish activists died, despite a “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed”.

    The chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there would be no investigation leading to a potential prosecution because the alleged crimes, including the killing of 10 activists by Israeli commandos, were not of “sufficient gravity”.

  • 11.12 Turkish Radicals Initiate another “Workplace Incident” Against American Sailors on Shore Leave (johngaltfla.com)
    I guess our “allies” in Turkey no longer view our soldiers or sailors as friends to their new found Islamist Republic as this attack, which could only happen with the tacit approval of the government and Turkish intelligence services illustrates:
  • The status of Turkey’s women plummets (aei.org)
    While those prone to excuse Erdoğan and his corrupt, Islamist regime sometimes suggest that this huge jump simply represents greater reporting in the first seven years of his reign, Turkish parliamentarians say that is not the case: the jump simply reflects the sense of impunity so many of Erdoğan’s religious followers have when it comes to a belief that, like the president himself, they are now above the law.
  • The Kurds in Turkey and the Fight for Kobani by Veli Sirin (ruthfullyyours.com)
    The world has watched the town of Kobani on the Turkish-Syrian border, where the Wahhabi terrorists of the so-called “Islamic State” [IS], also known as ISIS, ISIL, and, in Arabic, the “Daesh,” are fighting the Kurdish peshmerga, a word meaning “those facing death.” The Turkish authorities, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Islamist Justice and Development Party [AKP], have stood among the ambivalent observers of the battle for Kobani.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
This entry was posted in Ballet + Dance/Dans, Culture, Dagboek = Diary, History, World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Turkey anno 2002 #1 Aspendos

  1. Pingback: In the aftermath of the failed coup – Some View on the World

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