hidden europe 24

The nymph's call to Allianoi

by Üstün Bilgen-Reinart

Picture above: The Nymph of Allianoi standing in the niche where she was found (photo by Firdevs Sayilan).


Progress always comes at a price. Not far from Turkey's Aegean coast the beautiful ruins at Allianoi are about to be flooded. Local horticulturalists demand more water for their tomato crops. But the defenders of Allianoi are not giving in easily. Üstün Bilgen-Reinart reports from Turkey.

Olive saplings sway in the warm breeze along the dirt road that goes from Bergama to Allianoi. To the north, a haze hangs over the foothills of Mount Madra. Olive groves give way to a forest of nut-bearing Mediterranean pines, and a villager with horse and cart raises a hand in greeting as he passes. A sense of peace surrounds the landscape, and time stands still.

Bergama is the site of the ancient city of Pergamon. The old city's remarkable acropolis looms over modern Bergama. Soon after passing an intersection where a sign points to Yortanli Dam, a few kilometres away, we pull to a halt near a giant oak tree. There is no visible indication that we have arrived at an important archaeological site, one which puts the Bergama region in the limelight for something other than Pergamon. It is only when you get out of the car that you notice the handsome Roman bridge across the road, the archaeologists' dig house under the pines, and the chicken wire fence surrounding the remains of columns.

I wander across the dry grass to glimpse the colonnaded pools and vaulted chambers below the ground. There is still water in the pools. Hot springs of up to fifty degrees, considered therapeutic almost two thousand years ago, are still bubbling up through the earth's crust. Once the water was crystal clear, and the mosaics in geometric designs that still cover the bottoms of the pools were clearly visible from the surface; now it is dark and murky. Weeds sprout out from between the stones.

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