Erythrae

There is some uncertainty as to the location of the first city of Erythrae. One authority suggests it may have been moved to its present location in the middle of the fourth century B.C., from the small peninsula of Kalem Burnu, just to the west of Mica. Evidence at both sites may be said to support this theory. At Kalem Burnu, indications of human activity, for example sherds, cease to exist after this time. Ildir, however, possesses signs indicating the beginning of human habitation at just about the same time. Furthermore, a fourth century inscription, found at Erythrae, provides for the establishment of a network of city streets which suggests the foundation of a new human center.

An Archaic deposit of sherds has been found on the site of the Erythraean Acropolis which may discredit all previous conjectures concerning Erythrae's original location in Ionia.

HISTORY OF ERYTHRAE

According to legend, the first city was founded by a group from Crete, led by Erythrus who gave his name to the city.A band of lonians formed by Cnopus, son of Codrus, was subsequently Introduced into Erythrae. It was a rich and prosperous city which made little impact on the historical record. Herodotus tells us its citizens spoke the same Ionic dialect as the Chians. During the seventh century B.C., Erythrae and Chios warred against each other. At one time, Erythrae combined with Miletus to establish the settlement of Parium, on the Sea of Marmara.

Erythrae provided seven ships to the Ionian fleet during the battle of Lade in 494 B.C. As a member of the Delian Confederacy, it was assessed seven talents, an amount equal to the highest assessment among the Ionian cities. Erythrae's wealth must have been produced by seaborne commerce. At this time, Smyrna's status had been reduced to that of a village. Like Teos, Erythrae must have acquired a large amount of trade which would otherwise have gone to Smyrna.

The historical record of the later Erythrae at Ildir is incomplete. Fourth century inscriptions refer to: a decree in honor of Mausolus, dynast of Caria, called a benefactor of Erythrae; defacement by particular oligarchs of the statue of a patriot who had slain "the tyrant"; the honoring of a citizen for providing funds "for the sending out of soldiers and the demolition of the Acropolis." However, none of these interesting inscriptions can be elaborated because of the paucity of connecting evidence. One aspect of Erythrae's history is particularly intriguing. It was the home of one of the women of antiquity, given the name of Sibyl, who were credited with having the gift of prophecy. The exact number of these in the ancient world is a matter of dispute, however, it is agreed that the distinction of the Erythraean Sibyl, Sibyl Herophile, was second only to that of the Sibyl of Cumae in Italy. According to local tradition, she was born in a cave on Mount Corycus in the Erythraean territory and lived nine hundred years.

RUINS OF ERYTHRAE

A fountain-house containing a number of inscriptions dating from the second century A.D., discovered in 1891, at Ildir, is claimed to be the actual seat of the Sibyl. One of the inscriptions stresses her Erythraean origin. This discovery was improperly recorded, and its exact location is no longer ascertainable.

Although the site of Erythrae is remarkable, the ruins have a somewhat lesser impact because pilfering by contractors in the 19th century has obscured their structural continuity. The acropolis slopes to the shore from a height of two hundred eighty feet, with an adequate distance between it and its surrounding hills. A small island, belonging to the groups of islands named Hippi by the ancients and lying a short distance away, increased the security of its harbor.

The wall : The wall circuit proceeds along the low ridges to the north and east. It is possible to follow the path of the wall for most of its two and a half mile length. Note that it was a particularly strong wall. Twelve to seventen feet thick, it was constructed of beautiful ashlar masonry There were gates and towers at variable intervals. Look for the section of the wall constructed with light-colored limestone except for two courses of dark-brown stone; the effect of this diversification is striking. A rocky knoll in the north marks the end of the wall. There is no evidence of it along the shore.

The River: The land contained by the wall is watered by a stream originating just inside the city. It is not known what the ancients called it. Inscriptions refer to the River Aleon, which Pliny cited as having the characteristic of making hair grow on the body. Coins of Erythrae depict a river-god known as Axus. It may be that at one time there were two rivers, the Aleon and the Axus. If so, we are left with the problem as to which one remains today. In any case, the water of the city, while adequate for crop growing, was undrinkable and the citizens had to bring water in by means of earthenware pipes laid on or under the ground. Some of these have been uncovered.

The Interior Wall and Acropolis : Remnants of a wall defending the Acropolis may be found above the village. Its construction resembles that of the outer wall. A portion of a terrace wall of a "coursed polygonal" style, dating from the early Hellenistic period, is visible. Only the ruins of a Greek Orthodox church may be seen on the summit.

The Theater : In 1963, the Izmir Museum sponsered an excavation on the north slope of the Acropolis to determine the major characteristics of the theater. The well-preserved steps of the cavea were uncovered as were the foundations of the rows of seats. No trace of the stage building was found. The theater faced north. Although a theater is mentioned in a second century inscription, it is not certain when it was actually built.

The Sanctuary : There are indications of a sanctuary on the site which has been claimed to be the famous temple of Heracles. The point is a contentious one. However there is no doubt that Erythrae was the site of many temples. One inscription records a sale by city authorities of some forty priesthoods.

The Mosaic Floor : North of the theater is a mosaic floor which has been well preserved. It is the only one of several finds in the area still to be seen.

 

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