Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Magnesia underestimated

We’re still feeling pretty low after the events of last week — and thanks, everyone, for all the support. Fortunately, I guess, we have a backlog of earlier activities to talk about.

In August we visited the ruins of Magnesia for the first time. We were especially interested because it’s the closest of the many ancient sites around the Menderes valley. That first visit we were impressed, but we missed out on seeing the stadium and the theatre as a walk up into the hills didn’t feel like a great plan in the heat. We should have been more adventurous…

In mid-September we went back with our visiting friends Berkan and Sofie. I was struck again by how the road and the railway line cut right through the old city walls, making for strange pairings of ancient and modern.

Truck driving through ancient Magnesia.

Truck driving through ancient Magnesia.

The honey-coloured stone is at its best as the sun sets.

The stone is at its best as the sun sets.

Don't blame Berkan for this: I asked him to pose like that.

Don’t blame Berkan for this: I asked him to pose like that.

It turns out that you don’t have to walk up into the hills to see the stadium. There’s a dirt access road that’s separate from the official entrance to the ruins, so a) you can drive in, and b) you can do it any time. The road goes past orchards and farmhouses and then you park by a massive wall of stone blocks. But nothing prepares you for the scale of the place as you walk around the corner and see row after row of stone seating dug out of the hillside. It’s an experience that will stay with me for some time. (Here’s the spot on Google Maps, if anyone is curious.)

Forgive the cheesiness, but in the three photos below I’ve circled the human figures in red. It was the only way I could think of to get across some sense of scale.

Taken from up on the western side of the stadium. That's Sirem sitting inside the red circle.

Taken from up on the western side of the stadium. That’s Sirem sitting inside the red circle.

Parts of the stadium are still buried; that huge ramp of dirt is what remains for the archaeologists to dig out.

Parts of the stadium are still buried; that huge ramp of dirt is what remains for the archaeologists to dig out.

The open end of the stadium looks out to the north, across cotton fields and towns.

The open end of the stadium looks out to the north, across cotton fields and towns to the hills beyond.

Half-buried column showing the fantastic colours in the stone.

Half-buried column showing the fantastic colours in the stone.

So, Magnesia is even more amazing than we thought, and we’re lucky to live so close to it. We spent nearly an hour wandering around the stadium, and the four of us were the only people there the whole time. I think that shows just how rich Turkey is in archaeological treasures: if this sort of structure was in most other countries, there’d be a crowd and a queue to get in.

The theatre was not quite on the same monumental scale, but was very beautiful, and also totally devoid of people. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we got there, so no photos yet. But that just gives us an excuse for another visit.

10 Comments

  1. Can feel the heat….

  2. Hi Jason and Sirem
    Again hope you are both well.
    Magnesia looks to be a great place to visit for its archeological significance, and looks on the map to be very close to you (and between you and Ephesus.
    Gives us yet another excuse to visit as soon as we can.
    Cheers
    Marg and John

    • Jason

      14 October, 2014 at 10:52 am

      We’re doing OK, thanks.

      And yes, I think Magnesia is a bit of a forgotten gem, visited mostly by archaeologists more than the public. It is only about 7 km away from us as the crow flies; a bit further by road because of some twists and turns.

      Are you back in Adelaide now? Hope the trip went well.

  3. Wow, the stadium looks amazing. Can’t wait to see it in person.

    • Jason

      14 October, 2014 at 11:35 am

      We’d love to show you around. It’s just unbelievable that it is right there so close to us, and also completely empty of visitors! I guess Ephesus gets all the attention.

  4. Hi You Two,
    Excellent insight into the magnificent history which surrounds you and the enormity of it all.
    Diana will be in her element when we come to see you.
    I think a pair of stout walking shoes will be the order of the day, together with a good camera.
    Chins up!

    • Jason

      14 October, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Thanks, Cliff. And I agree: we will have to be careful not to wear out the shoes with all the sites worth visiting around here.

  5. Hi Jason and Sirem,
    Sorry to hear the news about poor Tarcin. I hope you are both well and clearly your new life suits you! The pictures of Magnesia look impressive and all this ancient culture virtually on your doorstep.
    best wishes to the two of you.
    Josh and Angella

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