Shipwrecks and castles and forts at Bodrum
To celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day (yesterday) I checked out the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum. After my experience with all the tire shops in Bodrum, I wasn’t really in love with the town, but I’m glad I went back and found its charm.
The entire town was once Halicarnassus – sound familiar? I feel certain that I studied it at one time, or at least it was mentioned a time or two in Herodotus’ Histories, since he was born here. The city was initially founded as a Greek settlement around 1000 B.C. and went back and forth between the Persians and Greeks for several centuries with a few years of autonomy here and there before it fell to the Ottomans.
In 1402 the Knights of Hospitaller, or Knights of St. John, built the castle and dedicated it to St. Peter.
The museum is absolutely spectacular with every turn leading to remains of some hodgepodge of history. First of all, it’s a crusader fort, so all the standard fort stuff is there: towers for all the different nationalities of knights, a chapel, gates, walls, lookout perches, and a dungeon.
A couple of rooms house relics found in the area from pagan cults, like the worship or Zeus or Artemis. There’s even a Carian princess’s sarcophagus, complete with her skeleton and burial cache.
The castle is built on the ruins of Mausolus’s grave, which is where we get the name for a mausoleum! The mausoleum was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but it’s widely thought that its stones were used to build the fort on the same location. There are no certain remains yet, but they’re still digging.
But back to pirates. Were there any Turkish pirates? I still haven’t figured that out yet, but I do know from my time at sea that there’s a reason for the good order and discipline so favored by modern navies and most other seagoing vessels. The museum houses a lot of discoveries from shipwrecks around the area, although it really looks like they were all involved in a more honest sort of trade. The most impressive is from a 12th century B.C. shipwreck. I don’t have pictures of all the wares, except tons and tons of amphoras (vessels for carrying food goods, like olive oil), which are all over the museum. Lifted from the seabed, most are covered with sea creatures – kind of like an historic version of turning over your oyster shells for a hint of their seabed origin. Other treasures include some of the oldest glass found in the world as well as the oldest coins (although I’ve now seen this claim at several places – I’ll have to start paying more attention to dates). For me the most impressive thing was a golden seal of Nefertiti, which they think was probably sold to a trader simply for the weight of gold because the rest of the objects date to after she was out of power, and the Egyptian tradition when a queen was losing her grasp was simply to erase her name from everything, making it so much harder for historians later on.
After I left the museum, I spent a few hours getting lost in Bodrum’s bazaar. In that sense it was a very characteristic bazaar, with street hawkers and tea guys and doner kebab stands all over the twisty winding streets. The stuff for sale, however, was all pretty modern. Turkey makes some amazing fake luxury bags, though, if anyone is in the market.