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Searching for the Temple of Athena at ancient Aigai in Manisa

In the Yuntdağı region of the western Turkish province of Manisa (Greek Magnesia), excavation works have commenced to unearth the Temple of Athena in the ancient city of Aigai.

Searching for the Temple of Athena at ancient Aigai in Manisa
AA Photo
Archaeologists have rolled up their sleeves to find the Temple of Athena, in the 2,800-year-old ancient city of Aigai, which appeared in 19th-century excavation research by German archaeologists.

The excavation works are being conducted under the supervision of Yusuf Sezgin, assistant professor of archaeology at Manisa Celal Bayar University. The Temple of Athena is expected to be erected in at least two months after the definite localization of the temple.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Yusuf Sezgin indicated this was the first time since 2004 that there was excavation work for the discovery of the temple and they are trying to understand whether the temple was dedicated to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom. Sezgin remarked that the region on which they were continuing the excavations signaled a carefully selected location for a temple.

“It is not known whether there are Temples of Athena in all of the 12 cities built by the Aeolian Greeks south of Smyrna (Turkish İzmir) during ancient times. On the other hand, the Goddess Athena’s head was depicted on the coins from the Hellenistic-period in Aigai. In this respect, it can be deduced that she was one of the most important and protective goddesses of the city,” he said.

Emphasizing “pagan” beliefs in ancient times, Sezgin stated the discovery of the temple was key in understanding their beliefs. “That is the reason why we seek to understand what kind of a temple and belief Athena had. We think we will gain important information about the beliefs held in the region. There is no center of excavation in the Aeolis region except for the excavation of Aigai. In that respect, the archaeological data acquired in Aigai are key in understanding the beliefs held during ancient times. It is thought that there is another Temple of Athena in the ancient city of Larissa in the region, yet we are not sure, since there have not been any archaeological excavations. We are conducting an excavation in a sanctuary in the ancient city for the first time,” he said.

Sezgin also noted that numerous artefacts, such as glasses and ceramics, had been unearthed during the excavation. “However, we have a big problem. Since there is no archaeological museum in Manisa, we have not had the chance to display the artefacts we had discovered. I hope that, God willing, we will be able to display the artefacts by building an archaeological museum,” he said.

Aigai, which is 49 kilometers away from Manisa, is located near the Köseler neighborhood in the Yunusemre district. The ancient city dates back to the eighth century B.C. and was one of the 12 Ionian cities mentioned by Herodotus. It is sometimes known as “Nemrut Castle.” The city was a significant center of trade in the Hellenistic era.

Excavations have so far unearthed the city’s walls, a three-story agora, an assembly building, a stadium, a theater and the Temple of Demeter.

One of the recent findings in the ancient city was a sarcophagus. It was revealed to have belonged to the administrator of a school after its pieces were reunited.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [September 18, 2017]

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