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Piecing together fragments of Hadrian's Temple in ancient Kyzikos


Pieces of numerous stone objects have been found at the temple of Hadrian located in the ancient city of Kyzikos in the Turkish western Balıkesir province in ongoing excavations.


Piecing together fragments of Hadrian's Temple in ancient Kyzikos
Parts of the Temple of Hadrian found at the excavation site in ancient Kyzikos,
western Turkey [Credit: AA]

These excavations in the ancient city on the outskirts of Kapıdağ Peninsula were resumed by a team headed by professor Nurettin Koçhan from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Bandırma Onyedi Eylül University on July 2. The excavation team continues to work at the temple, which is named after the Roman Emperor Hadrian.




In an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), Koçhan said that excavation work is supported by the General Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Balıkesir Metropolitan Municipality.


Piecing together fragments of Hadrian's Temple in ancient Kyzikos
Section of an arch of the Temple of Hadrian found at the excavation site
  in ancient Kyzikos, western Turkey [Credit: AA]

Estimated to be 116 meters (381 feet) in length and 62 meters in width, the temple is as large as the Temple of Artemis in the ancient city of Ephesus located in Izmir (Greek Smyrna) and the Temple of Apollo in the resort town of Didim (Greek Didyma) in Aydın. Koçhan noted that the relief arch of the temple is longer than 1.60 meters and the column heads are 2.49 meters tall, which is one of the highest among their equivalents.


Indicating that construction of the temple could not probably be completed at the time, Koçhan said: “There was probably an agora – central public space in ancient Greek city-states – just north of the temple. In 166, philosopher Aristides of Athens gave a speech in this agora and said: 'You have built such a great temple that it replaced the mountains. Sailors know cities from mountains, but your city is known by the temple.' Indeed, the temple has a magnificent structure. The decorations in the temple are painted with red, blue and gold gilding. During the excavations we have conducted here, we have recently unearthed head parts belonging to the relief arch of the temple and encountered gilded paint on the hair of a woman's head sculpture.”


Piecing together fragments of Hadrian's Temple in ancient Kyzikos
Fragments of sculptures found at the excavation site in ancient Kyzikos, 
western Turkey [Credit: AA]

The stone pieces found by the excavation team mostly belong to the relief arch of the temple, however. They also unearthed some sculptures belonging to the temple. Noting that they found these works in pieces, Koçhan explained: “This is because this place was used as a lime quarry for hundreds of years in the ancient city of Kyzikos. Therefore, the people of the city broke the materials here and made some of it lime. What we can find today is the remaining parts of the works. For example, we have found the body of a figure with a shield, as well as parts of the head and arms of other figures.”




The recent excavations also revealed that the heads of the outer columns of the temple, built in the Corinthian order – which was the last developed of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture – were painted with gilding. Telling that the roof tiles of the temple were made of marble, Koçhan said: “It is such a monumental building, but it was damaged by frequent earthquakes. The region came under the rule of the Seljuks in 1085 when Constantinople came to stand out. So, ports in Kyzikos, which is considered one of the important trade centers with its three historical ports, were closed over time, and the city came to lose its former importance. That is why it started to collapse.”


Piecing together fragments of Hadrian's Temple in ancient Kyzikos
Heads of sculptures found at the excavation site in ancient Kyzikos, 
western Turkey [Credit: AA]

The professor stated that they also found the northwest corner of the temple last year which has helped them determine the exact dimensions of the temple. He noted: “Accordingly, we will be able to restore the temple this year, albeit at least on a drawing scale.”


It is known that the oldest tribe of the ancient city of Kyzikos, whose history goes back to 5000 B.C., is the Doliones. The region, where some tribes immigrating from the Aegean and the Balkans settled in 1200 B.C., remained as the colony of Miletus, one of the most important cities of Ionia.


Piecing together fragments of Hadrian's Temple in ancient Kyzikos
Corinthian capital of an outer column of the Temple of Hadrian found at the
excavation site in ancient Kyzikos, western Turkey [Credit: AA]

Kyzikos came under the Persian rule with the fall of the rich Lydian state to which it was affiliated in 546 B.C. The city gained its independence in 364 B.C. but later came under the rule of the Macedonians when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 334.


The region was finally seized by the Romans and began to lose its importance in the 300s. Kyzikos suffered great damage in two earthquakes in the 7th and 8th centuries and was almost destroyed in an earthquake in 1063.


Source: Anadolu Agency [September 04, 2020]


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