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Kyme: The ancient aeolian harbour.

The story of Kyme (Cyme in Latin), Turkey, is long as few. It was founded by greek settlers from the city of Locris sometime from the 8th century BC. The settlement prospered greatly to the point of forming a local emporium focused on maritime commerce, with little relation to the interior of Anatolia. With the passage of time it would be considered the largest and most important of the aeolian cities: an appetizing prey, therefore, for the Persian Empire that conquered it in 540 BC.

Photo 1.- Remains of the ancient port of Kyme.


During the persian sovereignty the magnificent port of Kyme would serve as naval base of the achaemenid fleet in charge of the dominion of the strategic Hellespont strait. This explains why the remains of the persian fleet defeated in Salamina came to take shelter in the cymean harbor.

Photo 2.- Entrance to the byzantine castle located at its NW corner. Guard body building anexed.


Although Kyme joined the great ionian revolt against the persians (499-493 BCE), it does not appear to have been severely punished by victorious Achaemenids. Its prosperity was not interrupted after the alexandrian conquest of Asia Minor, nor was it affected by the wars between the diadochi. At first it was part of the Seleucid Empire although after the death of Antiochus III in the battle of Magnesia - an event that put an end to the seleucid presence in West Asia Minor - Kyme decided to declare himself ally of Rome, being rewarded by this with the tax exemption. The fact that the aeolian city had enough political capacity as for getting an alliance with a power as strong as Rome at a relatively late date of Hellenism as 189 BC is proof of its high importance at the local level at the very least. Another proof no less decisive is the coinage between 165 and 140 BC of several successive issues of magnificent tetradrachms, identified by their respective monetary magistrates, whose total volume had to be quite high judging by the considerable number of exemplars that has reached our days. The coin of Figure 1 will serve to illustrate these issues:

Figure 1.- Tetradrachm coined in Kyme during the period 165-140 BC.


In terms of numismatics, Kyme is famous among "everyday" collectors for their issues of small bronzes. Although there were certainly many successive series, they can be divided into two large groups. The first is characterized by the vessel type "skyphos" on reverse, varying somewhat the obverse motive (horse, eagle, etc). Its chronological arc has been set between 350 and 250 BC. The second one presents female bust to the right (the amazon named Kyme who founded the city according to local mythology) on obverse and horse in reverse. This second type was minted between 250 and 190 BC. In both groups the various series differ from each other by the names of the monetary magistrates (initials or monograms) and by the control marks, being in almost all cases fairly common coins, affordable even in medium-high grades. This indicates that they were minted in very large quantities, which in turn gives us further evidence about the great prosperity of the city during the Hellenistic period. In Figure 2 we can see a nice exemplar of each group.

Figure 2.- Bronze coins struck in Kyme during the Hellenistic period, between 350 and 190 a.C.


In 17 AD the city was badly affected by a powerful earthquake (the same that affected most of the cities of the micro-Asian West). The catastrophe would be repeated in the year 94. On both occasions Kyme would demonstrate its vitality reconstructing quickly the damaged buildings and returning to be a dynamic port city. The coinage of the city during the imperial period begins in the reign of Nero extending until the reign of Gallienus, with remarkable interruptions between both. They are small-medium size bronze coins, religious-imperial thematic typically micro-asian and average art style in the best case. They are significantly more difficult to find than the Hellenistic types of the previous paragraph, though they cannot be qualified as scarce. It is clear that the city, although still prosperous, did not attain during the imperial period the levels of splendor of past epochs, possibly due to have been eclipsed by the great mercantile emporium of Ephesus. Figure 3 presents four bronzes coined in Kyme during the imperial period:


Figure 3.- The first coin (top-left) is an AE19 minted on behalf of Nero, with the amazon Kyme standing on reverse, carrying trident and patera. The second (up-right) is a pseudo-autonomous emission coined in times of Gordian III. On obverse appears a female bust depicting the Senate of Kyme, on reverse a reclined river god in reference to the nearby Hermos river. As for the third coin (down-left) is an AE28 on behalf of Valerian I. Its reverse commemorates certain twinning between Kyme and Ephesus in the form of the amazon Kyme on the right and the great Artemis of the Ephesians on the left. Finally the fourth exemplar (bottom-right) is an AE20 coined on behalf of Gallienus showing on reverse a naked male figure, probably a famous athlete, with the left hand leaning on the back of a horse (one of the recurring motifs in the Kyme iconography as will be recalled from the hellenistic bronzes).


Kyme would continue its existence in the Late Empire and early Byzantine times as a bishopric suffragan of the Ephesus metropolitan. This indicates that the city continued retaining some economic vigor. Archaeological investigations indicate that during the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries AD it did not contract its urban area, quite extensive indeed. Unfortunately, the Persian and Arab invasions of the seventh century would ruin the prosperity of the city, which would never recover, being largely abandoned. In spite of everything the city continued existing: this is indicated by the references to its bishops throughout the first medieval centuries. The last reference known dates to 1229. Throughout its last two hundred years of existence (12th - 13th centuries) Kyme was reducing its inhabited area to the area adjacent to the port facilities. A small castle was erected on an unspecified date of the twelfth century next to the harbor docks in order to guarantee a certain protection to the cymeans. The Turkish conquest of the area - first half of the fourteenth century - would lead to the definitive depopulation of the city.

Photo 3.- Roman building with marble entrance on which supports the wall of the Byzantine castle.


The site where the remains of the ancient Kyme sleep the dream of centuries (located in the vicinity of the Turkish city of Aliaga) is scarcely excavated. The exploration with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) has made it possible to locate and identify the most outstanding elements of the city, including a theater, an agora with its porticated stoas, a sanctuary dedicated to the egyptian goddess Isis and a thermal complex of roman chronology. A small area of the agora has been excavated but very little can be seen due to the great height that reaches the undergrowth: something not surprising considering that the ancient Kyme is today a marshy area dotted with flooded areas.

Photo 4.- View of the northern wall of the Byzantine castle. Medieval dependencies in the foreground.


The visitable part of the site is the one corresponding to the port and the byzantine castle, including the interior of this one: totally excavated and in which are grouped structures of different chronologies.


The remainings of the port of Kyme are reduced to some rows of ashlars belonging to the ancients docks. They are located both in direction parallel to the coast as well as perpendicularly to this one. It is more "showy" the immediate part to the castle (photo 1) but there are more remains following the coast to the north.

Photo 5.- Southwest corner of the Byzantine castle.


The Byzantine castle has an access in its northwest corner flanked by two towers (one large and one small). Anexed to the interior face of this entrance, there is a guard body building in whose walls abound the reused blocks of andesite and marble (photo 2).


The northern wall of the castle runs in NW-SE direction. In this part of his layout he rests partially on a structure of reddish andesite ashlar, probably of late hellenistic or roman times. The excavation carried out indicates that it is the perimeter wall of a monumental building, of which a marble staircase once framed by a columned porch has been preserved (photo 3). This latter is known because the bases of two columns have been found in situ.

Photo 6.- Entrance to the byzantine castle located in the vicinity of its SW corner.


Adjacent to the northern wall of the fortress are the remains of several rectangular dependencies, probably medieval, corresponding to the last habitation period of the place (photo 4).


The interior of the byzantine castle stands largely flooded, reason because is not easy to visit. It is necessary to look for dry spaces from which to contemplate the ruins. The southwestern corner of the castle (photo 5) has easy access and therefore we choose it to examine the internal structure of the castle walls. We verified that a triple-leaf system was used with two good external facings built employing small and rough ashlars: most of them reused, which obliges the use of abundant regularizing blocks. The central nucleus responds to the usual agglomeration of lime mortar and uncarved masonry.


Photo 7.- Flanking tower of the byzantine castle of Kyme.


Just at the angle of the SW corner of the castle is the second access to it (photo 6). To his right a powerful square tower protects it from close up, a second tower, much smaller, stands in charge of the left side of the access. Likewise, part of the access door frame, edified with reused white limestone ashlars, is preserved in situ.


The responsibility for the flanking of the fortress rests on three large square towers, projected outwards with martial forcefulness. Two of them not only cover a wide section of curtain-wall but also flank their respective access doors (we have seen it). The third rises more or less at the central part of the eastern wall of the castle, being the most spectacular structure of the entire fortified complex (photo 7).

Photos 8 and 9.- Late roman or early byzantine residential area located in the vicinity of the northern wall of the byzantine castle.


We arrived at the southeastern corner of the byzantine castle. The excavations have brought to light a set of housing structures extended on a wide area in the vicinity of the exterior face of the north wall of the fort (photos 8 and 9). They are probably the remains of a late Roman or early Byzantine residential area. This is indicated, in effect, by the good quality of its walls and its disposition on the ground. These structures were leveled before the construction of the castle as can be seen in photo 10 comparing the levels of foundation of the castle wall and the aforementioned structures: these last ones clearly located at a lower level, below the castle wall level of foundation. The motive of this disposition was none other than to leave free of constructions the surroundings of the fortress, something totally necessary from the tactical point of view.

Photo 10.- Late-Roman building excavated at the foot of the main flanking tower of the north-west entrance of the castle. It is observed that its highest part is at a lower level than the lowest one of the castle, indicating that it remained buried during the period of functionality of the fortress.

Archaeological research has detected the presence of a network of ceramic pipes belonging to the water supply system to the city. At the moment no canalization can be seen in surface, only a few fragments of pipes accumulated here and there (photo 11).


Photo 11.- Pieces of pipe belonging to the ancient water distribution network of Kyme.

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specialized in ancient coinage.

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