Trekking Through Turkeyby Justin Lyon • March 7, 2003
Professor Bob Royalty will guide students through Western Turkey on an Immersion Learing trip to study ancient Christian sites
Sixteen students, two professors and two chroniclers left Friday to conduct historical research. They are taking eight digital cameras and three high-end Canon GL2 miniDV camcorders to record the archaeological remains of cities, statues and other artifacts. Upon their return to Wabash College, they will assemble their video and photographic footage into websites that present second century Christian texts in the context of Greco-Roman culture, society, philosophy, religion, and politics.
Why Turkey? In the second century, today’s western Turkey was one of Rome’s most important provinces. It was also a hotbed of emerging Christian activities. Ephesians, a book of the New Testament, was a letter written to a Christian church in Ephesus. The Throne of Satan mentioned in Revelations may have been a reference by John to the Temple of Zeus in Pergamon. It is this history that Wabash men are seeking to better understand through their trip to the archeological ruins of western Turkey.
Our first research stop is Ephesus, once the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Its location was lost to modern scholars until its rediscovery in 1869. For two days, the students will photograph and film their exploration of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the ruins of other ancient buildings including the Temple of Domitian, the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers, and the library of Celsus, at the time the third largest library in the world behind Alexandria and Pergamum. It was in Ephesus in 53 C.E. that the Christian Paul was shouted out of the 25,000-seat Great Theater for proselytizing.
The students will also visit nearby Miletus and Priene, other ancient cities, before taking a bus to explore the massive ruins of a temple of Apollo at Didyma, under construction for 500 years and never completed. This temple was the third largest monument in the ancient world. After touring the temple, we’ll continue to the popular resort town of Bodrum to relax and catch our breaths after two long days of filming. As we drink tea from tulip-shaped glasses, and haggle with shop-owners for Turkish carpets, it is likely that over 300,000 American troops will be in the final stages of war preparations.
After Bodrum, we’ll head to Pergamon, where we’ll see the ruins of the library of Pergamum, Altar of Zeus, and the acropolis that overlooks the present-day town of Bergama. We’ll walk around the Asclepion, a cult center devoted to Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, which was home to the famous Roman physician, Galen, in the second century C.E.
We’ll complete our trip with three days in Istanbul visiting museums, mosques, and palaces. They’ll touch the walls of the 1400 year-old Haghia Sophia, a spectacular church built by Emperor Justinian. Students will navigate the covered bazaar and dine with Turkish families.
Research is the focus of the trip, but students will also immerse themselves into the pulse of a major metropolitan city. Istanbul has 15 million inhabitants, 400,000 new arrivals each year, spans two continents, and has existed as a city for 2,500 years. As the capital of two major world religions, Christianity and Islam, its culture is as rich as the tapestry of its carpets.
While some may feel that it is a risky time to visit, it’s a unique time to revisit the past while immersed in the unfolding of momentous current events.
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