Death in the Morning, Death in the Afternoon

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Mugla Province,
Monday, May 25, 2009

Not mine, at least I'm happy to say. The story is of my venture to visit the two archaeological sites of Lagina and Stratonikeia, just north of Mugla. They are each to the west of Yagtan. The actual date, for the record, was 25 May 2009.

Images are included, but I have placed them at the end for the squeamish. They are not real bad. Perhaps more melancholic. But be warned.

I didn't intend it to start this way when I set out in the morning from Mugla to visit two archaeological sites: Lagina and Statonikeia. And the melancholia did not fully characterize the entire day. But, the title was catchy, I thought.

I first took a minibus from Mugla to Yatagan (pronounced ya-tan. Well, for that matter, Mugla is pronounced moo-la. There is no real syllabic emphasis in Turkish, so they are said in a sort of monotone).

As I was about to say, I started to walk to Lagina from the otogar at Yatagan, not sufficiently checking my resources to see that I should have taken a dolmus to the village near-by. (The particular guide book for these two sites assumes one to be driving, not taking a dolmus or walking. So, in walking out of town my first intention was to take a picture of one of the not-so-pretty places I walk: a roadside with billboards. This is the first, cropped, picture you see.

It wasn't until I got my camera out, and heard the little pup barking, that I heard and noticed him at all . . . . and then the bloated, rigor mortised corpse of his road-killed mother, over which he was keeping a sadly pathetic, yet dutiful vigilance. (Full picture at end of story)

There was more to come. But about that later.

I walked on out of town, perhaps a mile and a half to the turn-off. And shortly there after was able to hitch a ride part way to the archaeological site of Lagina. I owe this visit (and the next one) to my readings in John Ash's Turkey, The Other Guide: Western and Southern Anatolia. After the fact, I often find myself in agreement with his statements of a place. But not always. In the case of Lagina ("...a place of exceptional tranquility...") I can agree. (Well, except for the scene of violence I witnessed).

However, for a couple of lizards the afternoon was not so tranquil. Now, normally the little lizards one sees scampering about are quite skittish and disappear in the nearest crevice at the sight of human motion. However, in this one instance I noticed two of them dancing about on top of a piece of marble. And I was the least of their concerns. It was, in fact, I came to observe, a death dance. One lizard was in the act of cannibalizing the other. The larger of the two had already, presumably, downed a portion of the smaller one's tail, and was seeking a higher clutch. Which, in a blur of motion it managed. There they froze, not even to move when I prodded them with a length of dried grass. They just froze there, each of their hearts visibly beating away. (Picture at end of story).

I went on; returning in an hour or so, not to see them again.

Usually I do not take so many pictures of the sites I visit, as most places are well documented in other sources. But in this case, Lagina is a lesser known and visited site. And I found some of the stone work exceptionally fine and delicate, even clean and crisp in some instances. As a sanctuary to Hecate, dare I say that some of the stone carving had an appealing effete quality to it. I say that with admiration.

I'm sure there are those who wonder why I visit these places and spend so much time merely gazing at stone wreakage and carving work. There's plenty of it, actually. Well, it's not just the tumbled down stones. It is the human labor. As I go on to site after site, it is the accumulation of wonder at the monumental labors of so many. So many of these stones are so large and heavy. And it took organization and unimagined labor quarry them; transport them; to carve them and put them in place! The logistics and time of it all.

It's the thought and speculation of the lives of all those who went to create these relics. It is the thought about their dedication to beliefs. So much done in dedication to gods that we no longer acknowledge. Yet their acts were inspired by the same type of illogical beliefs that motivates religious believers of today. I find it absurd that people can believe they have a personal communication with the organizing principle of the universe. (But even for me, in certain acts of creation I have had the sense that I was but an agent in the process from beyond the self). And yet, it's all gone! The beliefs are gone. The people are gone. Their gods are gone. Only the stones abide. What can you make of that?

To look upon evidence of so much human labor, and think about the human lives lived. . . .


I didn't see the little pup when passing back by in a dolmus in the late afternoon. Hopefully, someone took him in.

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