Knidos: It Ain't What it Was

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

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Flag of Turkey  , Muğla Province,
Friday, June 5, 2009

Knidos is at the very end of the Datca Peninsula. There is no regular public transportation there. It was still early in the "season,"  and I didn't want to trust in hitchhiking to and from. So I rented a scooter--for only my second time--and rode the several kilometers out there, passing through some pretty spectacular, steep, rocky crags. Unfortunately, I was too nervous and with my eye on the rough road to easily take much of it in.

To relieve my tension I stopped to check out a stone structure I saw off in the fields.

Today the site of ancient Knidos looked pretty barren to me. Apparently it was not always so. It was something of a site of pilgrimage, especially to see the statue of Aphrodite of Praxiteles. (Praxiteles was a resident of Knidos, or at  least was born there, I believe).

I spent my time as usual walking all over the place despite its barrenness. Dried grasses sought my boots and socks to propagate their seed.

It is hard today to look on this landscape  and imagine it the site of this report by and ancient writer Lucian.

  "We then determined to enter the  port of Knidos, in order to see the place and from an anxiety to visit the temple of Venus celebrated for its statue, the exquisite production of the skill of  Praxiteles.
   We gained the  shore in almost perfect stillness, as if the goddess herself was guiding our path, under the influence of her own bright and  unruffled serenity. Whilst the crew were occupied in the usual preparations I made the circuit of the town, having one  of my agreeable companions on either arm . . . When we  had visited the portico of Sostratus and had seen everything else that was interesting, we proceeded to the temple of Venus; Charicles and myself with eager curiosity.....
   In approaching the Sacred Inclosure we were fanned by the most delicious breezes, for  within no polished pavement spreads its barren surface. As suited to  a sanctuary of Venus, it abounds with productive trees extending their luxurious foliage to the sky and  canopying the air around. Chiefly the blooming myrtle, fertile from earliest  growth and  covered with fruit, graces its mistress, nor do any of the other beautiful plants suffer from the decay of  age, but are ever vigorous and  putting forth new shoots.
   Having satisfied ourselves with admiring these beauties of nature, we entered the temple. In the centre stands the goddess, in Parian marble -- a most beautiful and splendid work. A half suppressed smile is on her mouth. No drapery conceals her beauty, nor is any part hidden except that which is covered unconsciously, as it were, by the left hand. Such has been the consummate skill of the artist that the rigid and repulsive marble perfectly represents the delicate formation of every limb, Charicles, as if bereft of his senses, cried aloud, 'Happy amongst the gods he that was enchained for thee', and springing forward with neck outstretched as far as possible, he repeatedly kissed the statue. Callicratides stood by in humble and silent admiration.
   The temple has an entrance at either end so that the whole statue may be admired and examined. The second door is particularly intended for seeing the back of the statue. We were at once struck with the beauty of the figure. We could not refrain from repeated exclamations of admiration, and particularly on the harmony of the back, the wonderful fitting of the flesh to the bones, without too great plumpness, and the exquisite proportion of the thigh and the leg, extending in a straight line to the foot.

                   From The Loves, a dialogue by Lucian of Samosata (as reprinted in Turkish Coast Through Writers' Eyes, Rupert Scott, editor)

And, motoring back to Datca:

In Datca--a place loved by many, but ho-hum to me--for some reason I decided to take some pictures of my traveling library. Perhaps because I was about to mail some of the books home.

Then left Datca with these reminders:
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