Bodrum Castle : Each stone a page of History
Bodrum Castle: Each stone a page of History
BODRUM CASTLE, BUILT IN 1402 BY ST. JOHN KNIGHTS OF RHODES WAS CONVERTED 47 YEARS AGO INTO A MUSEUM WHERE ANTIQUE AGE PIECES ARE EXHIBITED UNDER THE COATS OF ARMS OF THE KNIGHTS. IN THE GALLERIES OF THE MUSEUM, TRADE SHIPS BURST INTO SIGHT IN ALL THEIR GLORY, A CARIAN PRINCESS IN SILK COSTUME WELCOMES HER GUESTS GRACIOUSLY.
Bodrum is like the attraction centre, not only of Muğla or the Aegean, but of whole Turkey. This is true, not only for our time or for the last 30 years, but it was the case for thousands of years. The stone and bronze artefacts discovered in the Peynir Çiçeği cave point to civilization on the
peninsula as far back as 5,000 years ago, during the Copper Age.
The father of history Herodotus, a native of Bodrum, estimated that thehistory of his birthplace dated to the first millennium BC, that the first town was established then at the site of the current castle. Bodrum, Halicarnassos with its ancient name, which experienced its golden age
from the 4th century BC onwards, was the capital city of the Carian civilization for 24 years. Bearers of one the leading civilizations of their time, the Carians erected a funeral monument, the Mauseleion, which was going to take its glorious place among the Seven Wonders of the Antique World, for their King Maussollos, whose name is at the origin of the word “mausoleum”, meaning funeral monument.
Age of the Knights
As the civilizations of the Antique Age took their place in the dusty pages of history, the Christian Knights, among the principal actors of medieval Europe, discovered the strategic merit of Bodrum.
Proclaiming themselves protectors of the Christian belief, the St. John Knights launched there the construction of the St. Peter Castle in 1402, upon an authorization granted by the ruler of the Ottoman
Empire, Sultan Mehmet Çelebi. They used stone blocks from the ruins of the famous Mauseleion (partially destroyed in an earthquake on 8th August 1304) in the construction, eventually erecting a 47,5 meters high fortress covering an area of 180×185 meters.
They gave the names of their countries of origin to the castle’s high-towers overlooking the sea: French, English, Italian, Spanish Towers and the Serpentine Tower. Adorned with the most beautiful specimen of stone carving and wood craftsmanship, the fortress was conquered by the Ottomans in the 16th century. It served as a prison during the late Ottoman period and was bombed by the French in 1915, during the First World War.
In 1964, the Bodrum Castle was restored and inaugurated as a museum. Turkey’s unique museum of underwater archaeology, it houses a vast number of terrestrial and underwater artefacts.
World’s largest collection!
Visitors of the museum reach the inner castle, after crossing 7 gates, decorated with dragon figures, classical crosses and equal-armed crosses. That section is home to the ‘world’s largest collection of
amphorae’. Amphorae (amphoras) are this type of elegant vase-shaped earthenware vessels with two handles and a sharp-pointed bottom, used in vast numbers to transport and store various products, both liquid and dry, grapes, wine, olive oil, olives, grain, fish and other commodities in the Mediterranean world during the Antique Age and later the Roman period. They deliver us important clues as to the commercial and social life of their era. The production process of the amphora, how it was shaped, how it was dried and hardened in the furnace and what it was used for, the way they were stored on ships etc. İs explained on several signboard charts with graphics.
Entering the right wing of the castle
The guests are witnessing the worlds of the Antique Age, the Knights of the Middle Age and the Ottomans interpenetrating each other in the same area. The walls of the beautiful Gothic Chapel were built with green stones stemming from the ruins of Mauselion (see above).
The cornerstones of the chapel, standing out with its magnificent stone carving workmanship, are decorated with coats of arms of the knights who contributed to its construction and restoration. During the Ottoman period that section was supplemented with minarets and converted into a mosque. Thus, the particular marks of all three different eras and belief systems are visible in an intertwined togetherness at this chapel. Strolling through history in a matter of minutes Leaving the chapel and proceeding to the right, one reaches the towers. On the way are displayed ostoteks (containers used for preserving the ashes of the deceased) decorated with Eros, Zeus, Medusa heads and
figures depicting the world after-death, originating from 1st century BC to 2nd century AD period. At the end of this road, are displayed scale model renditions of the Mauseleion, one of the seven wonders of the Antique world.
Glass Shipwreck Hall
Continuing their tour of the museum, the visitors arrive at the ‘Glass Shipwreck Hall’ where one can admire the finest samples of glass craftsmanship of the Antique Age. In the display units on the right wing of the hall, the glass bead strings from the Mycenaean civilization (16th century BC) and the glass chunks from the same period found on the Lycian Uluburun shipwreck at Kaş, are displayed side by side. (The Uluburun Shipwreck is a well-documented late 14th century BC ship wreck of the Late Bronze Age period, discovered (found by a Turkish sponge diver in 1982) off the south coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Kaş in the province of Antalya.
An unforgettable surprise for the visitors of the ‘Glass Shipwreck Hall’ is the presence there of the “Glass Wreck of Serçe Limanı”, an early 11th century shipwreck excavated from sea bottom at Serçe Limanı, a natural harbour on the Turkish coast near Marmaris during the summers of 1977 through 1979. It is esteemed that the ship sunk while sailing in Byzantine waters, transporting glass weights for weighing coins and glass chunks originating from the southern shores of the Mediterranean, from the Moslem Fatimids. The glass articles from the ship and the belongings of the ship’s crew on display in this hall are the object of the visitors’ keen interest.
Coins and Jewellery Hall
The Coins and Jewellery Hall is located on the ground floor of the Italian tower. Difficulties incurred during the swap trade instigated the Lydians to invent the metallic money known as ‘coins’. Golden and silver coins originating from 6th to 2nd centuries are exhibited here along with charts indicating their corresponding purchasing powers.
For instance, on a tag placed under a large coin from the 2nd century BC, a tetra drachmae (equal to 4 silver coins- a drachma being a silver coin), it is indicated that the price to be paid for an ox was around 20 tetra drachmae.
Precious jewellery originating from excavations at the ruins of Mauseleion, pieces bearing great value from the stand of archaeology and art history, necklaces, diadems are equally on display in this hall; gold leaves cut in the form of olive and laurel leaves are placed alongside diadems in the display cabinets.
Ada, Carian Princess or Queen
Baltalı Tower (Tower of Axes), situated at the highest point of the castle, houses the Carian Princess Hall, decorated with Carian battleaxes, Zeus figures and Medusa heads, where the visitors are welcomed by a queen who ruled over the Muğla region in the Antique Age, Princess Ada, one of the most powerful ladies of the Antique world, in her raw silk costume and with make-up. In 1989 a sarcophagus was found while digging foundations at a construction site outside Bodrum.
In this sarcophagus was lying the skeleton of a woman, whose dying age was determined as 44, dressed up in a gold inlaid raw silk garment and wearing precious jewellery. The Bodrum Museum officials named her the ‘Carian Princess’. Following an in-depth examination of her skull and her jewellery by Manchester University scholars, she was identified as Princess Ada, who was also the adoptive mother of Alexander the Great.
The University of Manchester plastered the skeleton of Princess to her state while living and she is now exhibited along with her jewellery in a niche in the hall, where also her life story is depicted on a chart in strip cartoon technique and, a documentary on the plastering work performed by Manchester University is shown on video screens. In short, the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology each hall, each wall reveals a variety of different stories to its visitors. The fortress where, once upon a time, clinked the armours and glaives of the knights, is welcoming each year thousands of guests as a museum.
Source: Antique Halicarnassos