“Mesopotamia: Ancient Art and Architecture”

I am excited to dive into “Mesopotamia: Ancient Art and Architecture” written by renowned professor Zainab Bahrani.

This book is the first in ten years to present a comprehensive survey of art and architecture in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, northeast Syria and southeast Turkey), from 8000 BCE to the arrival of Islam in 636 BCE.

Published by Thames & Hudson Publishers, I am especially excited about this work because a couple of my photographs from southeastern Turkey are featured in the book.

The book is richly illustrated with around 400 full-colour photographs, and maps and time charts that guide readers through the chronology and geography of this part of the ancient Near East.

It addresses such essential art historical themes as the origins of narrative representation, the first emergence of historical public monuments and the earliest aesthetic commentaries. It explains how images and monuments were made and how they were viewed. It also traces the ancient practices of collecting and conservation and rituals of animating statues and of architectural construction.

Accessible to students and non-specialists, the book expands the scope of standard surveys to cover art and architecture from the prehistoric to the Roman era, including the legendary cities of Ur, Babylon, Nineveh, Hatra and Seleucia on the Tigris.

European Reformers: Jan Hus and Martin Luther

On a short visit to Prague, Czech Republic and Dresden, Germany, I had the privilege to visit the site of two monuments dedicated to protestant reformers, Jan Hus and Martin Luther.

Jan Hus (English John Huss)

After John Wycliffe, who first translated the bible into English and was the forerunner of the reformation, Hus is considered a pre-reformer, as he lived before Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. His teachings had a strong influence on the states of Western Europe, and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself. He was burned at the stake in 1415 for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, including, but not limited to, his belief that mass should be given in the local vernacular, or local language, rather than in Latin. This monument was dedicated in 1915, 500 years after his martyrdom.




Martin Luther

Known as the father of the reformation, Martin Luther was a theologian, priest, bible translator, hymnodist, writer, and reformer. Like Hus, Luther stood in opposition to doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church — including the practice of indulgences, papal authority from divine appointment, forbidding priests to marry and more, all of which he made clear in his 95 thesis which he posted on October 31, 1517 (500 years ago this year). He was excommunicated and put on trial multiple times due to his stances. His life was changed when he encountered the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which relieved years of feelings the weight of his own sin and inability to be holy. He later translated the bible into the common German tongue, declared the scriptures as the only source of divine revelation, and married. He held that his most important work was “The Bondage of the Will”, written in response to Erasmus.

“I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want “free-will” to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground ; but because even were there no dangers. I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success.¦ But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God.” – Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.



“Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble…. I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug’s game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word.” – Martin Luther  (Luther’s Works)

Mt. Nemrut: Ancient Ruins and Beautiful Sunsets

Christine Winzor writes an Extensive article on Nemrut Dagi and the Kingdom of Commagene at Timeless Travels magazine. Enjoy her thoughts, and then browse the pictures of the majesty of Mt. Nemrut.

The colossal stone heads at Nemrut Dağ, with their distinctive array of crowns and caps, are among the most iconic images of Turkey. Many guidebooks and tour agencies stress the importance of visiting this monument – sometimes referred to as the Throne of the Gods – at either sunrise or sunset to appreciate fully the spectacular illumination and reflection of the suns rays on the sculptures and tumulus. Others specifically advise against visiting at these times on the grounds that inevitably you will share this impressive event with a large crowd of other spectators, thereby spoiling the sense of majestic isolation.


King Antiochus I






Antiochus I





Graveyard and Monuments: Ahlat, Bitlis, Turkey

Along the shore of lake Van from Tatvan is the small but significant town of Ahlat, famous for its splendid Seljuk Turkish tombs and graveyard.

Founded during the reign of Caliph Omar (AD 581–644), Ahlat became a Seljuk stronghold in the 1060s. When the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan rode out to meet the Byzantine emperor Romanus Diogenes in battle on the field of Manzikert, Ahlat was his base.

Just west of Ahlat is an overgrown polygonal 13th-century tomb, Usta Şağirt Kümbeti (Ulu Kümbeti), 300m off the highway. It’s the largest Seljuk tomb in the area.

Further along the highway on the left is a museum, and behind it a vast Selçuk Mezarlığı (Seljuk cemetery), with stele-like headstones of lichen-covered grey or red volcanic tuff with intricate web patterns and bands of Kufic lettering.

Over the centuries earthquakes, wind and water have set the stones at all angles, a striking sight with spectacular Nemrut Dağı as a backdrop. Most stones have a crow as sentinel, and tortoises patrol the ruins.

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/turkey/ahlat/introduction#ixzz4KzJqYW2c

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İshak Pasha Palace: the Ottoman jewel of eastern Turkey

Sitting just 30 km from the Iranian border, this Ottoman stalwart blends together the architectural design of the surrounding cultures (Ottoman, Persian, and Armenian) with fluidity and precision. The imposing structure carries with it memories of a time gone by, when pashas and their families ruled the mountains of Anatolia, and the Ottomans controlled from Iran to the shores of Spain, from the tip of the Arabian peninsula to the walls of Vienna.

Construction started on the palace in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasha, the bey of Beyazit province, continued by his son İshak Pasha and completed by his grandson Mehmet Pasha, surviving over 300 hundred years through war, the fall of the Ottoman empire, infighting, and now, secured as a UNESCO work heritage site.

The site consists of multiple courtyards, a Mosque, the men’s quarters, baths, a ceremony hall, a bakery and kitchen, dungeons, a massive Harem, a soup kitchen, and an impressive central heating system.

Though the palace was abandoned after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the essence and grandeur of what used to be can be found inside it’s intricate and ornate walls. But what makes the palace truly breathtaking is it’s location; surrounded on all sides by the Iranian border, the charming/rugged town of Doğubayazıt, Turkey, the hills in the shadows of the 5,000m Mt. Ararat, and the tomb of an Uratian King. A visit to the palace is not just about the site itself, but about the region that has been home to Urartu and Armenian Empires, was occupied by Persians, Assyrians, and Ottomans, and is home to the landing spot of Noah’s Ark.

The main gate of the palace that leads to the first courtyard.


The entrance into the Harem.
One of the rooms used as a bakery.
The first courtyard right inside the main gate.
One can stand in awe of the architectural detail of this 300 year old structure.
One of the archways that are found throughout the palace.
The outer wall the surrounds the palace.


The Mosque in the center of the palace.



A view of the palace from the ancient tomb that sits above the site with the view of modern-day city Doğubayazıt, Turkey


Destination: Dubrovnik – Walled Cities of the world:

Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia) Description: Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia) Date: 18/06/2005 Copyright: © UNESCO Author: Francesco Bandarin Source: Francesco Bandarin

Dubrovnik has been on my list of places to visit for a while now. This article got me excited to visit it and I started making plans. Learn more about it and other walled cities of the world.

Short History of Dubrovnik

The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast, became an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated by UNESCO.

An Acropolis in Metropolis

Metropolis, found in modern-day Torbalı, Turkey, was a Greco-Roman city that was situated between two of the great cities of antiquity, Ephesus and Smyrna. The city possibly dates back to the Bronze Age since there are Hittite hieroglyphics that date around that time. Though the city was founded in the 8th century B.C.E. it did not flourish until the Hellenistic period. The city at some point or another was under the control of the Pontic King Mithridates VI, but then spent most of the first-century B.C.E. onward under Roman control.
temple to the greek god Ares, the god of war, lies somewhere within the defense walls of the city on the acropolis. The acropolis was surrounded by defense walls and sat above the hellenistic theater and Roman baths that can be seen today.
This is one of three altars dedicated to Ceasar Augustus are found in the Theater on the site of the ancient city of Metropolis.
This is one of three altars dedicated to Ceasar Augustus are found in the Theater on the site of the ancient city of Metropolis.
The theater that holds three altars dedicated to Augustus found in Metropolis
The theater that holds three altars dedicated to Augustus found in Metropolis

Pergamon: an introduction

I am excited to spend a few days this next week exploring some of the myriad of historical sites in the western provinces of Turkey. Top on my list of “things to see” is the ancient city of Pergamon. It is located in Bergama, Izmir Province, Turkey, just a short drive from where I live, but I’ve yet to visit the site.

It is mainly known for the steep Acropolis Theater, sure to give anyone with a fear of heights a woozy stomach.

Here, the helpful folks at Ancient History Encyclopedia give us a thorough overview of Pergamon.

Pergamon was an ancient city located in the Anatolia region, approximately 25 kilometres from the Aegean Sea in present-day Bergama, Izmir Province of Turkey. The city had great strategic value, since it overlooked the Caicus River Valley (modern name Bakırçay) which provided access from Pergamon to the Aegean coast. Pergamon reached the height of its influence during the Hellenistic period, becoming the capital of the Attalid kings. During the Roman period the city was the first capital of the Asian province, but it eventually lost this status to local rival, Ephesus.

‘be cheerful, enjoy your life’ – says one 2,400 year-old mosaic

According to archeologist Demet Kara at Hatay Archeology Museum, the mosaic is a part of ancient Greek-Roman city of Antioch and has an Ancient Greek inscription saying ‘Be cheerful, enjoy your life.’

The ancient city of Antioch was established by Seleucus I Nicator -who is one of Alexander the Great’s generals- in the 4th century BCE. It is known to be the first place where the followers of Jesus were referred to as Christians.