Oct. 25th: Miletus, Didyma

Reporting from Turkey: A consultation with Roget’s Compendium of Familiar Quotations, Terms and Idiomatica turns up nothing for an earnest writer searching for just such a certain word as would convey the atmospheric quality that spurred on the forequarters of the day of 25, October, 2015. It was of such a peculiar blend of light and climate, what with the whole, wide sky illuminated to the point of embarrassment, yet still a meagre chill pervading the air, much like the cusp of nausea stirring up and down our bodies. One simply did not know whether a sweater would be a “wise move” or not. This bungling issue resulted in a veritable circus of scurrying dressing and re-dressing, according to the fluctuating conditions of shade and gust.

Change tracks. Now you’ve hopped back in time a smide, and fidgety, persnickety, fourteen-year-old Aaron Pellowski is opening his first history of philosophy. Chapter One: The Pre-Socratics. First subsection: Thales of Miletus. He would return to the Pre-Socratics again and again for years, studying them formally in Reed Hall in the fall term of his sophomore year.

Change back. Here he is in Miletus, on the same turf where Thales was said to have wandered, head angled straight into the stars, sometimes falling into ditches. Thales, whence sprung all western philosophy, the first to seek out the principle (in Greek: arche) of all things. Thus the first philosopher, the first mathematician, the first astronomer, the first economist, the first civil engineer, and more.

It was once said of Thales that he was wasting his time, fidgeting with the questions of the mind and earth. For no greater reason than to prove a point (perhaps the greatest reason there can be!) Thales bought up all the olive-presses. When the olive-harvest came in, the other men found that they were forced to rend olive-presses exclusively from Thales, who charged exorbitant prices. That is all to show that philosophers could make money if they wanted to, they simply don’t. For as Aristotle so neatly put it, the mass of men seek little beyond hedonistic stimulation and vegetative nutrients. Yet there are those better who strive for honor and glory. But best are those who live the life of contemplation.

In addition to Thales, there were also to be found in Miletus, many impressive rocks of serious historical significance. Most of these rocks were covered in a lot of cotton webbing, rendering them more or less inscrutable.

Spirits were down at lunch because Professor Ulrich was sick. Teddy spent most of the time scratching away at a coin he’d found at the site. You could tell by his vigorous thrusting of the toothpick that he really hoped it would turn out to be something interesting. Was it?

After lunch or, “post-prandially” as I should prefer to say, we took our voyage in the direction of Didyma. There was a temple to Apollo so big that I daresay, had I been wearing socks, they’d have been knocked clean off as soon as my gaze lighted on. We’re talking about a grove of truly gargantuan columns.

On the drive home, our guide told us all extensively about traditionally Turkish courtship and marriage. One such as myself, utterly blank in heritage, really envies the culture of others in hours such as this.

 

-Aaron

Photos brought to you by Yuhang:

Lucas poses in front of his favorite Greek/ Roman building type: the theater.

Early morning explorations at Miletus have commenced.

Jin enjoys the view from the top of the theater.

Cara and a lion friend.

Sad dog.

Bridget-Kate jots down some notes on the bath complex.

Jiyoung is smiling. Typical.

It's always interesting figuring out which parts of sites have been reconstructed.

Liz, Brett, and Yuhang express their excitement about Miletus.
The odeon, otherwise known as a covered music hall.
Arches galore! So many finely-cut voussoirs!

From this view, one might think this is a normal temple. One would be wrong.

The group assembles on the MASSIVE stairs of the Temple of Apollo for their afternoon lecture.

Liz provides some human scale.

The gorgon head, a very common theme for postcards from Didyma.

How many FSPers can you spot in this photo?

Bridget-Kate and Jiyoung attempt to translate some Greek inscriptions.

Imagine what this place looked like with all of its columns in place…

 

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