Apollo Smintheion

Just up the road from Tavakli village, about half an hours drive or 22 km distance along the road to Assos, we come across the quiet village of Gulpinar with its cobbled streets that we previously mentioned on one of our earlier videos. It is here that the historical site of Apollo Smintheon lies, just outside the town.
 
As with most of these historical sites that are mentioned in this series of videos, a Turkish Museum Card will actually get you into all of the sites if you are a card holder.  You can pick one of these up at most historical sites entrance kiosks for 70 Turkish lira, that’s about a tenner in sterling. You can also visit the website at https://muze.gov.tr which is in English and Turkish and you can purchase online.
 
Apollo Smintheus, Apollon Smintheion or plain old Smintheus  is an extensive site with the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo, “Lord of Mice” Smintheus. The history behind this site is fascinating. It is mentioned in Homer’s Illiad as is the nearby island of Tenedos or Bozcaada.
Not a word he spoke, but went by the shore of the sounding sea
and prayed apart to King Apollo whom lovely Leto had borne.
“Hear me,” he cried, “O god of the silver bow,
that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla
and rulest Tenedos with thy might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe.
If I have ever decked your temple with garlands,
or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or goats, grant my prayer,
and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon the Danaans.
Note the use of the word Sminthe from which this site gets its name. It could have had some association with rodents but the true meaning of the word is unknown. Suffice to say, Apollo sent a plague to the Greeks and rats or rodents were the major disease carriers so Apollo gets referred to as the Lord of Mice.
In ancient times the city of Chrysa is associated with the Temple of Apollon Smintheion which is also referred to as Hamaxitus but they could have been separate locations. There is little information to verify this either way. What is known is that there have been settlements here since the 7thcentury BC, possibly founded by the Cretans of Trojan origin. The history of Apollo Sminthieon is shrouded in mystery, myths and legend.
The site of Apollon Smintheion would have been near sources of clean water. This region does have an abundance of clean water and also hot water springs not far away in Tuzla village.
What we do know is that the temple of Apollo Smintheus was build in the middle of the second century BC and is of a typical classic design from this Hellenistic period. The site is still being excavated and restored and the temple has been partially re contructed which gives you a good insight as to how it would have looked. The frieze supported by the columns depict scenes from Homer’s Iliad.
You might be surprised by the fact that the marble used in the temple was transported here from Marmara Island some 172 miles away or 277 km. Quite extraordinary when you consider that it would have to have come by boat and road with no mechanised transport.
Apollon Smintheion was only discovered as late as 1785 and excavated by several well known archaelogists from Britain and Germany. Today the financing and support for further work comes from the Turkish Efes Pilsen brewery.
Walking around this extensive site with its pomegranate trees and surrounding olive groves you will see a mixture of Greek and Roman remains. There are underground clay pipes which would have been used for the plumbing, a Roman bath and cisterns and the foundations of many other buildings. There is a small museum on site but it is sometimes closed. It contains friezes, artifacts and stone work found during excavations.
Outside in the main parking area you will see an ancient water fountain. The nearby café serves snacks and hot tea or coffee. From here you can continue your journey to Assos or Behramkale or visit the small town of Babakale all mentioned in our Coast to Coast Turkey series.

 

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