Monday, November 30, 2009

We don't need ancient stones to talk when we have Nicene Creed to read

We don't need ancient stones to talk when we have Nicene Creed to read | The News-Sentinel - Fort Wayne IN
Ancient history seems not so ancient when you can see it, touch it, feel it, walk around in it. Living in Turkey gives me the opportunity to do exactly that just about every day. In the center of the suburb where I live on the edge of Istanbul stands a collection of brick and stone ruins that date back at least a thousand years to the Byzantine Empire.

No one around here seems to know really how old they are, but comparing them to other structures in the area leads me to believe that they may be close to 2,000 years old. When Thomas Jefferson penned the words of the Declaration of Independence, these ancient ruins had already stood for centuries. Some of the local residents actually use them today, keeping chickens underneath the vaulted ceilings of what appears to be either a Roman bathhouse or a church.

Just three hours south of Istanbul, on the other side of a large bay and over a modest mountain range, is the verdant valley of Nicea, or Iznik, as it's known in Turkish. The ancient town of Nicea sits next to a huge lake surrounded by olive-tree-covered mountains. For the past 500 years or more, Turks have lived in the town, growing olives and gardens, fishing in the lake and drinking strong cups of Turkish coffee while they sit chatting mostly about nothing in particular.

Romans built a large wall around Nicea, marking it as an important city in the region. The Turks have left the Roman structures intact, so you can find in Nicea one of the most completely preserved city walls in the country. One of the gates is dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian, built close to the time the Romans built Hadrian's Wall across England to keep out the barbaric tribes of Scotland. In other words, it is all really old - but there it is, still standing around Nicea with turrets, gates, and lots of lots of bricks.

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