Category Archives: Turkey

Flowers at Nicea (Iznik,Turkey)

This planter of beautiful flowers is one of several that adorn the entry to the Saint Sofia (Orhan) Mosque in Iznik, Turkey. Iznik is the site of Nicea (Nicaea), the location of the famous Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and the Second Council of Nicea in A.D. 787.

Flowers in front of Iznik Ayasofya Mosque. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Flowers in front of Iznik Ayasofya Mosque. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Mosque has a long, typical history. Originally the site was the location of a Roman temple. Then in the 4th century A.D. the church of Saint Sofia was erected. In A.D. 1331 the building became a mosque. This is a common occurrence in the Middle East.

The Kangal sheep dog of Anatolia

Shepherds in every part of the world have problems they must contend with as they care for their sheep. The Bible uses the analogy of the sheep and the wolves in several places. Jesus warned about the “hired hand” who would abandon the sheep.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10:12 ESV)

Within the past few years I have come across an interesting practice used by shepherds in Anatolia (Central Turkey), and only recently came across an article in a 2003 issue of Saudi Aramco World about the same shepherds. It begins this way,

There are grey wolves in Turkey, thousands of them. There are also bears, jackals, and—recorded just last year for the first time in a quarter century—Anatolian leopards. All are the enemies of sheep and goats. As predators, they live at the expense of the prey animals, the meat-eaters against the grass-eaters. But on Turkey’s Anatolian plateau, the prey have a strong friend, more than a match for any predator: the kangal dog.

On our last visit to the ancient Hittite city of Hattusas (modern Boghazkale) we saw a large number of sheep grazing over the ruins of the ancient city. Our guide said that the dogs we saw with the shepherds were a special breed of dog that were common in Anatolia, but he could not recall the name of the dogs. In fact, he said might be a slightly different breed from the one he was thinking about.

Shepherd at hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherd at Hattusas with his sheepdog. Notice the collar that is specially prepared to protect these dogs from wolves and other wild animals. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The shepherds were pleased to show us the spiked collar. A wolf, or other wild animal, would go at the throat of the dog, but the spikes would be a strong deterrent. Notice also that the ears of this dog have been cropped. This, according to the article, is “intended to deprive wolves of a tooth-hold.” The author says,

Shepherds frequently dock their dogs’ ears, saving them the trouble of doctoring wounds when they tangle with a wolf. But the heavy spiked collar they wear, called a çengel, or hook, seems enough to keep even the most determined enemy from biting their heads.

Here is a close-up, and you may click on it for an even larger image, showing the spikes or hook.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A close up showing the spikes on the collar of the dog. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shepherds of biblical times carried a rod and a staff (Psalm 23:4). The rod could be used to ward off an attacking animal. The staff was used by the shepherd as he made his way up and down the hillsides, and to separate the sheep.

Source: Werner, Louis. “Shepherd’s Best Friend.” Saudi Aramco World July/Aug. 2003: 38-43.

Aleppo National Museum – #2

See our previous post on Aleppo here. Our #1 on the Aleppo National Museum is here.

In the first post on Aleppo I posted a photo of the Hittite Storm god Teshub standing on the back of a bull. I should have mentioned at the time that a large temple of the storm god from the Late Bronze and Early Iron ages has been excavated underneath Islamic buildings at the Aleppo Citadel. A well illustrated article by Kay Kohlmeyer states,

The storm god, first venerated as Hadda, then as Addu, Teshub, Tarhunta, and Hadad, played a supra-regional role in the ancient Near East, which explains the enormous size of his temple at Aleppo and the brilliance of its relief decoration. (Near Eastern Archaeology 72;4 (2009).

A statue of Hadad of poor quality is also displayed in the museum.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Hadad displayed in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are several other Neo-Hittite artifacts in the Aleppo National Museum. This first I am showing is a basalt lion with a slight wing relief. This is likely part of a pair that stood along an entrance to some building. Here you will notice that the lion is represented as having five legs. This allows the passerby to see at least four legs from almost any direction. We have become familiar with the huge winged bulls from Assyria that are made in the same fashion. I do not have the original source of the lion, but there are numerous Neo-Hittite sites  to the north of Aleppo in Syria and Turkey.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lion from the Neo-Hittite Period in the Aleppo National Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next image is a fascinating one from the palace of Karara at Tell Halaf. It shows a composite creature of basalt consisting of the head of a man with the feet and wings of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion.

Composite creatures were common during the Hittite, Assyrian, and Babylonian periods of Old Testament history, and many of them have been found in the extended region. They provide us some insight into the background of apocalyptic literature. We find these creatures especially in the Old Testament books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, and in the New Testament book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). See a previous post, “Apocalyptic imagery is not strange,” here.

The composite creature here brought to my mind the events of the sounding of the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9:1-11.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Composite creature showing the head of a man, body and feet of a bird, and the tail of a scorpion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I am adding an additional image that I was able to enhance to show a little better sharpness.

aleppo-museum-composite-creature-fjenkins051302_09en

 1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.
3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.
6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,
8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;
9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.
10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.
11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. (Revelation 9:1-11 ESV)

Knowing that such imagery was common in the ancient Near East should assist us in our understanding of the nature of apocalyptic literature of the Bible.

Under the jail – a visit to the Kishle

Read The Citadel of Jerusalem here.
Read Views from the Citadel of Jerusalem here.

After our visit to see Jerusalem from the roof of the Citadel we made our way through the recently cleared dry moat to the steps and pool from the time of Herod the Great. Our guide, David, used a variety of visual aids to explain where we were and how this might have looked in the time of Herod.

Herodian steps at the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herodian steps at the Citadel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From there David led us to the Kishle (Turkish word for Barracks, and many use it as Prison). The Tower of David web site has this brief explanation of the Kishle.

The site known as the “Kishle” is adjacent to the Citadel and Tower of David Museum complex. The structure was erected in 1834 by Ibrahim Pasha who governed the Land of Israel (Palestine) from Egypt.

When the Ottoman Turks regained the area in 1841, the “Kishle” continued to serve as a military compound. During the period of the British mandate, it was used as a police station and prison where some members of the Jewish underground were also incarcerated.

In an article in Archaeological Diggings, Caroline Shapiro (Nov. 2015) explains how this excavation came about.

The Kishle Building, as it is called, stands adjacent to the Tower of David, the ancient citadel that guards Jerusalem’s Old City at the Jaffa Gate entrance. It was built in 1860 as an Ottoman prison or army barracks. The prison was then used as such by the British during Mandate times and then left desolate until the Tower of David Museum decided to clean up the iron prison cells and create a new wing for the Education Department. It housed members of the pre-State underground, the Irgun, the evidence of which is scratched on the walls.

As with any digging in Jerusalem, the clearing up became an excavation and close to 3000 years of history was discovered under its floorboards. The excavations were carried out in 1999–2000 by Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District Archeologist, together with a team from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), but since then the building has been left untouched. Entrance to the Kishle is via the newly opened moat where visitors walk down the impressive Herodian steps leading down into a Hasmonian pool that would have been the lavish pool connected to King Herod’s palace. (These are the only excavations of King Herod’s Palace; huge foundation walls can be seen as well as an impressive water sewage system.)

The whole site has been dug down some 10 metres (33 ft) deep and about 50 metres (165 ft) long to reveal the various strata. With an arched, cross-vaulted Ottoman ceiling, it is a cavernous, silent cathedral of ancient stones that had been untouched by daylight for millennia.

This is our first view of the excavation as we enter the Kishle. I think it is not incorrect to say that ancient ruins will be found anywhere archaeologists dig in Jerusalem. Many sites of importance are in basements.

General view of the archaeological excavation of the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

General view of the archaeological excavation of the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

On the far right of the photo above, and below, you will see a stretch of wall from Herod’s palace.

Herodian ruins in the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herodian walls in the Kishle. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The oldest ruins uncovered during the excavation belong to the 8th century B.C. Perhaps these ruins belong to the time of Hezekiah, King of Judah (729-686 B.C., McKinny).

Ruins from the 8th century B.C., possibly from the time of King Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins from the 8th century B.C., possibly from the time of King Hezekiah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible describes the work Hezekiah did in response to the Assyrian threat.

He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. (2 Chronicles 32:5 ESV)

The Jewish Quarter Excavations began in 1969 under the direction of Professor Nahman Avigad of Hebrew University. Shapiro says he uncovered a 130-foot long section of stone wall that was 23 feet wide and probably 27 feet high. This is the wall we now call the Broad Wall (Nehemiah 3:8; 12:38).

The Broad Wall excavated by Avigad. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Broad Wall excavated by Avigad. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wall within the Kishle is even further to the west, on the top of the western ridge of the Old City.

Re’em Amit, the archaeologists in charge of the dig, argues that this is the palace of Herod the Great, and the location of the Praetorium where the trial of Jesus took place (John 19:13). When I first began to visit Jerusalem we thought the paved area in the Sisters of Zion was the Praetorium. We still visit the site if time permits because it is important in understanding the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, but we now know that the pavement there belongs to the second century A.D.

The Roman Prefect, such as Pilate, would make his residence in Herod’s Palace on his visits to Jerusalem from Caesarea. Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, and Pontius Pilate, the governor [prefect] of Judea were both in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 3:1; 23:4-16). And they were both staying at the best “hotel” in town.

Herod's Palace in the Second Temple model at the Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Herod’s Palace in the Second Temple model at the Israel Museum. The Fortress of Antonio is visible at the top/right of the photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is not a new hypothesis, but it does provide new evidence to sustain the view. Shimon Gibson has written extensively on this for several years. Gibson, with an allusion to the writing of Josephus, says,

After the grandeur of the Jewish Temple, Herod’s palace was reportedly the most amazing building complex in Jerusalem. (Final Days of Jesus, 93)

Gibson has a essay on this subject in The World of Jesus and the Early Church, edited by Craig A. Evans. In both of these articles Gibson includes drawings of the area under consideration.

Visiting the Kishle:

The Tower of David is open with English guides Sundays to Thursdays at 11 a.m. At other times one may visit with an audio guide. Adult admission is 40 NIS (about $11).

The guided tour including the Kishle (From Herod’s Palace to British Prison) is available in English on Fridays at 10 a.m. for 45 NIS.

Dates, hours, and admission prices change from time to time. Check the Tower of David web site for current information.


Josephus Elaborates on the Palace

— “ —

176 Now as these towers were themselves on the north side of the wall, the king had a palace inwardly thereto adjoined, which exceeds all my ability to describe it;
177 for it was so very elaborate as to lack no cost nor skill in its construction, but was entirely walled about to the height of thirty cubits, and was adorned with towers at equal distances, and with large bedchambers, that would contain beds for a hundred guests a piece,
178 in which the variety of the stones is not to be expressed; for a large quantity of those who were rare of that kind were collected together. Their roofs were also wonderful, both for the length of the beams, and the splendour of their ornaments.
179 The number of the rooms was also very great, and the variety of the figures that was about them was prodigious; their furniture was complete, and the greatest part of the vessels that were put in them was of silver and gold.
180 There were besides many porticoes, one beyond another, all around, and in each of those porticoes elaborate pillars; yet were all the courts that were exposed to the air everywhere green.
181 There were, moreover, several groves of trees, and long walks through them, with deep canals and cisterns, that in various parts were filled with brazen statues, through which the water ran out. There were with this many dove courts {a} of tame pigeons about the canals.  (Jewish War 5:176-181 or 5.4)

— ” —


Selected Sources:

AP You Tube video featuring Re’em Amit, the Jerusalem District Archaeologist of  the IAA in charge of the excavations of the Kishle. In this video Amit seems to be explaining in English and someone else is translating in another language.

Rasmussen, Carl. Kishle Tour. Photos included.

Rotem, Itay (guide), Tower of David Museum. You Tube.

Shapiro, Caroline. “Doorway to the Past.” Archaeological Diggings, Nov. 2015.

Tower of David web site. Here you will find several links to popular articles about the new excavation.

Ziese, Mark. “The Barracks.”

________.  “What Lies Beneath.”  In both articles Ziese includes some historic photos bringing to mind the use of the Kishle during the British period.

Visiting Iznik (Nicea, Nicaea), Turkey – Part 8

In the vicinity of Iznik

In an earlier article we posted photos of Lake Ascania (Iznik Gölü) at the place where the first Ecumenical Council met. Nearby there is a beautiful view of a small lighthouse with the mountains of Bithynia in the distance.

Lighthouse in Lake Ascania at Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Lighthouse in Lake Ascania at Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

About 3 miles north of Iznik where the Roman road to Nicomedia once ran, in an orchard of olive and fruit trees, there is a stone obelisk from the early second century A.D. The Iznik promotional brochure says,

Its inscription in Greek reveals that the obelisk was built by C. Cassius Philiscus in the 1st century. It rises over a rectangular prismatic pedestal, and includes five triangular prismatic stones one over the other.

The inscription on the first of the triangular prismatic stones is in poor condition. The second stone indicates that something was once attached to the obelisk. Some suggest that it was a life-size human figure. Wilson says the obelisk is 39 feet tall.

The stone obelisk on the road from Nicea to Nicomedia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The stone obelisk on the road from Nicea to Nicomedia. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sign at the site describes the monument in Turkish and English. I think you may agree with me that the last English sentence doesn’t make much sense.

The sign identifying the obelisk from the Roman period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign identifying the obelisk from the Roman period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Before closing this series I think a few words on the historical background of Iznik/Nicea are appropriate. We have frequently recommended Biblical Turkey by Mark Wilson as an excellent source for those who travel to Turkey. The following points are summarized from the second edition (pp. 371-2).

  • Antigonus founded the Hellenistic city of Antigonia here in 316 B.C.
  • Lysimachus captured the city in 301 B.C. and re-founded it, naming it after his first wife Nicea.
  • During the Roman period the city vied with Nicomedia for the distinction of being the principal city of Bithynia.
  • Augustus authorized a sanctuary of Roma and the deified Julius Caesar to be built at Nicea.

The bust of Lysimachus was photographed in the Ephesus Museum at Selçuk, Turkey, in 2008.

Bust of Lysimachus in the Selçuk,Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bust of Lysimachus displayed in Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Turkey.

Wilson is emphatic that Nicea would have been on the route of the messenger carrying the epistle of 1 Peter.

This is the final article in the series on Iznik/Nicea. Hopefully there will be some who will find it useful in the months to come. I think all of the photos are large enough for use in PowerPoint class presentations.

Visiting Iznik (Nicea, Nicaea), Turkey – Part 7

The modern city of Iznik

The museum of Iznik is noted for its collection of Blue Tiles for which the city is famous. In 2014 I found many of the museums in Turkey, or certain exhibits, closed for remodeling. Even with a polite request we were not allowed to visit the various monuments displayed in the yard of the museum.

The museum of Iznik was closed for remodeling in 2014. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The museum of Iznik was closed for remodeling in 2014. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Missing the tile work for which the city is famous was not a great loss. Tile work from Iznik may be seen in the ceiling of the Blue Mosque, in the Topkapi Palace, and other buildings in Istanbul.

In the ceiling of the Blue Mosque is a good example of the tile of Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The ceiling of the Blue Mosque is a good example of the Iznik tile. Photo by F. Jenkins.

One expects to see mosques in any Turkish city. I am including this photo of the Yeşil (Green) Mosque. The promotional tourism information includes this information about the mosque.

Recognised as the symbol of İznik, the Yeşil Mosque takes its name from the turquoise coloured İznik tiles and bricks of its minaret which are a fine reflection
of Seljuk minaret style in Ottoman art. Built by the architect Hacı Musa between 1378 and 1392 upon the request of Halil Hayrettin Pasha, this mosque is
undoubtedly the most magnificent of the single domed mosques of the Ottoman Period. Its unique minaret is on the right corner of the mosque. While its niche displays rich stone work, its body is covered with blue and green coloured tiles in zigzag mosaic style.

The Green Mosque in Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Green Mosque in Iznik. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Biblical Connection

The events we have described in this series on Iznik/Nicea are post apostolic, but the general area does have two connections to the New Testament.

  • On the outbound portion of Paul’s third journey he attempted to go into Bithynia, but was not permitted to do so.

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. (Acts 16:7 ESV)

  • We have already pointed out that the epistles of Peter were written to saints in various Roman provinces including Bithynia.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

I plan to show you one more famous landmark on the outskirts of Iznik as the eighth in this series.

Visiting Iznik (Nicea, Nicaea), Turkey – Part 6

Nicea, now identified with Iznik, Turkey, was in the Roman province of Bythinia in Asia. A Roman lawyer named Pliny served as governor of Bithynia and Pontus (A.D. 111-113) and exchanged a series of letters with the Roman Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117).

The theater at Nicea was constructed while Pliny was governor of Bithynia. According to the tourism publication on Iznik the theater,

… was converted into a mass graveyard in the 13th century. The graveyard was later replaced by the ceramic kilns. Only some part of the cavea (audience section) of the ancient theatre have survived to the present day. It appears that its stones were used as construction materials especially in the restoration of the city walls.

The theater is estimated to have seated 15,000 persons.

Ruins of the theater dating to the time of Trajan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the theater dating to the reign of the Emperor Trajan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

From the letters exchanged between Pliny and the Emperor Trajan we know that Christians were persecuted during his reign. (For more information see our post here.)

Emperor Trajan (A.D. 97-117). Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Emperor Trajan (A.D. 97-117). Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There are ruins of a few churches (meaning “meeting places”) in Iznik. No doubt many ruins are under the buildings of the modern city, but the area pictured below marks the site of the Dormitian of the Mother of God (Theotokos = God-bearer). At the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 “Theotokos was approved as a right title for the Virgin Mary” (Peter Toon, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 344). Sources such as Philip Schaff provide much more detailed information for those interested.

Sign at site of Dormitian of the Theotokos, built by Hyakinthos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sign at site of Dormitian of the Theotokos, built by Hyakinthos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If you have traveled much in the Middle East you have likely seen several sites associated with the dormitian of Mary, the place where she went to sleep before being assumed into heaven, according to Catholic and Orthodox theology. Our guide for the day to Nicea/Iznik waits for us to make our photo before entering the few remaining ruins of the church.

Guide waiting to take us into ruins of the Dormitian church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Guide waiting to take us into ruins of the Dormitian church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This church was built by Bishop Hyakinthos in the 7th or 8th century. Only with flash and some work in Photoshop was I able to show this much of the structure. The Blue Guide Turkey “The Lascarid emperor, Theodore 1 (1204-22) was buried here.”

Dark remains of the Dormitian church of the Theotokos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Dark remains of the Dormitian church of the Theotokos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In Part 7 we will move to a few of the modern buildings of Iznik.