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With his victory against the Persians at the Battle of Issus, fought in 333BC on a plain in southern Turkey, Alexander the Great changed the course of history and started his transformation into demi-god. But his troops endured a hellish march to get there. Critic and art historian Brian Sewell tried to retrace the Macedonian conqueror’s arduous route to the battlefield. Photographs by David George
The invasion of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great in 334 BC was an act of filial piety. Suspected of complicity in the murder of his father, Philip of Macedon, he put into action Philip’s plan for a great crusade that would free the Greek cities of the Diaspora from Persian rule, return their temples to the Greek pantheon, and avenge the Persian invasion of mainland Greece under Xerxes.
The political and military endeavour became not only a process of imperial expansion ever east towards China, the Oriental Ocean and the far end of the world, but for Alexander himself a metamorphosis from man to god.The invasion of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great in 334 BC was an act of filial piety. Suspected of complicity in the murder of his father, Philip of Macedon, he put into action Philip’s plan for a great crusade that would free the Greek cities of the Diaspora from Persian rule, return their temples to the Greek pantheon, and avenge the Persian invasion of mainland Greece under Xerxes.
The political and military endeavour became not only a process of imperial expansion ever east towards China, the Oriental Ocean and the far end of the world, but for Alexander himself a metamorphosis from man to god. It was in Aegean Turkey that the seeds of his conviction in his personal divinity were sown; by the time he reached the Temple of Siwa in the Libyan desert three years later, the conversion was complete, for there he exchanged his human father for the mystical paternity of Zeus Ammon, becoming the demi-god to whom medieval myth attributed flight on the wings of gryphons, and descent beneath the sea in a diving-bell of glass.
Alexander subdued Aegean Turkey at a leisurely pace, even wintering at length in Phaselis, securing the souther coast as far as Side in the early months of 333 BC. Then, a year after crossing the Hellespont, in a bout of furious activity he marched north into the heartland of Anatolia to divide the Persian satrapies and form alliances with local chieftains…
South From Ephesus, by Brian Sewell, has been reissued by IB Tauris this year.
Sewell’s recommended whirlwind 8-day itinerary:
Day 1: Antalya –Termessus – Sagalassus
Day 2: Lake Burdur – Celenae (Dinar) – Gordion – Ankara
Day 3: Alksaray – Tüz Gölü – cross Kızılırmak at Yağcılar – Kırşehir
Day 4: walk banks of the Kızılırmak towards Avanos
Day 5: Kayseri – Mt Erciyes – Eski Gümüş – Niğde
Day 6: Ulukışla – Taurus Mts – Tarsus
Day 7: Silifke – Diocaesarea
Day 8: Adana – Mopsuestria – Antakya
Freya Stark made her name with her vivid writing about Persia and the Arab world in the Thirties. After the Second World War, already fifty-nine, she started tracing Alexander the Great’s route through southern Turkey. Molly Izzard, her biographer, recounts the discomforts and discoveries of her five punishing journeys
Linda Kelly tells the story of André Chénier, father of French Romantic poetry, who was born in Galata, the Genoese quarter of Istanbul. Executed during the Paris Terror, Chénier produced some of the most moving documents of the Revolution
In the sweetly scented forests of Turkey’s Aegean coast, bee-keepers and their families harvest the royal jelly once sought after by sultans. The late Rosemary Baldwin, herself a royal jelly enthusiast, revisted the fruitful hives of Samsun Dağı, ancient Mount Mycale
A favourite decorative prop of Orientalists in the 19th century, the Oriental carpet was often painted with extraordinary realism. By Penny Oakley
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