Out second day in Turkey started with a short flight from Istanbul to Antalya. I don’t think I mentioned it before, but we are using the all-new airport in Istanbul (which does not seem to have a name yet). This is a huge airport with all the modern amenities you might expect. Or it will have them all when everything is finished up. Still, we checked in fine and made the hour flight south in comfort.
Our new driver picked us up in the shiny new Tutu mini-van. Since there are only ten of us, this is the perfect vehicle (and we even fit inside with all our luggage). We drove from the airport directly the the Perge Archaeological site. There is only a small but important biblical significance for Perge, Paul passed through the city on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14). After leaving Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas traveled north to Psidian Antioch, passing through Perge. This is where John Mark left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem. This will eventually lead to the break between Paul and Barnabas after the Jerusalem Council. In Acts 14:25 Paul and Barnabas “spoke the word” in Perge, but Luke does not mention the founding of a church as he did in other cities on the first missionary journey.
Ward Gasque comments in his Anchor Bible Dictionary article that the remains of Perge “are second only to Ephesus among the cities associated with the apostle Paul” (ABD 5:228). He is correct, although the site is not as well-maintained as Ephesus, probably because it is not nearly as popular with tourists. Nevertheless, this is an excellent visit which illustrates many of the features of a Greco-Roman city.
The first gate was built to honor Hadrian and a second Hellenistic gate with two round towers. On the back side of the Hellenistic gate are niches which once held statures. Some aches still had bases with inscriptions, but the scaffolding which used to be built around the gates has been stacked inside this area and we could not get very close enough to inspect them. Just inside the city is a large Roman bath with a palaestra (an exercise yard), although neither is fully reconstructed. At least on this tour, it is the only bath house we will have a chance to see.
We walked up the main road (the cardo) through the center of the city. Although some of the columns have been replaced, the site has not been well-maintained and there is a good grip of weeds growing on the cardo. There is a small shop about half way down the road out of Perge which has a fascinating mosaic floor with Agamemnon and other characters from Homer. There is a sign explaining the mosaic (“possibly a religious function” but that is not at all clear).
We back-tracked to the partially reconstructed agora. There is an unexplained round structure in the center (again, explained as a possible religious site). The stadium has some magnificent vaults on one side and has been partially reconstructed on one end. Although the theater appears to be open now, we were not able to visit it on this tour.
After Perge, we made a short stop at the St. Paul Cultural Center in Antalya for snacks and coffee. It was good to chat with the people who run the shop and hear about the what they are doing there.
The rest of the day was spent at the Perge Museum. This is one of the better museums you will even visit in terms of artifacts on display (perhaps better than the Ephesus Museum although there are a few things in Ephesus which are more important). Many of the statues which were recovered from the main gates and the theater are now in this museum. One gallery is dedicated to the statues and friezes from the theater, including a massive Hercules statue.
In addition to the statues, the museum has an extensive collection of tombs, many in excellent condition. Most tourists like the small basket made for a pet Dog, Stephanos.
On the third floor is a nice collection of Greek icons and I enjoyed a short time with two people from our group trying to figure out who is who on these icons. I believe they have misidentified John of Patmos with John the Baptist (the seven headed dragon is a give-away).
We have a long drive tomorrow from the warm and sunny coastal city of Antalya to visit Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Pamukkale.