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Caria’s mountain fortress Alinda
2003 / May

In April 1989, during the excavation of foundations for a new building on the outskirts of Bodrum, the bulldozer struck a stone. It did not take long to realise that this was a find of archaeological importance, and the museum was notified. News that a tomb chamber had been discovered spread like wildfire around the town, and hundreds of people gathered on the spot to watch the lid of the sarcophagus being lifted. The sight that was revealed left everyone amazed. The occupant of the tomb who lay in eternal sleep wore a crown of gold oak leaves and other magnificent jewellery, suggesting that she must have been of royal birth, and archaeologists dubbed her the Carian Princess. The princss's story does not end there. Examination of the skeleton revealed clues whose trail led to an enigmatic ancient city of which only brief mention is made by ancient authors: Alinda.

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Caria’s mountain fortress Alinda
2003 / May

Studies showed that the princess had died about 2400 years ago, between 360 and 325 BC. At that time Caria (approximating to the province of Mugla today) was the scene of momentous historical events. Alexander the Great of Macedonia marched into Anatolia in 334 BC and swept the Persians who had possessed these lands for over 200 years before him, conquering their cities one by one. Treachery, intrigue and violence were inevitable in such chaotic times. While most of the cities welcomed Alexander, opening their gates without a fight, a few held out against his attack. The Hecatomnos family, who ruled Caria as satraps, all threw in their lot with the Persians except Queen Ada. She had inherited the Carian throne upon the death of her husband, who was at the same time her brother. Her other brother Piksodaros deposed her and sent her into exile to Alinda.

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Caria’s mountain fortress Alinda
2003 / May
The fourth century BC historian Arrian describes Alinda as one of the most powerful Carian cities, and the city walls which have survived to the present day show that Alinda did indeed possess almost invincible defences. It is reported that when Alexander reached these walls, thought to have been constructed during the reign of another of Ada's brothers, the celebrated King Mausolos (387-353 BC), he realised that subjugating Alinda would be no easy task. But he had not reckoned with the support of Queen Ada, who opened the gates, and not only delivered up the city to Alexander, but offered to assist him in his conquest of Halicarnassus (the modern Bodrum) if he would restore her to the throne of Caria. Alexander agreed to the queesdr proposal, and Halicarnassus paid a high price for its resistance, as eyewitness accounts of the tragedy show.
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Caria’s mountain fortress Alinda
2003 / May

But when the Carian Princess's skeleton was first discovered, her identity was a mystery. Only after experts had taken a plaster cast of her skull and produced a reconstruction of her face did the incredible resemblance of the reconstructed face to a portrait on an agate ring found in the sarcophagus and to a bust found at Priene a century ago reveal that the 'princess' was Queen Ada. Alinda lies on Mount Latmos, sacred to the ancients, in the east of the Besparmak Mountains, and the road there leads through the village of Karpuzlu near ăine in the province of Aydin. As we climbed our minds were preoccupied with the exiled queen, since apart from her story ancient writers make only passing mention of the city itself, which stands on a rocky hilltop surrounded by precipices on three sides. Stephanus of Byzantium, however, provides brief but invaluable information about Alinda in his Ethnica, where he describes the city as a 'mountain fortress',

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Caria’s mountain fortress Alinda
2003 / May
and writes of a sanctuary dedicated to Adonis, who symbolised the death and rebirth of plants, and of a statue of Aphrodite made by the celebrated sculptor Praxiteles of Athens. When we reached the agora that stretches along a steep slope, we forgot all about Ada in wonderment at the magnificence of this three storey building. One of the few agoras to remain standing in Anatolia, it brings Alinda vividly to life. Although overgrown with olive trees today, the city remains much as it was in Hellenistic times, and the visitor is dazzled by its theatre which sat five thousand spectators, city walls, towers, and particularly by the fine stone carving on the two storey tower just below the summit. This powerful and wealthy city is in a remarkable state of preservation, having defended itself not only against ancient attackers, but against the ravages of intervening time.

* Nermin Bayšin is an archaeologist.
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