- On 26/12/2011
- In People or Company of Interest
From Marion James - Today's Zaman
Being surrounded on three sides by water, Turkey’s wealth of coastline means its history is intricately linked with the history of the sea.
The Turks may have swept into Anatolia on horseback from Central Asia, but they soon discovered, as the Romans and Byzantines had done before them, that an important plank in defense of their realm had to be naval defenses.
The Ottomans fast developed naval prowess. Shipbuilding became an art, just as horsemanship had been, and Ottoman sea captains moved into positions of supremacy. The result was that the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean became Ottoman lakes.
There are a number of exciting finds from around the coast of Turkey housed in various museums. The Underwater Archaeological Museum at Bodrum is world famous. Not only are there hundreds of amphorae and gold coins salvaged from shipwrecks on display, but some of the ships themselves.
The treasures range in date over the centuries and represent powers as diverse as Phoenician, Lydian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman.
Underwater archaeology is so valued that even the massive engineering enterprise of the Marmaray Project, set to join the Asian side and European side of İstanbul by rail tunnel, came to a halt when digs for the project uncovered an ancient Byzantine harbor near the old walls of Constantinople, replete with ships.
The findings from this harbor are housed in the İstanbul Archaeological Museum. Walking round the exhibition, visitors can imagine life in a bygone era, the age of sail, when international trade was carried out mainly by ship.
The raised wrecks seem so serene: a silent witness to the economic life of those who inhabited these lands before us. They appear calm and lifeless.
But, of course, their last moments afloat would have been anything but calm and serene. What passions and terrors they were witness to! What panic and horror caused their sinking !
Maybe it was ferocious weather conditions that caused them to take on water and sink, despite desperate bailing by the crew, or even financial suicide of jettisoning a valuable cargo.