This volume is the formal product of a symposium held in December 2009, one of the annual symposia organized by the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations at Koç University. The editors and contributors have put in painstaking effort to create a collection of essays of great substance that will serve for many years as a major resource on Anatolian citadels, fortresses, and their defensive structures as cultural artifacts and as sociospatial phenomena in their specific historical contexts. Readers may be puzzled to find such a heavy representation of the Iron Age coupled with a focus on medieval Byzantine and Seljuk Anatolia, but the book illustrates the state of the discipline of archaeology/architectural history in the Anatolian context.
It is widely accepted that the Late Bronze Age in the Near East saw the development of large entrepreneurial urban centers, and that, following the collapse of the circum-Mediterranean trade network in the late thirteenth to the early twelfth centuries BCE, the communities of the Early Iron Age returned to the countryside in a more dispersed way, occupying marginal landscapes and taking refuge in high places. As illustrated particularly in Assyrian, Urartian, and Syro-Hittite geographies, the fortified citadel became a favored architectural unit to house royal palaces, military establishments, and other urban features. It is possible to argue that such architectural innovation continued to be used heavily during the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, and early Roman periods in Anatolia, yet classical archaeologists largely tend to prefer the Mediterranean and Aegean coastlands for their field research. In this sense, Cities and Citadels in Turkey implicitly suggests an unusual affinity between the Syro-Anatolian Iron Age and the medieval period, which presents a similar fragmentation of the Anatolian landscape. One wishes that this historiographic problem, as well as gaps of research, were discussed more explicitly in the book.
One aim of the volume is to “recoup a sense of the value of city and citadel walls commensurate with a variety of important functions: as urban architecture par excellence, as delineators and protectors, and as markers of status, display, and ritual” (2). Despite its slightly overambitious title, the book is less about cities and urban space than it is about citadels—with their fortification walls, gates, bastions, and towers—as architectonic expressions of power with explicit references to military power, architectural technologies of monumental enclosures, and commemorative narratives of the state embedded in them. These “monumental presences in the urban landscape” (2) acted not only as sites of military and architectural innovations but also as loci of power negotiations and stately representation for political agents. A notable point made by many of the essays in the volume, particularly well argued in Scott Redford’s brilliant contribution on Seljuk citadels and Carolyn Chabot Aslan and Charles Brian Rose’s thorough work on Troy, is that the citadels became sites of memory and of intimate, material engagements with the deep past.
The writing of ancient architectural histories has long suffered from a certain level of dryness, caused partially by strictly positivistic and functionalist approaches to architecture and partially by archaeologists’ overall disinterest in space and spatiality as cultural phenomena. Many of this volume’s chapters offer glimpses of hope for ways out of this conundrum, although closer collaboration among the authors (and perhaps a more informed exchange between Iron Age archaeologists and medievalists) would have made for more balance. For example, the reuse of architectural and sculptural fragments from former episodes of history (spolia) as a cultural practice of situated remembering is as common in Syro-Hittite and Phrygian urban architecture as it is in Byzantine and Seljuk appropriation of antiquity. The direct relationship of medieval citadels to the countryside and the extraurban environs has striking parallels in the Assyrian and Syro-Hittite citadels. The function of city gates as sites of political commemoration in Seljuk citadels is strongly reminiscent of the function of gates in fortified Iron Age cities such as Ayanis, Karkamish, and Karatepe.
One common historiographic problem for all the contributors to this book seems to have been the contrast between citadels as products of social relations and citadels as foundations of imperial agency. When the authors work critically within a rich texture of archaeological data (e.g., Voigt, Aslan and Rose) or epigraphic evidence (Macrides, Redford), the complexity of each case study is revealed; however, many of the authors uncritically accept the agency of rulers a priori.
Aslan and Rose’s strictly chronological description of the development and collapse of the citadel at Troy resonates well with Mary M. Voigt’s meticulous and long-awaited overview of the Yassıhöyük Stratigraphic Sequence and James Crow’s historical study of Sinope’s içkale and its multiple episodes of construction. These documentary pieces contrast with Scott Redford’s thematic exploration of the Seljuk citadels in Anatolia. In fact, many of the contributions in the volume (Aslan and Rose on Troy, Çilingiroğlu on Ayanis, Voigt on Gordion, Summers and Summers on Kerkenes Dağ, Özyar on Karatepe-Aslantaş, and Harrison on Tayinat) present extremely useful overviews of the archaeology of the sites they discuss. These contributions all derive from many years of site-based research and will surely be appreciated by the students of their respective fields. The difficult task in presenting such cases in the context of a cross-disciplinary publication is precisely the ability to take a step back and cast critical eyes on the urban spaces and their diachronic histories, making them relevant to broader debates on the making of urban spaces and places, the political economy of architectural construction, and visual programs. What are the architectural implications of the design of citadels and the palatial complexes housed in them in Assyrian, Urartian, Syro-Hittite, and Byzantine cities, for example? Why did the architectural patrons of both Urartian Ayanis and Seljukide Sinop commemorate their accomplishments by placing inscriptions at the city gates? In this sense, Özlem Çevik’s discussion of Urartian fortresses as a regionally esoteric practice, Harrison’s overview of urbanization in the balkanized Syro-Hittite states, and Mehmet-Ali Ataç’s discussion of the typical Neo-Assyrian citadels would probably have benefited from a consideration of the shared practices of citadel construction, urban renewal, and the use of finely dressed stone surfaces in the Iron Age Near East, where it turned into a royal koine of sorts.
In contrast, Redford’s meticulous study of medieval citadel construction projects and their commemorative inscriptions draws parallels and relationships between Syria and Anatolia, particularly among the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Sinop, Konya, Antalya, Alanya, and others during the last decade of the twelfth century BCE and the first quarter of the thirteenth, and between the Ayyubid and Seljukide political geographies. This multisited study of a narrow episode in medieval architectural history allows Redford not only to offer a breathtaking cross-regional perspective on the political economy of citadel construction but also to portray in detail notable personalities, local political/cultural dynamics, and social classes. Discussing how “towers, walls, and gates” served “as loci of elite expression of power hierarchies at that time” (306), the author is able to reach out to both the utopian, ambitious ideals of the sultans and the realpolitik of their subordinate emirs. Such discussion suggests how fruitful it would be to pursue the study of similar kinds of relationships between Syrian and Anatolian cities at the time of the Hittite Empire and in the aftermath of its collapse. The periods of geopolitical balkanization that took place on the Anatolian peninsula during the Iron Age and the medieval period arguably have fascinating similarities (as well as major differences), and scholars who specialize in these two historical episodes have much to learn from each other. Especially for this reason, the organizers of the 2009 symposium and the editors of this volume must be congratulated.
Ruth Macrides’s investigation of the reasons behind the Byzantine imperial choice to move to the Blachernai Palace despite the limitations of the neighborhood is refreshing and intriguing for enthusiasts of the urban history of Byzantine Istanbul. The excellent depth of Macrides’s chapter on the sociospatial and political economic history of the Blachernai Palace and its relationship to the rest of the urban/extraurban landscape allows the reader to evaluate this development in relation to the courtly ceremonies, imperial crossings through the city, and other state spectacles that had important impacts on the spatial configuration of the city. One wonders if architectural “height as a feature of Palaiologan ceremonial” (294)—as a feature of prokypsis and peripatos ceremonies—and the visual impact of seeing the Byzantine emperor were also experienced at the Assyrian and Urartian citadels that looked over bodies of water and extraurban landscapes. The more technical discussion of the same urban landscape by Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger is harder to follow for the nonspecialist. This author’s frequent and abrupt swings between historical and architectural evidence result in an unsustainable argument, as becomes clear when she juxtaposes her interpretations of literary tropes and metaphors with hard evidence. This urge to seek direct architectural or archaeological evidence to verify historical sources is problematic and relegates material culture and architecture to a secondary status with respect to written sources. Examples of this scholarly tendency are abundant in Near Eastern archaeology.
A final point has to do with what I refer to as the poetics of architectural technologies and materials, which surfaces in many of the contributions. Aslı Özyar’s discussion of the development of carved orthostates in the Syro-Hittite sphere argues for origins in the Hittite Empire, contrasting with my own association of this architectural innovation with the long tradition of stonecutting and masonry in northern Syria.1 More important, I believe it is misleading to conceive of architectural technologies, visual programs, and building functions as unrelated aspects of building construction. Redford, for example, argues for a “visual regime” of the decorative aspects of Seljuk citadels concerning the use of spolia, sculptural pieces, and other special treatment of architectural surfaces, but I would have preferred that he address this as an impressive bringing together of architectonic, representational, and epigraphic elements in a complex semantic environment. The making of Urartian citadels through the use of impressive stone masonry structures, as discussed by Altan Çilingiroğlu and Çevik, and the building of Early Phrygian Gordion, with its multiple phases of architectural experimentation and innovation, relate to a similar kind of architectonic culture that derives from a distinctive poetics of architectural technologies and materials. Aslan and Rose’s excellent argument about how the citadel walls of Troy “conferred an aura of antiquity and prestige” (11) and functioned as meaningful sites of memory in post–Bronze Age phases of the city is also intriguing to consider from this perspective. Voigt’s thoughtful and meticulous investigation of different episodes of architectural construction on Gordion’s citadel offers exciting possibilities for a discussion of issues of memory and the materiality of stones.
This volume fills a gap in the scholarship on ancient architecture in Turkey in the urban context. The wealth of architectural and historical evidence provided by the many contributors constitutes a welcome addition to the field of Anatolian and Near Eastern architectural history. Perhaps more important, the book suggests a fruitful way forward for the field in broader terms by bringing unusual historical periods, the Iron Age and the medieval period, onto the same platform of discussion.
Ömür Harmanşah, “Upright Stones and Building Narratives: Formation of a Shared Architectural Practice in the Ancient Near East,” in Ancient Near Eastern Art in Context: Studies in Honor of Irene J. Winter by Her Students, ed. Jack Cheng and Marian H. Feldman (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 69–99.