September 5, 2007
Lesson 3: Celebrate the past because it’s part of today and shapes tomorrow
Leaving Istanbul, our tour bus made its way through traffic on Victory Day which celebrates the Turkish defeat of the Greeks on August 30, 1922. From the city to the country side, buildings adorned Turkish flags and banners of Kemal Mustafa Ataturk, the first president of Turkey and their national hero. The country is currently in political strife because of the new president and his religious sympathies, and there have been rumors of a military coup, but Turkey’s national pride blankets different political views, ethnicities, and religious ideals creating a united country that celebrates its past as it looks forward to the possibilities of tomorrow.
For five days our tour bus made stops at ancient cities throughout Western Anatolia including Troy, Ephesus, Pergamum, Aphrodisia, Pamukkale, and Midas City. After reading Homer’s Iliad and watching Brad Pitt in Troy, I expected the romanticized city of Troy to be excavated with great precision. Upon arrival, I was disappointed to find the rubble left from by Schliemann, the first modern yet extremely amateur archeologist. After walking around mounds of dirt for over an hour, I sat under a tree disenchanted. Where was the glorious city I imagined?
In the midst of these ruins I couldn’t help but think about the legacy left by the Trojans. What mark did they leave on history? Are they remembered for their great citadel, impenetrable walls, and powerful warriors? The reason most people remember Troy is due to Homer and his romantic story of a love that caused a catastrophic war; we remember Achilles, Paris, Helen, and a gigantic wooden horse, not the economic or social intricacies of the city. Walking back to the bus, I realized that Troy’s greatness does not transcend time physically, but through literature, something just as powerful as stone and mortar.
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