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F + 7 : Fire in the Bay - Sibyl on the Hill

The Sybil of Erythraia - painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

It is rare hat we visit places where world history changed icourse. Most Americans never visited the Paris Hotel where the Peace Treaty with England was signed, only a few Italians know the River Rubicon which Caesar crossed to end the Roman Republic, a minority of Germans has been to the Paulskirche in Frankfurt where the peaceful unification of Germany failed and many Brits may know the Castle of Blenheim where Churchill grew up but have no idea why something as beautiful would be named after a Bavarian village.

The Ottoman Navy lost all its Ships of the Line and Frigates at the Battle of Çesme in 1770

Today we sail through one of these places. It is in the Bay of Çesma. Here, the Russian Empire made its entrance into the league of world powers. In the summer of 1770, its navy sailed all the way from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean and defeated a much larger Ottoman Fleet. After this victory, the Russian Fleet stayed for five more years in the Aegean and cut the Ottoman Empire into two. Without the ability of bringing reinforcement from the Levant, Syria and Iraq, the Ottoman Empire lost the land war against Russia. Only thru diplomatic intervention from France and England a humiliating peace and large territorial losses were avoided.

Catharina the Great, the minor German Princess, who

became Russia's Tsarina and Moderniser (1729 - 1796)

For Catharina the Great, the Russian Tsarina, the victory was her coming out. After years of reforming and modernising Russia she got the results she aimed for. Catharina did not believe in liberal values despite reading Montesquieu and conversing with Voltaire. But she understood that unreformed Russia would remain a back-water nation. Her predecessor Peter the Great had started modernising his country but the job was far from completed. Catharina removed red tap to facilitate growth, relieved the land nobility from government duties, formed a professional bureaucracy, hired Royal Navy Officers to train her navy and loosened import/export restrictions. Under her rule, the peasants remained serfs who were tied to the land and had little personal freedom. But the country started moving.

When the Russian-Ottoman war broke out in 1768, the Ottoman Army was three times as large as the Russian forces and had the upper hand. The new professionalism of Russia's armed forces quickly turned the situation. By the end of the war, in 1774, the Ottoman Empire was the "sick man of Europe" and Russia the new empire.

The Fleet Action in 1770 from a Russian History Book - Note the packed Ottoman Formation

The story of the fleet engagement in the Bay of Çesme is quickly told. The timid Ottoman admirals opted for a defensive position to use their superior fire power. They did not anticipate that the Russians had learn from the Royal Navy how to use fire ships. The Russians had 4 - the Ottoman fleet went up in flames. Russia had 9 capital ships and 3 frigates. The Ottoman 16 capital ships, 6 frigates and 13 galleys. In the gallantly executed night attack, the Ottoman fleet lost all capital ships, all frigates and all galleys. Wow!

The Russian Fleet Action in the Mediterranean 1770 to 1774

The naval victory gave the Russians free hand to support an Egyptian usurper who rose agains the Sultan in Istanbul. Now Turkey had to fight a war on two fronts which they eventually lost. By 1774 they had to sue for peace.

The Acropolis of Erythraia is on top of the hill to the right

We also had to the chance to visit the old town of Erythraia on the Çesme peninsula. Once home to 50'000 people, the town was abandoned when long-distance trade collapsed by the 6th century AD. At that time, Erythraia was almost 1'500 years old. Its harbour was now silted - the harbour town lost its purpose like the much bigger Miletus further south.

The magnificent theatre had a Capacity of 5'000 seats

Could not find out how the name of the town was bestowed on the Red Sea which the Greek called Erythraia Thalassa. When the Italians colonised the land around the Ethiopian Port town of Asmara in the 19th century, they called it Eritrea and the name stuck.

Erythraiai was a Ionian Town built around 800 BC at the Time Homer wrote the Iliad

What we know though is that the Erithraean Sibyl which Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is related to the town we discovered. Sibyls were female prophets and Erythraean Sibyl was presiding over the Apollonian oracle in Erythaia.

The Temple Foundation built with polygonal Stones - good in absorbing Earth Quakes

She apparently predicted the war and the destruction of Troy (which means the town is older than 800 BC). She was also credited by the early church with the prediction of Jesus Christ. No wonder Michelangelo thought that she deserved a place in the Sistine Chapel.

We had to pass through the Fishing Harbour of Ildir to get to Erythraia


Tonight, we stay here in Ildir - maybe we can arrange a visit of Miletus now that Chios is off the table. We will see tomorrow.

Local Turkish Home in Ildir - Greapes are almost ripe

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