The southern high winds of the Greek god Notos were blowing favorable for The Star Clipper, following the ancient trade routes from Rhodes to Halicarnassus.  If you were a Classical Greek mariner or philosopher or historian you would have known Bodrum, Turkey as the port of Halicarnassus, on the Ceramic Coast, now the Turquoise Coast, in the region of Caria, but now the Gulf of Gokova, in Asia Minor.

Halicarnassus had a long and rich history, with each wave of invaders leaving their mark on the fishing village that the Carians originally founded after the Trojan War (at the time Troy was a Greek city).  Achilles and his Pythian fleet no doubt provisioned here before bobbing farther up the coast to their fate near the Dardanelles, named after the Greek king of the same name. The Dorian Greeks occupied the port and peninsula around 7th century B.C.




St. John's Castle guards Bodrum's modern harbor.






A mosque as seen from the Castle.

The Persians conquered Halicarnassus in the 5th century B.C. After the port regained freedom from Persian rule, Halicarnassus became the capital of the independent province of Caria and the seat of the Carian Kings. King Mausolus (376-353 B.C.) was the most famous Carian satrap (Persian governor); he moved his capital from Mylasa to Halicarnassus. When he died in 353 B.C., Queen Artemisia II, his sister and widow, had a marble temple constructed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythis, and the four sculptors: Bryaxis, Scopas, Leochares, and Timotheus. 

Mausolus’ sanctuary was so magnificent it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World — from where we get the name mausoleum.

The Greek historians Herodotus (484-420 B.C.) and Dionysius (60 B.C. to 7 B.C.) were born in Halicarnassus.

Alexander the Great besieged the city in 334 B.C. and Halicarnassus remained in Greco-Roman hands until it was destroyed in 654 A.D. during the Arab invasions of Anatolia (Greek name for Turkey). 

It reverted back to a peaceful fishing village, but not for long.




The French Tower.

During the Crusades, the Knights of St. John were ousted from Jerusalem and they sailed into port and built the castle of St, Peter, which majestically guards the Bodrum harbor entrance to this day.  The Knights Hospitaller (Knights of St. John) were allowed to build the castle by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed I after Tamerlane had destroyed their previous fortress in Izmir's inner bay. The castle and its town became known as Petronium (in honor of St. Peter), which the modern name Bodrum is derived. The crusading Catholic Knights had built a church and hospital in Jerusalem in the 11th century A.D. and they were congenial to all religions. St. John’s Castle construction began in the 1400s utilizing the usable marble blocks from the tomb of King Mausolus.  The ancient mausoleum lives today in the castle walls, but a few foundation stones still remain of the original massive monument and tomb that was toppled by an earthquake in ancient times, after standing for 1,700 years.

In the beginning of the 15th century A.D. the Knights fortified the walls of the Castle of St. Peter, the Liberator, which had been for a hundred years the sole stronghold and refuge for Christian souls in Asia Minor.  There obviously was trouble in the wind because after Suleiman the Magnificent conquered Rhodes in 1522, the Knights of St. John swiftly abandoned Rhodes and their fortress at Petronium and retreated to Malta. The fishing village sprang back to life as before and fell into obscurity once again, but was now called Marmaris.

Under Turkish care the castle has undergone several uses, including a military base, a prison, and public bath. But now it is one of the finest museums in the region. In the 1970s Turkish artists and intellectuals were attracted to the sleepy town by the writings of “The Fisherman of Halicarnassus’", Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli.




Convoluted Castle walls overlook Bodrum.





Take the two hour walking tour.

I signed up for the two hour walking tour of the castle at the activities desk in the library of The Star Clipper and the next day a mini-bus drove me and others  through touristy Bodrum. The 4-masted barkentine had switched from its Malta registry flag to the Turkey star and crescent flag as demanded by law in order to berth portside.

The imposing Castle of St. Peter has been restored and today is home to a remarkable and unique museum — The Museum of Underwater Archaeology originally opened in 1960 and contains some of the world’s oldest shipwrecks from the eastern Aegean.

The Ulubatik shipwreck and the Treasury section of the Museum were opened exclusively for Star Clipper passengers.  The work of archaeologist George Bass, along with co-sponsorship by Texas A&M University and the Turkish Government, resulted in the opening of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in 1973 within the castle walls. 

Since its inception the INA has discovered and mapped over 125 ancient shipwrecks from the Mycenae, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantium civilizations.  The museum displays the recently discovered Salmakis (Kaplankalesi) inscription tablet. During the walking excursion I marveled at the partially reconstructed shipwrecks as well as fascinating artifacts and relics that had lain undisturbed on the sea floor for thousands of years. The Museum displays one of the largest collections of ancient glass in the world.




Ancient shipwreck anchors at the INA Museum.


It is rumored that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt spent a summer season in the harbor on her royal barge and certainly she was shopping for bazaar bargains. The Knights was one of the first multi-cultural armies so I climbed as far as possible in the highest castle tower — The French Tower, and the smaller English Tower and Italian Tower.  One bastion was the final defense tower in case the walls were breached; crenulated battlements were all around.  A set of steep and worn stairs took me down to a small courtyard.  A doorless dungeon split off into the dingy and dark bowels of the underworld, dead-ending where prisoners also dead-ended.




Colorful chapel windows at the Castle.

The Knights were a religious order; small nave chapels were wedged within the buttressed walls with a rainbow of light filtered in through oblique stain glass windows.  Some of the largest prickly pear cactus found anywhere grew on the arid revetments.  Spring blooms blossomed in the scant soil in the cracks between rock blocks.  The castle offers one of the largest indigenous Mediterranean gardens, including the beautiful myrtle and shady plane tree. A male peacock fanned out a display of one hundred black-eyed feathers along the pathway to the Nautical Museum.

Once outside the castle walls the gelato stations were conveniently paced along the wharf. 

Today, Bodrum is back as a whitewashed small city of great charm and enduring beauty. 

In recent years Bodrum has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey, and it now enjoys the reputation of being a sort of Aegean St. Tropez, filled with small hotels and cosmopolitan restaurant tastes. 

Its wide natural harbor is crowned by the stunning crusader castle, which overlooks the western harbor filled with the distinctive hand built wooden sailing craft known as gulets (about six passengers each).  The colorful and chaotic waterfront is homeport to a major charter fleet that takes vacationing wannabe sailors on the famed “Blue Cruise” along the Turquoise Coast. 




Modern Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus harbor.





Bazaar bargains in Bodrum.

Bodrum itself has one of the largest indoor/outdoor bazaars in Turkey and offers a variety of shopping for rugs, jewelry, copper and brass ware, designer clothing and leather jackets, and all prices are negotiable. Most merchants accept credit cards, Turkish Liras, the Euro, the British pounds, American and Canadian and Aussie dollars, and if you are a Cleopatra, probably silver talents!

SPV Star Clipper docked in the modern cruise terminal 30 minutes walking distance outside the old, but now new bazaar area of Halicarnassus. It was a pleasant and sunny spring time stroll through the bazaar but I needed to sharpen my negotiating skills because the vendors were maestros in equivocation.

Drop anchor with The Star Clipper in Halicarnassus; Alexander the Great, the Crusaders, and Suleiman the Magnificent knew a good port when they sailed into one.  Visit The Star Clipper’s voyage calendar at www.starclippers.com  It is the most adventurous way to tack into antiquity.

Read more Jetsetters Magazine features about Achilles' Agony — The Trojan War, and features about The Star Clipper.




The Star Clipper anchors below St. John's Castle.


— Feature and photos by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.