National Geographic : 1968 Jan
"But I thought we were going to a market." "Please. Wait." He vanished into the wood en house. Soon he was back with eggs, toma toes, peppers, and green onions. His mother brought a hot disk of whole-wheat bread and a bowl of yogurt. I reached for my wallet. "No," the boy said, "you are my guest." My young friend helped me carry the food back to the Land-Rover. We found it sur rounded by villagers. A rugged mustachioed soldier opened a path for us through the crowd. As we drove off, he handed Helen a rose. Sword Solves a Puzzle at Gordium Spring found Alexander marching to Gordium. We climbed from the coast and fol lowed his route across the high Anatolian plateau, where today thousands of acres of poppies make Turkey one of the leading pro ducers of medicinal opium. Women moved among the shoulder-high plants, harvesting the drug (below). They slit the waxy green pods and scraped the dried juice from older slits into wooden trays. One of the women broke open a pod filled with tiny white seeds and offered it to Helen. "No, thank you," Helen said, stepping back. Sumptuous prize on the path of conquest, the Greek city of Ephesus in Asia Minor en dured Persian rule off and on for two centuries. In 334 B.C., Alexander liberated the port and restored democratic gov ernment. Centuries later, Ro mans built this temple for their Emperor Hadrian, and Christians raised churches where Paul had preached. Gentle hands harvest a po tent drug from poppies near Afyon, on one of Turkey's government-supervised opi um farms. From pods slashed the day before, young women scrape dried juice into wooden trays; worker at right wears the finery of her recent wed ding day. Alexander must have known of opium, for Homer spoke of a narcotic that had the power of "ban ishing all painful memories." Amused, the woman opened her kerchief wrapped lunch and pulled out a loaf of bread. It was sprinkled with black. "Aym-the same," she laughed. When dried, the white specks become the black poppy seeds of the baker. At Gordium a few mounds and crumbled walls mark the site where fabled King Midas once held court. Here-so goes the old story Alexander "solved" the puzzle of the famous Gordian knot by severing it with one stroke of his sword. Since legend held that whoever undid the knot would be lord of Asia, Alexan der had yet another omen in his favor. From Ancyra-today's Ankara, capital of Turkey-the young conqueror's route led us southeast across Cappadocia's bizarre cone studded terrain (pages 20-21) to a pass in the Taurus Mountains called the Cilician Gates. So narrow was this defile in his day that two loaded camels could not travel it abreast. Properly defended, the pass could have kept Alexander from reaching the coastal plains along the northeast corner of the Mediterranean. But he stormed it in a night attack and marched on south and east to Issus and his first encounter with Darius.