National Geographic : 2000 Jul
abortive invasion of ancient Greece. Alexander the Great crossed back over in 334 B.c. en route to conquering the world. Attempts to control the Dardanelles sparked desperate battles between the Turks and Allies in World War I. Myth touches the Dardanelles too-in a tale of ancient Troy, which guarded the entrance to the Dardanelles throughout the Bronze Age. In Homer's Odyssey, the Greek hero Odysseus devised a trick that ended the Trojan War. Greek soldiers hid within a great wooden horse, which the Trojans unsuspectingly took within their city walls. I stand in front of one of those walls with Manfred Korfmann, an archaeologist at the University of Tiibingen. Korfmann explains another theory about the Trojan horse. "See those cracks?" says Korfmann, pointing to the heavy gray stones of the tower. "Most people regard them as earthquake cracks." Korfmann suspects that over several centu ries the Greeks fought many skirmishes with Troy because Troy controlled access to sources of metal around the Black Sea. He believes that at some SWIMMERS point an earthquake may have brought down Troy's walls, letting the Greeks in. To celebrate their victory, the Greeks may well have erected a horse to thank Poseidon for the quake-the horse being a symbol of Poseidon. Two particularly devastating earthquakes around A.D. 500 demolished Troy once and for all. In fact, an unparalleled wave of big earthquakes from the mid-fourth to the mid sixth centuries hit all the major cities of southwestern Turkey: Pergamum, Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Smyrna. This puzzling sequence, called the early Byzantine tectonic paroxysm, may reflect a huge shifting of plates from Pales tine to Crete. "It was not a good time to be alive," says Brian Rose, an archaeologist at the University of Cincinnati. "The earthquakes kept coming." The force that gives rise to most of the earth quakes that plague the Aegean region of Turkey is called extension. As the subducting Afri can plate stretches and thins the crust, great cracks known as grabens open up. The grabens become valleys that fill with fertile sediments. Extension in the Aegean has enriched the STRADDLE fluted columns in a geothermal pool near the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis. Geology giveth -Romans flocked here to bathe-and geology taketh away: The city was destroyed by repeated earthquakes. Floating among the ruins, tourists revel in the paradox.