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Touring around Çandarlı

Çandarlı, which attracts attention with Pitane antique city, the cultural heritage left over from Elaia, the port of Pergamon ve a unique castle from the Genovese, is an important touristic center with touristic assets in its vicinity and coastline that stretches all the way to Dikili.

Article and photographs: İbrahim Fidanoğlu

Çandarlı is located on the shore of the bay with the same name, on the peninsula in the south of the Aegean Sea. Çandarlı has its back to Karadağ in the north and this mountain is actually a volcanic formation. Karagöl, which is a lake at the mouth of the crater at 550 meters in Merdivenli village, is an interesting geological formation in the region.


Merdivenli village offers an easy path to the shores between Çandarlı and Dikili, adorned with amazing bays. A winding and twisty road from the village leads to the village of Bademli, a place filled with history and a clean sea. Bademli, where you can hear the stories of Greeks and Turks during the population exchange, is a hot spot for tourists with its crystal clear sea and cheap accommodations.

This geography is rich in thermal resources because of earthquakes. Greenhouses, which are fed with these thermal resources along the İzmir-Dikili highway, are important for the economy of the region. You can buy all kinds of fruits and vegetables along these route.


Çandarlı, which attracts attention with Pitane antique city, the cultural heritage left over from Elaia, the port of Pergamon ve a unique castle from the Genovese, is an important touristic center with touristic assets in its vicinity and coastline that stretches all the way to Dikili.

Bakırçay (Kaikos) River creates a natural border between Bergama and Çandarlı. This place turned into an island in the past when the isthmus that connected Çandarlı to the mainland flooded. Because of this, the locals still refer to this spot as an island. Bakırçay continues to fill Çandarlı Bay with the alluviums it carries. The delta of the river continues its historical mission by continuing towards the Aegean River.

The port of Pergamon: Elaia 

Elaia, except for Teos and Myrina ports, is the only antique port that is above water in Western Anatolia. The remains scattered on the acropolis of the city gives us clues about the changes in the topography of the city built on the spot where Bakırçay meets Çandarlı Bay.

There are rumors that Elaia was built before Aioli immigrations in 11th century B.C. The legend of Iliad suggests that the city was built by Menestheus, the son of Peteos, who joined the Trojan War with 50 ships and sided with Athens. That is why the Aeolis Union that was formed from 12 cities didn’t include Elaia. The city lived its most glorious days during the Hellenistic Age as a port city in the Bergama Kingdom.

Geographer Strabo described the city as a port city on the shore:

“After Pitane (2) you arrive at Kaikos (3) River. This river flows into Elaitikos Bay after 30 stadia (4). Elaia, an Aioli city, is located across Kaikos. Since it is 120 stadia from Pergamon, it is the port of Pergamon city.” (6)

In the Hellen language Elaia means olive groove. In fact, the area is still filled with olive trees. It is quite interesting that a city was named after the olive tree, a tree that has a fruit that was used as medicine. Even though Elaia no longer exists, the name continues in the town of Zeytindağ, which means ‘olive mountain’ in Turkish.


There are no remains above ground at the port besides its jetty. You can reach the remains of the jetty via the dirt road across Sındırgılılar Petrol Station the Bergama road. We know that marbles which were carried by ships to this port during the Roman period was used to build the Temple of Trajan. According to rumors, the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Trajan on the Bergama Acropolis could be seen from Çandarlı. The light of the moon reflected from white marbles helped ships find their way.

In the past, Elaitikos didn’t have a sea or river. Sailors were afraid to pass by the coast of Pitane. Captains were scared of the great waves and the wrath of the river was legendary.

According to legend, Poseidon gifts his son Astros with Bakırçay. However, he used the stream to torment the locals. Besides floods, each year one person drowned in the stream. No one went near the stream or even mentioned its name. They were okay for a while but their fate was sealed. At that time, a brave lad lived in Pitane by the name of Kaikos. One day, Kaikos goes to hunt deer with his close friend Pindasos. They follow the deer and Kaikos shoots at him. However, the deer jumps and the arrow finds his friend who is standing behind the deer. Kaikos wept and threw himself into Bakırçay. His body was dragged for days and finally ended up tangled at the root of a tree. The people of Pitane found his body and named the stream after him.


A windy port

Today, the region from Aliağa to Çandarlı is known as the region where cyclone areas intersect. This is why large industrial companies have chosen this place to set up shop to take advantage of wind power. At night, if you are driving from Dikili to Bergama, you can see the red lights flickering at the tip of Zeytindağ.

In the antique age, this wind that blew in Aliağa and Çandarlı Bay was named Aeolus. For those who might be interested, the wind that blew in the Çanakkale region was called Hellespontes and the one in Edremit Bay was called Adramittenos.

Here is what Vitruvius of Rome wrote about antique ports in his book 10 Books about Architecture:

“If they have natural advantages such as concave protrusions and tips, these ports are highly efficient. Porticoes or shipyards must be built around them; tunnels must be built from the porticoes to the shops and towers need to be built on both sides.” 

“This is what we must do when there aren’t any natural advantages and when ships are vulnerable during storms: If there isn’t a river close by but the vicinity is available for the construction of an outer port, establish an indoor port with walls.”

When you look at the photos of the bay taken from space you can see that the port has all the natural advantages mentioned by Vitruvius. The bay, which stretches on the north-south axis, is a natural port that can accommodate all kinds of ships during bad weather conditions. You can see the foundations of the jetty above the alluvium soil along this axis. The stone blocks of the 180 meter long jetty must have been connected to each other with lead crampons. You can easily see the crampon sockets carved into the stones. The stone wall foundations, which continue for a while, disappear inside the mud.

Surface research at the port area in recent years by German archeologists from the Bergama Museum has proven that the region included a much larger structural complex. Cannonballs that were found in the mud point to the military importance of the port. Further research in the area will help us get more information about the sea power of antique Pergamon.


From the past to today’s Çandarlı

The only historical structure in the Çandarlı Peninsula, except for a few houses and a tower, is the Çandarlı Castle. The castle still stands the test of time. The castle, which was extensively restored lately, was also used as a movie set in old Turkish films. The castle built by the Genovese has five bastions and is located in the middle of the peninsula. The seal of Mahmud II can be seen on the gate of the castle. Mahmud II, who aimed to bring peace and serenity to these lands, renovated the castle and turned it into a jail.

The gate of Çandarlı Castle is original. Neatly cut stones on the walls of the small courtyard just behind the gate suggest that the castle was a first age structure. It is believed that the structure was a first age castle or agora wall. The castle was built in the 23th century by the men of a Genovese captain called Andreola Domenico Cattaneo for his protection. Back in the day, Cattaneo ran a cement finish workshop since the material could be procured from the mountain in Yeni Foça. This was a very important material that was used as a dye fixer in textiles and whoever controlled the mines had immense power.


One of the legacies of the Genovese in the Çandarlı-Dikili area is the defense tower on the island known as Corciyo Island. The tower that can clearly be seen along the coastal road between Çandarlı and Dikili used to control sea traffic between Chios and Psora in the Middle Age. Nowadays, the island surrounded by fish farms doesn’t have such a need for protection…


At this point, we have to mention Denizköy. Denizköy is a cute fishermen village along the Çandarlı-Dikili shore. Even though it has lost its originality because of summer houses, it is a great vacation destination with its great beach. The village boasts two old mosques, nice houses and country cafes on the shore.

One of the most important events in the history of Çandarlı is the Çandarlı Raid carried out by Greek gangs in 1822. When Greece announces its independence from the Ottoman Empire, mutinies in Aegean Islands against the Ottoman begin. During such a political climate, pirate ships that sail from Chios and Psora Island attack Çandarlı at midnight. Greek pirates kill everyone and destroy the town. The town can only be protected from the Çandarlı Castle, the Mehmet Ağa Tower and Ziynet Hoca Tower. Greek bandits set Taşlı Mosque on fire to break the resistance. They take hostages to their ships and kill the rest. (7)


After this attack, Çandarlı closed itself and turned into a simple shore town. The tower style old house braided with bark red and brown andesite stone at the tip of the peninsula built in 1859 exhibits the architectural style of fear witnessed during those times. The door of the house strengthened with interlaced arches was fortified with iron.

There is only a window on the lower floor of the structure known as Koçanlı Mansion which was recently restored. This is typical of a tower-style house. Iron grids on all windows make the house look like a prison. The iron grid of the window on the upper floor parallel to the side street was constructed like an alcove to see who is approaching the house without being seen. This proves just how dominant fear was in the design of the house.


Modern Çandarlı consists of people who immigrated from Crete and Rumelia and Turcoman descendants who were made to settle here. Çandarlı has made it to this date with painful immigration stories and the effects of the crash of the Ottoman Empire. Çandarlı’s historical assets are in danger because of the summer house complexes. 


(1)Aeolis Poems and Notes; Prof. Dr. Ersin Döğer; Ege Publishing; page: 85



(4)Stadia: a length measurement in the first age; 1 stadia equals 192 meters.

(5)The name of Çandarlı Bay in the first age

(6)Geographika; Strabo; Archeology and Art Publishing; C615, paragraph 67; page 117

(7)Recent Historical Events in Bergama–Osman BAYATLI; 1957 Edition; Pages:45–46

(8)Photographs have been taken by İbrahim Fidanoğlu.