Return to Cnidus

Project team

Department of Greece and Rome 

Partners

  • Professor Dr Ramazan Özgan, Selçuk University, Konya, Turkey
  • British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara
  • Professor Dr Wolfgang Ehrhardt, University of Freiburg, Germany

Supported by

  • The British Museum: The Townley Group, Caryatids and Philanthropic Fund
  • British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara

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Cnidus or Knidos (pronounced K-nee-dos) lies at the tip of a long finger of land projecting into the sea in the south-west corner of western Turkey. It was founded in around 360 BC on terraces built into ground that rises a 1, 000 feet from the sea to a towering fortified acropolis. The city was inhabited until late antiquity, when it was abandoned, probably as a result of repeated raids by pirates.

Cnidus boasted two fine harbours, four theatres and other fine civic and sacred buildings, the most important of which were situated on the western edge, overlooking the sea and with a fine view of the island of Cos. The Cnidians exported their wine and other produce far and wide, but the city was chiefly famous for its statue of Aphrodite. This naked representation of the goddess of love was carved by the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles, celebrated for his ability to turn white marble into living flesh.

Modern exploration of Cnidus began with the visit in 1812 by Sir William Gell and his fellow travellers investigating its ruins on behalf of the Dilettanti Society of London. Their published account inspired the excavations in 1857-9 of the pioneering British archaeologist, Charles Newton. His work focused, among other sites, upon the Sanctuary of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, a place he called the Sanctuary of the Muses and the so-called gymnasium. Many objects including fine marble sculptures, pottery lamps and terracottas entered the Museum’s collections as a result of Newton’s excavations. His own publication is an exemplary and advanced work for its day. It now raises many questions, however, and in 1997 the British Museum returned to Cnidus in search of some of the answers to them. This was the first of a series of campaigns, which have been conducted in partnership with the Selçuk University of Konya under a permit from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Objectives

The principal objective of the British Museum’s current survey and  excavation work at Cnidus is to better understand the archaeological context of objects in the British Museum.

Phase I, completed in 2003, concerned the Sanctuary of Demeter and the so-called Sanctuary of the Muses. In the Demeter Sanctuary all visible remains of structures have been re-drawn and for the most part re-dated to the Roman period. The Muse Sanctuary has been re-excavated and shown to be a fountain-house and sanctuary of the Nymphs. It began life around 300 BC and remained in use into the early Christian period. It was converted into a church around AD 475-500. Ayşe Dalyancι’s plan and reconstruction drawing of the Nymphaeum can be viewed on the Greek and Roman Department’s home pages under research/excavations

Phase II, begun in 2004, concerns the so-called gymnasium, which lies on the south side of the ancient high street at Cnidus. The place is associated with an inscription recording honours paid to Artemidoros, son of Theopompos, who warned Julius Caesar of the conspiracy to murder him on 15 March 44 BC. The ‘gymnasium’ may have been a wrestling school or palaistra, which doubled as a school of philosophy – the subject taught by Artemidoros in Rome. The style of masonry is identical with that of the Nymphaeum and the two buildings could have been constructed by the same group of masons at around the same date. The gymnasium comprises three terraces descending east to west and was entered from the street by a stone staircase in its north-west corner.  The upper, easternmost terrace was paved with mosaics.

Further information

More detailed introduction 

More detail on the excavations 

Publications

I. Jenkins, ‘The lion Tomb at Knidos’, Greek Architecture and its Sculpture (London, 2006), pp. 227-31

I. Jenkins, Return to Cnidus, Archaeology Abroad Service Website (2006)

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, Anatolian Archaeology 12 (2006), pp. 26-28

I. Jenkins, ‘The relief of the dancing nymphs from a nymphaeum at Knidos’, Festschrift für Ramazan Özgan, edited by M. Şahin and H. Mert (Istanbul, 2006), pp. 181-91

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, British Museum Magazine, 52 (2005), pp. 28-31

I. Jenkins, ‘Marble sculpture from Cnidus and Halicarnassus in the Swiss Cottage Museum, Isle of Wight’, in S. Keay and S. Moser (eds.) Greek Art in View (Oxford, 2004), pp. 121-28

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, Anatolian Archaeology, 11 (2005), pp. 29-30

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, Anatolian Archaeology, 10 (2004), pp.11-12

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, Anatolian Archaeology, 9 (2003), pp.15-17

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, British Museum Magazine, 45 (2003), pp.33-35

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’,  Anatolian Archaeology, 8 (2002), pp. 9-10

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus',  Anatolian Archaeology, 7 (2001), pp.7-8

I. Jenkins, ‘Return to Cnidus’, Anatolian Archaeology, 6 (2000), pp. 8-9

I. Jenkins, ‘Cypriot limestone sculpture from Cnidus’, in G.R. Tsetskhladze et. al. (eds.) Periplous: Papers on Classical Art and Archaeology, presented to Sir John Boardman (London, 2000), pp. 153-62

I. Jenkins and G. Waywell (eds.), Sculpture and Sculptors of Caria and the Dodecanese (London, 1997)

I. Jenkins, Archaeologists and Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum 1800-1939 (London, 1992), pp.168-191

Inscribed stone tablet

BM Inscription 787. The text records the honours paid to Artemidoros, the Cnidian who tried to warn Julius Caesar not to enter the Roman Senate on 15 March 44 BC.