Giresun Island

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Giresun Kalesi
Topal Osman Ağa Mezarı
Topal Osman Ağa

Giresun Island is one of the two islands of Black Sea

Giresun Island is 1.6 km off-shore and has a surface area of 40.000 m2. There are 71 natural herbaceous and woody plant species especially Mediterranean daphnes and False Locusts on the island. Later on, 10 more tree species has been added. The island on which cormorants and seagulls breed naturally in the Black Sea, is also a resort and resting place of  migratory birds. There are many ruins of the mythological eras in the island of which many legends are told, and where the Amazons and many tribes have lived.  It is an archeological site of second degree. Being an attraction center for domestic and international tourists in the summer season, the island is a place of day-trip and picnic.

In world mythology and history it is observed that Aretias had many names like Areionesos (First Age name), Nesos, Area, Areos, Chalceritis (the name given by the Romans). According to rumors, the city formed with the repositioning in the sea of a piece ruptured from the Gedikkaya located on the Southeast of the city and which looks like the beak of an eagle. History and nature is nested on the island.

Various legends are told about the Giresun Island. Historical sources tell that the Amazon queens built a temple in the name of Ares, the god of war and the monastery of Agias Phokas, the Bishop of Sinop is on the island. The remnants of ramparts, tower, monastery (inner castle) built in the age of Alexius II, historical earthenware barrels and some construction foundations are located on the island. It is understood from the remnants that the island was surrounded with ramparts. The construction craftsmanship is the same as the Giresun Castle. It is highly possible that they belong to the Pontus age. The Roman pundit Pilinius tells of an open-air temple devoted to to the god of Mars in his work called “Ilistariaum Mundi” and continues; “… and across Pharnace is located Chalceritis, Arias of the Greeks devoted to Mars. It is told that here the birds fight with foreigners hitting with their wings.”

Being an archeological site, the island is under protection.  Boat trips are carried out to the island in the summer. The current owners of the island which was used by the Genoeses and Venetians as a ship haven for along time, are wild migratory birds, cormorants and seagulls. The Hamza Stone located on the island is seated on 3 foots like a trivet which symbolizes Cybele the mother goddess. It represents the family culture. It is a wish stone that gives hope to elders and is a resource of strength by religious beliefs with its history of four thousand years. The tradition of jumping over the trivet which is organized in the International Aksu Festival on 20 May annually and is carried out to sustain the bloodline, is completed with the strolling around the island. The island trip starts and finishes at the Hamza Stone.

The island witnessed an important scene related to the Argonauts who were after the Golden Fleece according to mythology. The Thebai King Athamanas’ wife Nefele gave birth to two sons. The king who married for a second time in the forthcoming years is convinced that his country would be saved from drought if he sacrificed his two sons. Upon learning this, the sons’ mother Nefele wrapping the children in clouds and vapors putting them on a flying golden fleece, sent them to the Black Sea. One of the children died in the Dardanelles being caught in a storm, the other continued his journey and was hidden somewhere between the Dardanelles and Caucasia by mythological characters. A group of heroes among whom was also Hercules, the god of might in the age of Heracles, set sail for the Black Sea to capture the Golden Fleece. After many adventures they came to Aretias Island.

They believed that the Golden Fleece was hidden here. However, they were welcomed by dragon-like birds. The birds which were drove away by Hercules from the sorroundings of Stymphales Lake before, settled down here. The birds attacked throwing their feathers like arrows.  The Argonauts tried to defend themselves with their shields, but still could not escape from losing one of their friends. At last they killed the birds and began the search for the golden fleece. Cursing the island, they left when they could not find the fleece. In 1984 the research team led by captain Tim Severin, procured the same of the Argo Ship without using any nails to re-animate this legendary journey and rowing came to the Giresun Island. National Geographic journal was also present in this journey which was filmed by BBC as a documentary with a crew of 12 and this island was introduced to the whole world. The subject is told in detail in the work of the Roman pundit Pilinius called “Ilistariaum Mundi” and the work of the famous Mythos writer Apollonius (295-195 B.C.) called “Argonautica”.

Another legend is related to the daughter of the King Mitridates. many noble men wished to marry the young and beautiful daughter of the king. However, the girl wanted none, because she loved a shepherd that pastured the sheep at the feet of the castle. The king got mad at this and shut his daughter up in the monastery on the island, arrested the shepherd and hang him on the cherry tree in front of the monastery. The girl hang herself on the tower of the monastery the other day.

A third story is as the following: The Sons of Israel sculptured a golden statue of Joseph. When they immigrated from Egypt to Palestine they wanted from the Prophet Moses to bring the statue. Moses brought the statue with a miracle to Palestine. Here the Phoenicians took the statue to Cyprus. The Greeks took the statue from Cyprus and statured it on the Mount Olympus. The Persian Emperor Dareios gave the statue back to Egypt when he captured Anatolia and Greece. Thereafter, the statue once again fell in the hands of the Phoenicians. This time they relocated it on Aretias Island. It is told that the Greek attacked Giresun Island fourty times to seize the golden statue.

The island, bearing traces of ancient ages, is a rare natural wonder. The present remnants emphasizes men’s wish to dominate the nature. One finds him/herself suddenly in the depths of history and mythology and feels like experiencing the faiths and traditions of past civilizations.

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