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ARCHAEOLOGY / TURKEY / HERACLEA PONTICA: “figuré par M. Allier, Csul de france à Héraclée du Pont, le 15 9bre, 1806”.



An intriguing original manuscript sketch map of Heraclea Pontica (modern Karadeniz Ereğli), one of the most important Greco-Roman historical sites along the Black Sea coast of Anatolia, made in 1806 by Louis Allier de Hauteroche, the esteemed archaeologist and numismatist who was then Napoleon’s vice-consul to the region.

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This is a fascinating original manuscript sketch map of Heraclea Pontica (French: Héraclée du Pont), a port on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia that was a major centre during ancient Greco-Roman times.  The town was founded by the Greek city state of Megara between 560 and 558 BCE.  It was named after Heracles, as one of the caves near the town was said to be the place where the famous mythological warrior descended towards the underworld to successfully abduct Cerberus, the fearsome three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to Hades.  Heraclea Pontica became fabulously wealthy from maritime trade and was one of the most important centres in the Black Sea Basin.  It declined during Roman times due to conflict in the surrounding region of Bithynia.  Today the modern Turkish port of Karadeniz Ereğli (population: 110,000), a major industrial centre, rises atop and amidst the ruins of Heraclea Pontica.

The present map was drafted in 1806, by Louis Allier de Hauteroche, the flamboyant archaeologist and numismatist, who then served as Napoleon Bonaparte’s Vice-Consul to ‘Héraclée du Pont’.

While somewhat crudely rendered, being a sketch, the work features several interesting details.  The Black Sea is shown to the north of the ‘Ville d’Héraclée’ (town), whose harbour is guarded by a great ‘Cap’ (Cape) of ‘Terre très elévée’ (very high land).  The main road is shown running into the town from the south along the edge of the ‘Port’ past the ‘Maison du Consul de France’ (Allier’s house), which is adjacent to the ‘Murailles de la ville’ (town walls).

Of great interest are the archaeological sites, of which parts still exist to the present day, but were far more extensive in 1806 (prior to much looting and over-building).  The map labels the ‘Temple de Diana avec inscription’, other ‘Ruines’, as well as various ‘Grottes’ (caves), referring the Cehennemağzı Caves, amongst others.  The ‘Citadelle’ is located atop a highland to the south of town.


Louis Allier de Hauteroche: Diplomat and Early Archaeologist in the Ottoman Empire

Louis Allier de Hauteroche (1766 – 1827) was an esteemed antiquarian and a ‘colourful’ diplomat.  Born in Lyon to a noble family, Allier joined the diplomatic corps and was posted to serve as a secretary to the French ambassador at Constantinople.  Admired for his great intellect and enthusiasm for literature, he was appointed as the Director of the l’imprimerie française de Constantinople, the embassy’s printing office that issued periodicals and works that are today considered to be of great historical importance.  During 1799 to 1800 Allier joined Napoleon’s Campaign in Egypt, where he acquired an obsession for archaeology.

Napoleon Bonaparte, despite his on-and-off antagonism towards the Sublime Ports, was intent on increasing trade with the Ottoman Empire, dramatically expanding the diplomatic corps in the country.  In 1802, Allier was appointed as the Vice-Consul for commercial affairs in Héraclée du Pont, then an important port on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia, about 250 km east-northeast of Constantinople. The town was the site of the great ancient Greek and Roman ruins of the city of Heraclea Pontica.

Allier did not arrive in Karadeniz Ereğli until September 1803.  Almost immediately upon his arrival he fell out with the local agha (Turkish magistrate).  According the agha, Allier spent literally all his time raiding the ruins of Heraclea Pontica for coins, stones and pottery, while obsessively translating ancient inscriptions.  He was totally uninterested in his official duties and virtually ignored the agha and the local merchant community.  To protect the ruins, and to hopefully compel Allier to attend to his ‘day job’, the agha restricted his access to the ruins, a regime which the vice-consul proceeded to flaunt.  Only several seeks after his arrival, the agha literally ran Allier out of town, forcing him to seek refuge in the French Embassy in Constantinople.  

Allier’s tenure in Karadeniz Ereğli was symbolic of the recurring trend: Allier was a highly intelligent connoisseur of antiquities, as well as being personally popular with his French colleagues; however, he seems to have never taken his official duties all that seriously, ensuring that he was never really promoted or given posts with true authority.  While his superiors liked having him around, he was a bit of a dilletante. 

From September to November 1805, Allier made a fascinating overland trek from Constantinople across the Balkans, back to Paris.  He subsequently returned to Turkey, and it seems that he briefly returned to Karadeniz Ereğli (whereupon he made the present map), but supposedly did not manage to improve his rapport with the agha, so returned to Constantinople.  Allier was subsequently made consul general on the Aegean island of Cos, and later an attaché at the consulate at Smyrna (Izmir).  Along the way, Allier made innumerable studies of archaeological sites; he was especially interested in finding the lost city of Troy.  He collected thousands of ancient coins and artefacts, including some pieces of considerable importance.  

In 1817, he accompanied his good friend, Félix de Beaujour, the Inspector General of the French Establishments in the Levant, on a tour of the region.  After retiring to France, Allier devoted his time to writing on antiquities and was know as one of France’s leading numismatists.  His titles include Essai sur l’explication d’une tessère antique portant deux dates et conjectures sur l’ère de la ville de Béryte en Phénicie (Paris, 1820); Notice sur la courtisane Sapho, née à Érésos, dans l’île de Lesbos (1822); and the posthumously published catalogue of this great coin collection (ed. Theophile Marion Dumersan), Description des Médailles antiques du cabinet de Jeu M. Allier de Hauteroche (Paris, 1829).

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