This afternoon. Overlooking the Aegean Sea. End of our day. Seeing places where people once lived in cities.

These cities ringed the Mediterranean. Two to three thousand years ago they were created as outposts and expressions of what then were the world*s greatest systems of prestige and power. The Roman Empire. Greek culture.

Today we marvel that anything remains, such as these few columns and stone structures at Assos along the Aegean Sea in southeastern Turkey.

Our guide Gigi also led us to Alexandrian Troas which is near the site of Troy. The place of the wooden horse, Achille*s heel, the Iliad. It is a Troy which lost its usefulness shortly after the time of Alexander the Great. Its harbor silted up. Ships no longer could enter. They built a new harbor at a new location for the new Troy.

That version of Troy is now being excavated out of the dirt centuries have buried it in after it also became useless.

When do cities lose their usefulness?

Cities are created for humanity. For human society. And like obsolete equipment and broken-down machinery, after attempts to restore usefulness fail, when we realize they no longer serve their purpose, humans abandon them. Leave them in the dust.

We now fascinate ourselves by digging down layer after layer to see how we once lived. And perhaps learn something about the nature of cities. What makes them good for people. And when the glory of a city is no more.

This afternoon at Alexandrian Troy someone turned to show me a piece of stone. Not an artifact from the archeological site. Just a plain jagged piece of rock picked up from along the road. She will bring it back to the U.S. as a memento for a friend.

A sliver of marble to tell the story of a city.

A few broken columns on a hill. Melancholy.

Maybe I am learning something about cities this week.