It was the Italians’ occupation of south-western Anatolia around Antalya which had precipitated the Allies’ invitation to the Greeks to occupy Smyrna in May 1919. By the spring of 1922, however, the Turkish Nationalist forces were in possession of south-western Anatolia as far north as the Meander River. Nonetheless, the Italians were still keen to have a presence on the mainland opposite the Italian-controlled Dodekanese. Della Seta was eager to excavate some tombs at Ghiök Ciallar (ancient Pedasa) north of Bodrum (ancient Halikarnassos), and the Italians’ active military support of the Turkish Nationalists against the Greek armies was intended to increase their influence.
Halikarnassos had been the site of the elaborate tomb of the Carian King Mausolos, one of the wonders of the ancient world, but this first Mausoleum was thoroughly dismantled when the castle of St. Peter was built at the harbour by the Knights of St. John on Rhodes and the English Knights of the Garter.
Gilbert “crossed over to Bodrum or [ancient] Halicarnassos, to see if the caimacam [district official] would let us dig. The impression Bodrum leaves is indescribable. The great castle on the sea towering over the city; in the bay we see the first caicchi [boats] flying the Turkish flag. At our landing we are met by Kemalist gendarmes (who held in check two rows of staring Turkish children) & by the Capitano del porto, a fat Kurd in the uniform of the Turkish navy! … The village is almost deserted; nearly all the shops are shut [since most of the trade was in Greek hands] & the only people one sees all wear the fez. …
The Caimacam at Bodrum has received orders from Kemal to facilitate our mission and so we will probably excavate in some weeks’ time at Ghiök Ciallar nearby, when we finished our dig in the island of Kos.”
On a subsequent visit on June 19, Gilbert waited to be received by the caimacam. Over coffee, Gilbert was able to tell him about the Greek navy’s recent bombarding of Samsun on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, and in return the caimacam gave Gilbert permission to inspect the entire castle.