`A' for an Archaeologist's Armchair Guide to Asia Minor

ANCIENT TURKEY: A TRAVELLER'S HISTORY OF ANATOLIA, by Seton Lloyd. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. 240 pp. $25. WAKING from a slumber of two centuries, the legendary Seven Sleepers of Ephesus walked down into the town and inquired: ``How fares the human race? ...whose empire is it that now sways the world?''

The Sleepers' questions point up the frequent fluctuations of power in ancient Asia Minor, which Seton Lloyd has chronicled in a new volume intended for armchair travelers and would-be tourists, ``Ancient Turkey: A Traveller's History of Anatolia.''

Lloyd, a British archaeologist who specializes in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, narrates history with that special mixture of grace, vigor, and commitment to lay readers that characterized Victorian writing about ancient cultures.

Like the Victorians, Lloyd sets himself the task of relating geography and history. His word pictures, which sweep Anatolia from sea to sea, linger on the land's diversity. They complement the book's abundant photographs. In addition, Lloyd ably articulates the complex overlapping of cultures in Anatolia. He succinctly presents the rise and fall of rulers and invaders, yet never succumbs to dull list-making.

Beginning with a description of ,Catal H"uy'uk, the world's oldest city, Lloyd traces the coming of the Hittites, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the early Christians. Yet he does not neglect lesser-known powers, like the Urartian peoples, who built their fortresses in an Arthurian mountain world near Lake Van.

Lloyd's history is punctuated with stories from ancient historians like Herodotus and Plutarch. He is also fond of recounting archaeological adventures in the area, like the opening of the so-called tomb of King Midas. The tomb's booby trap is more ingenious than the one that Indiana Jones outwits in ``Raiders of the Lost Ark.''

His admiration for Dame Freya Stark's explorations in Anatolia is as deep as that of Christina Dodwell. He does not miss the chance to the tell the story of Stark's search near ancient Phaselis for the shore route of Alexander the Great's campaign, a chancy venture that required Alexander and his troops to wade through the waist-deep surf.

Happily, Lloyd avoids both the sentimentality and Eurocentricism of most guidebooks. To read his history of ``triumphs and treacheries'' is to recall how much of Western history has been made in Asia.

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