A Trip to Turkey - The Amphitheatre of Aspendos & The finest city in all of Pamphylia!

in #historylast year (edited)

I have taken you back in time to visit the city of Perge, some weeks ago, and given you all a glimpse into the natural paradise of Kursunlu waterfalls. In this final episode I intend to transport you all back in time, once more, to the magnificent Amphitheatre of Aspendos...


Before I show you around one of the worlds most well preserved Roman theatres, I think it very important to explain the history of a place considered to be "The most important city in all Pamphylia"(Modern-day Antalya province), according to its Greek founders.

Aspendos was situated on the Eurymedon River, approximately 40km east of the modern city of Antalya. Founded by Greeks thought to have come from Argos, Aspendos became a wealthy city, trading in salt, oil and wool. In fact, due to the wide range of coinage found in the ancient world, in the 5th century BC, Aspendos had become the most important city in all of Pamphylia ( "1st in Pamphylia" was actually stamped onto its coins ).

Although the city came under Persian rule, in 546bc, it still minted coins in its own name, indicating a unique freedom from Persian insistence and occupation.

Persian rule lasted until 465bc, when Cimon, a Greek Athenian General, led his naval forces down the River Eurymedon to do battle against his Persian rivals, led by Xerxes I.

This was known as "The battle of Eurymedon" and was one of Cimon's greatest accomplishments.

The bust of Cimon



Following this event, Aspendos became a member of the Delian league up until Persia recaptured the city in 411bc. The Greeks, again, attempted to take back the city, in 389bc, when Thrasybulus of Athens anchored his ships off the coast of Aspendos in a effort to secure its surrender...

According to the history books (and Wikipedia), "Hoping to avoid a new war, the people of Aspendos collected money among themselves and gave it to the commander, entreating him to retreat without causing any damage. Even though he took the money, he had his men trample all the crops in the fields. Enraged, the Aspendians stabbed and killed Thrasybulus in his tent".

Subsequently, Aspendos remained under Persian rule for another 56 years, after which Alexander "The Great" took control, following his capture of Perge.

The people of Aspendos urged Alexander not to set up garrisons within the city, to which Alexander, at first, agreed. A deal was struck that the people of Aspendos would pay taxes, equal to which they paid the Persian King, to Alexander. Once the agreement was made Alexander moved himself onto the neighbouring city of Side, setting up his garrison on their surrender. After this was accomplished Alexander travelled through Sillyon, at which point he was informed that the Aspendians had not lived up to its part of the bargain and were preparing to defend themselves...

Alexander marched his men straight back to Aspendos and the sight of this resulted in the people of Aspendos retreating to their acropolis, after which they sent out their envoys to broker a peaceful agreement. Intent on teaching them a lesson, Alexander forced upon them much harder terms that previously agreed... Now Aspendos would have a garrison within the city and have to pay much heavier taxes than before( 100 gold talents as well as 4,000 horses would be given in tax annually).

It was, finally, in 190bc, that Aspendos completely surrendered to Roman rule. Sadly, the corrupt Roman Magistrate, Verres, would go on to pillage the city of its artistic treasures. Toward the end of the Roman period the city began a decline that continued throughout Byzantine times, although Aspendos continued to be well thought of in Medieval times.

The Crown Jewel of Aspendos

As you have just read, Aspendos has a rich history and was a place of high regard. One of the reasons this city was hailed to be "1st in Pamphylia!", and a place where the wealthy would roam, was due to its beautiful buildings. The most magnificent of these is still standing today, an amphitheatre restored to near-perfect condition.

I was fortunate enough to visit this awe-inspiring place on a recent family holiday and it was, indeed, the highlight of our vacation. As we approached the entrance I have to admit that I was less than impressed. The land around the site was quite baron and besides the size of the building there wasn't much else that caught the eye. With all we had been told by our tour guide I was expecting to be greeted by Roman pillars and glaring busts of past emperors. Instead, I saw block upon block of sand coloured masonry with very few features. At this point I was wondering if the day was going to end with an anti-climax, but then we passed through the entrance and the entire building came back to life...


This unassuming structure transformed in front of my eyes and I was engulfed in 315-feet of splendid panoramic architecture. Built by the architect Xenon, in 155 AD, it was gifted to Marcus Aurelius and the Roman gods.
According to AntalyaCentral.com, "Seljuk Turks settled in the region in the 13th century and restored the magnificent theatre while using it as a place for governors. During the rule of Ottomans, the historical value of the region was not noticed. Aspendos became known all around the world after The First World War and the theatre was restored during the 1930's."


With 21 rows of seats on the upper auditorium and another 20 rows on the lower auditorium there is room for 15,000 spectators. The acoustics within Aspendos Theatre are a work of wonder and it is possible to stand at the top and still be able to hear someone speaking on the floor of the arena. This is why the theatre continues to welcome many musicians every year, the annual festival of opera and ballet is held there each summer.


Above the seating area are 58 columns with a gallery of arches hidden behind them. On the day we visited the theatre the temperature was 40-degrees +, yet while my girlfriend and I strolled under the arches we could feel a cooling breeze being funnelled all the way through.



There is a legend about the theatre of Aspendos and the local aqueducts built at the same time and I feel it fitting to end my post with this tale...

It is said that Antonius Pius had a beautiful daughter and two architects were in love with her. Antonius Pius gave a duty to both of them; he told them that he would marry off his daughter to the man who makes the most beautiful and useful creation. One architect built the aqueduct bringing water to Belkıs, and the other one the theatre. The Emperor was surprised and couldn’t make a decision. He wanted to divide his daughter into two pieces but the builder of the aqueduct who loved this girl more then the other architect objected this decision and said, “let her marry with the creator of the theatre.”


Thank you all for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed this trilogy of posts detailing my Turkish holiday. If you did enjoy, please share, upvote or leave a comment :)

Peace to you and yours


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