Aspendos, which is one of the most illustrious of the ancient cities of Pamphyiia, is situated 46 Kms, to the east-of Antalya an the stream called Eurymedon (Kopriicay), not very far from the present-day village of Beikis, Bulit as a river port and naval base on the Eurymedon, which was navigable in ancient times, Aspendos expanded towards two hills, one small and the other large, end became an important center of trade following the foundation of Antalya.
The wide spaces, fertile fields, rich pastures, and olive groves surrounding the city must have played an important rale In the rapid development of this city. The best horses in the world used to be raised in the plains around Aspendos. Passing through Aspendos on his way to Persia, Alexander the Great is said to have bought 4000 horses here. Silks and carpets made here, were among the most valuable gifts that wealthy Romans and Greeks bought for their daughters’ doweries. Small statues made of the wood of the lemon tree vied with ivory ones In the market places in Rome.
So advanced were the people of Aspendos in architecture that their ‘buildings withstood, for thousands of years, the destruction of earthquakes, battles, fires, wind and rain. Aqueducts which once carried water to the city from long distances are still standing. The immense theater, complete with its stands, boxes and galleries Is a living testimony to the high degree of civilization that this city enjoyed.
The exact date of the foundation of this famous Pamphylian city is not known. There are some who believe that it was founded by colonists from Argos, After their defeat In the Trojan Wars between 1194 and 1184 B.C. Greeks began to penetrate into southwestern Anatolia and appear in Pamphylia. Thus it was during this period of colonization that the Greeks from Argos (Argotis) captured the native city of Aspendos and turned it into a Greek colony. Aspendos shared the fate of the neighbouring cities of Termessos, Perge, Syileum etc. The violent-tempered and independent-spirited people of Ter-messos came out against Alexander the Great and refused him admission to their city. The people of Aspendos, on the other hand, did not carry on with the resistance, and submitted to him, only to revolt again after he went through their city.
After Alexander’s death Aspendos came under the dominion of the Ptolemies, and later was annexed by the Kingdom of Pergamum, and finally, upon the wish of ,the last king of Pergamum, became a Roman possession in 133 A.D. The city flourished a great deal under Roman rule. It could not however, maintain its former prosperity under Christianity, in spite of the fact that it was a bishopric, and many buildings had been built. The city was at lost annexed by the Seljuk Turks together with the whoie of the Antalya region. The ruins of Aspendos are situated on two neighbouring hills, on the plain between them, and along the stream Koprucay. The top of the large hill, which undoubtedly formed the nucleus of the city, Is like- a wide piatform, and some buildings partly standing can be seen there.
RUINS OF ASPENDOS
The Agora: The Agora, the ctnter of the city’s political, social and commercial’ iife, is situated in the middle of the larger of the two hills, and rests partly on immense arched substructures. A road which passes through the two hills, and is protected by a wall, leads to the Agora. On one side of the Agora are shops with a porticoed gallery in front and on the other aide is a long building [H) divided into three by two rows of columns, This building was probably both a closed market and a basilica used as a place of oificoi business. The large monumental building at the end of the basilica is either a hall for the basilica, or the curia where the local senate met (L).
Fountain (Nympheum): There Is a wall, 35 meters long and 15 meters high, to the north of the Acrópolis, This wall which was once decorated with a two-storied columnar facade, and niches, was a monumental fountain.
Odejon: There is a square shaped covered building at the back of the fountain. This is an Odeion or a concert-hall. To the east of the Odeion there is o semt-circular building with an altar.
The Theater: The theater, which built on the eastern slope of tjjp small hill, Is the most interest!.1” sight of this ancient city, it is the best preserved theater not only of Pamphylia, but of all Anatolia as well. Like other contemporary theaters, this theater is also divided into three sections.
1. The Stands : These consist of a semi circular amphitheater built of stones on the slope of the hill. The amphitheatre is divided Into two sections, lower and upper stands, by a horizontal passage, and is cut lengthwise by radial stairways. The upper part has 18 steps, and the lower part 21. The stands are surrounded by a gallery which Is believed to have been a later addition. Today there are about fifty porticoes standing. This gallery was built to provide shelter for spectators an rainy days.
2.The Orchestra : This is the stone paved, semicircular area in front of the stands,
3.The Stage : This part begins where the Orchestra ends. The pack of the stage is like a five-storied apartment. The front part of the stage which is covered with marble reminds us of the facade of a magnificent palace. In this part we see a two-storied columnar structure with niches for statues at the back. Ploys were performed an a wooden stage in front of this impressive facade. The five doors in the lower part were used for actors’ exits and entrances. The stage was covered with a beautiful wooden roof. There were archways at places where the stage joined with the stands. Joined to them were boxes for senators. Zenon, the famous architect who designed this building, took such great care with the acoustics that, the faintest whisper on the stage can be heard clearly from the top of the stands, The Theater was capable of holding 15,000 people. The inscriptions on its wells tell that it was built for the city by two citizens named Curtius Crispinus and Curtius Auspicatus during the re’ign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, that is during the later half of the Jlnd century A.D. It was dedicated ta the local deities and the imperial family. The stage building was later used as a dwelling by the Seijuk Turks who covered the interior walls with blue and green tiles. The stage, which was supported by walls and other supporting structures, stands to this day.
The Aspendos Theatre is used in certain seasons for stags performances and wrestling matches, and thousands of people from all over Antalya province and neighbouring towns come to see these events.
The Aqueducts: In the lower part of the city are aqueducts built of dressed stone blocks, which once carried water to the city from high mountains 30 or 40 Krns. away. The tall structures seen on the aqueducts helped to control and regulate the flow of water. The lower part in the middle, which extends over 850 meters served as a bridge when this low land was turned into a marshland during the winter months. Tiberius Claudius Italicus contributed a large amount of money towards the construction of the aqueducts.
The Wall: Land features were taken into consideration in the building of the walls. The roads which led to the large hill in the centre of the city, following the valley between this hill and the theatre were protected by walis,
Groves: Graves1 can be seen in clearings around the city and on the slopes of hills. Some sarcophagi without ornamentation can also be seen in these places, and a very ancient grave belonging to the Vth century B.C. has been discovered on the slope of one of these hills. A Greek vase with red figures that was recovered from this grave is now in the Antalya Museum.