#experienceantalya

Aspendos

Aspendos is best known for its incredibly well preserved theater, which is the best preserved in all of antiquity.  When he first visited Aspendos in 1909, British archaeologist David George Hogarth said, “You may have seen the amphitheaters in Italy, France, Dalmatia and Africa; temples in Egypt and Greece; the palaces in Crete; you may be sated with antiquity or scornful of it. But you have not seen the theatre of Aspendos.”  The theater is certainly the most impressive feature, but it’s certainly not the only thing Aspendos has to offer.

  • Family Friendly?
    For kids who love being outside and exploring, this is a great destination.
  • Stroller Friendly
    No, there are lots of stairs and steep, rocky paths.
  • Entrance Fee
    35 TL
  • Getting there
    Aspendos is located off D400 about 30 miles east of the Antalya city center. It is easy to access by car, and a taxi should cost you about 30 euros.
  • Hours
    8:30 am -7:30 pm (April 15-October 2)
    8:30 am - 5:30 pm (October 3-April 14)
  • Restrooms
    Yes - clean, Western toilets.
  • Food
    There is a small snack bar with a small selection of snacks, fresh squeezed juices, and ice cream. There are a number of restaurants in the town nearby.
  • Parking
    There is a large, free parking lot.

History

In antiquity, Aspendos was part of a region known as Pamphylia, or the land of all tribes.  Several ancient writers mention Aspendos and speak of its significance.  The city was located on the Euryemedon River (today filled silt), which flowed out of the Taurus Mountains and into the Mediterranean, making Aspendos a major geographical crossroads.  Despite being under Lydian, Persian, and Greek rule, Aspendos enjoyed a level of autonomy, as evidenced by the fact that the city minted its own coins as early as the 5th Century B.C. while under Persian rule.

In 334 B.C., rumor of Alexander the Great’s trek across Asia Minor reached Aspendos.  Fearing certain defeat, the city sent messengers who informed him that Aspendos would offer no resistance and promised an annual gift of 50 horses (of which Aspendos was known for) and 50 talents of gold in exchange for Alexander not leaving a garrison in the city, which he agreed to.  While he was attacking neighboring Sillyon, Alexander received word that Aspendos was not abiding by the agreement and were carrying all their possessions to the acropolis and had restored their city walls.  He abandoned the attack on Sillyon and attacked Aspendos, capturing the lower city.  With the city under siege, the city made peace with Alexander, doubling their annual tribute.  This time, Alexander left a garrison, and he appointed a king for them.

Aspendos later came under Roman rule, who rebuilt the city (parts were destroyed in a war in 190 B.C.) and built many magnificent buildings, including the theater (built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius) and the aqueducts, both of which still stand today.  When Paul travelled from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia, he would have passed through Aspendos.  In 325 A.D., a representative from Aspendos attended the First Council of Nicea.

As the Roman empire declined, so did Aspendos.  It was ruled by the Bynaztines, Seljuks, and Ottomans, before eventually being abandoned after a severe earthquake in the 1700s.

Market hall in the foreground, with the nypmphaeum overlooking the agora in front of the basilica.

The Roman aqueduct.

What to See

IMG_8470

The upper section of the theater.

IMG_8423

The basilica.

The theater is the main reason people come to Aspendos – and rightfully so.  It’s amazing.  As mentioned, it is considered to be the best preserved theater in all of antiquity.  The acoustics of the theater are impressive – if there’s not a crowd, one person can stand in the stage area and speak in a normal voice, and another at the top of the theater can hear them clearly.  Every summer an opera and ballet festival is held, and no sound projection is used.

The aqueduct at Aspendos is the second main attraction, being one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts in the world.  The aqueducts can be viewed from the hillside inside the ticketed area, or from the foot of the aqueducts themselves outside the ticketed area.  Other significant structures include the nymphaeum (monumental fountain building) overlooking the agora, which is still lined with the ruins of shops; the impressive basilica; a main street with a monumental arch; the exedra, where orators and philosophers would have given speeches; the Bouleuterion (Council Hall), where the city council would likely have met; the temple, which dates to B.C. (just the foundations today); the ruins of a church; and stadium, which is largely ruined.  Outside the ticketed area, you can see the ruins of a bath and gymnasium, which are on land owned by a local family that serve delicious gözleme and are happy to let you explore the ruins while your meal is prepared. 

While the hiking isn’t intense, it can be rigorous, so be sure to wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of water as there’s almost no shade and it is quite hot in the summer.

The exedra.

The monumental arch and main street.

The Bouleuterion.

Why we Love It

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again…the theater.  It’s really that spectacular.  We also enjoy hiking around and seeing all the Aspendos has to offer.  Insider tip: if you’re feeling adventurous, hike down from the basilica to the area that’s underneath the agora, and you’ll find an ancient storage area filled with bats (they don’t come out…for the most part).

One of our favorite parts of Aspendos is stopping at the little gözleme restaurant right outside that sits among the ruins of the bath and the gymnasium.  The gözleme is delicious, and the family that runs it is the kindest, most inviting people you’ll find.  You can find the restaurant here.

Inside the theater.

Close Menu
Instagram