Located on the ancient route that ran between Pergamon and Side, several ancient writers referred to Perge as the most important city of Pamphylia, the ancient coastal region of modern day Turkey. Its most famous son, Apollonius, was a mathematician who coined the terms ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola. Several ancient sources indicate that the Temple of Artemis in Perge was no less renowned than Ephesus’s Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). However, despite extensive efforts, the temple has not been located and remains a mystery. Perge is an expansive city, and due to extensive archaeological and restoration work, it’s not hard to imagine what the city looked like in ancient days.
Perge is located on the Kaistros River (Aksu River today), which in antiquity was suitable for transportation. This allowed to Perge to operate essentially as a port city despite being located almost 7 miles from the sea. There is evidence of continuous human settlement in Perge beginning in the 3rd Millennium B.C.
Perge has had three major periods of prosperity and significance. The first was in the Hellenistic period (3rd and 2nd Centuries B.C.), which is when the city walls and towers were built; the second was during the Roman period (2nd and 3rd Centuries A.D.), when many significant structures, including the theater, stadium, agora, and bath were built; and the third was during the Christian period (5th and 6th Centuries A.D.), when Perge became a bishopric and many churches were built.
Unlike nearby Aspendos and Sillyon, Perge received Alexander the Great with open arms, purportedly even acting as his guide in the region (a lack of fortifications may have informed their decision). In 47 A.D., the Apostle Paul first came to Asia Minor on his first missionary journey by sailing up the Kaistros River and coming to Perge (Acts 13). He didn’t stay long at this time, but this is where Mark left Paul and Barnabus, setting the stage for their separation in Acts 15. From Perge, Paul went on to Antioch in Pisidia, Derbe, Iconium, and Lystra. On their way back, they stayed in Perge a bit longer, this time preaching and teaching. It is likely that the first church in Perge was erected at this time.
During the Arab invasions of Asia Minor in the 8th Century, Perge was razed to the ground and was never rebuilt.
The ruins of the towers built during the Hellenistic Period.
One of the ancient churches in Perge.
What to See
One of the colonnaded streets of Perge.
There is a lot to see in Perge. While not in as good a condition as Aspendos, the theater at Perge is quite impressive. The stage building was quite ornately decorated, and while most of the statues and friezes are at the Antalya Archaeology Museum, many beautiful reliefs remain intact at the theater. The stadium is one of the best preserved in all of Asia Minor, with almost all the seats intact.
The city walls, much of which are still intact, date to the 3rd Century B.C. The Roman Gates will be your entrance to the site. Directly behind them are the Hellenistic Gates, which have become the symbol of the city. The Southern Baths are quite extensive and are some of the largest, best preserved Roman baths in all of Turkey. Perge boasts an impressively reconstructed Agora. The colonnaded streets of Perge help give it the feel that the city is still thriving. At the northern end of the colonnaded street is the beautiful Hadrian’s Nymphaeum (fountain), which served as an entrance to the hilltop acropolis. On the eastern end of the colonnaded street stand the well preserved ruins of the palaestra, or gymnasium. There are also the remains of several churches in the city.
The city of Perge is known for its high number of statues. Many of these statues are on display at the Antalya Archaeology Museum, which we highly recommend visiting after going to Perge.
The Southern Baths.
The Roman Gate leading to the Hellenistic Gate.
Why We Love It
Honestly, one of the best things about Perge is how close it is to the city, located just past the airport. But even without that, the number of impressive and well preserved structures in Perge is unbelievable. Many ancient sites are just crumbled buildings and quite small, but Perge just seems to keep going and going. Walking the colonnaded streets of Perge give you the sense of walking where the ancients walked. We love the history of Perge, the most significant ancient city of the region. It’s fascinating to walk where the Apostle Paul walked and to think the Church’s Pauline growth started in this city, being the first place he set foot in Asia Minor. We love staging foot races in the stadium. We love standing on the pillars and enclaves where statues used to stand and striking our best statue pose. Perge has a lot to offer, and we love it all!
Aerial view of Perge with the colonnaded streets at the bottom, the Hellenistic Gates in the center, the agora to the right and Southern bath to the left, a church at the top left, and the stadium top right.