From The Marmara Antalya
When visiting Aspendos, plan to take a day to travel out of the city and visit one of the area's most interesting ancient ruins. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient Greco-Roman city of Aspendos attracts about 400,000 travelers annually.
45 min drive
History of Aspendos
The city of Apdendos was thought to be founded sometime around 800 BC by Hittite settlers. In 333 BC, Alexandar the Great conquered the city. Alexander agreed not to occupy the city if the residents agreed to pay taxes and horses. Unfortunately, the citizens did not fulfill their part of the agreement. This resulted in Alexander returning to the city to enforce harsher restrictions. During the 6th century, Lydians and Persians ruled the city.
Visiting the Ancient City
As you walk around, you can see many of the original areas of town. This includes the city walls, aqueducts, theater, stadion, temples, baths, and necropolis. There are two parts to the city. The lower city contains the theater and stadion. The upper city contains the agora, basilica, acropolis, Odeon, fountain, and shops.
While the ancient city and ruins are impressive, it is the theater that you can’t miss. The theater dates back to 161-180 AD during the reign of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. He had an architect named Zenon build it as a gift for two wealthy brothers.
The finished theater had a 15,000-spectator capacity, making it one of the largest Roman theaters built in Asia Minor. Its perfect acoustics made the theater famous. Even today, it continues to host concerts. The Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival takes place in the theater every summer.
A local legend tells the story of the theater getting built. It tells of a competition hosted by the ruler of Aspendos. He wanted a structure built that would contribute to the furtherment of the city and its prosperity. The competition winner would win the ruler’s daughter’s hand in marriage.
The competition was down to two men. The ruler inspected the first contestant’s structure, the aqueduct. He was convinced that this structure was the winner. However, he then went to look at the other contestant’s structure, the theater. Standing at the theater’s highest point, he heard someone whisper in his ear. The voice said, “Your daughter must be mine!” He realized the voice was coming from the man standing far off on the stage. The perfect acoustics of the theater impressed the emperor so much that he awarded the builder his daughter’s hand in marriage.
In addition to the theater, you can see an ancient Roman aqueduct when visiting Aspendos. While only a portion of the 25-kilometer-long water channel remains, the piece that is there is impressive. This ancient structure once carried fresh water from the mountains down into the city.
How to Visit
If you want to visit the ancient city of Aspendos, you can join one of the many tours leaving from Antalya. If you decide to go on your own, it is a 30-40 minute drive. Parking is free, but you will need to purchase a ticket to enter the site. These are available on-site. The operating hours vary based on the season, so you should check them to ensure you have at least 2-3 hours to explore the site.
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