We drove from Cappadocia on a well-maintained highway that takes you up and over the jagged-peaked Taurus Mountains. (**side-note–they drive on the right side.) When we crossed the summit a whole different world appeared. We went from captivating dessert to a lush Mediterranean landscape ripe with citrus trees heavy with fruit.
Antalya, on the SW coast, is the perfect place to stay to visit Perga and Aspendos. Have I told you that I could easily live here during the winter months?
Perga was an ancient Greek city founded in 1209 BC. although bronze-aged people lived here earlier. It was a big city covering 9.3 miles although it’s not all uncovered yet and extensive repairs have the theater closed this year. Alexander the Great used Perga as an important base to spread invasion inland around 334 BC.. He made Greek the language and written word of the land. The Hellenistic gates were built during the reign of Emperor Hadrianus (117-138AD). Currently, archeologists are repairing this area but the surrounding (later) Roman expansion with niches for marble statues can be explored.
Perga really sparkled with the Romans occupation (1-2AD) when the town grew past the Greek Gates with the additions of a Theater, stadium, a marble floored Agora (market), and a pretty amazing Roman bath. After St. Paul and St. Barnabas set up a mission here, there were 2 basilicas built that I believe are in ruins.
STADIUM–held 12,000 spectators to all kinds of games and races.
AGORA–the marble tiled floor is covered for protection but it’s still there! Imagine this space with vendors under a covered roof and a little temple in the middle?
Main Street—imagine cascading water that flowed down fountains in the middle of the street. The marble street has etched grooves from many chariots that traveled on it. Did you know that the ancient width of a chariot’s wheels is the width of track for a railroad? True!
The Roman Bath had 4 marble mosaic floored rooms: Changing room, cold bath, warm bath and hot bath. You can see in spots where furnaces and waterpipes were under the floor. This place had exquisite marble statues all over the place! When you return to Antalya, go to the archeology museum to see them.
Benefactor fountains–there were beautiful fountains all over, fed from the nearby aqueduct pictured below, bottom left. The fountain was so large, I couldn’t get it all in one picture and it isn’t all repaired yet. The statues installed here are also in the museum.
Nearby is Aspendos , another ancient city in ruins but the theater is the most intact in the world. For this we can thank the Turks who rebuilt it and used it as a caravan stop. This is also another check-mark for Atlas Obscura enthusiasts.
Originally, this was built during the time of Marcus Aurelius ( 160-180 AD) and held up to 8,500 seated and standing spectators. The width is 315′ across. There is a beautiful 2-story backdrop and two towers that flank the stage. Today, this theater is still being used for opera, ballet and music.