Turning off the Antalya-Alanya road alter driving 30 km. in the direction of the village of Belkis, one reaches to the best-preserved ancient theater in Turkey. According to Strabo, the city of Aspendos was founded by colonists who migrated from Argos under the leadership of Mopsos. Coins minted in the 4th-5th centuries BC give the city’s name as Estwediya. Aspendos had the distinction of being the only city besides Side that coined its own money at such an early period. For a while, the city was a member of the Athenian maritime alliance known as the Delian Federation.
A naval battle fought off the shores of Aspendos in 469 BC, saw the defeat of the Persian fleet by the forces of the Athenian General Cimon. Despite this, Aspendos was used as a Persian base in 411 BC. With Alexander’s defeat of the Persians in 334 BC, Aspendos was freed of the Persian yoke. It was ruled by various Hellenistic kings following the death of Alexander and like most other Asia Minor cities, it was annexed to Rome in 133 BC. The city flourished particularly in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD. In the 5® century, the city’s name was changed to Primupolis. Aspendos was badly affected by the Arab incursions in the 8® century. The Seljuks, who arrived in the area in the century, appear to have made use of some of the ancient structures, the theater being among them.
The Aspendos Amphitheater was built of regularly dressed blocks of conglomerate stone, while the door and window frames were of a cream-colored limestone. Access to the skene was through five doors, the one in the middle on the east being larger than the other four. The stage building is a two-tiered facade with four rows of windows, each row of which is of a different form and size. The niches once contained decorative statuary. Even today the facade has an attractive appeal. From inscriptions at the amphitheater we know that the structure was Mt by two brothers, Curtins Crispinus and Curtius Auspicatus during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) and was dedicated to the gods and the emperors. The architect’s name was Zeno. The auditorium is divided in two by a diazoma and there is a gallery of columns surmounting the top row of seats. While the amphitheater appears to have been built on barrel-vaulted substructures, parts of it rest against the hillside. With a seating capacity of 20,000, the Aspendos Amphitheater is still utilized today. The Aspendos Stadion is north of the amphitheater at the same leveL The stadion resembles the one at Perge, with spectator seating also set on vaults. To the south of the theater are the remains of a gymnasion and baths. Ascending up to the acropolis on the hill above the theater along the path connecting the theater and stadion, one passes through the easternmost of the city’s three gates and into the ruins of the city proper. Proceeding west from this gate, one comes upon a basilica, part of which was used for government and civic affairs and as a courthouse. Much of this section is still standing. The triple-nave basilica, extending 105 m. to the west, was a commercial building and the agora lay to its west. The agora was surrounded by public buildings. West of the agora is a covered marketplace, measuring 70 m. long. The front was open and consisted of a row of shops with a stoa in front. North of the agora are the remains of a nymphaion (fountain) of which only the 32.5 m. long, 15 m. high facade still exists today. This elaborately decorated facade has two rows of niches. North west of the fountain are the remains of the bouleuterion, which was used as the city-state’s parliament hall. In the center of the ruins are the traces of the foundations of a monumental arch. At the southern end of the basilica are the remains of exedrae, which served both as pedestals for statues and stone benches for the public. Another of the remains worth mentioning at Aspendos are the city’s magnificent aqueducts, parts of which are in the nearby village and on the site of the ruins.