Historic Aspendos in Turkey
Located around forty kilometers to the east of the modern city of Antalya in Turkey, Aspendos was the most important city in Pamphylia, the historic Roman Province between Cilicia and Lycia in the south of Asia Minor. Lying on the banks of the Eurymedon River, which was navigable from the Mediterranean Sea to the Greco-Roman city in the 5th century BCE, Aspendos served as a trading station for precious commodities, including salt, oil and wool, with merchants of the city amassing great wealth through this trade.
Aspendos was founded by the Greeks in around 1000 BCE and was later conquered by the Romans. The city started to decline towards the end of the Byzantine era of the Roman Empire, but as a testament to the architectural innovations of the time, the theater of Aspendos stands strong today, and until recently, was still used for a variety of events. In the interests of preserving the historic structure, which was being damaged by stage sets and sound equipment, Turkish authorities no longer grant permission for events. In order to continue with the popular tradition of open-air theater, however, a modern arena has been constructed nearby. A popular annual event held there is the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, which attracts up to 10,000 spectators who gather to watch performances by opera and ballet companies from around the world.
Measuring 96 meters in diameter and seating up to 7,000 spectators, the Aspendos Theater was designed in 155 CE by Zenon, a Greek architect and resident of the city during the rule of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled from 161 to 180 CE. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the theater was later used as a roadside inn (caravanserai) by the medieval Turko-Persian Great Seljuq Empire. In the 13th century the subsequent sultanate, the Seljuqs of Rum, converted the stage building into a palace. Other archeological attractions nearby include fifteen kilometers of a Roman aqueduct, the Roman Eurymedon Bridge and the remains of some of the city’s ancient buildings.
Another interesting aspect of the history of Aspendos is that it began minting and issuing coins in around 500 BCE, making it one of the earliest cities to do so. The first coins minted were staters and drachmas and the numismatic history of the city spans the period from ancient Greek occupation of the area through to late Roman times.