Turkey’s ancient history

If you’re keen on ancient ruins most people think of Egypt, Jordan, Peru, Italy and Greece as the top destinations. However, you’d be really missing out on the numerous magnificent and well preserved ruins that dot the countryside in Turkey. It really amazed me to find so many archeological sites in the country.

Scattered along the southern coast you have the Lycian ruins which you could spend weeks visiting. During our journey on the Lycian Way long distance walk we were taken through a couple of sites. Phaselis was an ancient harbour city built in 700BC of which only the impressive gate and a theatre remain in tact along with foundations of shops, baths and agoras.

Olympos was another large Lycian city on the coast situated in a valley. It had a number of sarcophagi and foundations of old buildings. It was thought to have been an important city during the second century BC.


After we finished the walk we took a boat trip out to see the submerged ruins at Kekova-Simena. It was an ancient Lycian city that was destroyed by an earthquake in the 2nd century BC. It was hard to make out exactly what the ruins were under the water but our captain explained they included baths, houses and a Byzantine chapel. There were also sarcophagi dotting the coast line which we could see from the boat.

We then took a day trip to the Myra ruins, near Demre. It was one of the six most important cities in the Lycian empire and was built around the 1st century BC. It had a Roman-style amphitheatre, but it’s most unique features are the rock cut tombs carved into the cliff, reminiscent of Petra in Jordan.

Myra ruins

The ancient ruins of the hierapolis are on top of the overly popular Pamukkale travertines. There was a whole site of ruins, from a Roman-style amphitheatre, to hundreds of sarcophagi and ancient baths that used the natural hot springs that you can swim in today. It was started by the Phyrgians in the 3rd century BC and was taken over by the Greek empire thereafter.


Then we had the ruins of the Temple of Artemis at Selcuk, which really were just that, ruins. There’s only one column remaining from what was a Greek temple that was constructed in the 8th century BC. But it’s importance makes up for the lack of remains as it is one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, of which only the pyramids are still standing.

In the same town are the famous Greek/Roman ruins of Ephesus which covers a huge area that originally included the Temple of Artemis 3km down the road. It was built in the 10th century by the Greeks but became one of the biggest Roman cities after they took control with a population of around 45, 000 people. It’s most iconic monument is the Library of Celsus and it also has a huge amphitheatre.


I then stopped in Bergama where there were the highly underrated ruins of Pergamon which I almost had to myself if it wasn’t for one local school group and the gardeners. It consisted of a whole site perched on top of a hill overlooking the town and was built around 400BC but flourished under the Greeks from 300BC onwards. It’s most striking feature was the theatre that is magnificently built on the sloping hill and is considered to have the steepest seating of any theatre in the ancient world.


At the foot of the hill there was also the Sanctuary of Asclepium which is considered ancient Rome’s most important medical facility where their most famous doctor, Galen, worked between 145-160AD. It is believed that his theories and work influenced Western medicine for over a thousand years after his death.


My final stop was at the ancient city of Troy, which is really not that impressive to look at but the history of the place is enough to intrigue you. It has had a total of nine cities built on top of one another after each one had been destroyed in battles, starting from 3000BC. Of course there are the legends of the Trojan horse and Achilles, which, whether you believe it or not, makes for an interesting history and a great Hollywood film!

Phew! So ancient ruins fatigued? Maybe a little. And I still had Greece to look forward to!


*post adapted from my trip here in May 2015 and from my previous site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com

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