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Aspendos

Location | History | Structures | Necropolis and the Burials

Location

map of Aspendos and Turkey

The ancient city of Aspendos is located in the southern part of Turkey, in the region of Pamphlylia, close to where the ancient river Eurymedon (Köprüçay) flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The city is established on a rocky hill and its surrounding plain. Taking into account its territorium, it extends to the hills situated in the southernmost extreme of the Toros Mountains. As the crow flies, the distance between the city's river harbour and the Mediterranean Sea today is 11 km. The city's Roman Era structures and its prosperous appearance, as mentioned in the ancient written sources, reflect the substantial income provided by the resource-rich territorium of the city and the trade it conducted by means of the river harbour, which opened up relationships between all the Mediterranean cities. The high quality and quantity of the pottery in the city, and its diverse range, is evidence for how broad the reach of this commercial network was.

The city transported both its own and its surrounding cities' goods through the harbour at the mouth of Eurymedon River to remote Mediterranean cities. Both the Hellenistic three-storey market building and the two-storey shop adjacent to the west of the agora, which is currently believed to be from the Roman Era, are also important, demonstrating the dimensions of this rich trade.

History

It is possible to correlate the city name Estwediiys, which is borne by coins from Aspendos dating from the fifth to fourth centuries BC, with that of Asitawa, the king of the M-p-s kingdom ( Mupsch or Mepesch-Mopsos), which is mentioned on a bilingual inscription from Karatepe dating to the eighth century BC. Some epigraphers have pointed out that Asitawada is an indigenous name in Asia Minor and consequently they explain the term as deriving from the name of the founder of Aspendos. According to ancient authors including Herodotus and Strabo, the city was occupied by people from Argos.

The Persian fleet was probably positioned in Aspendos. According to Herodotus, some citizens of Aspendos living with Pamphylians helped Xerxes in 483 BC by building and supplying 30 ships. Aspendos minted coins in the fifth century BC in both Aegean and Persian standards, as well. It is also known from the written sources that the Athenian General Kimon defeated a Persian fleet on the estuary of the Eurymedon, both at sea and on land.

Arrian records that the people of Aspendos gave as many horses to Alexander the Great as they had given to the Persian King. Before the capture of the city by Alexander, the people of Aspendos sent messengers to promise the horses; however, once Alexander assigned a garrison to the city and moved off to Side, Aspendos started to prepare for war against the Macedonians. In response, Alexander became harsher and claimed 100 talents of gold besides 4000 horses. After that, control of the city changed hands several times between Seleukos and Ptolemaios, but the exchange ended with Ptolemaios supreme in the third century BC. Aspendos got her share also from Consul Manlius Vulso, who demanded 50 talents from the city. Even the peace treaty of Apameia couldn't bring reconciliation to the region until the Attalids legated their kingdom to Rome. Although the city then kept its freedom for some time, with the establishment of the Asia Province of Rome Aspendos fell under Roman hegemony. The city was invaded and plundered by the army of the Roman Consul, Gaius Veres in 79 BC, as was Perge.

In the Roman Imperial period, Aspendos was full of embellished and monumental structures. In this era, the city became a significant centre in consequence of the trade of oil, crops, textile, wine, horses and especially salt, which came from a nearby lake. In 431 AD, the city was given the name Primoupolis. Aspendos also carries traces of the Seljuks, in particular, Alaeddin Kheykhubat renovated the theatre.

Structures

The syphons of the aqueduct are unique and it has been the most debated of the city's structures. On the other hand, the most prominent structure in a touristic sense is the theatre, which is regarded as one of the best preserved in the world owing to its renovation in the Seljuk period. The theatre bears an inscription on its southern parados informing us that it was constructed during the sovereignty of Marcus Aurelius and was built by an architect named Zenon, who was the son of Theodorus, a citizen of Aspendos.

The earliest known remains in the city are of the three-storey market building, which is constructed in the style of Pergamon and located east of the agora. Although the third storey (stoa) of the structure was removed in the construction of the Roman Basilica, the lower storeys remain. Other structures are seemingly from the Roman and post-Roman periods. Some of the main structures preserved on the hill are the two-storey market building/shops located west of agora; the Roman and Christian Era basilica that was constructed above the Hellenistic market building; the Nymphaeum north the of agora; the Bouleuterion or Odeion building located north of the Nymphaeum and the monumental field in front of it; the monumental gate located on a road probably entering to the city from the eastern direction; and the temple located northwest of this gate. A limited part of the fortification wall and the northern gate can also still be seen. On the road south of the agora another building, niched and made out of brick, appears. As well as the aqueducts, Roman baths and theatre, the remains on the lower plain include the Roman viaduct and the Ottoman viaduct subsequently constructed in the same location.

Necropolis and the Burials

Stelaes carrying the grave owners' names can be seen in their simple form: "... son of ..." or "... daughter of ...", which are used very commonly in Aspendos. Occasionally, on their triangular pediments, flower ribbons or similar motifs are depicted. There are some blocks possessing rectangular sockel where the tombstones are embedded. The grave stelae were normally erected beside or on the graves as well as in the immediate surroundings of the tombs.