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Aspendus


The stadium of Aspendus. Photo Marco Prins.
The stadium
Aspendus: ancient city in southern Turkey, best known for its well-preserved theater.

Aspendus, modern Belkis, was a town in Pamphylia, a region that was believed to have been settled by Greeks from Argos in the century after the legendary Trojan War. It was situated on the banks of the river Eurymedon, where the Athenian admiral Cimon defeated the Persians in 465. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Pamphylia became Greek.

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The sewer system, near the east gate. Photo Marco Prins.
Sewer

During the Roman occupation, the town became an important center of the trade in salt, oil, corn, wine, and horses. The ruins we can visit today, date from this period. 

The agora (market place) is the site of one of the strangest stories from Greek philosophy. The charismatic Pythagorean teacher Apollonius of Tyana, who had taken a vow of silence, was asked to put an end to a food shortage by an angry mob, that was about to kill one of the responsible magistrates (more...). According to his biographer Philostratus, Apollonius wrote a letter to the grain merchants, threatening them with immediate death; they immediately repented. The story is no doubt apocryphal, but food shortages were common, and no doubt magistrates were never certain of their fate.


The east gate of Aspendus. Photo Marco Prins. The east gate of Aspendus. Photo Marco Prins. The western agora (market) with shops. Photo Marco Prins.
East gate East gate Agora
The eastern agora (market) with a basilica and a legal building. Photo Marco Prins. The nymphaeum (fountain) at the northern side of the agora (market). Photo Marco Prins. The town hall (bouleuterion). Photo Marco Prins.
Agora: basilica Agora: Nymphaeum Agora: Bouleuterion
A bowl from Aspendus. Archaeological Museum of Antalya (Turkey). Photo Jona Lendering.
A bowl from Aspendus (Archaeological Museum of Antalya)

The famous theater was built in the second century, the bouleuterion (town hall) is a bit younger, and the basilica on the agora was built in the third century and is more than 100 meters long and 25 meters wide: about the size of the basilica of a much larger city like Carthage. It was later converted into a church.

A satellite photo of the agora can be seen here.

>> Aspendus' Theater >>

Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 21 Dec. 2008
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