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Diocaesarea-Uzuncaburç


The temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins.
The temple of Zeus Olbius.
Olba (Ὤλβα): Seleucid city in Rough Cilicia, southern Turkey; its Roman name was Diocaesarea (Διοκαισάρεια), and its modern name is Uzuncaburç.

In Antiquity, Diocaesarea, or Olba, was well-known for its temple of Zeus Olbius, which was rebuilt in c.300 BCE by Seleucus I Nicator, the founder of the Seleucid Empire. At that moment, Olba was already an old town. It had been the capital of a small, independent state named Pirindu, which had been annexed to the Achaemenid Empire. Why Seleucus decided to rebuilt this sanctuary, has not been not recorded. A satellite photo of the temple of Zeus can be seen here.

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The temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins.
The temple of Zeus Olbius.

It appears that Seleucus also (re)founded the town itself, because it is of a standard design that was applied to several other Seleucid settlements. This design consisted of a straight and wide main street (which was to be known as the "colonnaded street"); the course of the walls was determined by the shape of the site; and there was a citadel on a hill top - although in Diocaesarea it was not very pronounced. The same arrangements can be found in Syrian cities like Apamea, Chalcis, Cyrrhus, Dura Europos, and Damascus.

Corinthian columns in the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins.
Corinthian columns in the temple of Zeus Olbius.

According to a legend told by Strabo (Geography, 14.5.10), the original temple of Zeus Olbius had been founded by Ajax, one of the Greek heroes of the Trojan War. The priests belonged to the Teucrid dynasty: every man of this family was called either Ajax or Teucer.

Olba and its neighborhood were ruled by these priests. It remained a small theocracy during the Seleucid age, and when the Romans appeared on the stage after their war against the Cilician pirates (67 BCE), they accepted the town's autonomy. The name Diocaesarea was adopted during the reign of the emperor Vespasian (69-79).

Below, you can see several parts of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. They, and the sanctuary itself, are so well-preserved because the temple had been converted into a church.
Detail of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins. Detail of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins. Detail of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins.
Wolf or boar? Bull Lion
Detail of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins. Detail of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins. Detail of the decoration of the temple of Zeus Olbius. Photo Marco Prins.
Ram Horse Sheep

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Revision: 20 Dec. 2008
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