Historical Aspendos Theater – Antalya

History Of Aspendos Theater

Aspendos is located on the 2nd kilometer of the road turning north from the 44th kilometer of the Antalya-Alanya highway. It is famous for having the best preserved and up-to-date theater of not only Anatolia but the entire Mediterranean world. The city was established on the hill plain near Köprüçay (Ancient Eurymedon), one of the largest rivers in the region. Theaters and waterways are mostly visited in Aspendos, which owes its transportation and development to the Mediterranean and the fertile lands around it. Remains of other buildings belonging to the city are located on the plain on the hill where the theater rests.

“Aspendos Theater” (Belkıs), located within the borders of Serik district of Antalya, was established on the eastern slope of a natural hill. It still looks as if it was newly built with its remains, and it is the best preserved Roman Theater in Anatolia. It was built in the second century AD, during the Antonines Period, during the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. According to ancient sources, this giant theater was built by the architect Zenon, the son of the famous Roman architect Theodoros, between 139 and 168 AD.

Historians mention that the Greek side won in the Battle of Eurymedon, which passed between the Greeks and the Persians in 467 BC, by the river flowing near the city. Although Aspendos tried to resist Alexander the Great through fraudulent means, he ultimately surrendered. Upon surrender, they accepted the famous horses bred in the city and the tax debt in return for gold. After the death of Alexander, the city came under Ptolemy. It undoubtedly lived its brightest period during the Roman Empire, when the famous theaters and waterways were built.

We can say that the most important ruins of the city are waterways. The Aspendos waterway system is one of the best examples of ancient waterways preserved to date. The general view forms the water pressure towers on both ends of the arched bridge, which is about 1 kilometer long north-south. While the water of the city was collected in pear-shaped cisterns carved into the bedrock, which can be seen in places on the hill, it was achieved to obtain water more regularly by developing the waterway system with all the structures in the second and third centuries. Above the hill, where the theater is leaning and surrounded by city walls, agora, basilica, monumental fountain, monument building, monumental arch, street and Hellenistic temple are the remains to be seen.

On such a small scale, a city printed the most valid money in the entire Mediterranean world. However, it can be easily explained with monumental structures in the economy of the navy. The most important export product that sustains the city’s economy is the salt used in cotton agriculture, obtained from Lake Kapria very close to the city. Salt, which is sent to other Mediterranean markets thanks to the river that is convenient for transportation along with other export products, has become the most important source of income for the city. In addition, viticulture and, accordingly, winemaking, olives and olive oil and other cereal products and fresh fruit were other agricultural products of the city. Aspendosta horses were also very important. Historians have written that the horses raised in Aspendos are the most valuable horses of the Near East and Mediterranean world. Aspendos continued its existence during the Byzantine and Seljuk periods. It is possible to see the repair marks of the Seljuk period in the famous theater especially in the monumental door attachment in the middle of the exterior and in the dark red zigzag patterned plaster coating on the facade. The most important reason why the stage building, which is thought to be a caravanserai, where the Seljuk sultans are accommodated, remains to this day is attributed to this Seljuk repair and protectionism. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk also visited here in 1930 and gave directives for “repair and reuse”.

Features of Aspendos Theater

The Aspendos Theater covers an area of about 58 meters in diameter slightly exceeding the semi-circle. The cave of the structure, which reflects the characteristic Roman features, was built in two parts. In the upper part of the second part of the concept, there is a columnar gallery overlooking the audience section covered with a vault. It is known that this section is both a walking place and used as a shelter in rainy and sunny weather. In addition, this section is thought to have an important function in ensuring theater acoustics.

Theatron is divided into two with a single diazoma. The lower part carries 40 rows of seats. The upper section carries 60 rows of seats. The seating rows are 40 centimeters high and 65 centimeters wide. The first part is divided into 10 steps and 9 stepped paths (kerkides). The second part is divided into 20 “kerkides” by 21 stairs. We see that the kerkides in the second part are arranged narrower than those in the first part. Thus, when the orchestra of the theater is centered, the presence of a series of beams scattering is remarkable. Considering the normal seating places, the theater has an audience capacity of 20 thousand people. However, D.S.Robertson claims that the theater has a total capacity of 7500 people. This suggests that the Romans will watch the games lying down.

Stage Building

The stage building of the theater was built higher and deeper than the orchestra. The transition to the building is provided by “parades” (passages) covered with arches on both sides of the stage. On the paradoxes, there are seating lodges that are exclusive to the Roman theaters, where only noble people can benefit. These lodges clearly show the distinction between nobles and peasants. The length of the stage building is not narrower than the theater front, but narrower. The stage building merges with the walls protruding outward in the front of the theater. On the exterior of the stage building, there are five door openings in the middle opening to the inner playground and smaller ones on the sides. The big door in the middle is called “porta regia” and the ones on the sides are called “portae hospitales”. In the place where the stage building meets the main theater, there are two door openings on the right and left, covered with a flat cover.

The outer surfaces of the building are made of cut stone. Rubble stones were used as filling material in the interior of the walls. From ancient sources, we see that the stage building was built at the height of theatron. From the original structure, the top of the stage building was covered with a wooden roof. We see that the roof cassettes of the roof are decorated with magnificent decorations. The exterior is better protected than the interior. The reason for this is that the three facades of the stage building are decorated with dense architectural decorations. Therefore, the destruction experienced throughout the building is more effective on the interior. The exterior reflects the general characteristics of the Greek and Roman theaters.

Two building levels can be seen from the inside of the stage building. The lower floor and the upper floor are decorated with ten pairs of columns standing independently of each other. Each pair of columns are moved outwardly, they are placed on a lying substructure and carry dense decoration elements on these columns. In the narrow spaces between the doors, there are small niches. Among these niches, sculptures related to Dionysos and the city were exhibited. Ion order is applied to the headers in the lower floor columns. There are three wiped arthritis blocks on the columns. On Arsitravin, there are roof elements decorated with architectural feeds dated to the second century after the birth of the Pamphylia region.


The only difference between the feeding of the first floor and the second floor columns is in the ion order of the lower floor columns; the top floor is in corinthian order. In the arrangement of the second floor, niches were used instead of doors, as in the lower floor. A scene taken from Dionysos’ life was embossed on the large niche in the middle. There are also sculptural works related to Dionysos and his plays in the upstairs niches. In the middle of the triangle pediment, there is a statue of Dionysus. Ornament with herbal elements was made around the statue. This type of arrangement is referred to as the “aedicula” arrangement. There are acroter figures on the roofs that are placed at the corners and generally open their hands to the sides. Ancient sources state that the upper part of the stage was covered with a wooden roof. In the lower part of this roof, there are bushes that lighten the roof.

This giant theater was repaired and reused in parts of the Seljuk Period. However, it is not known for what purpose it is used. As a result of the extensive restoration work carried out in 1967, a large part of the theater has survived to the present day.

Aspendos Visiting Hours Summer Period: 08: 30-19: 30 (15 April-2 October)

Aspendos Visiting Hours Winter Period: 08: 30-17: 30 (3 October-14 April)

Aspendos Holidays: The first day of religious holidays until noon.

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