The Aspendos Theatre is the Best Preserved Roman Theatre From the Ancient World:
Aspendos is one of the more popular historic sites in the Antalya region. This Greco-Roman city is situated on the Pamphylian plain near the Köprüçay River (previously the Euromedion River), about 47 km east of Antalya. During ancient times, the central region of Antalya was known as Pamphylia and Aspendos was one of the more impressive cities in the region.
A Wealthy City of Pamphylia
During Roman times, Aspendos was an important centre of trade. The Euromedion River provided a navigable waterway to export salt, wine, hand-woven rugs, textiles, furniture and even horses. The Aspendian horses were so legendary that Alexander the Great levied a tax on the city of 4,000 horses per annum. With its fertile plains and export trade, Aspendos became one of Pamphylia’s richest cities as can be seen from its monumental structures like the Aspendos Theatre.
Many tourists come to Aspendos to see its impressive Roman theatre, said to be one of the best-preserved of the ancient world. The Theatre was built around 162AD, by the architect Zenon, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. At the southern main entrance there are inscriptions verifying this. The construction was funded by two wealthy brothers, Crispinus and Auspicatus Curtius and they dedicated the theatre to the imperial family and the city gods. This dedication can be seen in a partially readable inscription outside the main entrance.
Aspendos Theatre was built with a capacity of 7,000 to 8,000 people, with 21 rows of seats in the lower section and 20 in the upper section. So magnificent is this theatre that the Seljuk sultan, Alaeddin Keykubat I, restored it and used it for a summer residence. When Atatürk visited the site in 1930 he too instructed that Aspendos Theatre be renovated and reused.
Visiting Aspendos Theatre
Each time that we visit this Theatre, we are in awe of its grand scale, its perfect form and its beautiful architectural features, not to mention the Roman emperors, Seljuk sultans and historical greats who have sat in these seats and been entertained at this theatre. On one of the seats is a carved image of the VIP for whom the seat was reserved. As we go around admiring the features of the building, it’s easy to lose track of time. I was intending to walk up to the top arches but was put off by the heat. Whilst the ambient temperature may be 37°C, the heat radiating off the stones makes it hotter. But nothing fazes Tony, so the intrepid photographer climbs up to the arched gallery to get the money shots.
The theatre gets very crowded at the height of summer, but during this mid-August visit, the scorching heat saves us from the crowds. If you’re planning to spend a bit of time here in summer, be sure to have water with you, especially if you want to walk to the top.
Each year, from mid-June to mid-September, Aspendos Threatre hosts the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival. Imagine how amazing it would be to enjoy classical performances in this magnificent setting, with its great acoustics.
Other Aspendos Attractions
Although the Aspendos Theatre is the main thing that tourists come to see, the city’s other attractions include its waterways. The substantial Roman aqueduct, which supplied water to the city is also still relatively intact and is an impressive sight. There is also an agora, a basilica and a stadium that can be seen here.
Aspendos Theatre is open every day: Summer: 08.30-19.00 Winter: 08.30-17.00
There are no hotels in Aspendos, but as the city is about 4 km from the Mediterranean coast, seaside resorts in Belek and Side are popular bases for holidaymakers. For the list of resorts near Aspendos, see Here.