The exact date of the city's foundation is unknown. A wall and an inscription on a sarcophagus have been dated to the end of the 4th century BC, so Olympus must have been founded at the latest in the Hellenistic period. The city presumably taking its name from nearby Mount Olympus (Turkish: Tahtalı Dağı, Timber Mountain), one of over twenty mountains with the name Olympus in the Classical world.
The city was a member of the Lycian League, but it is uncertain when it joined the League. It started minting Lycian League coins from the end of the second century BC, possibly the 130s. At this time Olympus was one of the six largest cities of the League, which possessed three votes each.
Around 100 BC Olympus started issuing its own coins separate from the League. At this point the Cilician pirates had taken control his possessions, which included Corycus, Phaselis and many other places in Pamphylia. His rule ended in 78 BC, when the Roman commander Publius Servilius Isauricus, accompanied by the young Julius Caesar, captured Olympus and his other territories after a victory at sea. At his defeat Zenicetes set fire to his own house and perished. At the time of the Roman conquest Olympus was described by Cicero as a rich and highly decorated city.Olympus then became part of the Roman Republic. The emperor Hadrian visited the city after which it took the name of Hadrianopolis (Ἁδριανούπολις) for a period, in his honour.
Olympus is missing from the Stadiasmus Patarensis and the Stadiasmus Maris Magni. However, both include the already mentioned Corycus, which is described in ancient sources as a port of some significance. There is no evidence that Olympus was a maritime city prior to the 2nd century AD. On this basis Mustafa Adak has argued that Olympus was initially founded on Mount Olympus, which he identifies as Musa Dağı instead of Tahtalı Dağı. In his theory, the Romans destroyed Olympus, after which the population moved to Corycus, and the name of Corycus was changed to Olympus when Hadrian visited the city in 131 AD.In the Middle Ages, Venetians, Genoese and Rhodians built two fortresses along the coast, but by the 15th century Olympus had been abandoned. Today the site attracts tourists, not only for the artifacts that can still be found (though fragmentary and widely scattered), but also for its scenic landscapes supporting wild grapevines, flowering oleander, bay trees, figs and pines.