19 May 17:13


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Termessos was a Pisidian

city built at an altitude of more than 1000 metres at the south-west

side of the mountain Solymos (modern-day Güllük Dağı) in the Taurus Mountains (modern-day Antalya province, Turkey). It lies 30 kilometres to the north-west of Antalya.

It was founded on a natural platform on top of Güllük Dağı, soaring to a

height of 1,665 metres from among the surrounding travertine mountains

of Antalya.

Concealed by pine forests and with a peaceful and untouched

appearance, the site has a more distinct and impressive atmosphere than

many other ancient cities.

Termessos is one of the best preserved of the ancient cities of

Turkey. The city was founded by the Solims who were mentioned by Homer in the Iliad in connection with the legend of Bellerophon.

Because of its natural and historical riches, the city has been included in a national park bearing its name, the Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park.

The mythical founder of the city is Bellerophon.

What is known of Termessos' history commences principally at the time that Alexander the Great surrounded the city in 333 BC; he likened the city to an eagle's nest and in one of few cases, failed to conquer it. Arrian,

one of the ancient historians who dealt with this event and recorded

the strategic importance of Termessos, notes that even a small force

could easily defend it due to the insurmountable natural barriers

surrounding the city. The location of the city at the mountain pass from

the Phrygian hinterland to the plains of Pamphylia

is described by Arrian, Annals 1,26,6. Alexander wanted to go to

Phrygia from Pamphylia, and according to Arrian, the road passed by

Termessos. There are other passes much lower and easier to access, so

why Alexander chose to ascend the steep Yenice pass is still a matter of

dispute. It is even said that his hosts in Perge

sent Alexander up the wrong path. Alexander wasted a lot of time and

effort trying to force his way through the pass, which had been closed

by the Termessians, and so, in anger he turned toward Termessos and

surrounded it. Probably because he knew he could not capture the city,

Alexander did not undertake an assault, but instead marched north and

vented his fury on Sagalassos.

According to Strabo,

the inhabitants of Termessos called themselves the Solymi and were a

Pisidian people. Their name, as well as that given to the mountain on

which they lived, was derived from Solymeus, an Anatolian god who in later times became identified with Zeus, giving rise there to the cult of Zeus Solymeus

(Solim in Turkish). This name still exists as a surname in some people

in Antalya region, providing evidence to their Solymi heritage. The

coins of Termessos often depict this god and give his name.

The historian Diodorus

has recorded in full detail another unforgettable incident in the

history of Termessos. In 319 BC, after the death of Alexander, one of

his generals, Antigonos Monophtalmos, proclaimed himself master of Asia Minor and set out to do battle with his rival Alcetas, whose base of support was Pisidia.

His forces were made up of some 40,000 infantry, 7,000 cavalry, and

included numerous elephants as well. Unable to vanquish these superior

forces, Alcetas and his friends sought refuge in Termessos. The

Termessians gave Alcetas their word that they would help him.

At this time, Antigonos came and set up camp in front of the

city, seeking delivery of his rival. Not wanting their city to be

dragged into disaster for the sake of a Macedonian foreigner, the elders

of the city decided to hand Alcetas over to Antigonos. However, the

youths of Termessos wanted to keep their word and refused to go along

with the plan. The elders sent Antigonos an envoy to inform him of their

intent to surrender Alcetas. According to a secret plan to continue the

fight, the youth of Termessos managed to leave the city. Learning of

his imminent capture and preferring death to being handed over to his

enemy, Alcetas killed himself. The elders delivered his corpse to

Antigonos. After subjecting the corpse to all manner of abuse for three

days, Antigonos departed Pisidia leaving the corpse unburied. The youth,

greatly resenting what had happened, recovered Alcetas' corpse, buried

it with full honours, and erected a beautiful monument to his memory.

Termessos was obviously not a port city, but its lands stretched

south-east all the way to the Gulf of Attaleia (Antalya). Because the

city possessed this link to the sea it was taken by the Ptolemies.

An inscription found in the Lycian city of Araxa yields important

information about Termessos. According to this inscription, in the 2nd

century BC, Termessos was at war for unknown reasons with the league of

Lycian cities, and again in 189 BC found itself battling its Pisidian

neighbour Isinda. At this same time we find the colony of Termessos

Minor being founded 85 km in the south-south-west (Oinoanda) in the 2nd century BC. Termessos entered into friendly relations with Attalos II, king of Pergamon, the better to combat its ancient enemy Selge. Attalos II commemorated this friendship by building a two-storied stoa in Termessos.

Termessos was an ally of Rome, and so in 71 BC was granted independent status by the Roman Senate;

according to this law its freedom and rights were guaranteed. This

independence was maintained continuously for a long time, the only

exception being an alliance with Amyntas king of Galatia (reigned 36-25 BC). This independence is documented also by the coins of Termessos, which bear the title "Autonomous".

The end of Termessos came when its aqueduct

was crushed in an earthquake, destroying the water supply to the city.

The city was abandoned (year unknown), which helps to explain its

remarkable state of preservation today.



temples of varying sizes and types have been accounted for at Termessos.

Four of these are found near the odeon in an area that must have been

sacred. The first of these temples is located directly at the back of

the odeon and is constructed of truly splendid masonry. It has been

proposed that this was temple of the city's chief god, Zeus Solymeus.

What a pity, then, that apart from its five-metre-high cella walls, very

little remains of this temple.

The second temple lies near the south-west corner of the odeon.

It possesses a 5.50 × 5.50 metre cella and is of the prostylos type.

According to an inscription found on the still complete entrance, this

temple was dedicated to Artemis, and both the building and the cult

statue inside were paid for by a woman named Aurelia Armasta and her

husband using their own funds. To the other side of this entrance, a

statue of this woman's uncle stands on an inscribed base. The temple can

be dated on stylistic grounds to the end of the 2nd century AD.

To the east of the Artemis temple are the remains of a Doric

temple. It is of the peripteral type, with six or eleven columns to a

side; judging from the size of it, it must have been the largest temple

in Termessos. From surviving reliefs and inscriptions, it too, is

understood to have been dedicated to Artemis.

Further to the east, the ruins of another smaller temple lie on a

rock-hewn terrace. The temple rose on a high podium, but to what god it

was dedicated is not known at present. However, contrary to general

rules of classical temple architecture, the entrance to this temple lies

to the right, indicating that it may have belonged to a demi-god or

hero. It can be dated to the beginning of the 3rd century AD.

As for the other two temples, they are located near the stoa of Attalos belong to the Corinthian order,

and are of the prostylos type. Also dedicated to deities who are as yet

unknown, these temples can be dated to the 2nd or 3rd century AD.



to the east of the agora lies the theatre. Commanding a view out over

the Pamphylian plain, this building is no doubt the most eyecatching in

all the Termessos plain. It displays most clearly the features of the

Roman theatre, which preserved the Hellenistic period theatre plan. The

Hellenistic cavea,

or semicircular seating area, is divided in two by a diazoma. Above the

diazoma rise eight tiers of seats, below it are sixteen, allowing for a

seating capacity

of some 4-5,000 spectators. A large arched entrance way connects the

cavea with the agora. The southern parados was vaulted in Roman times,

the northern has been left in its original open-air state. The stage

building exhibits features characteristic of the 2nd century AD. A long

narrow room is all that lies behind it. This is connected with the

podium where the play took place, by five doors piercing the richly

ornamented facade or scaenae frons. Under the stage lie five small rooms

where wild animals were kept before being taken into the orchestra for


As in other classical cities, an odeon

lies about 100 metres from the theatre. This building, which looks like

a small theatre, can be dated to the 1st century BC. It is well

preserved all the way to roof level and exhibits the finest quality

ashlar masonry. The upper storey is ornamented in the Doric order and

coursed with square-cut blocks of stone, while the lower storey is

unornamented and pierced by two doors. It is certain that the building

was originally roofed, since it received its light from eleven large

windows in the east and west walls. Just how this roof, which spanned

25 metres, was housed, has not been determined yet. Because the interior

is full of earth and rubble at present, it is not possible to gauge

either the building's seating arrangement or its capacity. Seating

capacity was probably not larger than 600-700. Amid the rubble, pieces

of coloured marble have been unearthed, giving rise to the possibility

that the interior walls were decorated with mosaic. It is also possible

that this elegant building served as the bouleuterion or council chamber.