A Greek temple ruin consisting of five columns holding up a triangular-shaped crowning piece

The ruins never fail to impress

posted in: Turkey and the Caucasus 2022 | 2

Today I visited three sites near Antalya that had stunning ruins. No matter how many different sites I’ve been to on this trip, I’ve seen things that have consistently blown me away.


About fifteen kilometers east of Antalya lie the ruins of Perge. Originally settled about 7000 years ago, Perge arose as a Greek settlement around 700 BCE. Alexander the Great occupied the area in 334 BCE, and the local populace welcomed him without resistance. After Alexander’s death the kingdom split into four separate empires, and this region became part of the Seleucid Empire. During this period the city began to prosper.

The Romans conquered the area in 188 BCE, and in the first three centuries CE, Perge, along with Side, became a magnificent city. Most of the current ruins date from this period.

The Agora, or marketplace. At the center is an altar where animal sacrifices took place.
The columned main street of Perge.
Gate from the Hellenistic period
Roman gate


The theatre at Aspendos is the best preserved ancient theatre anywhere in the world. Built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the second half of the 2nd century CE, archaeologists believe it would have sat 9,000 spectators.

The theatre survived in such good condition that it is still used for operas and concerts today. Which is great, but also somewhat unfortunate, since it means that inauthentic additions and modification have been made to make staging and lighting possible.

The raised platform is not authentic, nor, of course, are the stage lights. You can also sese some lighter-colored seats and steps; these are restorations. Everything else is original.


The city of Side rivaled Perge as the most important city in this region during the Greco-Roman period. Today Side is a modern city with an impressive area of ruins and a charming old city with Ottoman-style houses that are now mostly shops and restaurants. In this respect, it is similar to Antalya, but the old city of Side is much less densely built.

The star of the show in Side is the Roman Temple of Apollo. Dating from the mid-2nd century CE, the ruins of this temple have undergone restoration, but it has stood as it stands today for almost 1,900 years.

Imagine the ancient Romans arriving at Side from the water and seeing this temple as they approached the shore.

After I left Istanbul, I thought I might get tired of seeing ruins. Ephesus, Hierapolis, and three more sites today. It’s a lot of ruins! And I thought Ephesus, which was the first site i visited, would set a standard none others could match.

But I felt consistently awestruck with each visit. Each was different, unique in its own way. Each told a different story. And each moved me powerfully. I feel much smaller now. My sense of the world has expanded, or maybe the world itself has grown. Space and time have merged. Through their legacy, the people of ancient Anatolia are still with us. By walking in their footsteps they came back to life for me. I close my eyes and I see their cities as they were. I see them as they were.

Don’t you want to see them too? Check out my photos album from today’s excursion.

2 Responses

  1. Timothy Welch

    I agree with you! I actually like the ruins around Antalya (especially Perge) more than Ephesus. But, perhaps that is just me.

    • Lane

      I’m not sure I can say I liked Perge more than Ephesus. Ephesus was far more impressive in its scale. And that library is astonishing. But I thought some questionable choices were made during some of the restoration. In a few places it looked like things were put together wrong. I’d almost rather they left things on the ground where they were found, as opposed to stacking them up and making what seemed like bad guesses about how it once looked.

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