If you haven’t already been to Aspendos, do youself a favour and plan a trip there next time you are on vacation. It really is a lovely place, even if you’re not interested in antique buildings or history, one can not help being just a little impressed with the building and the area (If you really fancy history, you’ll find bigger words to use). It is completly breathtaking and amazing to stand next to this imposing building, which just thrones tall and majestic in front of you. To think that Aspendos theater was built under the Romans for almost1,900 years ago is almost incomprehensible, when you see how well, it is preserved (and how big it is).
The Aspendos (earlier called Belkis) lies approximately 40 km east of Antalya, 37 km west of Side, so it can be reached in a little hour from Antalya City. But the roads are good and it is actually a fairly nice trip – also if you have small kids in the car. If possible, bring a picnic basket along with you, if you have some hours to be expelled. There are many good, peaceful places, where you can sit, and all with great view of the harsh landscape and the red earth.
Aspendos is an ancient city founded by the Greeks about 1000 years BC and was for many years an considerably city due to their widespread coinage, but also an important trading center, as it lay beside the great Eurymedon river, where salt, oil and wool was transported. Eurymedon river is today called Köprücay and is dammed, so it does not run straight up and down of the theater, as it did in the old days. This was done several years ago, to obtain land for farming. Aspendos has been under the rule of Greeks, Romans and Seljuk, but it was the Romans (and local architect Zenon), who built the Aspendos theater and the surrounding buildings around 155 AD. In the area around Aspendos, one can find a basilica, agora / marketplace, a cave and the large well-preserved aqueduct that peeks out at several places in the area. One can hardly imagine, how the Romans could build and not least invent all this. Not far from there is an old stone bridge from the 13th century, it should be really impressive, but I haven’t been there yet.
Besides being so old and well preserved, the theater’s size is also impressive. The front is a full 16 meters high and the theater has a diameter of 96 meters. That means, that there could easily sit up to 7000 spectators (today is estimated around 10,000 spectators, when hosting the impressive performances). At the top you can find holes where masts and a kind of canopy was situated to screen the audience from the sun.
You can easily use some hours to see the theater, climb up and down the seats (it is crazy good exercise and who could,t use it, when you are on vacation). Although it is quite hard to climb up (and down), especially when the sun burns down, allow yourself the trip. The sound and how well you can hear it from the top, is simply amazing. One time we saw a guide and his group far, far down at the stage of the theater, and we could hear every word he said, though he spoke with ordinary low voice. So you can talk about well done architecture! Youcan find several footpaths from the area, so remember your boots and leave your flip- flops at home. Remember to bring loads of water and perhaps a little sugar / salt / something to eat. You get hungry, when you wander around in the sun (even if it is “just” inside the theater) and there is only a small kiosk, that sells water and melted chocolate for WAY to high prices. It’s been a few years, since we’ve been there, so maybe it has been redone, but still ….
Since it is a major tourist attraction, it is best to come early or late in the day to avoid the large hordes of tourist buses.
If you’re really enthusiastic or just want an experience out of the ordinary, check if there might be an exciting performance at the theater, while you’re there. In several periods of spring, summer, autumn, the Turkish state opera and ballet have several performances of opera, ballet, concerts and other dances. Unfortunately, I have never experienced it – and this is absolutely not intentionally. Those I know, who have invested in a ticket, have not regretted it. They say unanimously, that it has been an experience of a lifetime. If you are interested in tickets and performances, you can find them here (write Aspendos in the search box) or directly here.