Perge, Antalya

The ruins of Perge are located sixteen kilometers along the Antalya-Alanya highway in the district of the town of Aksu. It is one of the better-preserved archaeological sites in Turkey.

Although the Pergeans did not have access to modern-day home and contents insurance, their building structures were considerably strong and beautiful. Also, these ancient inhabitants attributed the founding of their city to Kalkhas, Mopsos, and Arnphilokhos after the Trojan War, a tablet discovered at Bogazkoy is the proof of that it existed at least during Hittite times when it was known as "Parha". We have little information about the city until Alexander’s arrival here in 333 B.C. The Pergeans opened up their gates to Alexander and allowed him to make use of the city as a base during his Pamphylian campaigns. With the death of Alexander, Perge remained in Seleucid hands until 190 B.C., in which year it was annexed to the kingdom of Pergamon. Like all the Pergamene possessions, it too came under Roman rule in 133 B.C. and it was during the Roman imperial period that the city flourished. Most of the ruins we see at the site today are from Roman times. Excavations at Perge were begun in 1946 by Professor Arif Mufit Mansel. Following his death they were taken up by Professor Jale inan and are still in progress.

Before corning upon the ruins of Perge proper we first encounter the city’s magnificent theater. Of the Greco-Roman type, this theater could seat 15,000 and was built in the second half of the 2nd century AD. The stage building had two stories on the lower of which there were scenes concerning Dionysos and reliefs of a river-god, Kentros. It is still possible to see some of these in place today. The seats of the theater are divided into two sections with thirteen sets of steps. During late Roman times, the theater was used for spectators of gladiatorial combats and a fountain was built into the outer wall.

Before the theater is a U-shaped stadium which is in a fine state of preservation. It too was built in the 2nd century A.D. and there are seats for 12,000 supported by barrel-vaulted constructions. The entrance to the 34 by 234 meters arena is on the southern side, but the once monumental gateway has been destroyed. Below the vaults on the eastern side there are thirty shops.

Perge is surrounded by a Hellenistic period wall reinforced here and there with towers. The fortifications on the southern side were expanded in the 4th century A.D. We enter the ruins through a gate built during the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 A.D.) that passes into a courtyard in the walls. The rectangular courtyard before the gate was created when the 4th century walls were built. After entering through the Roman gate we are confronted by a round portal that was the main gate of Perge in Hellenistic times. Between the two is a courtyard measuring 92 meters in length from the 2nd ,century A.D. On the western side of the courtyard is a nymphaion, a richly-decorated monumental fountain that was dedicated by: Septimius Severus to the Pergean Arternis. The statues of the emperor and his wife that were once here are now in the Antalya Museum. Beside the fountain there is a propylon belonging to the baths. This entranceway was also richly decorated with statues, many of which have been unearthed in excavations, and was also built during the reign of Septirnius Severus.

After passing by both structures we come again to the Hellenistic period gate. This well-preserved structure is flanked on either side by towers and leads to a horseshoe-shaped courtyard that was magnificently beautified between 120 and 122 A.D. by Plancia Magna, daughter of Plancius Varus, the Roman governor of Bithynia. Plancia Magna contributed much to the development of Perge. Her tomb is located at the right of the main gate and there is a statue of her in the Antalya museum. The northern side of the courtyard has three entranceways built in the form of a two-storied entrance. The niches once contained statues of the Roman emperor and empress. On the eastern side of the Hellenistic gate is the Pergean agora, a column-enclosed area with shops and rooms around the perimeter that was built in the 4th century A.D. In the center of the agora is a round temple. Excavations have revealed a colonnaded portico measuring 4.30 by 96 meters alongside the agora. On the southern side of the agora is a church. Recent excavations have shown that the Roman baths located opposite the agora are very well preserved.

A broad, marble-paved double-colonnaded street measuring 300 meters in length extends from the main gate to the acropolis. A water channel two meters wide runs down the middle. There are shops on either side of the street. Another street running east and west intersects this main street and the remains of a monumental palaestra is to be found on its western extension. Measuring 76 by 76 meters in size, this structure is in a very good state of preservation. The building was dedicated by C. Cortunus to the emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) At the western extremity of the street adjacent to the city walls are the ruins of baths. These two main streets thus divide Perge into four quarters. In the western section there is an episcopal basilica with a double nave. At the northwestern end of the street at the skirts of the acropolis is another nymphaion, a semicircular structure from the reign of Hadrian (130-150 AD).A statue of a river god was located in the center of this huge fountain, which measured 21 meters long and 37.5 meters wide and from which numerous examples of sculpture have been recovered. The acropolis of the city of Perge is located above the fountain.