ASPENDOS & PERGE

Originally established by the Hittites circa 1500 BCE, the ancient city of Perge witnessed two golden ages:  the Hellenistic period (second to third centuries BCE) and again under the Romans (second to third centuries CE).  Most of the ruins at Perge date from the Roman period, first excavated by Turkish archaeologists in 1946, and a selection of the statues discovered—many in stunningly magnificent condition—are now on display in the Antalya Archaeological Museum.

The theater and stadium, each of which sat upwards of 12,000 spectators, appear along the access road before you reach the site itself.  Inside the site, walk through the massive Roman Gate with its four arches; to the left is the southern nymphaeum (a monument consecrated to the water nymphs) and well-preserved baths, and to the right stand the remnants of a large square-shaped market or agora.  Beyond the Hellenistic Gate, with its two huge towers, is the fine colonnaded street, where an impressive collection of columns still stands.  The water source for the narrow concave channel running down the center of the colonnaded street was the northern nymphaeum, which dates from the second century CE.  From here, follow the path to the ridge of the hill with the acropolis.

Christian tradition holds that Saint Paul began his journey in Perge in 46 CE, after preaching his first sermon here.  During the Hellenistic period, Perge was one of the richest and most beautiful cities in the ancient world.  The area is most famous for the temple of Artemis, located inland for defensive purposes to avoid the pirate bands that long terrorized this stretch of the Mediterranean coast.  In the first half of the fourth century, during the reign of Constantine (324-337 CE), Perge became an important center of Christian practice after Christianity had became the official religion of the Empire.  Perge retained its status as a Christian center through the fifth and sixth centuries.

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