Aspendos

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Aspendos
Ἄσπενδος (Ancient Greek)
Aspendos Amphitheatre.jpg
The Roman theatre in Aspendos has been preserved remarkably well.[1]
Aspendos is located in Turkey
Aspendos
Shown within Turkey
Alternate name Aspendus
Location Serik, Antalya Province, Turkey
Region Pamphylia
Coordinates 36°56′20″N 31°10′20″E / 36.93889°N 31.17222°E / 36.93889; 31.17222Coordinates: 36°56′20″N 31°10′20″E / 36.93889°N 31.17222°E / 36.93889; 31.17222
Type Settlement

Aspendos or Aspendus (Greek Άσπενδος) was an ancient Greco-Roman city in Antalya province of Turkey. It is located 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) northeast of central Serik.

History[edit]

Aspendos theatre from the upper gallery
Aspendos theatre from the skene
Aspendos theatre seating from the side

Aspendos was an ancient city in Pamphylia, Asia Minor, located about 40 km east of the modern city of Antalya, Turkey. It was situated on the Eurymedon River about 16 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea; it shared a border with, and was hostile to, Side.[2] According to later tradition, the (originally non-Greek) city was founded around 1000 BC by Greeks who may have come from Argos. The wide range of its coinage throughout the ancient world indicates that, in the 5th century BC, Aspendos had become the most important city in Pamphylia. At that time the Eurymedon River was navigable as far as Aspendos, and the city derived great wealth from a trade in salt, oil, and wool.

Aspendos did not play an important role in antiquity as a political force. Its political history during the colonization period corresponded to the currents of the Pamphylian region. Within this trend, after the colonial period, it remained for a time under Lycian hegemony. In 546 B.C. it came under Persian domination. The face that the city continued to mint coins in its own name, however, indicates that it had a great deal of freedom even under the Persians.

In 467 B.C. the statesman and military commander Cimon, and his fleet of 200 ships, destroyed the Persian navy based at the mouth of the river Eurymedon in a surprise attack. In order to crush to Persian land forces, he tricked the Persians by sending his best fighters to shore wearing the garments of the hostages he had seized earlier. When they saw these men, the Persians thought that they were compatriots freed by the enemy and arranged festivities in celebration. Taking advantage of this, Cimon landed and annihilated the Persians. Aspendos then became a member of the Attic-Delos Maritime league.[3]

The Persians captured the city again in 411 B.C. and used it as a base. In 389 B.C. the commander of Athens, in an effort to regain some of the prestige that city had lost in the Peloponnesian Wars, anchored off the coast of Aspendos in an effort to secure its surrender. Hoping to avoid a new war, the people of Aspendos collected money among themselves and gave it to the commander, entreating him to retreat without causing any damage. Even though he took the money, he had his men trample all the crops in the fields. Enraged, the Aspendians stabbed and killed the Athenian commander in his tent.

When Alexander the Great marched into Aspendos in 333 B.C. after capturing Perge, the citizens sent envoys to him to request that he would not establish that he be given the taxes and horses that they had formerly paid as tribute to the Persian king. After reaching this agreement. Alexander went to Side, leaving a garrison there on the city's surrender. Going back through Sillyon, he learned that the Aspendians had failed to ratify the agreement their envoys had proposed and were preparing to defend themselves. Alexander marched to the city immediately. When they saw Alexander returning with his troops, the Aspendians, who had retreated to their acropolis, again sent envoys to sue for peace. This time, however, they had to agree to very harsh terms; a Macedonian garrison would remain in the city and 100 gold talents as well as 4.000 horses would be given in tax annually.

In 190 BC the city surrendered to the Romans, who later pillaged it of its artistic treasures.[4] Toward the end of the Roman period the city began a decline that continued throughout Byzantine times.

Roman structures[edit]

The Basilica

Aspendos is known for having the best-preserved theatre of antiquity. With a diameter of 96 metres (315 ft), the theatre provided seating for 7,000.[5]

The theatre was built in 155[5] by the Greek architect Zenon, a native of the city. It was periodically repaired by the Seljuqs, who used it as a caravansaray, and in the 13th century the stage building was converted into a palace by the Seljuqs of Rum.[6]

In order to keep with Hellenistic traditions, a small part of the theatre was built so that it leaned against the hill where the Citadel (Acropolis) stood, while the remainder was built on vaulted arches. The high stage served to seemingly isolate the audience from the rest of the world. The scaenae frons or backdrop, has remained intact. The 8.1 metre (27 ft) sloping reflective wooden ceiling over the stage has been lost over time. Post holes for 58 masts are found in the upper level of the theatre. These masts supported a velarium or awning that could be pulled over the audience to provide shade.[5]

The Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival offers an annual season of productions in the theater in the spring and early summer.

Nearby stand the remains of a basilica, agora, nymphaeum and 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) of a Roman aqueduct. The Roman Eurymedon Bridge, reconstructed in the 13th century, is also in the vicinity.

Coinage[edit]

Aspendos was one of the earliest cities to mint coins. It began issuing coinage around 500 BC, first staters and later drachmas; "the hoplite on the obverse represents the soldiery for which Aspendus was famous in antiquity,"[7] the reverse frequently depicts a triskelion. The legend appears on early coins as the abbreviation ΕΣ or ΕΣΤϜΕ; later coinage has ΕΣΤϜΕΔΙΙΥΣ, the adjective from ΕΣΤϜΕΔΥΣ (Estwedus), which was the name of the city in the local Pamphylian language. The city's numismatic history extends from archaic Greek to late Roman times.[8]

Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival[edit]

The theatre hosts the annual Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival organized by Turkish State Opera and Ballet since 1994, with international participation of opera and ballet companies and an audience of about 10,000.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andreae, Bernard (1977). The Art of Rome. New York: H. N. Abrams. p. 567. ISBN 0-8109-0626-0. "The Roman theater survives virtually intact... scarcely another surviving theater gives a better impression of just how the Roman theater - a solid single unified structure - differed from the Greek theater, which was made up of separate structures juxtaposed but each isolated and complete in itself." 
  2. ^ Barbara Burrell, Neokoroi: Greek Cities and Roman Emperors (Brill, 2004: ISBN 90-04-12578-7), p. 189.
  3. ^ Holidays to Turkey info
  4. ^ In Verrem II. pp. 1. Chapter 53. 
  5. ^ a b c Roth, Leland M. (1993). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning (First ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0-06-430158-3. 
  6. ^ Scott Redford, "The Seljuqs of Rum and the Antique," Muqarnas, Vol. 10, Essays in Honor of Oleg Grabar. (1993), p. 151.
  7. ^ A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum (British Museum. Dept. of Coins and Medals, 1897), p. lxxii.
  8. ^ Asia Minor Coins - Greek and Roman coins of Aspendos

External links[edit]