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ASPENDOS (Belkis) Pamphylia, Turkey.

About 30 km E of Antalya, 13 km inland and on the Eurymedon river. Strabo (667) says it was founded by Argives; these may have been either an Argive contingent of the “mixed peoples” who settled Pamphylia under Mopsos, Calchas, and Amphilochos after the Trojan war, or later settlers in the 7th or 6th c. The connection with Mopsos is confirmed by the early name of the city, which appears on coins as Estwediiys; this derives almost certainly from Asitawandas, founder of the recently discovered city at Karatepe in E Cilicia, who describes himself in a bilingual inscription as a descendant of Mopsos (Muksos or MPS).

In 469 B.C. a Persian fleet and army collected at Aspendos was attacked and defeated on land and sea by the Athenian Kimon at the battle of the Eurymedon. This may have resulted in the enrollment of Aspendos in the Delian Confederacy; her name appears in the assessment of 425 B.C. though there is no evidence that she ever paid tribute, and in 411 the city was used by the Persians as a base. In 389 Aspendos was the scene of the murder of Thrasybulos by the local inhabitants (Xen. Hell. 4.8.30; Diod. 14.99).

On the arrival of Alexander in 333 the Aspendians at first offered to surrender their city, but later declined to accept his terms; upon being invested, however, they submitted meekly enough (Arr. 1.26-7). Under Alexander's successors, Pamphylia was claimed both by the Seleucids and by the Ptolemies; a 3d c. inscription of Aspendos confers citizenship on certain soldiers for their services to King Ptolemy (apparently Soter). On the other hand, about 220 B.C. the Aspendians contributed 4,000 men to Achaeus' lieutenant Garsyeris (Polyb. 5.73). After the battle of Magnesia in 190 B.C. Manlius Vulso, in the course of his march through Asia Minor, levied 50 talents from Aspendos (and a similar amount from the other Pamphylian cities), apparently as the price of Roman friendship (Polyb. 21.35; Livy 38.15). Described as populous by Strabo (667), Aspendos was unmercifully looted by Verres.

The coinage, which began in the early 5th c. B.C., continued abundant through the Imperial period. In the 5th c. A.D. Aspendos took for a time the name of Primupolis; the reason for this is not known, and in the Notitiae the old name is again in use.

The city occupies a flat-topped hill some 39 m high, divided into two unequal parts by a deep hollow. The sides are for the most part precipitous, but two gullies on the E side led to gates of which little now survives; a third gate near the N extremity is better preserved.

In the outer face of the E part of the hill is the theater, generally admitted to be the finest extant specimen of a Roman theater. Apart from the stage itself and the greater part of the decoration of the stage building, it is virtually complete. It faces a little S of E and is built of pudding-stone, with seats, floors, and facings of marble. It was constructed in the 2d c. A.D. by a local architect, Zeno, and was dedicated to the gods of the country and the Imperial House by two brothers, Curtius Crispinus and Curtius Auspicatus. Although the cavea rests on the hillside, the form of the building is essentially Roman; whether a theater stood on the spot in Hellenistic times is uncertain. The outer, E face of the stage building consists of a high wall pierced by a central door (later enlarged and now used for the admission of visitors) and two smaller doors on either side. Above these are four rows of windows varying in shape and size; above and below the top row are stone blocks pierced with holes for holding the masts which supported the awning (velum) over the cavea. At either end is an entrance for spectators; there are two other smaller entrances from the hillside at the back of the cavea, but the vaulted vomitoria familiar in Graeco-Roman theaters are lacking. The inner face of the stage building has the usual five doors opening onto the stage, and a row of smaller doors below to the space under the stage. The facade had originally two rows of columns in two stories, with niches holding statues; over each niche was a pediment supported by small columns. Of all this only those parts survive which were actually let into the wall. At the top is a large pediment containing a relief of Bacchus surrounded by flowers. Sloping grooves high up in the side walls indicate a wooden roof to the stage, possibly intended as a sounding board. The stage itself was some 6 m in depth from front to back and a little over 1.5 m in height. At either end an enclosed staircase led to the separate floors of the stage building. The cavea has 40 rows of seats, equally divided by a single diazoma; on some of them, names have been carved to reserve the places. At the top is an open passage backed by an arcade; this has been repaired more than once, most recently in the last few years. There are 10 stairways below the diazoma and 21 above it.

On the level ground to the N of the theater is the stadium, running roughly N and S. The N end is rounded, the S open, as at Perge. Under the seats was a vaulted gallery used apparently for the circulation of the spectators. On the outer E side, also as at Perge, is a row of chambers serving as shops; small windows in their back wall open to the vaulted gallery, which was thus not entirely dark. No starting-sill is preserved. A hippodrome is mentioned in an inscription (CIG 3.4342d), but has not been found; probably it was merely an open space without permanent seating.

The main part of the city stood on the hill to the W of the theater, separated from the theater hill by a deep depression. The ruins, all of Roman date, are impressive. The central feature is the agora, surrounded on three sides by public buildings. Of these the most conspicuous is a basilica on the E side; this is in two parts, a main hall of which only the foundations remain, and an annex at the N end still standing over 15 m high. The combined length is as much as 125 m. The annex has three doors communicating with the main hall, and another arched door on its N side; in its S wall are two windows, and four exterior buttresses support the W wall.

On the N side of the agora is an unusual building of uncertain use. It is nearly 15 m high and about 50 m long, but only 1.8 m thick. The back, facing N, is plain; on the front, towards the agora, are two horizontal rows of five niches; in the lower row the larger middle niche is pierced by a door, while the others have openings later blocked up. Embedded in the wall above these niches are the remains of an entablature which was carried on columas arranged in pairs; of these only the bases survive. The building has been supposed to be a nymphaeum, despite the total absence of the necessary pipes, basins, and other apparatus; the only tangible evidence for the identification is a dolphin's-head spout found on the spot, combined with a general resemblance to the facade of other nymphaea, and the fact that the aqueduct, so far as preserved, leads towards it. Others have thought it a purely ornamental facade, designed, in the absence of the usual stoa, to bound the agora on the N.

Facing the basilica across the agora is a long market hall, comparatively poorly preserved. It was in two stories, with a row of shops backed by a gallery. The stoa in front of it is now destroyed, but its position is marked by a line of steps.

Near the NW corner of the agora is another building of uncertain purpose. It is some 48 x 27 m and is rounded at the E end. A covered theater or odeum has been suggested, or perhaps a council house, but there is no provision for seating. The suggestion that it was a gymnasium is equally doubtful.

The fine aqueduct, certainly among the most interesting that survive from the Roman period, brought water to the city across the marshy land from the hills to the N. The water channel, formed of pierced cubical blocks, was carried on arches which served at the same time as a viaduct. By the foot of the hills on the N, and again close to the city, it was carried up to towers about 30 m in height, descending again on the other side. Both towers and most of the arcade, less than 0.8 km long, are well preserved. At the top of each tower the water ran into an open basin, thus releasing the air from the pipe to afford a freer flow; the additional height prevented loss of pressure on the far side of the basin. After rising to the rim of the acropolis, the aqueduct ran across the flat summit towards the city center, but in this part it is now destroyed and the meager traces of its course do not allow a reconstruction of its form. The building of this aqueduct is alluded to in an inscription (BCH 10.160.8) recording a munificent gift by a certain Tiberius Claudius Italicus “for the introduction of water.” It dates to the 1st or 2d c. A.D. and refers evidently to the original construction. What provision was previously made for a supply of water does not appear; perhaps the river sufficed.

In the lower part of the city, S of the theater, are two large buildings close together. Like the rest of the city they are unexcavated but are identified as baths, though here again there is no trace of water supply, or of any of the usual apparatus of baths.

The necropolis, or at least the main burial ground, lay beside a road that ran below the acropolis on the E. Here are several built tombs and one rock-cut, and in this region great numbers of funeral stelai have come to light. These have a characteristic form, with pediment and acroteria, and in most cases are inscribed merely with the name and patronymic of one or more persons; on some are carved a knotted ribbon. The names are written in the characteristic Aspendian script and dialect, and are largely Anatolian; they date in general to the Hellenistic period.


K. Lanckoroński, Städte Pamphyliens und Pisidiens (1890) I 85-124, 179MI; J. B. Ward Perkins, “The Aqueduct at Aspendos,” BSR 23 (1955) 115-23; G. E. Bean, Turkey's Southern Shore (1968) ch. 5MI.


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