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Immerse yourself in 25 centuries of history as you explore the ancient city of Stratonikes, better known as the “ city of eternal love and gladiators.” Given its historical significance, the city is on the UNESCO tentative list for future World Heritage Sites.
Kusadasi or Bodrum
The Anatolian region is home to tens of historical ruins from different historical periods, but Stratonuikea is slightly different from the rest; the city is home to architectural structures from many periods in history. Archeologists have unearthed buildings from the archaic period, classic period, Hellenistic and Roman Periods, Byzantine, Ottoman, and the Turkish Republic periods.
Like a stone timelapse of Turkey’s rich history…
Early morning pick up from your accommodation base in the region. We can also conduct the day tour as part of a more extensive itinerary from Kusadasi or Bodrum.
The city of Stratonikea was founded during the reign of the Seleucid kings and is generally believed to have been the work of King Antiochus I Soter, who reigned in the 3rd century BCE. The king then named his new city after his wife, Stratonice.
The city was constructed on an older Carian town called Idrias (Chrysaoris), which had probably been in existence as early as the 5th century BCE and believed to be the first town in the region founded by the Lycian.
During its early years, Stratonikeia joined the Chrysaorian league, a union of Carian cities whose members’ voting powers were determined by the number of towns they possessed. It was home to a temple of Zeus where members of the league would meet and discuss important matters.
Under the Seleucid kings, the city grew, with its street seeing more splendid buildings. Then, in the late 3rd century BCE, the Rhodians took over and reigned over the city until the Romans declared the whole of Caria free at around 167 BCE. As a result, Stratonikeia started producing its coins.
The city then fell to the Romans at around 130 BCE after playing a significant role in a failed revolt against the Roman empire. Under its new masters, Stratonikeia continued to prosper, even withstanding a siege led by the Parthinian Quintus Labienus in 40 BCE. The Romans constructed some of the site’s most magnificent structures, including a theater large enough to contain ten thousand spectators.
Christianity was introduced in the city around the 4th century. However, Stratonikeia was still inhabited in the coming Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman ages, although its economic and administrative significance diminished over the centuries.
Today, the Turkish village of Eskihisar partly occupies the site that is slowly becoming one of the most important historical attractions in the region.
A few steps into the ancient site, and you can’t help but feel the air of immense historical magnitude imposed by the city of Stratonikeaia- after all, very few locations on earth have been inhabited continuously for 3,500 years (from the Late Bronze Age). You can still see the remains of the town’s fortification walls, which mark Stratonikeaia borders.
Must see structures in the city include:
This 2nd century BCE structure sits near the northern wall. With a total length of about 267 meters, the magnificent structure is, so far, the largest gymnasium in the ancient world.
Constructed a hundred years after the gymnasium, the Bouleuterion sits at the city’s center and displays some attractive Roman decorations.
There are three Roman Baths located in different city sections, the most impressive one being from the 2nd century.
The theater is arguably the most impressive structure in the city, where it proudly sits in the southern part on the slope of the Kadikule hill. Built in Greco-Roman style, archeologists estimate that the theater could host at least 10,000 and up to 20,000 eager spectators.
Augustus Imperial Temple
This building sits south of the theater from the early imperial period, although not much remains of the original structure.
Northern City Gate
The remains of the arched gate served as an entrance and ceremonial place. Between those sit the remains of a Monumental Fountain decorated with statues and two-tiered columns.
The Old Village of Eskihisar
Sitting west of the ancient city is the old village of Ekihisar. It is home to a 14th-century Turkish bath and 18th-century mosque, alongside coffeehouses, bakeries, butcheries, and shops. Most of these buildings date back to the Ottoman and Republic periods and are excellent examples of civil architecture. Some have even been built using re-used construction materials from classical antiquity.
The closest restaurant to Stratonikeia ancient city is the Urfa Lahmacun oasis (1.88 miles away).