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Ancient Wonders of Mediterranean

By Antalya Expert: Aykut, Turkey, July 2011

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Perge is one of the ancient cities in the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Perge was mentioned on a bronze tablet discovered in Hittite capital in 1964. The name of the city was written as Parha, which refers to today’s Perge according to the Hittite language. This bronze tablet was discovered in Hattuşa, Hittite capital, and dates back to 14 c B.C.

The ruins of Perge is located 20 km east of Antalya in a town named Aksu. When you arrive to Perge, the first thing you will notice is a monumental Greco-Roman style ancient theatre. This theatre was built in 4 c B.C. and rebuilt again in 2 c A.D. The stage of the theatre had two stories, and was decorated with statues and marble frieze. The frieze and several marble statues were taken to the Antalya Archaeology Museum.

Next to the theatre is the Roman Stadium of Perge. It was built in 2 c A.D. and is the second biggest ancient stadium in Turkey today. The seats and vaulted chambers are still well preserved. A small part of this stadium was used as an arena for gladiator shows and is inclosed by a huge wall. The chambers beneath the seats were also used as shops in ancient times.

The original entrance to Perge starts right after you pass the Roman Stadium of Perge. You will see the first monumental gate called the Roman Gate. This gate was decorated with statues of Roman Emperors and covered with marble slabs. The Roman Gate was built along the ancient city walls of Perge. After you enter the gate, you will walk into a large open square that was built during the time of Marcus Aurelius. This area was the public center of Perge and was surrounded by civil monuments. The square is called Septimius Severus Square.

On the left side of Septimius Severus Square stands the remains of monumental Nypmhaeum of ancient Perge. According to the inscriptions, the statue of Septimius Severus was discovered in Nymphaeum and this monument was built and dedicated for the emperor and his family. The water was collected in large marble pools in front the Nymphaeum.

Behind the Septimius Severus Fountain is a large public Roman Bath. The Roman Baths had a monumental entrance with eight columns, and today, some of the marble columns of the entrance are being restored. The Roman Baths of Perge consist of frigidarium, tepidarium and frigidarium. The walls of the bath were covered with different colors of marble. It is still possible to see the underground central heating system and the original furnace. This monumental Roman Bath was richly decorated with the statues of Roman Emperors and ancient gods. Today, most of the statues stand inside the Antalya Archaeology Museum.

The large Gymnasium-Palestra was built in front of the Roman Baths. The young boys of Perge used the baths after physical exercise in the gymnasium.

During the reign of Alexander the Great, two round towers were built. Behind the towers stands a large oval courtyard and the remains of the triple gate. The courtyard and the monumental entrance gate was built by Plancia Magna. She was one of the richest women in Perge and the daughter of a Roman governor. She built the city again after earthquakes destroyed Perge. Her statue was erected in different corners of Perge by the city council. The statue of Plancia Magna is currently displayed in the Antalya Museum.

Perge had a long marble street with many shops on both sides. A water channel was built in the middle of marble street to supply water for the city and the shops. At the end of marble street, a large monuental fountain was built. The walkways along the street were decorated with mosaic floor on both sides. A small church was built on marble street when Christianity become a popular religion in the Roman Empire. At the end of the colonnaded street, the small hill was the acropolis and the first settlement of Perge.

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