The Best Greek Ruins in Turkey | Travel Guides | History Hit

The Best Greek Ruins in Turkey

History Hit

24 Nov 2020

There’s a host of top Greek ruins, sites and monuments to visit in Turkey and among the very best are Ephesus, Troy and Pergamum. Other popular sites tend to include Miletus, Priene and Myra.

We’ve put together an experts guide to Greek sites in Turkey, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of the best ancient Greek remains in Turkey, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

What are the best The Best Greek Ruins in Turkey?

1. Ephesus

Ephesus was a vibrant classical city, now bordering modern day Selçuk in Turkey and representing some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The site is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.

Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus, the ruins of which stand two storeys high, the Temple of Hadrian which was built in 118 AD, the classical theatre where it is believed Saint Paul preached to the Pagans and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers, so called because legend has it that the Romans locked seven Christian boys there in 250 AD, who only awoke in the 5th century. There is also a great museum displaying artefacts found in the old city. 

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2. Troy

Troy is one of the most famous and historically significant sites in the world. Imbued with several millennia of history and the subject of legend, Troy’s fame mainly derives from being the fabled location of the Trojan War. 

The vast ruins now found at Troy lay witness to thousands of years of history, with the oldest section dating back to the late fourth millennium BC. Remains of the famous walls of Troy, which played such an important role on the Trojan War, can still be seen at the site.

It is said that Alexander the Great visited Troy in 334BC, at the start of his campaign against the Persians. The Macedonian leader is believed to have paid his respects at the Tomb of Achilles.

Troy continued to maintain its status under the Romans, especially after it was identified as the location of Homer’s Iliad in 188 BC and the city was exempt from taxes. The site has a mix of Greek and Roman monuments, many built by prominent figures such as Alexander the Great and the Roman Emperor Augustus. 

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3. Pergamum

Pergamum is a famous archaeological site in Turkey which developed under the Attalid dynasty following the death of Alexander the Great. 

The ruins of are split into three main areas. In the Acropolis, one can find sites such as its library, gymnasium, very steep theatre and arsenal as well as the Roman Temple of Trajan. The other two areas of Pergamum are its lower city and its stunning health centre or Asclepion, where a variety of treatments were offered, such as mud baths. Pergamum has a small archaeological museum, with some of the finds excavated from the site.

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4. Miletus

Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still boasts an impressive ancient theatre among its ruins.

The 15,000-seater theatre is definitely the star attraction. One fascinating aspect of this theatre, other than its excellent state of preservation are the inscriptions which are said to reserve seating for certain groups, including one for “Jews and G-d fearers”. 

Though the site has suffered greatly through the centuries, there are a handful of other highlights to be found at Miletus. These include the small remains of a colonnaded covered walkway, the Baths of Faustina and a reasonably well preserved temple to Apollo.

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5. Priene

Priene was an ancient Greek city, the ruins of which lie between the popular holiday resorts of Kusadasi and Bodrum. Though smaller than other nearby historical attractions, the real charm of Priene lies in its quiet appeal and off-the-beaten-track atmosphere.

Today the ruins are located next to the modern village of Güllübahçe near the town of Söke. The site remains relatively free of tourists, though several tour companies offer trips from local resorts. Visitors can view the Temple of Athena, the ancient theatre and the well preserved council chamber. As well as these historic sites, visitors to Priene can simply wander the side streets and houses of this Hellenistic city to explore the ruins in peace and quiet.

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6. Myra

The ancient town of Myra in Lycia gives a unique insight into Turkey’s history and the many different civilisations which influenced the area.

Today a collection of ruins remain which give visitors the opportunity to envisage the bustling centre that is thought to have been established up to 2,500 years ago. Strolling through the Acropolis, the amphitheatre and the Roman baths, visitors can get a tangible feel for daily life in the ancient world.

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7. Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias was once a thriving Hellenic and Roman city in what is now modern day Turkey. Today it is an archaeological site, whose ruins include the remains of a beautiful ancient stadium.

Upon arrival to the ruins you will be greeted by the renovated Tetrapylon, a gateway of Corinthian style columns decorated with reliefs of the god Eros and goddess Nike. The Temple of Aphrodite would have been in the busy heart if the city. Originally over forty columns of the temple would have stood, a number of which have been realigned today, giving a great sense of the scale of the original building. 

The stadium, dating as a far back as the 1st century BC, is beautifully preserved and is one of the biggest ancient constructions still surviving with a capacity of 30,000. There is also an onsite museum featuring thousands of pieces of art and sculpture.

Other features of the ruins include the Odeon, the baths of Hadrian and the 8,000-seater ancient theatre which was adapted for gladiatorial combat in the Roman period. Also, look out for some of the over 2,000 Roman inscriptions still decipherable around the ruin.

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8. Assos

The city of Assos on the Aegean coast of modern Turkey was founded by Ancient Greeks sometime around the 7th century BC. Today the site, whose modern name is Behramkale, is a beautiful seaside resort littered with ancient ruins dating from the ancient Greek and Roman periods.

Perhaps the best known ancient site at Assos is the Temple of Athena, which is situated on the crest of a dormant volcano. It offers beautiful views of the area stretching as far as the island of Lesbos, which is just 12km across the sea, and also of other nearby ruins such as Pergamum. For the best views, stay until dusk or get up early to see the sun rise. Although little remains of the temple, it is the only Doric example in the Anatolian region.

Other sights to see in the town include the impressive ancient city walls, the Hellenic city gateway, the agora and the necropolis. Some of the ruins have been reconstructed.

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9. Sagalassos

Sagalassos is an active archaeological site in southwest Turkey which contains mostly Hellenistic and Ancient Roman historic ruins, some of them very well preserved. In particular, the Fountain of Antoninler at Sagalassos still has its pretty facade. There are also the remains of a 9,000 seat theatre, a council hall, a library, rock carved tombs, temples and baths.

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10. Laodikeia

Laodikeia was an Ancient Greek then Roman city, which is now represented by a set of interesting ancient ruins.

Among the ruins are the remains of the ancient theatre, which would originally have held up to 20,000 spectators. A few of the other ruins which can still be seen include the stadium and gymnasium (both 79AD), a baths complex and a Temple of Zeus.

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