Aspendos Roman Theatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Aspendos Roman Theatre

Buyukbelkiz, Mediterranean Region, Turkey

Aspendos Roman Theatre is a large and beautifully preserved Ancient Roman site in Turkey.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Aspendos Roman Theatre

Aspendos Roman Theatre is a beautifully preserved Ancient Roman site in Turkey. In fact, it seems to be almost completely intact.

Still able to seat up to 15,000 people this Roman amphitheatre was once part of the city of Aspendos, which was founded by Ancient Greeks from Argos and was first written about by the Hittites in 800 BC.

Under the Romans, the city grew even more prosperous and Aspendos Roman Theatre was built there during the mid-second century AD.

Aspendos Roman Theatre history

The theatre was built during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (160 to 180). Thanks to inscriptions on its walls, we know exactly who designed it: Zenon, son of Theodorus. The inscriptions also tell us that the Greek architect, who was born in Aspendos, was funded by two rich brothers.

Another legend follows that the theatre resulted from a competition organised by the ruler of Aspendos, the prize being the hand of the ruler’s daughter. The acoustics of the theatre supposedly impressed the ruler so much that its architect won the competition and married the ruler’s daughter in the theatre.

Despite being built during Roman rule, the theatre displays many Greek characteristics. The sheer scale of the Aspendos Theater is impressive. The overall width of the theatre is 96 metres, with other elements following general proportions: the width of the stage is half the width of the building, and the diameter of the orchestra is half the width of the stage.

The spectator tribune, meanwhile, is divided in two parts by a horizontal walkway called the diazoma.

The theatre is also known for its excellent acoustics and exquisite architectural ornamentation. The two-story stage building is particularly impressive and, like most of the theatre, has been exceptionally well preserved. This is largely due to the city’s continuous settlement through to the Byzantine and Seljuk periods. The Seljuks had used the theatre as a caravanserai, and restored the structure in the 13th century.

Aspendos Roman Theatre today

Visitors can wander around Aspendos Roman Theatre and it even plays host to an annual summer festival. Nearby are also the remains of an Ancient Roman aqueduct.

Today the Aspendos Theatre is still used for wrestling, live music concerts or dance shows. The lines of marble seats are built like the rings of an onion, in a perfect semicircle. There is an open stage and behind that the 3 storey, Corinthian-style stage building. All around it are a gallery of arcades – and everything is still in excellent condition.

This impressive site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.

Getting to Aspendos Roman Theatre

The Aspendos Theater is located in the ancient city of Aspendos, about 25 miles east of the modern city of Antalya, Turkey.