Aizanoi

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 39.202000, 29.609667

The most important reason of the Aizanoi's relative unpopularity among visitors is its remote location, in Kütahya Province, far away from the frequented tourist trails. This situation, paradoxically, is advantageous for the ancient city, as its great appeal depends mainly on the opportunity to wander among the ruins undisturbed by the crowds. As Aizanoi is now present on the Tentative List of the UNESCO's World Heritage List, probably not much time is left for those who wish to visit these splendid isolated remains of the Roman civilization in Asia Minor in relative solitude.

An acroterion from the Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi
An acroterion from the Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi

Historical overview: 

Aizanoi was the capital of the territory called Aizanitis, located in the area of Phrygia. The history of the city before the arrival of Romans are not well-known. Probably the settlement in this area started in the 3rd millennium BC. This is confirmed by the layers uncovered during the excavations conducted near the Zeus Temple. The name of the city might come from Azan, one of the sons of Arkas, who in turn was fathered by Zeus. His mother was Erato, the Muse of lyric poetry. These figures were reckoned to be the mythical ancestors of the Phrygians.

The political importance of Aizanoi increased during the conflict between the kingdoms of Bithynia and Pergamon. In 133 BC the city was conquered by the Romans. In early imperial period many monumental buildings were erected in Aizanoi and its public infrastructure was developed. The significance of Aizanoi resulted from its strategic location on the important trade routes that led through Asia Minor as well as the local production of cereals, wine and sheep.

In early Byzantine period Aizanoi became a bishopric, but after the 7th century AD its power decreased. In the medieval times the hill where the Zeus Temple stands was fortified. The erected citadel became the stronghold of the Çavdar family line of the Tatars who ruled in this region on the behalf of the Seljuq Empire. The family name is comemorated in the present name of the local village, called Çavdarhisar i.e. the Fortress of the Çavdars.

Archaeological research: 

In the modern era, the ruins of Aizanoi were discovered by European travellers in 1824. The first round of research started in 1830 and lasted until 1840. Systematic archaeological excavations began in 1926 under the supervision of D. Krencker and M. Schede from the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, DAI). The scholars focussed on the Zeus Temple and its surroundings, but after two years the work stopped.

After the long break of 42 years, in 1970 the archaeological excavations were resumed, also under German patronage. These studies have been continued until today, and their primary goal has been the close examination of many ancient structures discovered in Aizanoi, including the gymnasium, the stadium-theatre complex, and Roman bridges.

Many valuable artefacts unearthed in Aizanoi are now on display in the Archaeological Museum in Kütaha. The most spectacular among them is the sarcophagus with the scene of Amazonomachy i.e.the mythical battle between the Ancient Greeks and the Amazons.

Objects on site: 

Sightseeing: 

Archaeological sites in Turkey are frequently 'decorated' with the reconstructions of ancient structures that often simultaneously delight tourists and outrage historians. The Zeus Temple in Aizanoi is a rare example of an excellently preserved original ancient building. With the exception of three columns that were re-erected after the earthquake from 1970, this temple has remained in its splendid glory since the ancient times, untouched by modern construction teams. Read more...

The entertainment and cultural complex consisting of a theatre and a stadium is located in the northern part of Aizanoi. It signifies the importance of the city and the wealth of its inhabitants in the ancient times. The structure was erected with a large flourish in the Roman period, most probably after 160 CE. It was completed by the mid-third century. There is an inscription that attests that M. Apuleius Eurycles provided funds for the construction of this building. Read more...

There are two locations found in Aizanoi where Roman baths were situated. The first one is next to the road that leads from the Zeus Temple to the complex of stadium-theatre and the second one - in the area of modern Çavdarhisar village. Read more...

A circular macellum excavated in Aizanoi dates back to the second half of the 2nd century. This building has been identified as one of the oldest known commodity exchanges. The inscription on it wall provides the prices of all goods, which were traded there in Roman times, including slaves, horses, and food. This inscription is a copy of the Price Edict of Diocletian, from 301. It was created as an attempt to limit the inflation resulting from the debasement of the coinage.

In the area of Aizanoi, there are four Roman bridges, and two of them are still used by the local people. Travellers walk and drive over one of these bridges to reach the temple of Zeus. The bridges were built over Koca Stream, in ancient times known as Rhyndokos River.

Recent excavations have revealed the existence of a stoa from around 400 CE, and a colonnaded street. There is also a small bouleuterion near the Temple of Zeus.

Aizanoi's large necropolis includes door-shaped Phrygian tombstones with inscriptions that give the names of the deceased or the sponsor. The decorations include bulls, lions, and eagles - for the tombs of men, and baskets of wool and mirrors - for the women's tombs.

Visitor tips: 

The entrance to the Zeus Temple costs 5 TL (2017). Other areas of Aizanoi are accessible free of charge.

The site is open to visitors daily, from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm (from November to March it closes at 5:00 pm).

Numerous valuable artefacts discovered in Aizanoi by archaeologists are now on display in the Archaeological Museum in Kütahya. The most spectacular of them is a sarcophagus depicting the scene of Amazonomachy that is the mythical battle between the Ancient Greeks and the Amazons.

Getting there: 

By public transport: minibuses run from Kütahya to Çavdarhisar (1-hour ride) as well as buses from Kütahya to Gediz that pass Çavdarhisar.

By car: Çavdarhisar is situated near D240 road from Kütahya (62 km) to Uşak (94 km).

Accommodation: 

Nearest accommodation options are in Kütahya.

Bibliography: 

Image gallery: 

The Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi
The Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi
An inscription of the wall of the Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi
An inscription of the wall of the Temple of Zeus in Aizanoi
Aizanoi
Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman bridge in Aizanoi
Roman baths in Aizanoi
Roman baths in Aizanoi
Bouleuterion in Aizanoi
Bouleuterion in Aizanoi
Bouleuterion in Aizanoi
Bouleuterion in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Excavations in Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
The necropolis of Aizanoi
The necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Tombstones from the necropolis of Aizanoi
Theatre-stadium complex in Aizanoi
Theatre-stadium complex in Aizanoi
Theatre-stadium complex in Aizanoi
Theatre-stadium complex in Aizanoi
Archaeological Museum in Kütahya - the sarcophagus depicting the scene of Amazonomachy
Archaeological Museum in Kütahya - the sarcophagus depicting the scene of Amazonomachy
Archaeological Museum in Kütahya - the sarcophagus depicting the scene of Amazonomachy
Archaeological Museum in Kütahya - the sarcophagus depicting the scene of Amazonomachy