Imagine perfectly preserved remains of ancient buildings, beautifully situated on the cliff above the Mediterranean Sea. Add to this picture the largest Roman mosaic discovered in the Mediterranean region of Turkey, as huge as 150 square meters, surrounding the antique pool. Do not forget the impressive ramparts and towers around the acropolis hill. This sounds promising, right? You could suppose that described the place is the goal of many trips from the nearby Alanya - after all, is just 70 km drive on the good road, so what is the effort compared to a trip to Pamukkale or even Anamur? Meanwhile, we have good news for you - Antiochia ad Cragum, because this is the name of the site, is hardly visited at all. Most likely, if you decide on an expedition to this ancient city, you will be accompanied only by a herd of goats and a shepherd.
The city known as Antiochia ad Cragum was also called Parva Antiochetta or Antioch. The name is derived, as is also the case of other Antiochs, from the name of the Hellenistic ruler - Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who reigned over the state created by the Seleucid dynasty. The term 'ad Cragum' distinguishes this Antiochia from other cities with the same name and comes from the mountain Cragus (Kragos), on the slopes of which it was built.
Antiochia ad Cragum was founded around 170 BC. It is known that at the beginning of the first century BC the city served as a base for dangerous Cilician pirates who terrorised of the merchants in this part of the Mediterranean. The end to the piracy was put by famous Roman commander Pompey the Great, who in 67 BC defeated the bandits in a naval battle near Korakesion (which is now Alanya). Since the first century Ad both the city and the whole of Cilicia were incorporated directly into the Roman Empire.
In the Byzantine period Antiochia had the rank of the bishopric and the names of its five bishops are known. They took part in subsequent councils in Byzantium, from the First Council of Nicaea in 325 to the Fourth Council of Constantinople in 880. In the 12th century the town belonged to the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, and in 1332 it was captured by the knights of the Order of Malta. Finally, in the 15th century, the entire region of Cilicia, along with Antiochia ad Cragum, came under the rule of the Ottoman sultans.
Since 2005, research and excavations in Antiochia ad Cragum are conducted under the management of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 2012, the world's media were electrified by the news of the finding a huge mosaic depicting geometric patterns, dating to the Roman period. It surrounds the swimming pool which belonged to the bath complex and is a proof of the significant influence of Roman culture in this region of Asia Minor.
Antiochia ad Cragum was built on a mountain slope, next to steep cliffs descending straight into the Mediterranean. Between two promontories there was once a mighty harbour of the city - the source of its prosperity and a hideout of pirates.
Above the harbor, on one of the seemingly inaccessible peninsulas there are visible walls belonging to the fortress. It was probably erected at a time when the city was under the control of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. On the neighboring promontory the remains of the necropolis have been identified. The area of the fortress and the cemetery is very difficult to get to, and those unprepared for climbing are strongly advised to enjoying the view over these parts of the ancient city from the hill where the acropolis once stood.
In our opinion, the most interesting part of Antiochia ad Cragum is located near the access road where you can park your car. From this road the remains of Roman baths are clearly visible and this is the starting point of a sightseeing tour of Antiochia. In front of the baths the traces of an outdoor swimming pool are visible, around which the famous mosaic was found. Unfortunately, the mosaic itself cannot be seen as it was covered with sand after completing the excavation season, as the means of its protection.
If you continue to walk in the south-west direction, you will get to the acropolis hill. On the way you pass the colonnaded streets and the remains of a gymnasium and a basilica. Be careful as the area is often waterlogged. The closer to the acropolis, the path becomes steeper and overgrown by dense vegetation. Climbing the acropolis hill can be challenging, as you have to climb the rocks and watch your step. Your effort will be rewarded by the ruins of various buildings on the hill, and by stunning views of the Mediterranean coast, particularly the harbour of Antiochia and the promontories where the Armenian fortress and the remains of an ancient necropolis are visible.
After returning to the vicinity of Roman baths you can walk to the east, where the fragments of an ancient temple and ramparts with the ruined city gate are standing.
Antiochia ad Cragum area is not fenced-off, and sightseeing is free of charge. This is an area where new archaeological finds are constantly made. Remember not to disturb the researchers at work. On the other hand, in the area peacefully graze some goats that can get scared by unexpected visitors and jump out from behind the rocks.
During the tour, do not expect clearly marked paths and information boards. Be prepared to pass through the wetland area, the dense bushes and steep rocks. Take good trekking shoes and clothing that protects your legs.
By car: to reach the Antiochia ad Cragum a car is necessary. The ancient city lies to the east of Alanya (70 km) and Gazipaşa. Follow D400 route in the direction of Mersin and turn off it around 19 km east of Gazipaşa. The turn-off is located just before the village of Güney and marked by a brown signpost. From this junction to the ruins of Antiochia there are 6 km of narrow and winding but well-maintained road.