Olympos

Location: 

GPS coordinates: 36.396667, 30.473056

The ancient site of Olympos lies 73 km southwest of Antalya and is an ancient Lycian-Roman town along the beach, named for nearby Mount Olympos and encompassed within the Olympos National Park.

Olympos
Olympos

Historical overview: 

The city, founded in the 3th century BCE, was a pilgrimage center for the temple of Hephaestus at nearby Chimaera reachable on a Roman paved road. Olympos was also one of the six leading Lycian League cities. Conditions deteriorated in the 1st century BCE, when pirates under the command of Zenicetes took control of Olympos and nearby Phaselis. The pirates disrupted coastal shipping and kidnapped local residents and travelers for ransom or to sell into slavery. In response in 78 BCE the Roman governor of Cilicia, Publius Servilius Vatia, accompanied by the young Julius Caesar, attacked the pirates and besieged Olympos. To avoid capture, Zenicetes burned up himself and his family. Servilius destroyed Olympos and declared the land of Olympos and Phaselis public property available for resettlement.

In 67 BCE the area became even more secure after Roman general Pompey the Great decisively defeated the Cilician pirates. When Lycia was formally brought into the Roman Empire as a province together with Pamphylia in 43, Olympos enjoyed a period of prosperity. Emperor Hadrian visited the city in 129 and constructed the granary on the south side of the river. Christianity developed early in Olympos and the city’s bishop Methodius became a leading author and theologian in the early church until he was martyred in 311 under Emperor Galerius.

Sightseeing: 

The necropolis on the south side of the river contains chamber tombs cut into the rock. Northeast of the necropolis lie remains of a small overgrown Roman theatre with an elaborate entrance. Northeast of the theatre stands a late Roman church. The Hellenistic quay on the south bank leads to ruins of a granary. At the edge of the beach along the mouth of the river near the southern entrance are two well-preserved tombs, one with a poetic inscription in memory of an ancient ship captain together with detailed carving of his beached boat.

A path north of the river leads to an attractive Ionic temple entrance with classic egg and dart border decorations. A dedicatory inscription on a statue base to Marcus Aurelius confirms that the portal was built in 172 AD. Nearby are also the remains of a Byzantine era basilica. When you walk further on the walkway in the north entrance direction one can find on the right the remains of several well restored buildings from the Roman/Byzantine era. On the other side of the river a path leads west to a Roman bath complex that is unfortunately heavily overgrown by nature.

Visitor tips: 

The entrance cost to the site of Olympos is 20 TL. Taverns, restaurants and hotel accommodation are in nearby Çıralı. The site can be reached from Çıralı by a short walk along the beach to the southern entrance or via a long drive around the mountain to the northern entrance.

Image gallery: 

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