This article has been previously published as a part of book Antalya, Side and Alanya: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
On the road connecting the Mediterranean coast with the mountainous Pisidia, the remains of many ancient cities are scattered. In addition to these more widely-known among travellers, such as Sagalassos and Antioch of Pisidia, there are numerous ruins of settlements totally forgotten or very poorly known along this route. Ariassos, hidden between the mountains at an altitude of 950 meters above sea level, belongs to this second category but is definitely worth a visit.
Ariassos was located at the intersection of the roads linking Pamphilia and Pisidia, in the pass called Çubuk Boğazı. The strategic location of the city favored its development, which lasted from the 3rd century BC to the 7th century AD, i.e. from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine era.
On the pages of history the town appeared around 100 BC, when it was mentioned (as Aarassos) by a Greek geographer and explorer, Artemidorus of Ephesus. His writings about Ariassos were quoted a century later by Strabo. Besides, not much was written about Ariassos - the city was mentioned in the writings of Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD and it appeared on the list of Christian dioceses known as Notitiae Episcopatuum.
In the Hellenistic period Ariassos belonged to area under the control of the Kingdom of Pergamon. After the death of the last of its rulers, Attalos III, according to the will expressed in his testament, the area came under the Roman rule. During the reign of Emperor Augustus Ariassos was incorporated into the province of Galatia. Later it belonged to the province of Pamphylia Secunda, whose capital was in Perge.
The names of three bishops of Ariassos are known: Pammenius was a member of the first council of Constantinople (in 381), Theophilus took part in the council of Chalcedon (in 451), and Ioannes was one of the signatories of the letter addressed by the bishops to the Byzantine Emperor Leo I the Thracian (in 458).
The location of Ariassos ruins has not been a mystery to researchers since the late 19th century, when Karol Lanckoroński visited this site. However, this remarkable explorer and adventurer believed that his expedition found the remains of a town called Kretopolis or "city of Cretans". Lanckoroński prepared the description of the main visible structures of the city, which was published together with a sketch showing one of the local tombs in his classic publication "The Cities of Pamphylia and Pisidia".
In 1892, a French research expedition, led by Victor Bérard, made a groundbreaking discovery in the ruined city. They found the inscription which allowed the identification of this place as ancient Ariassos. However, the city had to wait nearly a hundred years, until 1988, for a systematic examination. Then it became of interest to the participants of an international research programme - Pisidia Survey Project, aimed at creating documentation of ancient cities in Pisidia. Works in Ariassos were conducted under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Mitchell of Swansea University in the UK. His team created a plan for the entire settlement and identified the remains of the most important public buildings, including - a theater, a nymphaeum, baths, a bouleuterion, a prytaneion and several necropoles. Near Ariassos 25 ancient inscriptions and the remains of three roads from Roman times were also discovered.
In the following years of the project the course of the ramparts at a distance of 500 meters was accurately traced. In the lower part of the city the remains of two basilicas from the early days of Christianity were identified. In 1990, during the works that were the continuation of the project, almost 500 meters of fortifications surrounding the city and two Christian basilicas in the lower part of Ariassos were discovered. The residential district, an aqueduct and a road that once connected Ariassos and Termessos, were studied. Through the efforts of the research team the general picture of the city's history and its importance in the history of the region were clarified.
The ruins of the city stretch between the slopes of two mountains, from the monumental gate to the old road to Termessos, on the distance of 600 meters. This monumental gate, built in the 3rd century AD, is the best preserved building in the city.
Other structures in the state of advanced destruction, are located on the slopes on both sides of the main road. These include a bouleuterion, a prytaneion and a small temple dating back to the Hellenistic period. However, most of the buildings identified in Ariassos are from the times of the Roman Empire. Among them it is worth noting an extensive nymphaeum and a complex of baths, as well as many houses, situated on a hillside.
In the area of Ariassos there are three necropoles - to the east, south and north of the center. Especially the latter one noteworthy, because of the numerous sarcophagi representing the so-called Pisidian style. Some of them have been carved from stone blocks.
Ariasoss ruins are not guarded and there is no entrance fee. Some information about the city is provided by an information panel in Turkish and English. Unfortunately, the translation into English seems to have been made by an automatic translator, so it is difficult to make some sense of it.
By car: Ariassos can only be reached with your own transport. The ruins lie near D650 road from Burdur to Antalya. To get to Ariassos turn off this road in the western direction nearby Dağbeli village (78 km south of Burdur 51 km north of Antalya). The turn-off is clearly signposted and Ariassos is just 600 meters away.