Located high in the mountains at Güllük National Park, the picturesque city of Termessos is perhaps one of the best preserved Roman/Hellenistic ruins in Turkey.
Founded by the Solyms, an ancient Anataolian community, the early history of the inhabitants of this city is relatively obscure, however it is known that the city successfully defended itself against Alexander the Great in c333 BC. The city later became an ally of Rome and was effectively part of the Roman Empire.
In addition to its natural defences the city of Termessos boasted an impressive gate, built in 130AD in honour of the Roman emperor Hadrian. As the city’s influence declined after the third century AD the three-arched opening to the gate was used less and less frequently, resulting in a perfectly preserved architectural monument, complete with reliefs and engravings that are visible today.
The theatre at Termessos is one of the most significant attractions at the National Park. With a capacity of 4,200 it suggests that the population at any one time was small, much smaller than the ancient theatres of neighbouring cities (for example the theatre at Perge held at least 12,000). The Gymnasium and cemeteries are also well worth a visit, the latter offering a diverse and richly decorated set of tombs.
Other ruins at Termessos include a large temple to Zeus Solymeus, which was originally decorated with ornate scenes of gods and monsters of which a few remains can still be seen. In addition there is a smaller temple, although it is not known what gods were worshipped here. Inscriptions on the northern stoa date to the first century AD and would have surrounded the central open space, originally used for markets and other public activities.
Today the site has fallen victim to its surroundings. The natural defences that were so essential in protecting the city from Alexander the Great have proved too effective and many of the ruins are now hidden beneath dense foliage; the “Royal Road” or “King’s Road” is almost impossible to make out due to the dense foliage that makes Güllük National Park such an exceptional natural wonder.
At an altitude of over 1,000m the ruins of Termessos are only accessible by a steep path, but one that winds its way up the Güllük mountainside, offering vistas of the National Park. Once at the site, many of the ruins require further trekking and it takes some time to explore it all; it’s therefore advisable to bring a lot of water. The National Park itself offers an ecosystem, home to many endangered species including the Golden Eagle. As such, it has been on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage since 2000.
Contributed by Ros Gammie