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Ancient City of Stratonikeia

Date of Submission: 13/04/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Province of Muğla, District of Yatağan
Coordinates: N 37 18 47 E 28 03 55
Ref.: 6041

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Stratonikeia is located in the borders of the Village of Eskihisar, 7 kilometers west of the district of Yatağan in the province of Muğla. It lies on Kadıkule Hill in the west of the fertile Yatağan Plain at the crossroads of main routes that connect western, central and southern Anatolia with each other. Stratonikeia, inhabited continuously from the Late Bronze Age (1500 BC) to the present day, is one of the most important city-states in inner Caria. The name of the settlement was Atriya in Hittite Period, Khrysaoris and Idrias in Classical Period and Stratonikeia in Hellenistic Period. The name of the Hellenistic city was given by the Commander Seleucid Antiochus I, after the name of his former stepmother and later wife Stratonike in the first quarter of the third century BC. In subsequent periods, Stratonikeia changed hands among Ptolemaics, Macedonians and Rhodians. In 130/129 BC, the region became a part of the Roman Republic (then Empire). It benefited greatly from the continuous construction efforts that began with the Early Imperial Period.

From the Early Byzantine Period the population started to decrease and during the Middle Byzantine period the city continued to shrink. After the conquest of Anatolia, the Turkish tribes extended as far as southwestern Anatolia at the end of 11th century. Stratonikeia was continuously inhabited in the Principalities Period in the 14-15th centuries and afterwards. Over time it came under the control of the Ottoman administration and was decorated with many magnificent noble architectural buildings. It is known that many aghas (landlords) were present at the village in the late Ottoman Period and to the new era of Turkish Republic. Although Eskihisar Village has moved to a new area after the earthquake in 1957, 4 families still remain in the historical village houses within the territories of the ancient city.

The borders of Stratonikeia are well known, thanks to the fortification walls (about 3600 m. long) and size of the city can easily be determined. It is known that throughout history Stratonikeia suffered from many earthquakes and was rebuilt numerous times. Indeed, civic planning during the Hellenistic and Roman Periods was highly organized. The city was designed on a Hippodamian plan in the Hellenistic Period and the same plan was continued in the Roman Imperial Period. The infrastructure (e.g. sewage) system of the city was worked to perfection.

Structures in Stratonikeia:

The Gymnasium was built near the northern wall to the southwest of the northern city gate in the 2nd quarter of the 2nd century BC. The north side forming the narrow façade is 105 m wide. The total length of the building is estimated to be 267 m. Hence it is the largest known gymnasium from the Ancient Period.

Bouleuterion, located at the center of the city, was built in the east-west direction and has a rectangular plan. Based on the architectural elements and decoration, the building can be dated back to the second half of the 1st century BC.

The theater was built on a natural slope of the Kadikule Hill in the southern part of the city. The Greco-Roman type of theater is one of the structures known to date from the Hellenistic period. Based on the estimations through its present day remains, it must have hosted approximately 12.000 people.

Augustus-Imperial Temple is situated on an upper terrace south of the theater and gives the impression of being designed together with the theater. The peripteral temple is of Ionic order. Based on its architectural fragments, it dates back to the Early Imperial Period.

Roman Bath 1, constructed in the 2nd century AD, is one of the three baths in Stratonikeia indicated by the inscriptions. The building, constructed on the north-south axis, has a symmetrical plan as a part of Carian tradition. It is composed of apoditerium, frigidarium, tepidarium and at least 6 service rooms, all of which are symmetrically organized.

The Northern City Gate located on the northern fortification wall is where the sacred road coming from the Lagina Hekate meets the city. Therefore, it is of great importance both as an entrance and a ritualistic place. According to archaeological evidence, the gate must have been built in the Late Antonine-Early Severan period. The northern city gate has a monumental arched entrance on either side. Between the two entrances facing the city there is a Monumental Fountain having semi-circular pools decorated with two-tiered columns and statues in Corinthian order.

The Colonnaded Northern Street, which is 8.70 m wide, begins from the south mid-section of the open area in front of the northern city gate and continues towards the city center. In front of the gate is a 42 m wide open space surrounded by 8 monumental Corinthian columns and there are shops on the west. This was a gathering place for people who entered the city and those who came from the city to use the fountain.

The Square of old Eskihisar Village is located to the west of the ancient city, approximately 50 m east of the western fortification wall. Here the Turkish Bath (14-15th centuries), Şaban Ağa Mosque (1876), 10 coffeehouses, 5 butchers, 2 bakeries, 2 tailor shops and 20 various shops (from the first half of 20th century AD) can be seen from the Principalities, Ottoman and Republican periods. The monumental sycamore trees, which are more than 200 years old, enhance the beauty of the square. The stone paved roads and the sidewalks of the Ottoman period seen in the village square and in front of the shops are well preserved. Buildings of the old village of Eskihisar are remarkable examples of civil architecture. It is observed that blocks of classical antiquity were re-used as construction materials in many of those buildings. Most interesting examples of re-using those ancient materials are the house of Abdullah and Hadi Eskişar (constructed in 1876) and the house of Mehmet Eskişar (constructed in 1909). In both Agha houses, marble pieces derived from the marble blocks of antique buildings are re-used inside the whole wall pattern with bricks. Another example of a typical Agha house is the Hasan Şar House which was constructed in 1940. The building materials of this house with a hipped roof are rubble stones, ancient marble fragments and bricks. It was used as an excavation house until 1999. Today it serves as Museum store.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Stratonikeia, which hosted many civilizations from antiquity to modern times, is one of the significant archaeological sites in Asia Minor and has unique characteristics. The city continuously developed during the Classic, Hellenistic and Roman Imperial periods and gradually became a center of trade, art and culture. Today it is a significant and unique example as a settlement that keeps the characteristics of culture of different civilizations, succeeds to preserve its main structure and shows an entirety.

Ancient writers Herodotus (v, 118), Strabon (xiv, ii, 25), Pausanias (5, 21, 10) and Stephanus of Byzantium (Ethnica 696) mention a settlement here named Khrysaoris or Idrias. The settlement was transformed into a city in the Classical Period. In the early 3rd century BC, it was converted into a city- state by Seleucid King Antiochus I after the name of his wife Stratonike. During the Hellenistic Period the construction of the city was conducted on the basis of a grid plan and it was embellished with major architectural monuments built of white marble. After changing hands among different powers, it eventually became a regional centre until Late Roman era. Buildings from the antique period show that the city was a lively, wealthy and active center.

Stratonikeia was not only important in antiquity but also in Seljuk and Ottoman Periods. Encompassing an area of about 720 square kilometres, it is one of the places where buildings from the classical antiquity as well as the Ottoman and Turkish Republican periods can be observed. Buildings from different periods located in the center of the city were connected to each other with stone-paved roads, which have inclinations to the side or to the center for rainwater drainage, from the Ottoman Period. Thus, a visitor has the opportunity to see many structures belonging to different periods while walking on the stone-paved streets from the Ottoman period.

The city has substantial amount of inscriptions in Greek, Latin and Ottoman which provide information about social and economic facts from different periods. But two examples on north anta wall of the Bouleuterion are rare inscriptions that were ever found in Turkey. The one on the interior façade of the north anta is a calendar which is made by Menippos, a native of Stratonikeia and according to Cicero one of the most distinguished orators of his time, in Greek dating back to the beginning of the first century B.C. The calendar carries the names and day numbers of 12 months for the year 1505 indicating the year of foundation of the city. The other inscription on the exterior façade is in Latin showing the price list of merchandises and services in Stratonikeia in Roman period in 301 A.D. Hence, the sales in the city remained under control and inflation was prevented. This inscription is the best preserved example in Asia Minor and the only one carved on a wall of a boluleterion.

Stratonikeia has two major holly sites dedicated to Zeus and Hekate, the goddess of magic, moon, ghosts and necromancy. It was famous for the rituals held in the city centre and in the sacred sites. Two of these rituals are well-known. One of these rituals was the key carrying ritual that included walking for about 9 km from Lagina Hekate sacred site to Stratonikeia. The second was the carrying of the Zeus statue between Stratonikeia and Panamara Zeus-Hera sacred sites.

Stratonikeia has been known as the city of eternal love and gladiators throughout the ages. It was a center where gladiators were trained, did demonstrations and spent their life after retirement. Sport was clearly important to Stratonikeans, who built what might be the largest gymnasium in antiquity in the 2nd century B.C. just west of the north gate. The 105 meter wide and 267 meter long complex served both as a sports center and a classroom, where history and philosophy classes were given in the past.

Criterion (ii): Being inhabited interruptedly for more than 3500 years, Stratonikeia (Eskihisar) reflects the interaction among different cultural and architectural elements that belong to different periods. The prominence of this settlement is defined by the integrity of the architectural elements from both the antiquity and vernacular architecture as well as its continuity while the existing village of Eskihisar lays upon the settlement of Stratonikeia of antiquity. In fact, the ancient city of Stratonikeia and the old village of Eskihisar are not independent examples of two different civilizations, but they are integral parts of a heritage formed by the people who lived in different periods.

Criterion (iv): Stratonikeia is home of unique and magnificent structures dating back to Archaic, Classic, Hellenistic, Roman Imperial, Byzantine, Principalities, Ottoman and Turkish Republic periods. Examples of the public, religious and civic structures seen at ancient sites in Turkey are represented in Stratonikeia. As the one of the world’s largest ancient cities made of marble, Stratonikeia is one of the precious settlements with its monumental buildings such as the gymnasium, bouleuterion, theatre, bath complexes, northern city gate and fountain. Apart from the ancient structures, buildings of the old village of Eskihisar are important examples of Principalities, Ottoman and Turkish architecture. The agha houses from the 19th and 20th centuries and the buildings define the city’s Bazaar are the products of an assembly of integration, where different cultures come together. The well-planned village square has survived until today with its characteristic structure comprising Turkish Bath, Şaban Ağa  Mosque,  coffeehouses,  bakery  and  various  shops,  monumental  plane  trees  and  the  best preserved stone pavement road known from the Ottoman period with sidewalks. The site embodies a combination of man-made monumental grandeur and elegance, as well as the beauty of natural environment.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The integrity and authenticity of Stratonikeia can be easily understood from its remains, ancient records and documentation. The property has been conserved appropriately to the Law on the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Property since it was registered as an archaeological site with the decision of the Superior Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1982. The site has been regularly controlled and monitored by the State in order to sustain its cultural values. 

The first scientific excavations at the site began in 1977 under the direction of Prof. Dr. Yusuf Boysal. Since 2008, researches, excavations and restoration works have been carried out by Prof. Dr. Bilal Söğüt. The excavated monuments are part of the conservation program and are constantly monitored and maintained. Conservation and restoration works have been concentrated on preserving ancient Stratonikeia and the old village of Eskihisar in a holistic approach.

In  respect  of  the  integrity  and  coherence  of  ancient  city  and  old  Turkish  village  architecture, Stratonikeia is one of the rare examples in our country as Ancient City of Stratonikeia and Village of Eskihisar significantly retain their original architectural characteristics. The city offers visitors a unique experience of seeing its monumental ancient structures and examples of architecture from Late Ottoman – Early Republican Period on the either side of stone paved Ottoman streets. Walking along the streets of Stratonikeia is like travelling in a time tunnel that one can see many structures from the Hellenistic, Roman, Ottoman and Turkish Republican period.

Comparison with other similar properties

Unlike most of the coastal sites such as Ephesus, Miletos, Kaunos, which were slowly deserted as the area silted up, being well inland Stratonikeia was in use as a settlement up until today. This situation has been instrumental in the emergence of a unique mix of ancient buildings and examples of Turkish architecture. No other ancient city like Stratonikeia exists where one can see the ancient ruins by walking on stone-paved Ottoman streets and sidewalks.

Gymnasium is one of the most important and indispensable public buildings in a city in Classical Antiquity. The gymnasium in Stratonikeia comes to the forefront of its kind as the largest structure in Ancient Period. The bouleterion, with its two inscriptions on the north anta, the calendar made by Menippos and the price list of merchandises and services in Stratonikeia as well as with the floral ornamentation and inscriptions from the Ottoman Period on the southern wall, is an extraordinary example of its kind. Northern City Gate and Fountain is considered as an architectural wonder with its mirable combination of Doric external and Corinthian internal orders in the same structure, two monumental arched entrances on the either sides, two-floor monumental fountain decorated with sculptures in the middle and the square in front it. Although there is a slightly similar example in Perge, Northern City Gate and Fountain in Stratonikeia is the only known example in terms of its monumental scale and design.

In ancient times, Ephesos and Miletos were famous with their sacred sites Artemision and Didymaion and annual festivals and rituals held in these sites. Similary Stratonikeia, which is the only known state-city with two major holly sites dedicated to Zeus and Hekate, was famous for the rituals and festivals held in the city center and in the sacred sites.