Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Ancient city of Kibyra

Date of Submission: 13/04/2016
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Province of Burdur, Township of Gölhisar
Coordinates: X: 4116037.63 Y: 722498.15
Ref.: 6123

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The ancient city of Kibyra is located in township of Gölhisar on southwestern part of the province of Burdur, at a distance of ca. 110 km from the provincial center. The settlement is situated on hills just to the west of modern town. To the west of the city are broad pasturages and Akdağ mountains while the fertile plain of Gölhisar extends to the east, with the stream Dalaman running through it. The Lake Gölhisar and the Mount Koçaş to the east of the plain presents a wonderful sight from the ancient city. The surroundings of the city was located on the crossroads of Phrygian, Carian, Lycian and Pisidian cultures and of commercial routes running east-west and north-south directions. The modern Gölhisar town is similarly located on the crossroads of southwestern Anatolia, lying in a distance of 110 km. from Denizli at the northwest, 130 km from Antalya at the south and 100 km from Fethiye at the southwest.

While the meaning of Kibyra is not known, it is suggested to be of Luwian origin, the language spoken widely in the western and southwestern Anatolia beginning from the Late Bronze Age, later being converted in Hellenic tongue to its present form. Naming of the region as Kibyratis reflects its political strength. In earlier times, as Herodotus tells, the region was called Kabalia.

We get the information on people living in the region from Strabo. He tells us Kibyrians descended from Lydians and settled in Kabalis and its surroundings. At the beginning of the Hellenistic period Pisidian immigrants from Milias and Termessos moved the settlement to a well-fortified area with a perimeter of 100 stadia (ca. 19 km). Thereupon the new, multilingual (Lydian, Solymian, Greek and Pisidian) and multicultural (Kabalian and Pisidian) city of Kibyra is founded. Though Strabo does not indicate any date for the events, the first settlement seems to have been located on the rocky hills around Lake Gölhisar in modern Uylupınar Village, 18 km away from Kibyra. The remains at those hills go back to Early Iron Age and attest to a continuous occupation, which led to suggest it was the earlier settlement of Kibyrians, who are thought to move to the present city around the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Strabo tells us the city was strengthened thanks to its powerful justice system and established a tetrapoleis federation with Boubon, Balbura and Oinoanda. Named as Kibyratis the federation granted double voting right to Kibyra while the rest had single each. Tetrapoleis was abolished by the Roman General Murena in 84-83 BC and Kibyra was included in the province of Asia, whereas other partners were annexed to the province of Lycia. Another event where Kibyra was mentioned is the earthquake that occurred in 23 AD. The remarkable damage was mitigated thanks to financial support from Tiberius, wherewith the city started to be called Caesarea Kibyra in honor of the emperor. After another earthquake badly shook the city in 417 AD, buildings couldn’t be repaired extensively as before, partly due to worsening economic conditions. Gradually shrinking, the city seems to have been abandoned in the 8th century and settlers continued to live in Horzum, the present-day Gölhisar.

The main factor defining the form of the settlement is the earthquakes. Two earthquakes among the recorded ones in ancient sources are important, one in 23 A.D. and the other in 417 A.D. The former mostly destroyed the Classical and Hellenistic early city, which was rebuilt under the architectural influence and with the support of the Rome.

Entrance to the site is provided by Savran Gut which starts from the district boundaries today. The ancient road can only easily be followed after the 200 m. inside from the gut till the monumental arch which has taken its latest form by the late Roman period repairs. On both sides of the ancient road are found necropolis area which is mostly composed of sarcophagus.

Beginning from the Monumental Arch that stresses the entrance to the city, public buildings on the main hill, namely Stadion, Basilica, Agora, Theatre, Odeion, temples, fountains and Baths are oriented to the plain and the lake in the east and positioned in a way not to curtain each other. On the northern and southern slopes of the main hill lay Roman-type villas with peristyle courtyards, which also have a good view of the landscape. Below the limestone-paved streets run sewerage lines constructed with stone masonry and a water distribution network using terracotta pipes. The sewerage system is thought to begin somewhere near the pottery workshop quarter just above the theater. A series of sewerage pipes excavated below the Stadion surface reveal how waste water from above is drained so as to protect the venue from inundation. The city seems to have not needed a strong fortification system thanks to combination of rugged high terrain and military might, on the contrary to Strabo’s account of a strong defensive wall in its earlier times.

The first surveys on the city were conducted in the 19th century by T.A.B. Spratt and E. Forbes. First excavations in the city were done in 1988 and 1989 by the Directorate of Burdur Museum on Odeion building and in the tombs cut on the southern slopes of the main hill. In 2001 and 2002 another work was conducted by the Museum on the Necropolis Way at the Main Street for clearing and salvage purposes. Besides those tentative works, an epigraphical survey has been done since 1995. The first systematic and regular excavations were started in 2006 under direction of Burdur Museum and kept by Mehmet Akif Ersoy University’s Department of Archaeology starting from the year 2010. Till today excavations exposed the Stadion, Odeion, Agora, Roman Bath Complex and Necropolis of the ancient city. Considering the fact that neighboring Oinoanda had a philosophical tradition as attested in the monumental inscription of indigenous Roman philosopher Diogenes’ thoughts, traces of a similar rhetorical tradition can be expected from Kibyra.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Kibyra exemplifies a successfully Romanized provincial power, with a strong army, municipal facilities, well-established administrative and judicial institutions, flourishing industries and Roman-taste entertainment like gladiator fights. The constructors were challenged by uneven terrain of the city, who managed to provide a good view of the surrounding territory for each building, resulting in a sense of monumentality at the same time. The regularity in urban plan, the glory in monumental architecture and technical uniqueness of artwork in the structures reaches to a highly regarded unity within the city, which today releases valuable information about urban development phases and land use pattern and traditions since antiquity as well as the sense of art of the time.

Odeion is one of the most impressive buildings to be found in Anatolia with its 52,5 cm façade and seats for 3600 people and for the fact that such big space was roof-covered and heated. The unearthed findings especially the roof tiles and wooden and metal pieces provide worthful information about roof construction techniques of ancient times. The structure remains mostly standing today except for some of its benches, the roof which was collapsed by a fire and its south room which got ruined due to an earthquake. The building also housed a universally unique Medusa mosaic on its orchestra section. The mythological figure, who was believed to transform whoever stares at her into stone, was composed of colored marble plaques (red, green, gray and blue-veined white marble) much larger than usual mosaic pieces (tesserae). This Opus Sectile technique is attested to have been employed for the first time in a Medusa figure, with tiny details of her physique and ornaments including winged headpiece, the curly hair and snakes. Another unusual feature of the Odeion is the intact 550 m2 mosaic pavement that lay in front of the building. It is the largest and completely preserved Anatolian mosaic exhibited in its original place. Resources available for the artisans made possible experiments on decoration as seen in the lavish mosaic pavement and opus sectile Medusa mosaic in the Odeion.

The 195-meter-long Stadion is among the largest and best preserved stadia in Anatolia with seats for around ten thousand audience. It housed sports events and gladiator fights very popular during the Roman Imperial Era, a fact supported by employment of fight scenes on oil lamps and figurines and especially two sets of friezes depicting gladiators in various actions in comic-strip fashion including training, arena fight and animal combat, which belonged to two monumental gladiator tombs that with other tombs flank the Necropolis Way leading to the Stadion. Those frieze scenes present significant evidence on details of wooden constructions used in arena fights. In the right middle of the west benches, a section was reserved for the protocol which cannot be seen in many other stadions.

Among other worth-seeing places in the city is the Agora, designed around a colonnaded street flanked by shops. A monumental portal with lion and winged human motifs opens to the street. A gameboard of the 2nd century AD incised on a marble block that was discovered in the Agora and a circular marble dining table found in a food shop in the Eastern Roman level, with circular recesses for placement of food for at least ten people, give a glimpse of the daily life.

Ancient sources give a prosperous image of a Kibyrian society thriving at iron and leather industry and horse breeding. Strabo’s mention of a large number of cavalry and infantry units provided by Kibyra to the tetrapoleis is supported by a commemorative text inscribed on the pedestal of a monument in the Agora commissioned by the guild of leather workers. The extent of metal manufacture is evident by the considerable number of metal artefacts found in the excavations. The leather and metal supply was significant for maintenance of a strong army.

Criterion (iii): Kibyra presents a populous Roman city descending from a remote past going back into the Early Iron Age (8th century BC). Altogether the city planning and buildings present a good example of a Romanized eastern province, with its powerful army and justice system endorsed by the wealth growing out of various industries. Considering the political and financial power held by the city already in its tetrapoleis times during the Hellenistic period, it should not be surprise we are dealing with a cosmopolitan society as indicated by Strabo.

Criterion (iv): The grand scale of and lavish ornamentation employed in the public buildings in Kibyra, mostly dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, makes the ancient city stands out among the neighboring cities. Its long, U-shaped Stadion with a monumental portico counts among the largest stadia found in Anatolia. Having such large stadion and also a theater with seats for at least five thousand people points to Kibyra’s role as a center where regional festivals were held. A central role could also be inferred from the large size of the Odeion, as a judicial court and concert hall serving the region. The Medusa mosaic within the Odeion and the mosaic pavement in front are among universally recognized artworks which are also among the treasured remains as they reflect the art traditions of antiquity.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The property was registered for the first time on the national inventory as the first degree archaeological conservation site in 1986 by the decision of Higher Council for Protection of Immovable Cultural and Natural Heritage. Stadion, Agora, Theatre and Memorial Tomb were registered by the same decision as the cultural properties to be protected. The property boundaries were revised and the third degree archaeological conservation zone was defined at the westward of the property based upon the decision of Antalya Council for Protection of Cultural and Natural dated 2005. The boundaries took its final shape by the decision of the same council in 2014. 1/5000 and 1/1000 scale conservation development plans covering both conservation areas and their buffer zone are produced by Gölyazı Municipality and approved by the conservation council on the 30th of November, 2015.

The Odeion, Stadion, Roman Bath Complex, Agora and Theater of the ancient city have been preserved in very good condition. The high degree of completeness of the structures and discernibility of the all architectural elements give the assurance of integrity of Kibyra. No restoration program exists in the city which provides it with a pure originality and authenticity. Though systematic excavations in Kibyra has been going on only for ten years, the city has already yielded a considerable number of remarkable finds and it promises more in the years to come.

Comparison with other similar properties

As being located in the crossroads of cultural and trading routes of Phyriga, Karia, Lycia and Psidia, Kibyra could follow the art movement and construction activities which developed especially in the 2nd AD in its surrounds. Therefore, it hosts many architectural components and finds similar to those located in many prominent ancient cities like Perge, Hierapolis, Laodikeia and Sagalassos. However, what makes Kibyra a featured ancient city among others is its cultural identity created by monumental scale of the monuments and the uniqueness of the artworks in the city.

Outside their home countries, people of Lydian origin along with rebellious Pisidian tribes from Milias and Termessos established a settlement that grew larger with time surpassing the population of many neighboring cities, like Sagalassos, Oinoanda, Boubon etc. As a regional power it assured the maintenance of Pax Romana through its military and financial power, constituting a successful provincial administration in southwestern Anatolia, as Palmyra did in Syria and Leptis Magna in Libya. On the contrary to those provincial cities Kibyra administered its territory from a rugged and high terrain in accordance with local conditions.