Ancient City of Anazarbos

Date of Submission: 15/04/2014
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
District of Kozan, City of Adana, Mediterranean Region
Ref.: 5910

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The property, known as Anavarza in Turkish, located within the boundaries of Dilekkaya Village today at 30 km south of the District of Kozan in Adana, is covering a 100 ha. area spread at the foot of a rocky (Dilekkaya) in 220 m. height. This rocky formation is an extension of the Taurus in the ‘Cilicia in plain’.

The noted first historical events about Anazarbos and its vicinity are dated back to the 1st century BC, extracted through the coins with the scripts of ‘Anazarbeon’. The Romans, who sovereigned the whole Mediterranean in this period, has left the ruling of the Ceyhan basin to an old pirate leader Tarkondimotos after the famous operation that General Pompeius subdued the pirates. Most of the pirates were killed, while the left were taken under control by settling them in a number of places. The capital of this region where Tarkondimotos has been appointed as a vassal king was Hierapolis-Kastabala. After a short period, in 19 AD, the city of Anazarbos was founded during the great Roman emperor Augustus’ visit to Tarkondimotos and its name was dedicated to Agustus as Kaisareia. By then, the capital Hierapolis-Kastabala kept its importance as a religious centre in the region, while Anazarbos started to coming into prominence as the political and economic centre of the Tarkondimotos Kingdom.

The mid of the 2nd century AD is the time that heyday of Anazarbos has begun. After the end of the civil war in Roman Empire in the end of the century, cities of Cilica Pedias (East Cilicia – Cilicia in plain) were considered ideal for billeting for Roman army during the war against Parths. Anazarbos, in this manner, has come into force as one of the cities where Roman army was supported logistically during Parth campaigns.

Emperor Septimius Severus, who was supported by Anazarbos during the civil war, honoured the city in return as “neokoros” in the years of 198 and 203, and as “metropolis” in 204. Subsequently, festivals and sport games namely “Severeia Olympia Epineikia” and “Severeia Philadelphia” were organized in honour of the emperor. While the city has the privilege for constructing the imperial cult by gaining the designation of “neokoros”, it has also been qualified for being the leader in the state assembly which started to gather in Anazarbos from 204. Traianus Decius, who was the emperor between the years of 249 and 251, entitled the city as “neokoros” for the third time and privileged it for arranging “Dekios Oikumenikos” games.

Heyday of Anazarbos continued forthcoming years and it achieved to be the most important city in the whole region. Prosperity emerged in the first half of the 3rd century AD reflected on the architecture of the city and resulted in raising a magnificent city also with the contribution of the emperors.

260’s is a period which the whole region was invaded by Sasanians. The King Shapur plundered many cities including Anazarbos and left quite deplorable marks in the region. However, activities and leadership claim of Anazarbos continued by then, even its competence with Tarsus lasted at the highest level. This competition is also stated as the reason for division of Cilicia into two states in the II. Theodisius period, as a result of which, Tarsus has been the capital of Cilicia Prima while Anazarbos has been the capital of Cilicia Secunda.

The city suffered from earthquakes in 525 and 561 and rebuilt by the emperors of the period, Justinius and Justinianus. During the 7th and 8th centuries AD it was invaded by the Arabs, and changed between the Byzantium and Arabs for the forthcoming centuries. In 964 it was seized by Nikephoros Phokas and taken within the boundaries of Byzantium again. In the 11th century, it was captured by the Armenians who came to Cilician plain escaping from Alparslan and recognized as the capital by I. Toros. Since 1375, after the conquest of the region by Memluks, Cilicia Plain has been inhabited by Turks.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Anazarbos, inhabited interruptedly for more than 2000 years, has brought the cultural traces of many significant civilizations of Anatolia such as Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Armenian. The city was one of the metropolises of the ancient time which gradually strengthened in Roman Times such that in the end of the 2nd century AD it was competing with Tarsus, the megacity of the ancient times. After division of Cilicia into two states Anazarbos became the capital of Cilicia Secunda, while Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia Prima.

Many monumental structures like triumphal arches, roads with columns, theatre, amphitheatre (which is among the few examples in the region), stadium, temples, sarcophagus, rock-cut tombs, chamosorion typed tombs and baths were constructed in this era. Especially, triumphal arch (namely Alakapi) located on the south is among the unique and colossal structures of antiquity with its distinctive architectural style. Additionally, Cardo Maximus (main road with columns) crossing the city on the north-south axis is one of the widest and longest roads of antiquity with the sizes of 34 m. width and 2.5 km length.

Recent excavations revealed that the magnificent colonnaded street extending to both the north and south ofAlakapı had originally been planned as a double road. As the main arch located in the middle ofAlakapı was allocated for traffic, there are no paved roads here. Under the smaller arches situated at both ends, lies the floor of the divided main street paved with large stones. Other mentioned structures were also constructed as quite spectacular and huge worthily to a metropolis. City walls surrounding the fortress is also one of the most impressive examples with its 1500 m. length and 20 bastions positioned in every 70 m. Though it mostly fell into ruin, the aqueduct in Anazarbos is one of the longest examples of the world.

Anazarbos, one of the metropolises of antiquity, stands as an exciting archaeological community with its spectacular architectural remains either unearthed or under the ground.

Criterion (iii):Being inhabited interruptedly for more than two millenniums, Anazarbos reflects the interaction among different cultural and architectural elements belonging to a wide range of time. While the property is a combination of remains from different civilizations reigned in Anatolia, it is, above all, the largest and most significant settlement carrying cultural traces of Tarkondimotos Kingdom founded in Cilicia region.

Anazarbos was honoured as “neokoros”three times during the Roman Period and had the privilege for constructing the imperial cult. It was also declared as“metropolis” by the Emperor Septimius Severus and qualified for being the leader in the state assembly which started to gather in Anazarbos from 204. The city arranged festivals and sport games namely “Severeia Olympia Epineikia”, “Severeia Philadelphia” and “Dekios Oikumenikos” in honour of the emperors on different dates.

The epigraphic evidence has conclusively proved that the city ofAnazarbosserved as a centre for the cult ofZeus Olybris/Olybreus, a highly respected cult of a local mountain god extending across a wide region (from Rome to Israel), which emerged as a result of the needs due to the city's geographical features and climate. The cult temple of “Zeus Olybris/Olybreus”, one of the most prominent cults of Zeus, is waiting to be uncovered at its location in the city centre.

Criterion (iv):Witnessing architectural structures like Circus Maximus (stadium) and amphitheatre in which sports games of antiquity were organized are among the worthwhile examples as they cannot normally be recognized in a city at the same time. The mentioned architectural remains with a special attention to triumphal arch (Alakapı), columned roads (Cardo Maximus), amphitheatre, and aqueduct are outstanding examples of Roman architecture and building technology. City walls come to fore front among its likes with its sizes and condition. Such a fortress entirely surrounded by quite long outer city walls is almost non-existent in Anatolia.

Alakapı, which is the only triumphal arch from Roman period in Cilicia Plain, designed to allow vehicle traffic through its main arch in the middle and foot traffic by the smaller arches on both ends. Consequently, it reveals a rare example of spectacular designing of a city gate as far back as 1800 years ago to allow both vehicle and pedestrian traffic with double roads at the same time.

The passage, located on the eastern edge of the city, passing through the middle of the rock mass measuring 4000m in length and 200m in height provides a shortcut to the ancient city of Flaviapolis. Designed to shorten the road and facilitate transport between the cities, the road passing through the rock mass was opened as a masterpiece requiring both large scale of manpower and creative intelligence.

The dozens of secondary roads perpendicularly intersecting the main street passing through the city reveals a spectacular urban planning with grid street designs. The connection between the downtown and the castle and acropolis settlement was provided through dozens of rock stairs carved on the bedrock. The massive and sumptuous acropolis cliffs are accessed through these numerous rock stairs providing a splendid link between the downtown and the high rocky city and allowing maximum land use, which displays the finest example of the city's a unique human settlement.

The marine goddess Tethys, which has a significant place among Greek gods, is seen as the wife of Oceanus in the earliest Tethys mosaics in Antiocheia and Zeugma. Tethys figures have some changes in the examples of the second half of 3rd century AD. One of the most important changes is the depiction of Tethys without Oceanus and its transformation to Thalassa. The presence of Thalassa mosaics is there after the middle of 4th century A.D. known to be the personified posture of the marine for the Greek in this period. Thalassa is portrayed on the mosaics with lobster claws on her head and the wheel on her shoulder together with Ketos. According to this, it will not be wrong to say that the earliest sample of Thalassa is located in Anazarbos and it is modelled after in Tarsus (Turkey), Philipopolis (Syria), Madaba (Jordan) and Jaen (Spain).

Criterion (vi): The property is the birth place of world famous pharmacologist Dioskurides of Anazarbos, who served in the Roman army during the Emperor Nero. His five-volume treatise – De Materia Medica – is one of the fundamentals taught in the faculties of medicine in modern countries until the 18th century. Dioskurides introduced in his work 1000 medicines and their 4740 different uses. He, being a special name like Herodotus and Hippocrates, is respected throughout the world due to this elaborated study and regarded as the “Father of Pharmacology”. The said work has been translated into Arabic, Syrian, Hebrew, Persian, Greek, Italian, French, English and German.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Although all the mentioned remains are documented and positioned on the site; the property is mostly under the alluvial deposits of Ceyhan River for today and archaeological works were justly initiated in 2012. Most of the unearthed remains are in such a good state of conservation giving an impression about the sites importance and potentials.

The property has been conserved appropriately to the National Conservation Act of Turkey No: 2863, since its first registration as an archaeological conservation area on the national inventory in 1981. The boundaries are clarified and updated in 1994 as it now includes all attributes either on the surface or whose locations are known.

Comparison with other similar properties

Due to the present situation of the site, there is a need for further studies in order to make proper comparisons with the contemporary ones, even if it bears great potentials in terms of architectural and structural capacity and building reserve it holds. Comparison of unearthed singular structures still reveals the importance and uniqueness of the site among its likes. For example, only similar examples of amphitheatre in Anatolia are seen in Pergamon and Kyzikos. Alakapı is the only triumphal arch from Roman period in Cilicia Plain. Such a fortress entirely surrounded by quite long outer city walls is almost non-existent in Anatolia. As a result, based on the remains on the surface, it is possible to claim that the city is one of the most magnificent ones in Anatolia, bearing cultural traces of a particular civilization which lived only in this region in the world.