Pay your admission to the main site at what was once the actors' entrance to the theater. Although there are many Roman theatres none are quite as perfect as this one built by a local architect called Xenon during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161–180). Much of its preservations owes to it being reused by Seljuk Turks as a royal palace in the 13th century; traces of the distinctive Seljuk red-and-yellow paint work are still visible. The theatre is striking for the broad curve of seats, perfectly proportioned porticoes, and rich decoration. The Greeks liked open vistas behind their stages, but the Romans preferred enclosed spaces. The stage building you see today was once covered by an elaborate screen of marble columns, and its niches were filled with statues. The only extant relief onsite depicts Dionysus (Bacchus) watching over the theater. The acoustics are fine, and the theater continues to be used—for concerts and for the Antalya International Opera and Ballet Festival, held every June and July, rather than for wild-animal and gladiator spectacles as in Roman times. Note the stone brackets on the outside, these once held a vast awning which shaded the audience.
Aspendos was a city, dating back to the Hittite times, but most visitors just see the theater. The rest is up a short zigzagging trail behind it. The rewards are a tall Nymphaion (a sanctuary to the nymphs built around a fountain decorated with a marble dolphin) and the remains of a Byzantine basilica and market hall. You can also see, below in the plain, the stadium and the aqueduct which used an ingenious syphon system.
- Address: 49 km (31 mi) east of Antalya
- Cost: 15 TL
- Hours: Daily 9–7
- Location: Aspendos