The original Aydın

400 DSC06658Most famous son: Anthemius of Tralles

As anyone who has ever seen the finds on display in İstanbul Archaeological Museum will know, the main reason to visit Aydın is to explore the ruins of Tralles, the original settlement built on ground high above modern Aydın by a group of Argive and Trallian colonists – the latter, who came from Thrace, are believed to have bestowed their name on the new town.


The settlement had the usual convoluted early history, passing in turn through the hands of the Persians, the Seleucids, the Pergamese kings, and then the Romans. Its most famous son was probably Anthemius, the mathematician who was, with İsodore of Miletus, responsible for the creation of the great church of Hagia Sophia, completed in 537.

After centuries of relative stability, Tralles fell to the Selçuks in the 11th century, was recovered by the Byzantines in the 13th century and then succumbed to the Menteşe Turks in 1282.

The Menteşes renamed the city Aydın (Enlightened) and managed to hold on to it until 1403. Then Sultan Mehmed I rode into town to seize it for the Ottomans, after which the original site was abandoned in favour of the current lower one.

The best finds from Tralles are in İstanbul, but some can be seen in the Aydın Archaeology Museum (closed Mondays).

About the site

The most striking relic of ancient Tralles is a huge chunk of the wall of what was once the gymnasium and bathhouse, and which is known locally as Üç Gözler (Three Eyes) in recognition of its three great arches; it probably dates from after 28 BC when much of the city had to be rebuilt after a disastrous earthquake.200 DSC06641

Excavations in the vicinity have revealed a row of shops, which have now been partly rebuilt, and what may have been a synagogue dating back to the third century, but perhaps the most extraordinary sight are the long lines of terracotta pipes lying in the soil that look as if they would still be able to carry water as well today as they did in Roman times.

On the hillside there are a few other stretches of excavated houses, and the original Arsenal has been completely rebuilt nearby. Recently a large communal toilet block was uncovered. A few columns have now been erected in what may have been a stoa. 

Much of the land is in military hands, so be careful where you point a camera. 

Transport info

Buses from Aydın high street will bring you to within 2km of Tralles. Look for one heading for the Kemer Mahallesi. The walk is along a pleasant country road. It's not signed so you may have to askt o be pointed in the right direction. 

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