The Las Vegas of Ancient Times
Alabanda (Ancient Greek: Ἀλάβανδα) was a city of ancient Caria, located in modern-day Aydın Province, Turkey. The city was in the saddle between two heights. It famous for its dark marble and gemstones that resembled garnets. The area is also famous for being the location where the first horse races took place in the world. In its heyday, It was famous as the Las Vegas of its period, with a reputation for high-living and decadence.
History of Alabanda
According to legend, the Carian hero Alabandus founded the city , and the name Alabanda is a combination of the words for horse and victory or competition in the Carian language. The city was part of the satrapy of Maussolus in the Achaemenid Empire, and after the conquest of Alexander the Great, it was subject to rivalry between the Antigonids and Seleucids. In the early Seleucid period, the city was part of the Chrysaorian League, a loose federation of nearby cities linked by economic and defensive ties, and perhaps by ethnic ties. The city was renamed Antiochia of the Chrysaorians in honor of Seleucid king Antiochus III, who preserved the city’s peace. It was captured by Philip V of Macedon in 201 BC, but the name reverted to Alabanda after the Seleucid defeat at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. The Romans occupied the city shortly thereafter.
During the Byzantine Empire, the city was created a bishopric. The ruins of the city are eight kilometers west of Çine and consist of the remains of a theatre and several other buildings. Excavations have yielded very few inscriptions.
The Site of Alabanda
The ancient city walls of Alabanda surrounded an area of 4-5 square kilometers. Sections of the Hellenistic wall, with towers, can still be seen today. The scant remains of the agora, with a measurement of 112 x 72 meters, have been identified. Just north of it is the rectangular bouleuterion (22 x 35 meters), beyond which the main gate is still visible.
South of the agora, and just west of the modern village of Doğanyurt, stands the remains of the large temple of Apollo, built in the second century BCE in Ionic style, measuring 35 x 22 meters. An inscription confirms that this temple was for to Apollo Isotimos (meaning “equal in honor” to Zeus Chrysaor) and the divine emperors. Parts of a frieze depicting an Amazonomachy (a fight between Greeks and Amazons) were recovered at this site.
To the southeast of Doğanyurt stands the Hellenistic theater, which had a nineteen-meter-wide façade. It is well-preserved. On the south slopes of the city stand the foundations of another sanctuary from the second century BCE, a Doric temple probably dedicated to Artemis.
Outside the walls are numerous tombs in a large necropolis. Some sarcophagi bear inscriptions indicating the professions of the deceased.
Alabanda is located in the village of Doğanyurt, eight kilometers west of Çine, in Aydın Province, Turkey. The ancient city is one of the 17 places where archaeological works are ongoing in Aydın, and it is a place where significant potential is seen for the future. Visitors to the ruins can explore the remains of the Hellenistic walls and Agora.
Geography and History
Alabanda, aka Antiochia of the Chrysaorians, was an ancient city located in Caria, Anatolia, in what is now modern-day Turkey. You can find Its ruins near the town of Doğanyurt, in the Aydin Province. The city was in a saddle between two hills and was famous for its dark marble and garnet-like gemstones.
According to legend, the Carian hero Alabandus founded the city. Its name is derived from the words for horse (ala) and victory or competition (banda) in the Carian language. The city was under Persian rule until the conquest of Alexander the Great, after which it was subject to rivalry between the Antigonids and Seleucids.
In the early Seleucid period, Alabanda was part of the Chrysaorian League, a federation of nearby cities linked by economic, defensive, and possibly ethnic ties. They named the city Antiochia of the Chrysaorians in honor of Seleucid king Antiochus III, who preserved its peace.
The Romans occupied the city after the defeat of the Seleucids in the Battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. During the Roman Empire, the city became a conventus and was renowned for its reputation of high-living and decadence. The city minted its own coins until the mid-third century. Under the Byzantine Empire, Alabanda became a bishopric.
Excavations in Alabanda
The ruins of Alabanda are 8 km west of Çine and consist of the remains of a theatre and a number of other buildings. The Hellenistic theatre of Alabanda, located on a natural south-facing hillside, is one of its most well-preserved structures. Its facade is 19 meters wide, and the theatre could accommodate up to 5,000 people.
South of the theatre, and just west of the modern village of Doğanyurt, are the remains of the large temple of Apollo, built in the second century BCE in the Ionic style. An inscription confirms that the temple was for to Apollo Isotimos and the divine emperors.
North of the, the rectangular bouleuterion measuring 22 x 35 meters is still visible, along with the city’s main gate. Outside the walls of the city, numerous tombs are in a large necropolis. Some sarcophagi bear inscriptions indicating professions of the deceased.
Excavations in Alabanda are ongoing, and archaeologists are looking to find the stadium where the great horse races took place. The ancient city was one of the largest entertainment centers in the world in 350 BC and is often referred to as the Las Vegas of its period.
Famous People and Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient City
Many notable figures lived in Alabanda, such as the Carian tyrant Aridolis, the Greek rhetorician Leon of Alabanda, and the Greek scene-painter Apaturius. Menecles and Hierocles, two famous Greek rhetoricians, were born in Alabanda.
The names of some bishops of Alabanda are famous because of their participation in church councils. Theodoret was at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Constantine at the Trullan Council in 692, another Constantine at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, and John at the Photian Council of Constantinople in 879. The names of two non-orthodox bishops of the see are also famous: Zeuxis.
- Aridolis, tyrant of Alabanda during the Second Persian invasion of Greece
- Amyntas, tyrant of Alabanda and grandson of Amyntas I
- Leon of Alabanda, a Greek rhetorician and writer
- Apollonius the Effeminate, a Greek rhetorician
- Menecles of Alabanda, a Greek rhetorician and brother of Hierocles
- Hierocles of Alabanda, a Greek rhetorician and brother of Menecles
- Apollonius Molon, a Greek rhetorician
- Apaturius, a Greek scene-painter
- Menedemus of Alabanda, a Greek general who participated in the Battle of Raphia
- Visiting Alabanda
Frequently Asked Questions about Alabanda
What is the history of Alabanda?
The Carian hero Alabandus founded the cityin the 4th century BCE and was part of the Maussollos satrapy under the Achaemenid rule. After Alexander the Great’s conquest, it became subject to rivalry between the Antigonids and Seleucids. Later, They change it as “Antiochia of the Chrysaorians” under the Seleucid rule. The Romans captured the city in 190 BCE and was part of the Roman Empire.
What are the main attractions of the ruins?
The ruins of the ancient city of Alabanda are a major attraction for visitors, especially the well-preserved theater, bouleuterion, temple of Apollo, and the Hellenistic walls. The area is also famous for its dark marble and gemstones that resemble garnets.
Who were some of the notable people from Alabanda?
Aridolis, Amyntas, Leon of Alabanda, Apollonius the Effeminate, Menecles of Alabanda, Hierocles of Alabanda, Apollonius Molon, Apaturius, and Menedemus of Alabanda were some of the notable people from Alabanda.
Is Alabanda open to visitors year-round?
Yes, the site of Alabanda is open to visitors year-round. You can easily reach there by car or public transportation.
What is the significance of the Temple of Apollo in Alabanda?
The creators built The Temple of Apollo in Alabanda in the 2nd century BCE in Ionic style and measured 35 x 22 meters. It was for Apollo Isotimos, which means “equal in honor” to Zeus Chrysaor, and the divine emperors. The archaeologists recovered the Parts of a frieze depicting an Amazonomachy at the site.
In conclusion, Alabanda is a historically and culturally significant site. It offers a unique glimpse into the rich heritage of the Caria region in Turkey. The well-preserved ruins of the ancient city make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and archaeology lovers.
How to Get to the Ruins?
The ruinds are near the village of Doğanyurt in the Çine district of Aydın Province, Turkey. The closest major city is Aydın, which is about 70 kilometers away.
The most convenient way to reach Alabanda is by car. Visitors can rent a car in Aydın or other nearby cities, and then drive to the site. The drive takes about 1-1.5 hours depending on traffic and road conditions. Here is the google maps link of the ruins.
Alternatively, visitors can take a bus from Aydın to Çine, and then take a taxi or shared minibus to Doğanyurt. From there, it is possible to walk or take another taxi to reach the the site.
It is also possible to hire a private tour guide or join a guided tour that includes the city as one of its stops. We recommend this option for those who want to learn more about the history and significance of the site.