One can think that the ancient city of Aizanoi invites the visitors to a time tunnel with the world’s best-preserved Temple of Zeus, the world’s first stock market structure and the world’s first Stadium-Theater complex connected to each other… As you walk around the ancient city you may have the impression of hearing the sounds of the stones coming from the ground, the screams of the spectators watching the gladiators, the divine voices of the monks, the noises of the shopping crowds and the footsteps of horses passing by the columnar road at every step.
The first excavations started in 1926 and then followed in 1970 in this ancient city, located in Çavdarhisar District, 58 km from Kütahya’s city center. While the buildings, such as schools and mosques, which were destroyed after the Gediz earthquake in 1970, were wanted to be renewed, large stone blocks and the ruins of the ancient city were found during the excavations of the foundation.
The ancient city of Aizanoi enjoyed its brightest period in the 2nd century A.D. by undergoing major development activities. Many buildings were built during this period. While it was the episcopal center in the early Byzantine period, it lost its importance after the 7th century. The plain that the temple was located turned into a fortress in the Middle Ages. As it was used as a base by the Çavdar Tatars during the Seljuk period, it was called Çavdarhisar (Çavdar Fortress).
Being contemporary with the ancient cities in Ephesus, Side and Pergamum, Aizanoi had 5 bridges, two of which remain intact, the Temple of Zeus, a theater with a capacity of 15,000 people, a 13,500-seat stadium adjacent to the theater, 2 baths, a commercial stock exchange building, a colonnaded street, 2 agorae, necropolises, countless tombstones, waterways and gate structures.
This building, which emerged as a result of the demolition of the mosque after the Gediz earthquake in 1970, was founded in the 2nd century A.D. It is a market structure that is said to be the oldest stock market in the world today, and mostly food is estimated to be sold. There are Latin and Greek inscriptions on the walls of this rounded-shaped building. In these inscriptions, there are explanations about the prices of the goods sold and also maximum prices that can be charged. For example, in an inscription, it is stated that a male slave aged 16-40 is equivalent to the price of two donkeys while the price of three male slaves equals to a horse.
A copy of the “maximum price decree” issued by the Roman Emperor Diocletianus in 301 A.D. was inscribed on the side walls of the Macellum building. In this decree, it was stated that there was no economic peace in the state because of the greed and excessive ambition of the people, and therefore the Emperor had to publish this edict. This is reason why the prices in the Empire had to be balanced.
Since it sounded interesting to me, I wanted to share some of the fees and prices quoted in the inscription with you as follows:
Lawyer or Jurist: 250 Denarii per complaint
Palace guard: 5,500 Denarii annually
Teacher: 50 Denarii per student
Scientist: 50 Denarii per month
Architecture teacher: 100 Denarii per student
Veterinary: 20 Denari per animal
Sculptor: 70 Dinarii per day
Agricultural laborer: 25 Dinarii per day
Beef: 8 Denarii per 453 gr.
Well-fed goose: One 200 Dinarii
The fish: 24 Dinarii per 453 gr.
The list goes on and on. This list gives an idea both about the trade traffic of the period and the socio-economic structure of the Empire. The importance given to the professions is also reflected in wages.
On the back of the stock market structure, is a street with columns dating back to 400 A.D. is located. The main street started from the Temple in the past. It is estimated that the columns on this four-kilometer walking path, where soldiers greeted people with the spoils after returning from the war, were removed from the ancient structures of the previous periods and brought here.
Stones with carved patterns are lined up on the walls on the sides of the road. There is a stone with gazelle relief on the ground on the walking path. It is estimated that this stone was brought from a Temple of Artemis.
By placing this stone on the floor of the road, the Romans may want to say, “Artemis, you are not important anymore, we are running over you”.
When you leave this area and start walking into the village, you first see the bridges on Kocaçay (Penkalas) connecting the two sides in ancient times. These bridges, two of which are intact today, were five in ancient times; one was a wooden bridge built for pedestrians and the other four were arched stone bridges.
From the inscription on the railing base of the bridge, it was found that the opening ceremony of the bridge was made in 157 A.D. It is mentioned that it was built as a votive offering by Marcus Ulpius Appuleius Eurykles, one of the wealthy people of the city, after a sea accident he was exposed when he was returning from Rome. Sea creatures and ships are depicted in reliefs.
After the bridges, while walking through the village houses, the Temple of Zeus looms with all its majesty from the hill opposite. Today’s village life and the ruins of antiquity are so intimate that you begin to lose the concept of time in your mind.
Temple of Zeus
It was started to be built in 92 A.D. during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitianus (81-96 A.D.) and then continued in the period of Emperor Hadrianus (117-138 A.D.). The temple is one of the rare examples that survived by preserving its original shape among the ancient buildings in Anatolia.
The temple consists of pronaos, naos, opistodomos and a vaulted section at the bottom of the Temple.
The Temple, made of marble, has 8 Ionic columns on the short side and 15 on the long side. The area where the building resides is 53 x 35 meters. The columns are made of monolithic stone and their length is 9,3 meters. It is stated that the building with its plan shows architectural features that are not widely used in Anatolia.
The necessary expenses for the construction of the temple were provided by the lease of large temple lands. Those who rented the territory of the temple resisted against paying for many years. However, when the money was paid by the order of Emperor Hadrianus, the construction of the new temple started. On the cutting stones of the temple inscriptions, there are drawings of war scenes and daily life scenes.
It is thought that these drawings depict scenes from the lives of Çavdars who settled around the temple in the 13th century.
In recent studies, ceramic pieces dating to the Early Bronze Age II (2800-2500 B.C.) were found around the Temple.
When you enter the area where the temple is located, you see the stone on which “mangala” game was played. This game, designed by placing stones on the intertwined squares, was played with two people. Like Nine Stones, it is said to be one of the oldest games in the world at which the peculiar number of stones given to two sides change hands as per certain rules and the bearer of the maximum number of stones is the winner.
You see tens of tomb stels (tombstones made of one piece of stone with carved patterns) lined around the temple. Each symbol on them has a different meaning and gives information about the status of the deceased.
It is estimated that the statue of Cybele, located right in front of the Temple of Zeus, was drifted by an earthquake and was actually the pediment above the temple columns.
The lower part of the temple, on the other hand, has an architectural section which cannot be encountered anywhere in the world. This subdivision, which was built with the method of locking vault, has managed to survive in its original form.
The warehouse, where the gifts and altars offered to the gods were stored, the temple’s prophecy room, was used as the cult place of Cybele, the goddess of land and fertility of Anatolia. It has managed to survive for 1850 years, and the Temple has traces of people living in the region since its inception.
This section is so interesting and impressive that it is worth going to Aizanoi just to see it. A gangway was later extended to this lower section. In its original form, there were no stairs. Only the priests could descend to this section on a temporary wooden staircase. Once they went down the staircase was pulled up.
This section, where the temple priests came down for prophesy and the gifts presented to the temple were stored, is illuminated with a yellow soft light. You hear a an aria in the background. The grave stels lined inside are also slightly illuminated.
Although I was in a closed place and almost below the ground level, I felt a strange relief and peace in this place without being overwhelmed or contracted. Maybe with the effect of light and music! I sat on the steps and closed my eyes; were they the whispers of the priests or what the guide told you? Among the voices I could not discern, I felt that my soul was cleansed and got lighter; it seemed to me that as if this place was not the part of our world.
Theater – Stadium
The stadium-theater complex in the ancient city of Aizanoi is unique in the world. The complex, which was built in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., bearing a stadium with a capacity of 13,500 people and a theater with a capacity of 15,000 people is connected by two main gates. It is said to be the first and only combination in the world.
The stadium, which is 200 meters long and 50 meters wide, was carved out of a hill and then tribunes were placed on the slopes. In the ancient period, City Olympic Games were held every four years, and athletes who were champions in their cities used to be sent to Athens to represent the city. The names of the champion athletes were written on the honorary podium just east of the stadium entrance gate.
The original building is in the form of an arena structure. At that time, three kinds of sports were done in the arenas. These shows were performed in the form of gladiators vs. gladiators, gladiators vs. criminals, gladiators vs. wild animals, and continued until one killing another.
The theater is in the form of a classical Greek theater with a capacity of 15,000 people. Entrance to the theater was provided through three main gates. The height of the 3-floor wall separating the theater and the stadium was 30 meters; however, only 10 meters of the 30-meter wall was able to survive as a result of earthquakes.
In this theater, which has a strong acoustic system, the tickets of the games on display were also made in the form of stone tablets.
The city population is estimated to be between 100.000-120.000. In Roman cities, the population of the cities was determined by multiplying the theater capacity by 7 or 10.
You can go to the mosaic bath by walking from the theater area.
One of the most important social activities for the Romans was to bathe. Men and women were using separately. The most common practice was for women to go in the morning and men in the afternoon.
Roman engineers installed a heating system based on the fact that the hot air coming out of the furnace in the baths heated the floor and the marble slab while passing through the hollow bricks on the floor (Hypocaust System).
On the floor of the bathhouse, Satry and Maenad figures can be discerned in the mosaics that remained intact.
After visiting the ruins of the city of Aizanoi, you return to the district center by walking through the village and along the edge of the creek with its magnificent view. Do not assume that you have completed your ancient city tour as yet with the scent of natural life on your nose, the magnificent view of the ancient city ruins and the sounds of aria in your ear.
You will find stones from the ancient city of Aizanoi in almost every place in the city, in the fountains you will see at almost every corner in Kütahya as well as in the columns of the Great Mosque.
Kütahya Culture and Tourism Directorate ”Kütahya Introduction Brochure”