Hierapolis Roman Theater, Pamukkale
Carved into the hills surrounding the ancient city the great Roman Theater is truly one of the most stunning elements of the Hierapolis Archaeological Site. Its stunning architecture, friezes, and location make it one of the best-preserved theaters in Turkey. At its peak, it would have had a seating capacity of over 10,000 people. While there was also a suburban theater that has been nearly completely destroyed by earthquakes, it is this main central theater that encompasses the majesty of this once prosperous ancient city.
Excavation of the theater began in 1957 by the Italian Archaeological Mission and in 1988 the Hierapolis-Pamukkale Archaeological Site was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The theater went under an extensive restoration project by the Italian Archaeological Mission from 2009-20013 with funding from the Turkish Ministry of Culture. The beautiful stage that visitors can take in is the result of their efforts. As it stands today, the current stage is mostly the original stone pieced together with modern stabilizers and replicas of the original sculptures contained in the Hierapolis Archaeology Museum.
The first phase of the theater was at the end of the 1st century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD and featured a smaller stage with a doric fasçade. At the beginning of the 3rd century, the stage was monumentalized, and the lower seating area was rebuilt. It was during this phase it was dedicated to Emperor Septimius Servus. In the 4th century, the theater was restored and renovated to enable it to hold water spectacles and games.
Admission to the theater is included in your ticket to the Hierapolis-Pamukkale Archaeological Site. You can also visit the rest of the ruins (including the notorious “gate to the underworld”), the archaeology museum, Antique Pool, and the white-cliff pools (travertines).
If you want to add a remarkable experience to your Pamukkale visit, you can also take a hot air balloon and observe the theater, white-cliff pools, and ancient ruins from a “bird’s-eye-view.”
—by Caleb Bowman