Just off the highway along Turkey’s Mediterranean coastin the modern town of Ayaş (ah-YAHSH), 5.5 km (3.4 miles) northeast of Kızkalesi and 55 km (34 miles) west of Mersin (map), are the ruins of the Roman city ofElaiussa-Sebaste.
Elaiussa (or Elaeousa, “olive”) was founded here in the 2nd century BCE and flourished by raising and exporting olives and their oil.
Archelaus, king of Cappadocia, founded a new city next to Elaiussa and called it Sebaste (“Augusta”) in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus.
Elaiussa-Sebaste thrived in the 1st century AD and continued inhabited through the Roman and into the Byzantine period, but in the 500s, as the nearby city of Corycus flourished, Elaiussa-Sebaste lost importance, and was gradually abandoned.
The main city ruins, excavated since 1995 by an Italian team of archeologists led by Eugenia Equini Schneider, are on the sea side of the highway next to a small beachand picnic area.
Across the highway is the small 2nd-century theater, with only 23 rows of seats. Near it are the ruins of the agora.
The little theater…
Not far away are the ruins of an extensive necropolis,one of the largest on the Mediterranean coast.
—by Tom Brosnahan