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Sillyon, Turkey – Ancient City Guide

Sillyon Archaeological Site

The ruins of the ancient city of Sillyon are perched atop a steep hill about 32.5 km (20 miles) North-East of  Antalya’s city center. The ancient city held the distinction of being one of the few cities in the world to successfully repel the invading army of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. As it stands now, the city is completely ruinous, and very limited archaeological excavation has been conducted. If you are up for an adventure, enjoy hiking, want to experience untouched archaeological ruins, and do not mind pushing through the brush, this is the site for you! The climb is beautiful, and you can see the remains of Roman Baths, a Stadium, Hellenistic and Byzantine Fortifications, and an ancient mosque with an extremely old Muslim cemetery. Once you reach the top, you have a beautiful panoramic view of the suburbs of Antalya. 

Be warned: the site has no natural entrance, you will mostly be hiking along goat paths, and it is entirely inaccessible to disabilities (I would advise against bringing young children). If you are up for the adventure, I would wear a good pair of hiking boots and long pants. That being said, this is one of the most beautiful views in Western Turkey, and you will be unbothered by any other tourists! This is essentially a gold mine for any hiker in a country with few routed hikes. I would recommend around 2-3 hours, depending on how far you want to explore and how high you want to climb.

If you have a car or have rented a taxi for the day, this would be a great option to pair with either the ancient city of Aspendos (27 km/16.7 miles) or Perge (~19.5 km/12.11 miles) as they are both within a 30-minute drive. 

 

Admission

There was no admission fee, and it was completely free to explore! There is no audio guide and very sparse signage with minimal information. There are essentially no signs after you get about halfway up. There is a small shop at the base of the hill where you can park and stock up on water. There is a map which you can take a picture of, but it does not really show you realistic routes but is helpful for pointing out some possible historical features. The hike starts just past a shepherd's stable, where you can say hi to some friendly cows.

 

Transportation

Sillyon is only accessible via car or rented taxi. We asked the local shopkeepers and shepherds, and there is no bus that would bring you anywhere close. Parking is up to you, and I would recommend parking near the small shop. 

Brief Historical Overview

Legend has it that the founders of Sillyon were mixed refugees from the Trojan War. Sillyon was passingly referenced in several works but rapidly rose to historical prominence during the reign of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. When Alexander’s armies marched through to conquer Perge, Aspendos, and the Pamphylian region, he also attempted to seize Sillyon. Defended by a force of native barbarians and other mercenaries, Sillyon's sheer height posed a time-consuming challenge to Alexander. When his initial assaults’ failed, Alexander rejected the idea of a lengthy siege and pushed onwards (Arrian 1.26). As you hike Sillyon, you can imagine the difficulty his forces would have faced from the imposing natural defenses. 

Sillyon would later be fortified by the Seleucid Empire and eventually fall under the control of the Roman Empire. During the Byzantine era, the city became an important defensive outpost and stronghold against invading Arabs. In 1207 AD, it fell to the Seljuks

Recent archaeological excavations were conducted in 2020 and when full reports are published and more extensive work is done, it is hoped that more of the history of this impressive city will come to light. 

 

General Outline of the Climb

Once you have parked, you can access Sillyon by walking around a few barns and shepherd’s houses. You will then see the remains of the ancient Stadium and Roman Baths to your left. Straight ahead, you’ll find the remains of an Ottoman Fountain from which cold water still trickles out. If you hike to the right of the fountain, you can locate the ancient mosque. Next, pick your way through the vegetation, and you will find goat paths/hiking trails that will take you up to the Lower Defensive Walls and Bastions. Finally, you will come to the remains of a thick stone wall and be able to hike behind it to continue your way up to the Acropolis

 

Once you reach the Acropolis, you will see multiple Hellenistic and Byzantine Defensive Walls and Towers. Unfortunately, vegetation can get very thick, and my colleague and I spent significant time pushing through it to discover more ruins. This vegetation, combined with recent earthquakes and landslides, has made the Archaeological Map rather tricky to follow. If you do press on deep into the Acropolis, be warry as deep cisterns are often covered and would make for a nasty fall. Nevertheless, the view from the top of the Acropolis is stunning, and you can discover the remains of some incredible Hellenistic and Roman ruins! This is a unique “off-the-beaten-path” adventure to take on as you explore the Antalya region!  

 

— by Caleb Bowman; photos by Abigail Goosen

For more information:

“Excavation starts in ancient city unconquered by Alexander the Great.” Demirören News Agency. August 27, 2020. https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/excavation-starts-in-ancient-city-unconquered-by-alexander-the-great-157722 

Stillwell, Richard. “Sillyon (Asar Köyü) Turkey.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. MacDonald, William L. McAlister, Marian Holland. Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press. 1976.

TAŞKIRAN, Murat. “M. TAŞKIRAN,  ‘Sillyon Ve Teritoryumu Yüzey Araştırması 2018 Sezonu Çalışmaları’, Anmed 17, 2019 203-211.” M. TAŞKIRAN - Sillyon Ve Teritoryumu Yüzey Araştırması 2018 Sezonu Çalışmaları, 2019.

TC Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı. https://antalya.ktb.gov.tr/TR-175446/muzeler-ve-oren-yerleri.html 

 

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