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Category:         Ancient City / Site

Civilisation:       Caria

Nysa on Meander / Ancient Carian City

Nysa,  which is an important city of the Caria region  is on the Aydın-Denizli highway, 10 km from Aydın.  It is located in the northwest of the Sultanhisar district in the east.
Sultanhisar is the castle of Nilüfer Sultan, one of the daughters of Aydın Bey from Aydınoğulları Principality which was a feudal state before the rule of Ottomans. This district is named as "Sultanhisar" because it is his work.
Nysa is an ancient settlement at the east of Aydın which was established on both sides of the area formed by this very steep strait, around a stream called Tekkecikdere, which causes water overflows in winter and dries up in summer. İt was on the south-facing slope of today's Aydın mountains.

Library in Nysa

The library, 2nd century AD, considered to be Turkey's second best preserved ancient library structure after the CelsusLibrary of Ephesus, Nysa on the Maeander.

We learn about the establishment of Nysa from the famous traveler and geographer Strabo of Amasya (64 BC-21 AD) and the historian Stephanus (6th century AD) from Byzantion (Istanbul).  As we mentioned before, Nysa was a city that was especially famous in the field of education in the Ancient Age and Strabo was educated in this city. The ruins of the Gymnasion and the Library in the ancient city constituted these educational buildings in Nysa. 
The name Nysa is a very common name, especially among the women of the Hellenistic period royal family. Stephanus of Byzantion states in his work Ethnica that one of the ten cities named Nysa in the Ancient Ages in the Caria region was founded by the son of the Syrian King Seleukos, I. Antiochos Soter (281-261 BC) in the name of his wife. According to Strabo, Nysa was formed by the merger of three small settlements, founded by three brothers named Athymbros, Athymbrados and Hydrelos, who came from Sparta in Peloponnes, and Athymbros was named as the founder of this new city. For this reason, the ancient city was initially called Athymbra and was sometimes known as Antiocheia.


The name of the city It is known to have been Nysa in the early 2nd century. Not much is known about the history of Nysa. However, Nysa, was established in accordance with the city-building policy that the Seleucids established in the form of military colonies in Anatolia. This policy creates the military colonies and small settlements formed as a single civil city through unification (synoikismos).  

After being captured by Antiochos (223-187 BC), Nysa had the privilege of being a city where the right of Asyl (asylum) was sought, minted coins under the rule of the Romans, and the Cystophoros type coins minted in the ancient city BC. It is dated between 133-111 years. During the First Mithridatic War, a wealthy person named Chairemon of Nysa supported the Romans and was captured and killed by Mithridates. It is known that there were very wealthy families in Nysa. For example, Pythodoros, one of Chairemon's relatives, was one of them, and he also had close friendships with Pompey and Caesar. The daughter of Pythodoros, who married one of the daughters of Marcus Antonius, became the queen of Pontus and then of Cappadocia. Strabo describes Pythodoris as a good ruler. The development of the city is especially in the Roman Empire era, in the period after Strabo's death.


Although we do not have much information about what happened in Nysa in the first 3rd century, that is, in the Roman imperial age, in some inscriptions, the names of Emperor Vespasian, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, as well as the name of the younger son of Emperor Gallienus, were found. In the Byzantine era, the city was under the rule of the Seljuks in the 12th century, but a short time later it came under the rule of the Byzantines. After the invasion of Nysa by Mongol Conqueror Tamerlane in 1402, the city gradually lost its importance. The majority of the ruins seen in the city today belong to the Roman and Byzantine periods.


The gerontikon (Council House of the Elders), originally built during the Hellenistic and adapted as an odeon in the 2nd century AD, the capacity was 700. The building complex consisted of a propylon (monumental gate), a front courtyard, a two-storey scaenae-frons (facade of the stage building) and a cavea (seating area). With 12 rows of seating, the building had a capacity of 700 people. In the 2nd century AD, an affluent Nysaen by the name of Sextus Iulius Antoninus Phytodoros, in order to execute his mother's will, had the building reconstructed to incorporate a two-storey scaenae-frons, a front courtyard and a propylon. (above).

In Greek mythology, Dionysus, the god of wine was born or raised in Nysa or Nyssa, a name that was consequently given to many towns in all parts of the world associated with cultivation of grapes.
The name "Nysa" is mentioned in Homer's Iliad (Book 6.132-133), which refers to a hero named Lycurgus, "who once drove the nursing mothers of wine-crazed Dionysus over the sacred mountains of Nysa".

Relief of the naos of the ptolemaion in Limyra in Antalya Museum

roman bridege Nysa

The late imperial Roman bridge, on Nysa the 100 m (328 ft) long substructure was the second largest of its kind in antiquity after the Pergamon Bridge. The 100 metres long tunnel-shaped structure which functions as a canal for the waters flowing from the Messogis mountain,  must have been the secret passage in Nysa.


Nysa appears to have been distinguished for its cultivation of literature, for Strabo mentions several eminent philosophers and rhetoricians; and the geographer himself, when a youth, attended the lectures of Aristodemus, a disciple of Panaetius and grandson of the famous Posidonius, whose influence is manifest in Strabo's Geography. Another Aristodemus of Nysa, a cousin of the former, had been the instructor of Pompey. Nysa was then a centre of study that specialized in Homeric literature and the interpretation of epics. Nysa was ruled by the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, the Roman Empire, its continuation the Byzantine Empire, and by the Turks, until its final abandonment after being sacked by Tamerlane in 1402. The coins of Nysa are very numerous, and exhibit a series of Roman emperors from Augustus to Gallienus.


The east portico of the Agora (market place), the Agora covered an area of 113 x 130 meters, the first construction phase of the Agora is dated back to Late Hellenistic Period, Nysa on the Meander, Turkey

The Gymnasium, located to the west of the ancient city, covers a large rectangular area with a length of about 165 m and a width of 70 m. Today's building and ruins cover the Late Roman period.

Studies to reveal the hippodamic-parallel and perpendicular street-street system of the city of Nysa have been continuing since 2005. The streets connected to the Library and the Parliament Building and the main street of the city, Street 1, were unearthed. Three bridges integrated into the street-street system were built in Nysa, a city built over a valley, at the points connecting the public buildings to each other as a result of the necessities of urban transportation.



2-Gökhan Alp Atar. Bizans Sanatı Araştırmaları II. Nysa Antik Kenti

3-Rahsan tamsu Polat. 2008 Yılı Nysa Kazı ve Restorasyon Çalışmaları

4-İdil_Kadıoğlu_Beckmann_Özbil_Tamsü Polat_2008 Yılı Nysa Kazı ve Restorasyon Çalışmaları_KST 31.2, 2009

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