Ancient Giant Stadiums of Anatolia
Modern sports and Olympic Games have their roots in ancient games. During the Greek and Roman periods in Anatolia athletic games and competitions, gladiatorial fights and chariot races were held in giant stadiums. Stadium word comes from the Greek word “stadion”, a measure of length equalling the length of 600 human feet. A Roman stadium was defined somewhat differently to be a distance of 125 passus (double-paces), equal to about 185 m (607 ft). Although in modern terms 1 stadion = 600 ft (180 m), in a given historical context it may be larger or smaller as we see often in stadiums of Anatolia.
There are many Greek an Roman stadiums in Anatolia. Aphrodisias Stadium is probably one of the best preserved structures of its kind in the world. At Perga stadium a colonnaded gallery 234 m (768 ft) long was carried round above the seats. At Perga, Magnesia and Aizani the stadiums were built on the level ground. The stadium at Ephesus was 230 m (755 ft) long, cut in the hill on one side and enclosed with masonry on the other. The largest stadium is located at Laodicea ad Lycum, 355 m (1165 ft) long, with semicircular (sphendone) terminations at each end. Some of the stadiums are next to the theaters such as the ones in Magnesia, Tralles, Sardes and Pergamum. Among the stadiums lost since the nineteenth century are those at Smyrna, Heraclea Salbake, Myndus and Tarsus, among those discovered since then are those at Perinthus and Labraunda. The stadium at Halicarnassus was found and covered and built again.
We have tried to compile a detailed list of stadiums in Anatolia. Feel free to comment and the list will be updated and expanded.
The list of Stadiums of Anatolia
Date First Century A.D.
Length 270 m (890 ft)
Width 60 m (200 ft)
Track Length 225 m (738 ft)
Track Width 30 m (98 ft)
Seat Rows 30
Aphrodisias is a city in Caria, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor. Its site is located near the modern village of Geyre, Turkey, about 230 km (140 mi) south-east of İzmir and about 100 km (62 mi) inland from the coast.
The Aphrodisias Stadium was built in the first century A.D. to host athletic contests such as foot races, wrestling, long-jumps and discus and javelin throwing.It was used for athletic events until the city theatre was badly damaged by a 7th century earthquake, requiring part of the stadium to be converted for events previously staged in the theatre. The stadium measures approximately 270 m (890 ft) by 60 m (200 ft). With 30 rows of seats on each side, and around each end, it would have had a maximum capacity for around 30,000 spectators. The track measures approximately 225 m (738 ft) by 30 m (98 ft).
The stadium is considerably larger and structurally more extensive than even the stadium at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. The Aphrodisias stadium is probably one of the best preserved structures of its kind in the World.
Built: Second Century A.D.
Length 234 m (768 ft)
Width 34 m (112 ft)
Perga, now commonly spelled “Perge” and pronounced “per-geh”, was the capital of the Pamphylia region, which is in modern day Antalya province on the southwestern Mediterranean coast of Turkey.
The stadium in Perge is one of the well-preserved stadiums of antiquity, being second only to that at Aphrodisias. Probably erected in the second century AD, the well-preserved rows of seats supported by a barrel-vaulted construction had a seating capacity of 12.000. The entrance of the 234 m (768 ft) x 34 m (112 ft) arena lay at the southern end. The monumental gateway is no longer in existence. Only few fragments of it has been found.
Below the seats on the East are located 30 chambers, opening to the outside and possessing communicating doors. The spectators passed through every third chamber, which led to the arena. The remaining 20 rooms served as shops. On the walls are inscribed the shopkeepers’ names or their trades. The U-shaped stadium was built completely out of stone on flat land outside the city-walls of Perge in a north-south direction.
Date Second Century A.D.
Length 213.60 m (700 ft)
Width 42 m (138 ft)
Aizanoi (Aezani) was an ancient city in western Anatolia. Located in Çavdarhisar, Kütahya Province. The city was an important political and economic centre in Roman times.
Aizanoi’s Stadium Theatre are built next to each other and this combined complex is unique in the ancient world.
The complex of Stadium-Theatre is located in the North part of the city and was one of the most intensive development activities in the city during the Roman Period. The stadium had a capacity of 13,500 and the theatre a capacity of 20,000.
Date 79 A.D.
Sponsor Emperor Vespasian
Length 355 m (1165 ft)
Width 65 m (213 ft)
Laodicea on the Lycus (Laodicea ad Lycum, also transliterated as Laodiceia or Laodikeia, earlier known as Diospolis and Rhoas; Laodikya) was the ancient metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana (also attributed to Caria and Lydia), built on the river Lycus (Çürüksu), in Anatolia near the modern village of Eskihisar (Eski Hissar), Denizli Province, Turkey.
The most outstanding monument of Laodicea is the stadium with a length of almost 355 (1165 ft) and a width of 65 m (213 ft). It was dedicated by a wealthy citizen to the Roman emperor Vespasian and was used for both athletic and gladiatorial contests. The stadium had seats for 40,000, with space for an extra 15,000 on its north slope.
The Laodicea stadium, which is in a good state of preservation, is near the southern extremity of the city. The seats are arranged along two sides of a narrow valley, which appears to have been taken advantage of for this purpose, and to have been closed up at both ends. Towards the west are considerable remains of a subterranean passage, by which chariots and horses were admitted into the arena, with a long inscription over the entrance.
Length 200 m (656 ft)
Kibyra (sometimes also spelled as Cibyra) is an ancient Lycian city in south-west Turkey, near the actual town of Gölhisar, depending the province center of Burdur
The stadium of Kibyra has a length of almost 200 m and is one of the best preserved and largest stadiums in Anatolia. It is in U-shape with a single sphendone on the South; in the middle of this short side there is a vaulted doorway 3.30 m. wide and 17 m. long. The main entrance is on the short north side and is as a Doric propylon with five access ways. A third doorway is in the middle of the rows of seats on the East and it is 1.40 m. wide and 3.96 m. long. The presence of three entrances in three different directions clearly aimed at facilitating the spectators’ access to the stadium which had a capacity of 15,000.
Built: Hellenistic period, expanded in Roman era
Sponsor Emperor Nero (54-58 A.D.)
Length 230 m (755 ft)
Width 40 m (131 ft)
Ephesus (Efes) was one of the 12 cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk,Izmir Province. In the Roman period, Ephesus had a population of more than 250,000 (first century B.C.), which also made it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean World.
The Ephesus Stadium lies in a depression to the foothills of Panayır Dağ. The stadium was constructed in the Hellenistic Period, and was expanded during the reign of the Emperor Nero (54-58 A.D.). The large vaulted gates were later modified and repaired in the third and fourth centuries.
The stadium is 230 m (755 ft) long and 40 m (131 ft) wide, and its south side rests on bedrock. On the North, vaulted passageways have been constructed for the rows of seats. The stepping stones of the interior have been carried away and used during the construction of Byzantine Castle on the Ayasuluk Hill.
Built 166 B.C.
Length 230 m (754 ft)
Width 74 m (242 ft)
Track Length 192 m (630 ft)
Track Width 29.56 m (97 ft)
Seat Rows 20
Miletus (Miletos) was one of the great cities of Ionia, situated on the Aegean coast near the mouth of the Maeander River, 100 km south of Izmir. Inhabited continuously from the Bronze Age onward, Miletus was destroyed by the Persians in 494 B.C., then founded again shortly after 479 B.C. on the same archaic grid plan.
The Miletus Stadium was one of the oldest buildings in the city. The stadium measure 230 meters long and 74 meters wide. A rectangular stadium, without curved ends, located in the west of the peninsula of Miletus, to the south of the Harbor by the Theater.The arena of the stadium is 29.56 m wide, equalling 100 Ionic feet. In length, it was 192 m. The twenty rows of seats at the northern row attained a height between 8 and 9 m. The supporting wall of the stadium was 4.37 m thick, equal to the thickness of the city walls of Miletus.
Other Ancient Stadiums of Anatolia
Anazarbus (Anavarza, Anazarba) was an ancient Cilician city, situated in Anatolia, in the present Çukurova about 15 km west of the main stream of the present Ceyhan River.
The Anazarbus stadium lie outside the walls to the South. “To the south of the mountains is a stadium three-quarters of a mile long (229 m), with rows of seats still discernible, cut in the rock; in front of it is a Corinthian colonnade, at the back a promenade.” (Classical Review Volume 5, David Nutt 1887)
Antioch in Pisidia Stadium
Track Length 190 m (623 ft)
Track Width 30 m (98 ft)
Antioch in Pisidia – alternatively Antiochia in Pisidia or Pisidian Antioch and in Roman Empire, Latin: Antiochia Caesareia or Antiochia Caesaria – is a city in the Turkish Lakes Region, which is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia.
Outside the late period defence walls and opposite the Great Basilica, a small valley can be discerned. It has been recognized as a stadium only recently. The building blocks have all gone but traces of a U-shaped stadium 190 m x 30 m for athletic games and competitions can be seen.
Length 106 m (348 ft)
Width 17 m (56 ft)
Arykanda (Arycanda) is an ancient Lycian city, built upon five large terraces ascending a mountain slope, located near the small village of Aykiriçay, on the Elmalı-Finike road in Antalya province. The Stadium is from the Hellenistic period.
Arykanda Stadium is smaller than a usual stadium, it is located right above the theatre, in the form of a running track.
The stadium measures 106 m long and 17 m wide. The tribunalis (bleachers) is only on one side of the running track which is composed of two trapezoid-formed areas connected by their narrow ends. The stairs landing to the running track and the supporting pillars are dated back to the second century A.D.
Length 190 m (623 ft)
Width 30 m (98 ft)
Aspendos was an ancient Greco-Roman city in Pamphylia, Asia Minor. It is located about 40 km east of the modern city of Antalya
Outside the late period defense walls and opposite the Great Basilica, there is Aspendos Stadium. The building blocks have all gone but traces of a U-shaped stadium can be seen.
Blaundos was a Lydian city founded by the successors of Alexander the Great. The city is about 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Usak, near the village Sulumenli. Blaundos was on the cusp of Lydian lands, for to the west lay the lands of the Phrygians. What can be seen today are the remains of the city wall and a few building fragments on the hilltop acropolis. However, surveys have brought to light a stadium, though it has not been excavated as of September 2010.
Length 90 m (295 ft)
Width 10 m (33 ft)
Kadyanda (Cadianda) is a Lycian city dating from the 5th century B.C, with Roman additions. Set on a hill with a view of the Bay of Fethiye in the distance.
Across the city centre, from west to east, runs a long open space some 10 meters wide and over 90 meters long. Despite its dimensions and its unusual position, there is no doubt that this is a stadium, since inscriptions relate two athletic festivals celebrated at Cadianda. The original length is uncertain, as the ends are destroyed, and it was probably more like the usual stadium standard length of some 200 meters, and it is now largely overgrown except for the western end. Eight statue-bases of athletic victors have been found in or around it and six rows of seats are partially preserved on the north side; along the south side runs a line of blocks.
Built: Second Century B.C.
Seat Rows: 7
Didyma was an ancient Ionian sanctuary, in the modern Didim, Turkey, containing a temple and oracle of Apollo, the Didymaion. Facing the Apollo temple there are a few steps from a second-century B.C. stadium where games were held on Apollo’s feast days.
The starting posts of the races in the Didyma stadium can be seen on the east edge of the runway. There are a total of nine square blocks on the ground with holes in their centers, probably for some type of flagpole. Three of the larger blocks are placed in a straight line with a distance of 4.88 m from each other. The remaining six smaller blocks are placed in groups of three and more to the front.
Labranda, (Labraunda, Labraynda) which was the sanctuary for Zeus Labrandos, is 14 km. north-west of Milas. The earliest ruins are from the 6th century B.C. In 6th and 5th centuries, the sanctuary was a small, artificially leveled plain used as the terrace of the temple. In 497 a battle took place in the sanctuary and the Carian army, together with its Miletian allies, was defeated by the Persians.
Two hundred meters to the west of the sanctuary, there is a stadium with a supporting wall on the back. At each end, the departure and the arrival signposts in stone are still discernible. During the five-day festivals at the sanctuary, races must have been organized at the stadium.
The Letoon, sometimes Latinized as Letoum, was a sanctuary of Leto near the ancient city Xanthos that was one of the most important religious centres of the Lycian region in Anatolia.
There is some evidence that there was a stadium at Letoon, although has remained undiscovered.
Magnesia or Magnesia on the Maeander (Magnesia ad Maeandrum) was an ancient Greek city in Anatolia, considerable in size, at an important location commercially and strategically in the triangle of Priene, Ephesus and Tralles. The city was named Magnesia, after the Magnetes from Thessaly who settled the area along with some Cretans. It was later called “on the Meander” to distinguish it from the nearby Lydian city Magnesia ad Sipylum.
The Magnesia Stadium was laid out with a north-south alignment between two hills. The stadium lay higher up and to the South. It was renovated with marble in the early Roman period, but the seats are now buried and nothing is visible but the shape of the hollow in the hill.
Mègarsus in Cilicia is near Karatas a small city and a district in Adana Province, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, 47 km from the city of Adana, between the rivers of Seyhan and Ceyhan, the Pyramos of Antiquity.
Myndus or Myndos was an ancient Dorian colony of Troezen, on the coast of Caria in Asia Minor, sited on the Bodrum Peninsula, a few miles northwest of Halicarnassus. The site is now occupied by the modern village of Gümüslük.
The modern researches began in the year 1800 and were always made by travelers. In that period, even ruins of the theatre and the stadium were mentioned, which are not preserved in our time.
Nysa was an ancient city of Caria in Anatolia, whose remnants are now in the Sultanhisar district of Aydın Province of Turkey.
In the valley the Nysa Stadium was built at the foot of the gorge with rows of seats cut into the steep hillside.
Track Length 210 m (689 ft)
Track Width 6,80 m (22 ft)
Pergamon or Pergamum, was an ancient Greek city in Mysia, today located 16 miles (26 km) from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (Bakırçay), that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 B.C.. Pergamon was cited in the book of Revelation as one of the seven churches of Asia.
The stadium was built right outside of the city walls
Pitane, near Çandarlı, Turkey, was an ancient Greek town of Aeolis, in Asia Minor. In ancient times it was a port city and a member of the Delian League.
Scant traces of the thick fortification wall, which once enclosed Pitane, may be seen as well as the sites of a small theater and a stadium along the eastern shore of the peninsula.
Built: 130 B.C. – 120 B.C.
Track Length 191 m
Track Width 20 m
Priene was an ancient Greek city of Ionia (and member of the Ionian League) at the base of an escarpment of Mycale, about 6 kilometres (4 mi) north of the then course of the Maeander (now called the Büyük Menderes or “Big Maeander”) River, 25 kilometers (16 mi) from ancient Miletus.
The stadium dates to the second century B.C. On the West can be the seen a track 190 m in length along which the athletes raced while the spectators watched the events from rows of seats on the north side. On a terrace a little higher up there is a stoa where the athletes could practice in bad weather.
The general public could also use it as a promenade. The north side of the stadium was built for the spectators. There is stoa to the rear of the seats, facing south which was used for practicing before the games.
The stoa, the promenade area and the rows of seats were all reached by stairs on the west side.In the Hellenistic period, the bases in the front row were used for as the starting points for the races. Those in the rear row are the bases of a more grandiose exit gate, built in the Roman period.
Saittai (Sidas) Situated between modern Demirci and Kula, on the N bank of Hermos (Gediz) and near the sacred stream Hyllos, which rises in the high mountains to the S of modern Simav. Cited at the Council of Constantinopolis (3.502) as Sitai and at the Council of Nicaea (2.521) as Setai, a non-Grecian place name. Today the ruins of the ancient city are called Sidas kale. Saittai was an autonomous city and on its coins the river gods Hyllos and Hermos were represented. In the city, the moon god Mên Akziottenos was honored, but Zeus, Dionysos, Aphrodite, Hygieia, Asklepios, Apollo, Kybele, and Herakles were also revered. In the Christian era Saittai was attached to the Archbishopric of Sardeis. The Saittai Stadium ruins are visible and are not excavated.
Built: 17 A.D. – 37. A.D.
Sponsor: Tiberius, Emperor of Rome (42 B.C.-37 B.C.)
Track Length 191 m (626 ft)
Track Width 20 m (66 ft)
Length 230 m (755 ft)
Width 45 m (148 ft)
Sardis was the principal city of the Hermus River valley, approximately 90 km east of Smyrna (modern Izmir). In the first half of the first millennium B.C., it was the capital of the Anatolian kingdom of Lydia.
The stadium is situated on the south side of the main road in Sardis. Measuring 230×45 meters, the extant remains postdate the great earthquake of 17 AD, when Tiberius gave large sums of money to the city to assist with rebuilding.
The Sardis Stadium, though not fully excavated, is in an excellent state of preservation
Track Length 28 m
Track Width 180 m
Selge is located on the slopes of the valley formed by the Koprucayi in the middle of the Toros Mountains, which surround Antalya region along the three edges, 92 km from Antalya and it is inside the National Park of Koprulu Canyon. Although difficult of access, it became the most populous and powerful of the cities of Pisidia.
The Selge Stadium is situated to the north east of the city near to the theatre. It is cut in the hill on one side and leans against an arched gallery on the other. The inscriptions show that the traditional contests were held one in every four years and that the statues of the winners were erected.
Sillyon (Sylleion, Syllaeum or Syllaion) was an important fortress and city near Attaleia in Pamphylia, on the southern coast of Turkey. The native Greco-Pamphylian form was Selyniys, possibly deriving from the original Hittite Sallawassi It is situated 34 km from Antalya on the Alanya direction, between Aspendos and Perge and dates back to fourth century B.C.
The stadium is located near the palace building and main gate on the south-west. The plan is still visible.
The western section of the seat rows leans against a gallery with an extended archway and the eastern section of leans against the hill.
Track Length 46 m (151 ft)
Track Width 10 m (33 ft)
Maussollos had Syangela evacuated in the second half of fourth century B.C. He had Thangela built instead of it approximately 7 km to its west.
Theangela a stadium-shaped sports arena which is much smaller compared to sizes of a stadium with a length of 46 m and is surrounded by a wall 1.1 m thick and no rows of seats are to be seen.
Seat Rows 14
As one of the six principal cities of Lycia (and one of the most powerful), Tlos once bore the title under the Roman empire of ‘the very brilliant metropolis of the Lycian nation’.
It is one of the oldest and largest settlements of Lycia known as ‘Tlawa’ in Lycian inscriptions.
Almost all the main buildings of the city are situated outside the walls, including the stadium. This building, which was supported by the walls, contained 14 rows of seats. The building standing opposite the stadium, which has an entrance portal 4 meters’ high, divided into three sections, and crowned with an arch, must have been a basilica
Ancient Anatolian Civilizations Prof. Dr. Ekrem Akurgal
Archeology and the Cities of Asia Minor in Late Antiquity. University of Michigan Symposium
Aizanoi Ancient City UNESCO.
Harward University Library
Magnesia Ad Meandurum Org.
On The Connection Between Theatre and Stadium in Anatolian Cities. Paavo Roos
Perseus Digital Library
Sport Sites in Ancient Anatolia Stadiums, Anmed
The Architecture of Greece & Rome : a sketch of its historic development (1902) Anderson, William J., Spiers, Richard Phené
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
The Theater-Stadium-Complex in Aizanoi, Rohn, Corinna. Publikationsserver der BTU Cottbus-Universitätsbibliothek.
Turkey beyond The Meander G. E. Bean
All the measurements are approximate.