Anavarza Castle

June 12, 2023

Difficulty of the Castle: Hard. Steep stairs, loose rocks.

Difficulty of the City: Easy. Loose rocks. Flat, wide-open area, no walkway.

Distance from Incirlik: 1 Hour drive.

With the permission of the T.R. (Türkiye Republic) Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, excavations in the ancient city of Anavarza started in 2012, under the presidency of the Adana Archeology Museum Directorate and under the scientific consultancy of Çukurova University. The city is located within the borders of Dilekkaya village, which is 70 kilometers northeast of Adana Province and 28 km. south of Kozan District. 

The name of the city, which was founded on an area of ​​4 thousand decares, is derived from the Persian word “NEZARBA”, which means invincible, according to epigraphic research. M.He. the city, which was planned again during the visit of the Roman Emperor Augustus in 19 and dedicated to Augustus as Kaisareia, became important as an economic, commercial, and political center of the Tarkondimotos Kingdom.

Imperial Septimius Severus honored Anavarza with the title of “neokoros” in 198 and 203 AD, and with the title of metropolis in 204 AD. The city, which was accepted as an ideal settlement for the Roman Army in the war of the cities known as Cilicia Pedias (plain Cilicia) against the Parthians, came to the fore as the logistical support unit of the Roman Armies. The city became the leading city in the region after the provincial council began to convene in Anavarza in 204 AD. Many monumental buildings were built during this period, including the magnificent triumphal arch with 3 arches, a double-lined (double) columned street, theater, ancient theater, Circus Maximus (stadium), temples, and the parliament building, necropolises, and baths. The 3-arched Tak, called the Ala Gate in Anavarza, opens to the Decumanus Maximus (the main street with columns in the north-south direction). The main street with a double lane (double) plan is the largest street structure in the ancient world, with a width of 34 meters and a length of 2700 meters. Of the three ancient theatres in all of Anatolia, the one that has survived to the present day is in Anavarza. The 25-kilometre-long aqueducts, built by the emperor Domitianus in 92 AD, are among the longest and most ostentatious aqueducts in the world.

The city, which was declared the capital of Cilicia Secunda in 408 A.D during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, was destroyed by two major earthquakes in 525 a 561 and was rebuilt during the periods of Justinius and Justinian I. The city, which was occupied by the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries BC, changed hands several times by the Arabs and Byzantines in the following centuries. It has a magnificent and impressive fortification system that can be seen from the whole plain with its 1500 meters long and 20 bastions within every 70 meters surrounding a steep and high castle. The city, which has a city that has been occupied by the 1st Taurus, who escaped from Alparslan in the 11th century A.D, was made the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia. The city, which lost its importance in the history scene after the Mamelukes in 1375, was abandoned due to its natural elements such as plague epidemics. 

Photo by Fatma Yoksuloglu

It is the birthplace of the famous pharmacologist and medical doctor Dioskurides, known as Lokman Physician, who served in the Roman Army and lived during the reign of Anavarza Emperor Nero, the center of the cult (worship) of the mountain god Zeus Olybris/Olybreus. Dioscurides is considered the father of Pharmacology thanks to his 5-volume scientific work “De Materia Medica”. In addition, it is learned from ancient sources that there were many linen weaving workshops in this city where the famous poet Oppianus was born and lived.  

The city, which carries the cultural traces of many important civilizations of Anatolia such as Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval, Arab, Armenian and Ottoman, has hosted many different cultures and civilizations. In addition, it has crowned the traces of this rich cultural heritage it has gained by being entitled to be included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Tentative List on April 15, 2014.