The foundation of Olympos is not thought to be extremely ancient but even so, it did not manage to survive beyond the Hellenistic period. Olympos was one of the foremost members of the Lycian confederacy. Coins were struck there in the 2nd century. B.C. and in 78 B.C., it became the base of the pirate Zeniketes. This fearless pirate was finally defeated by the Roman governor of Lycia, Publius Servilius Vatian, in a battle in the open sea before Gelidonia, and forced to flee, whereupon “‘ Zeniketes retired to his Fortress near Olyrnpos. But setting his house alight With the torch in his hand, by mistake, he was burnt to death, after which Olyrnpos and the surrounding area was joined to the Roman province.
Under Roman rule, Olyrnpos grew extremely prosperous, as its harbours were ideal for trade and in 129 AD. Hadrian visited the city after which it took the name of Hadrianopolis for a period, in honour of the emperor. One of the most renowned men of the period, the rich doner Opramas added many fine buildings to the city in the second century AD .
The finest period of the city lasted until the second century AD., but in that century , it fell into the hands of pirates once again, and was impoverished as a result. It was used by Venetian and Genoese pirates for a period, during which time the harbour was enclosed with a wall built by the Genoese. When the pirates in the area were chased off by the Ottoman fleets, the city was abandoned.
The ruins of the city are set along the banks of a small stream, and although small, it is a very interesting site, unforgettable in its striking position by the sea, and curious for its everburning light.
The left bank of the stream is completely covered with undergrowth and with great difficulty, one can make out the remains of a wall and over it a door on certain ruins. This is all that remains of a temple on that side of the stream. What stands now is probably the wall separating the pronaos and the cella of the temple. From the inscription of this temple we understand that it was built during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. It had a plan of the in antis type, and was of the ionic order. Beyond the temple, other buildings still standing date from the Byzantine period, and on the side facing the sea can be found the remains of a bath.
To the south of the stream, opposite the foot of a bridge crossing it can be seen the ruins of a large Byzantine basilica, while the remains of the bath stretch down to the shore behind it.
Between the basilica and the theatre of Olmypos lies a building in ruins, with columns in the center. It is not known what this may have been, although it is possible that it represents the remains of a gymnasium.
Beyond this, below the necropolis is the theatre of Olympos. Large pieces of rubble spread over the surrounding area and piled up in the orchestra show this to have been a theatre of the classical Roman type. Beyond the theatre can be seen a ramp constructed of polygonal stone coursing which leads into the city’s necropolis. Buildings from the medieval period can be seen on the hills overlooking the sea.